White girl travels east of the river, gets scared, blogs about it

“Being the minority is scary,” muses Marianne Johnson, an American University student that is blogging about her internship experience on an AU-hosted network.

Vox thought it had seen the last of disastrously misinformed race commentary in Greater Greater Washington contributor Veronica Davis’ post about why black neighborhoods see low Capital Bikeshare usage (Her answer: “In general, African-Americans…are averse to colder temperatures”). But we were wrong.

Whereas our Tea Party brethren told tourists to stay off the Green line, Johnson is alright with going to these “scary” neighborhoods. But she has a couple of rules.

For example, Johnson has learned that you need to “fake it till you make it.” The “ghetto” people can smell fear, apparently. Remember: “Dreed = half ass presentation” [sic]. So, smile, “it confuses people.”And keep your phone on you because “A CELL PHONE WOULD ALLOW YOU TO CALL 911.”

In typical fashion, Johnson lumps all of Southeast into one whole. Keep in mind that Southeast includes Capitol Hill, Navy Yard, and Barney Circle west of the Anacostia River, as well as at least two dozen neighborhoods east of the river, including the Anacostia neighborhood itself. From her description, Johnson is probably somewhere around Capitol View.

“Words can not describe” how happy Johnson is to leave Southeast behind. We can only hope this means that she won’t be writing about it anymore.

Image by Peter Fitzgerald

Edit: The post has been updated to strike-out a misleading sentence. Johnson did not use the word “ghetto” in her post.

11 Comments on “White girl travels east of the river, gets scared, blogs about it

  1. I dont think we should dismiss the explanation that cold be more deterrent to some groups than to others just because it is offensive. Her wording was hilarious and its probably not a big factor.

    People seem more committed to making sure the explanation for low ridership can be told in terms of oppression and injustice and lack of opportunity than to understanding low rates. (although, things like crappy roads, worse work hours, distance from job etc. are all important.)

    I would venture that white yuppies feel more social pressure to bike and feel better about themselves when they ride than any demographic. Would everyone be offended if I said “poor black people don’t like to bike the same bobo white people do?”

  2. shnibbles, that second paragraph doesn’t make sense … just in terms of grammar. people want to focus on oppression instead of what, exactly?

    the idea that black people would be more sensitive to the cold is offensive, as you said, because we’re all human beings … so we should dismiss it, because it’s offensive and also obviously flat out wrong

  3. The most upsetting aspect of Ms. Johnson’s blog post (and there were many, including an inability to spell that is mind-boggling in a college student) is that she learned *nothing* during her experience. She ended her internship experience just as closed-minded and bigoted as when she began.

  4. Okay, it’s not PC, but let’s be honest:

    DC has one of the highest crime rates in the nation. Southeast DC has the highest crime rate of the four quadrants. Traveling as a single female — and as a white person, sticking out like a sore thumb — alone day after day in the Southeast — yeah, I would qualify that as a scary experience.

    This same blog would probably tell you not to wander around in Georgetown alone at night as a female. Also, this post inserts “ghetto” in quotes into the sentence: “For example, Johnson has learned that you need to “fake it till you make it.” The “ghetto” people can smell fear, apparently.” to make it sound like Johnson referred to the people of the SE as “ghetto people,” when, in fact, it appears nowhere in the piece. Her point is fairly simple — if you look like you know where you’re going and know the area, you’re less likely to be a target for criminals. I would count that as solid advice most everywhere.

    So, again, is this “PC” that she’s scared traveling alone as a female in an area of DC that has a very high crime rate and, being the only white person, sticking out like a sore thumb? Probably not. But it’s true. This isn’t the same as, “Oh my god, a black youth just walked into Vineyard Vines! I better clutch my purse tightly!” In fact, this has very little to do with the area being black at all, more than it has to do with the high crime rate and the fact that as a different race you don’t blend in as well as others in the area.

    I would challenge any other white females to wander alone down her same route for a summer, and honestly tell me you aren’t slightly nervous when you do so.

  5. Hello. I wrote a lengthy response to this post when I first saw it early yesterday morning so I am not going to outline my points again here. If you want to read it go here: http://www.congressheightsontherise.com/2011/08/minority-report-white-is-new-black-in.html

    As a black woman who for the past four years have lived and worked in W8 (as well as other parts of the city) I like to think my perpective was honest at the risk of being an “uncomfortable truth” for others.

  6. @The Uncomfortable Truth

    Your observation about the use of the word “ghetto” in quotes is valid, and the sentence has been changed to something more clear.

  7. As a black person, I believe that Ms. Davis’ statement that we are averse to riding bikes in the middle of January is not only true, but is a point of much pride in the black community. You see as a race we are, for whatever bizarre reason, genetically inclined to avoid operating unenclosed means of transportation when it’s butt cold outside. I do; however, have a dream that one day I come to understand just what gets white people so excited about biking uphill to Whole Foods in the snow with one pant leg rolled up.

    On another note, “Esmeralda the Magnificent”‘s comment is entirely right. Marianne Johnson definitely did miss out on a great opportunity for self-improvement… I mean think of all the calories she could’ve burned… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yuFy_qjolU

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