Federal City vs. Chocolate City

— Washington, the District of Columbia, is the capital city of the wealthiest and most powerful nation (empire?) in the history of the known universe. It is a city that teems with entrepeneurs of expropriation, dandyfied lobbyists, scrubbed legislative aides from the hinterlands, scores of Lewinskys and Levys hyperventilating amidst the faux Roman grandeur of the Federal City at the thought of their proximity to power. But beyond the shadows of the monuments, there is a city where interns fear to tread. A city of hand dancing, go-go music, and, yes, black people. With only thinly veiled racism, the tourist guidebooks firmly steer innocents away from all but the whitest and most gentrified portions of the District.

The 2002 Let’s Go DC guide warns us of the Darkest DC:

In 1942, DC doubled New York City’s murder rate and, according to Newsweek, became the ‘Murder Capital of the US.’ Exactly 50 years later, the title was resurrected, thanks to widespread crack addiction and the increasing availability of assault weapons. The murder epidemic, while mostly an affair of drug dealers shooting one another, sometimes catches innocents in the crossfire. Most crime occurs in places that do not get many visitors, primarily the Northeast and Southeast neighborhoods, and east of 14th St. NW. Try to enter these regions only in a car, and always exercise extreme caution.

Now, it is true that DC retains the murder crown. However, the outrage of the Let’s Go passage is in the flip manner in which it, in effect, excises 2/3 of the city, as if these areas are uniformly populated with Glock-wielding crack fiends, murdering each other indiscriminately among delapidated ruins. But this is, of course, bullshit. There is much worth seeing and doing in North- and Southeast, and one does not face certain death should one wander into the neighborhoods where MOST of DC’s residents raise their families and live their lives. Thankfully, my future roommates have set out to rectify this injustice, and have produced a guide to the sites, sounds, and tastes of the DC beyond the the Mall and the two or three tony neighborhoods approved by skittish guide book authors. Their site is our-dc.com . Even if you’ve lived in DC for years, you are sure to discover something new.

But check it out soon. We’re moving east of 14th Street, so, no doubt, we will all be dead in weeks.