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This is regarding “What’s It Like to Be White, Gay, Jewish, and a Snitch in the D.C. Jail?” (12/2).
I was disappointed by this article and confused about its purpose. In the past, the Washington City Paper has done an admirable job of exposing the deplorable conditions at the D.C. Jail. If the intention of this article was to continue that tradition, it could have relied on additional sources beyond the grievance forms and profanity-laced recollections of a single individual who claims to suffer from memory loss. Richard Moonblatt’s status as white, Jewish, and gay certainly gives him a unique perspective on the treatment of “minority” prisoners in D.C.’s correctional facilities. However, current and former inmates who don’t share his race and sexual orientation are also qualified to comment on this troubling issue, and I think readers would appreciate other vantage points.
The article chose to relate one man’s experience through his own eyes rather than attempt any kind of analysis or real discussion of racism and homophobia inside the jail. Furthermore, I question the point of including all the extraneous information about Moonblatt’s relationship with his ex-partner, which had no apparent connection to his experiences while incarcerated.
The article did succeed, maybe unintentionally, in illustrating the extent to which racism permeates American society in all directions. In one part of the article, Moonblatt describes the anti-Semitic views of his fellow inmates and catalogues the racial epithets he was subjected to. But in other parts of the article, he states that the African-American inmates he writes letters for and the recipients of the letters couldn’t possibly comprehend such words as “fathom,” and he makes derisive comments about what he calls “black street talk.” It’s like a scene from Crash.
I hope that the City Paper continues to write about conditions at the District’s correctional facilities and the experiences of the inmates who reside there. However, future articles will be more effective if they are more focused and incorporate a greater variety of sources and perspectives.