Katie Connolly over at Newsweek offered some thoughts the other day on the nature of race and class in D.C. after City Paper‘s Sexist, Amanda Hess, blogged about why the District has the lowest marriage rate in the nation. Among them: This city is ruled by apartheid.
Anyone who’s lived in D.C. is aware of the city’s dirty secret: it essentially operates under an unwritten form of apartheid. In general, affluent, college-educated white folks with decent, steady incomes are clustered in the northwest quadrant. Their needs are serviced by a massive underclass, consisting largely of underprivileged immigrants, African-Americans, and Hispanics, that inhabits the remaining three quarters. Visitors to the city rarely glimpse this side of the city because there’s little reason to venture beyond the fancy hotels, restaurants, and attractions.
Apartheid? Her use of that term caught the attention of Greater Greater Washington readers today after that site linked to Connolly’s post; several commenters suggested it was “extreme” and “horrendously oversimplified,” and that seems about right to me.
If it was unintentional, it was, at best, a sloppy reference; if she meant it, it was hyperbolic and inaccurate (even with that “unwritten” thrown in there). Apartheid has a very specific meaning beyond just racial segregation. And what Connolly described: That’s segregation.
There certainly is no disputing the segregated nature of this city (and many others). And there is no disputing all of the disparities, along racial lines, that exist within it, in areas ranging from education and income to health care and beyond. But let’s not call that apartheid. Terminology matters.
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