June 21st, 2010 – by Emily Benner
Kelly Miller writes:
Every day, I leave my internship at 424 C St. NE around 5 pm. I walk for about a half a mile down Massachusetts Ave. toward Union Station. The people I pass are always alone and overwhelmingly white. Most are dressed to a tee in power suits, heels and designer sunglasses. They often are disconnected from the world they pass through. Many talk on cell phones or listen to music, unaware of the homeless woman asleep on the bench or the security guards they pass by every day.
However, as soon as I pop off the Brookland metro, everything is different. I am now the minority. African-Americans surround me. Many people are out and about enjoying the summer evening with a son, daughter, husband or grandmother. I say hello to older adults, enjoying the breeze on their 10th St. porches and those I pass on the sidewalk smile at me. I have become especially attached to an elderly gentleman I’ve passed twice coming off the metro. He walks with a cane and his dentures come loose when he says hello. I hope to see him again so I can slow to his pace and have a real conversation with him.
I shouldn’t be surprised by this incredible contrast. Kim warned us about the difference between white Washington and black DC, but it still saddens me. I have to admit, though, I’m playing right into this dichotomy. I conform to the standard of those around me. On Massachussetts Ave, I am in my own world. On 10th St., I am part of the community around me. I wonder, is there a way to bring these two different realities together? Can we learn from each other and erase the disconnect that is Washington, DC? I hope so. Let’s see if I can be an agent of that change, however small, in my time here.