Clinton Yates: 'Columbusing' Black Washington

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Clinton Yates is a D.C. native, Local News Editor for Express and a columnist for The Root DC. He was born at GWU hospital the week before Ronald Reagan ended up there for the wrong reasons. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.

More than 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus showed up on the shores of the Bahamas. For many years, the Italian explorer was credited with “discovering” the New World. It’s understood now that his arrival was more invasion than discovery. The fact that Columbus is celebrated as a hero is widely protested in many places on this day. 

 And that act of “nouveau-Columbusing” — showing up someplace and acting as if history started the moment you arrived as mentioned here — is directly germane to the discussion of gentrification in the District.

 Over the past month, I’ve sat on three panels discussing different aspects of the changing qualities of Washington. And what’s clear to me is that, although the sting of displacement is understandably harsh, too many black Washingtonians are doing their own brand of nouveau-Columbusing when it comes to the history of the city. Too often I heard claims of how newcomers were not respecting the history of neighborhoods they moved into. Or people throwing around words like “yours” and “ours” when referencing certain blocks. Every once in a while someone would approach me with a lengthy description of “The Plan,” the long standing conspiracy theory I’ve heard about since I was a kid that the current gentrification trends are part of a diabolical scheme cooked up by shadow power brokers....

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