The Carpetbagger Conversation: Part 1

7 Apr


Carpetbagger: Outsider, A nonresident or new resident who seeks private gain from an area

I’m a carpetbagger.  That’s right, I said it, I am an outsider.  Does that make me less qualified to write a DC blog?  Maybe.  Does that make me less of a man?  I sure hope not.

The way I see it, there are 4 types of people here in DC:

  • Carpetbagger 1 – State congressional aide, usually with a one bedroom in Georgetown, probably paid for by daddy.  This is the guy/girl who ventures over to “dangerous” U St only when the college buddy comes into town and they want to show them, “where Obama got one of those hotdogs.”
  • Carpetbagger 2 – Moves to DC for a few years after college to get a little experience and move on.  I like to think of this person as the one who tries hard to take advantage of their time in DC by getting involved in the community.  This is the type that moves to an ‘up and coming’ neighborhood, in hopes to find the ‘real’ DC.  They usually work for a non-profit, or development agency, setting out to make a difference.
  • Former Carpetbagger – The people who moved to DC years ago and never looked back.
  • Washingtonian – Born and raised, wouldn’t have it any other way.

One thing that I have noticed in my short time here in DC is that too many carpetbaggers think they know everything about this city, and too many natives are too quick to write off the newcomers.  The truth is, we need each other.  DC is DC because of the people that come and go due to politics and government.  It is a community built on change.  Now now, before I get the “I’ve heard too much about change recently” eye roll, I’m not talking about Obama change, I’m talking about the change that makes this city different than any other.

At the same time, if it were not for the generations of families that have developed this city, it would be nothing more than a college campus (you know, people coming and going every four years.  Well, except for those old professors (fill in the blank) who have been around for decades).  The history from U St. to Anacostia to Deanwood, brings generations of oppression, progression, and art.  All staples of what makes this metropolis great.

The newcomers need to embrace the natives to truly understand the city, but the natives need to embrace the ever changing newcomers that will continue to make this community what it is.

I’m going to try something big here.  I want to hear from you about this issue.  What do the people who move to this city need to know about its history?  What should the Washingtonians do to embrace those who are moving in?  How can we work together to make this community stronger?

Let’s start the conversation.


5 Responses to “The Carpetbagger Conversation: Part 1”

  1. restaurant refugee April 7, 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    As a native Washingtonian, I am not sure I wholly agree with your premise. I am not sure that there are a ton of natives stalking the streets with dismissal in their eyes. At the very least that has not been my experience. I have issued my fair share of verbal smackdowns to carpet baggers unfairly deriding a city they do not know, however the smackdowns had more to do with the attitude of the carpet bagger than their outsider nature. I liken the situation to a new person on the job dissing the boss without ever really knowing him/her.

    Quibbling disagreement aside, I think that there is always room on both sides for movement towards the middle.

  2. V-bear April 7, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    Well, I’ve only lived in Washington, DC for six years. It isn’t that long but it is long enough to know that there are plenty of people who are not from this city that are entirely too quick to speak badly of Washington. However, there are many Washingtonians who never take full advantage of the city in which they reside thus leaving an opening for outsiders to come in and feel as if they’ve found something they can take ownership over.

  3. Justin April 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    Yeah, I am pretty sure that – at this point at least – I am a carpetbagger 2 or so…. I’ve lived here 1.5 years now and have not left NW to my knowledge. That said, I don’t necessarily feel bad about that situation. I think DC is a fine city; I love the parts that I have visited; and I hope to get to know it better. Moreover, I have never experienced any hostility from “Washingtoninans” and, so, I’m not sure if this is a lot of fuss over nothing? I believe that people should act respectfully towards others wherever they are.

  4. thehaysay April 7, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    I’m not really saying that Washingtonians automatically hate newcomers, but I definitely see the hostility. Most of it seems to be warranted, as they move into a community trying to change it ‘for the better.’ The fact of the matter is that I would say most people are like you, Justin, and rarely venture out of NW. Not that this is a bad thing, but we can’t forget that there is much more to the city.

  5. Justin April 7, 2009 at 6:59 pm #

    I disagree, with “thehaysay” here. I don’t think anyone moves to a location with the intention of changing it for the better. Nor do people necessarily attempt to change a place “for the better” once they arrive. Rather, people move to DC for a variety of differnet reasons and attempt to live their lives the best tehy can. The hostility that I think you are talking about is the unintened consequnence of different groups of people – Washingtonians and carpetbaggers – pursuing their interests. Their interests just happen to clash. I don’t see any way around this and if history is any guide, my guess is that – given their greater economic clout – the carpetbaggers will eventually “win.” While this may be regratable to some, I personally don’t see any way around it. And as one who is not necessarily opposed to gentrification – I’m not one to fight it.

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