Shaving stats, hiding reality

Sometimes stats are publicized in a way that can diminish real impacts of market rate growth and displacement of Black folks from DC.

In 2011, soon after the 2000-2010 Census numbers were in and reported by the Federal government, local and national policy analysts began their crunching and talking about the results.

The census numbers affirmed what we were seeing with our eyes, the disturbingly high Black displacement being fueled by DC planning policies is real and it started under then new Mayor, Anthony Williams who put out the call to entice wealthier younger people to the city starting after his election in 1999.

The census numbers don’t lie, and may likely be conservative.

It is a fact, largely under the auspices of Mayor Williams’ pro-development priorities, followed on by Mayor Adrian Fenty, 40,000 Black residents were displaced from DC between 2000-2010.


The following are articles that broke the shocking news that DC’s Chocolate City was disappearing.

Number of black D.C. residents plummets as majority status slips away By Carol Morello and Dan Keating, March 24, 2011. Washington Post

The number of African Americans residing in the District plummeted by more than 11 percent during the past decade, with blacks on the verge of losing their majority status in the city for the first time in half a century.

According to census statistics released Thursday, barely 50 percent of the District’s population was African American in 2010 — a remarkable shift in a place once nicknamed “Chocolate City.”

The black population dropped by more than 39,000 over the decade, down to 301,000 of the city’s 601,700 residents. At the same time, the non-Hispanic white population skyrocketed by more than 50,000 to 209,000 residents, almost a third higher than a decade earlier.

The census statistics showed a steeper change for both blacks and whites than had been estimated. With the city ‘s black population dropping by about 1 percent a year, African Americans might already be below the 50 percent mark in the city.

In a city that prides itself on being a hub of black culture and politics, a majority of residents have been black since whites began moving to the suburbs en masse at the end of World War II. By 1970, seven out of 10 Washingtonians were black.

The loss of blacks comes at a time when the city is experiencing a rebound, reversing a 60-year-long slide in population and adding almost 20,000 new residents between 2000 and 2010.


The Post breaking the story about 40,000 Black folks were followed on by other press and policy forums.

NEXT CITY: https://nextcity.org/features/view/separate-and-unequal-in-D.C

JSTOR: https://www.jstor.org/stable/26146094?seq=1


2019: THE STORY AND NUMBERS ABOUT DISPLACEMENT CHANGE SUDDENLY

In the past year, the shocking numbers of displacement of Black folks from their DC homes had suddenly shifted downward using what seems a devious sleight of data manipulation that hasn’t been openly discussed. This has confused alot of people involved in the work of fighting displacement.

Recent news gives a new sense of displacement coming to the fore, halving the Census numbers of people displaced but yet happening over a longer period of study.

That is, the fact that 40,000 Blacks have been displaced from DC between 2000-2010 is now being shrunk back to 20,000 people between 2000-2013.


The following are articles that presented the new displacement figures:


So if the census between 2000-2010 says 40,000 Black folks were displaced by DC’s development policies, then why do recent headlines suggest only 20,000 Black residents being pushed out?

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s Executive Summary of “Shifting Neighborhoods, Gentrification and cultural displacement in American cities” dated March 19, 2019, shows a nuance in language that has the effect of diminishing the scope of displacement, actually halving the numbers despite the study evaluation happening over a longer time period.

The term of art at fault here are the words “eligible neighborhoods” that show an “intensity” of gentrification as explained in the NCRC study but not divulged by the press outlets.

Digging down a bit, we see in the study’s Executive Summary how the scope of the study was limited to “eligible neighborhoods” where, “neighborhoods were considered to be eligible to gentrify if in 2000 they were in the lower 40 percent of home values and family incomes in that metropolitan area.”

And, the study goes on with a DC focus, “Washington, D.C., had the highest percentage of gentrifying neighborhoods. Nearly half the neighborhoods in the city were eligible for gentrification in 2000, and 41 percent of those neighborhoods gentrified by 2013, displacing more than 20,000 people. The continuation of a robust real estate market since 2013 means it is likely that this trend is continuing to this day.”


So in effect, the NCRC “intensity of gentrification” study is saying that between 2000-2013, the displacement of Black folks happened the most in existing Black DC neighborhoods, with 20,000 people being pushed out of their longtime homes and away from families and friends.

However, this nuanced statistic in no way can nullify the reality that according to the Census, overall, 40,000 Blacks have been displaced citywide between 2000-2010 and not just displaced from “eligible neighborhoods.”

Primarily, its strange to say what neighborhood is more eligible than any other for gentrification. Seems a racist concept on its surface.

But more definitively, it’s highly disconcerting that just a slight shift in language and scope of study (“eligible neighborhoods”) will result in substantially diminishing the actual reality of real impacts on real people by DC’s pro-development policies and the planning decisions made throughout the City.

40,000 Black People Have Been Displaced from DC Between 2000-2010

The census numbers don’t lie — the Proud Boys & Girls with the Uncle Tom covers are operating now in DC’s planning offices.

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