City Desk

Forget About Whether City Paper Staffers Are White: How Many of Us Still Consider Ourselves Gentrifiers?


In March 2006, about a month after I started working at City Paper, Staff Writer Huan Hsu wrote a characteristically awesome piece about the lily-whiteness of this newspaper's staff.

It’s not all that surprising that the Washingtonian is a really white magazine. It would seem a much bigger problem for the City Paper, which purports to write about a predominately black city, yet is produced by a bunch of young white folks who live in Northwest D.C. Our urban cred is just as contrived as the Washingtonian’s class.

Race-wise, we haven't moved the peanut since. Our full-time editorial staff then: 22, all but two of whom were white. Our full-time edit staff now: 10, all of whom are white.

So there's nothing outdated there, even if some of Hsu's complaints seem rather quaint after three years of white-knuckling through the recession. Consider this description of the masthead:

Editor in chief: white guy (and a gentrifier, too). Arts editor: white guy. Senior editor: white guy. Senior writer: white guy. Copy editor: white woman.

Can you believe we used to have a copy editor? (And can you believe that the word predominantly is nevertheless misspelled in the preceding quote?) But more to the point, the editor is a gentrifier! This is a term I heard bandied about quite a bit in the pre-Creative Loafing days of this paper. We wrote about gentrification's perils (there was even a term, "g-feature," for such a thing), and within these walls, at least, "gentrifier" was acceptable shorthand. "In my almost two years writing for the paper, only one editor, a gentrifying white woman who once complained that her neighborhood grocery store didn’t carry risotto, approached me with a story idea about Chinese people," Hsu writes, emphasis mine.

We don't have as much time for self-flagellation these days, and I wonder if any of our readers even miss this internal debate. Wednesday's a lousy day to catch edit staffers in the office, since we finish the issue the night before, but I did manage to find a few folks at their desks. Staff Writer Mike DeBonis was here in those days (and he sure edited his share of g-features). DeBonis lives on the 1400 block of W street. "There's no way I'm not a gentrifier," he says, noting that his building is a co-op with a "handful" of fellow gentrifiers (or white people, if you prefer). "I got one of the last units there," he says. "There were opportunities for other people in the neighborhood; if they wanted that place they could have had it."

Darrow Montgomery, our staff photographer, has lived in Mount Pleasant for 25 years and says, "I'm not a gentrifier. I was born here." (I grew up admiring Montgomery's photos and always for some reason thought he was black. I don't know why!)

Me, I'm white and live 4.3 miles from my boyhood home in Arlington's Forest Glen neighborhood and 2.7 miles from the north Old Town neighborhood my parents helped gentrify when I was in college. Assistant Managing Editor Erika Niedowski, also white, lives in a predominantly white neighborhood of professionals next to a gentrifying and also predominantly white (but working-class) neighborhood in Baltimore, where she says, "I don't think I've done my part for gentrification."

Erik Wemple, our editor, has lived in the Dupont/Logan Circle area since 1991 and owns three properties there. "I think the record shows I am," he says when I ask if he considers himself a gentrifier. "You could also say I invested in a neighborhood before it was fashionable." I ask if gentrification was a hot-button issue in the City Paper offices in the mid-2000s, 'cause it doesn't really seem like it is now. "I think it may have just been a hot-button issue for Huan Hsu," he says.

I've e-mailed Hsu and will update when he gets in touch.

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  • Allison Keene

    You'll be interested to know, Andrew, that I carry on the tradition myself even over here in the Atlanta office. No, I don't live in a neighborhood on the brink, but I was used as the typical "face" of gentrification on a cover story back here in 2006, dressed in a riding habit standing atop the rubble of a former public housing complex.

  • Tony

    I'm a black guy. Hire me. Call now; pigs are waiting to fly out my ass. ;-)

    Contemptuously yours,
    Dude that this willing to freelance from my government j-o-b

  • Dave McKenna

    i say adopt the Rooney Rule and fake-interview jerry gray, then we'll be bullet-proof against future blog posts like this. but that's from the lightest skinned caucasian on staff, at least when my liver's working. and the thinnest skinned, if you read the comments section. as you were.

  • Cronin

    I can't tell if I'm a gentrifier, a run of the mill yuppie, or just a hipster who happens to be able to afford rent only in the far-flung suburbs or in a fringe urban neighborhood where poor people still kill each other occasionally. I need a checklist, WCP, to help me self-classify/flagellate. If gentrification is about displacement, how do I tell if I'm actually displacing someone? And do I owe them a Starbucks gift card if/when I find I've taken someone's home? It's the least I could do, right?

  • Tony

    Cronin, the answer is located at, sir. :) Also please make your check out to cash for me. A 1,000 thank yous.

  • Amanda Hess

    I used to live in Bloomingdale, but now I live in Eckington. City Paper editorial staff gentrification: It's not just for NW anymore!

  • Kappa1911

    Maybe the Washington City Paper will hire a light skinned Negro since whites in America prefer light skinned Negros are white/light skinned Hispanics.

  • noodlez




  • The Advoc8te

    That magazine cover is so money lol!

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    NOODLEZ as usual has cut to the true essence of the issue. Hire NOODLEZ.

    I'm not a gentrifying pig. I moved to DC about 20 years ago, looked for an apartment around Dupont Circle but there weren't any, found a place in Georgetown & stayed there for about 11 years, then got a place over by Georgetown Hospital.

    Yes, I know Georgetown was mostly black in the 1920s & 30s, but it was 90% white when I arrived. Reading Colby King in the Post I learned that the West End & Foggy Bottom were mostly black in the 1950s. Weird how during those days Anacostia was all white, the West End & Foggy Bottom mostly black.

    If NOODLEZ says no, hire Tony or DC Black Daddy Fish Grace or whatever his name is - provided that he is a black American, of course.

  • Fred

    That cover is funny!

    But that poor kid!

  • oldman

    The real question is when was the last time City Paper even interviewed a black person for an editorial job? And since Wemple is so concerned with the editorial integrity of other publications, whether he believes its possible to offer true perspective on a city that is 54% black and where African American culture is the dominate cultural imprint.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Good point, oldman. Have any black people applied at CP? Sounds like a good race discrimination in employment case for someone who applied & was not hired. If we found a couple of them, we could have us a good old class action suit against CP.

    Evolve to the 20th Century someday, CP. Hire a black man born in the US. No immigrants, no women - those are the dodges typical employers use to avoid hiring black men, & one reason unemployment among black men is usually twice that of black women.

    Ward4DC has made a lot of intelligent comments here. I believe he has said he was born in Washington & has lived here his whole life. He has written eloquently about gentrification.

    Maybe if you had Ward4DC writing for your publication the self-admitted "gentrifiers" here would have an idea about why so many people hate you. & no, it's not for the reasons you think.

    Moreover, it seems CP's hiring standards are fairly low. Any company that would hire Amanda Hess as a writer must not be too picky - unless, of course, she got her job the old fashioned way. Ms. Hess's inane, immature outlook, bollixed up illogic, & inability to write a coherent essay make it clear she was not hired based upon her ability.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Hire Ward4DC to write a guest column on gentrification. Or, just run away like frightened white people who not only fear black people but, more importantly, fear the truth about what white people's "gentrification" aka ethnic cleansing does to black people.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    "Gentrification" is a euphemism for ethnic cleansing. The USA would condemn any country who did what the white people are doing to the black people in DC.

    We need punishment for ethnic cleansing here. We need long terms in re-education camps & truth & reconciliation committees.

    Of course, what will happen is nothing. When white people in America commit genocide & ethnic cleansing against red, black, or brown people, well - those white people expect us to thank them & say, "yes, sir".

    Well, some of us refuse to do that. We'd rather say, "fuck you class criminals, you deserve imprisonment for genocide & ethnic cleaning."

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    "Is Bed Stuy too black?" this racist mag asks - yes, & so is DC east of 17th St NW, so get the fuck out of town, you racists, & take your race & class exploitation with you.

  • Tony

    These comments crack me up. Oh and I have still not received a call back. Okay--I admit to only being half black, but who are the true purveyors, deciding who is fit to be Black, whether whole or half? I feel constipated. I have to drop a deuce. These pigs want out (earlier reference to pigs flying out my ass if WCP actually give me a j-o-b and stop whining about the lack of Blacks on the staff, yada, yada, yada). Call me. :0)

  • Truth Hurts

    More "racial consciousness" teachings from Professor Al "whites = devils" Gonzales. Forget his 'angry' and 'comrade' moniker prefixes. From today forward, he should simply be addressed as 'Madman Racist Al Gonzales'.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    I'm glad the City's gentrified. As a man of color, not black but still a minority, who's lived in DC all of my life- I'm fucking relieved. I want to live in a diverse place where I'm not the exception anymore. We all can quantify the change in the District by counting how many white people we see on U street but the truth is all about economics. DC has the lowest homeownership rate in the Country. If you're not a homeowner, you don't have as vested an interest in keeping your property and overall neighborhood well-maintained. This isn't necessarily a race issue. It became one when redlining occurred and the fallout that ensued afterwards.

    I've lived through the crack epidemic and white flight in the District. It was terrifying and dangerous. I much prefer dealing with a yuppie, white or black, in line at a coffee shop than fearing for my life walking to the bus stop.

    So who gives a fuck if the CP employs only white people. If you are so outraged by this, stop reading their fucking articles. I can't see the person writing these columns and I would give a flying fuck if they were white, black, brown, blue, purple or Noodlez. Get over yourselves people.

  • Kevin

    Al writes: "Is Bed Stuy too black?" this racist mag asks

    Get over yourself, Al. It's a PARODY.

    Al writes: "When white people in America commit genocide & ethnic cleansing..."

    (Yawn) Come back after you learn what "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" actually IS, Comrade Al.

  • Ignacio

    Wow, this post is even douchier and more navel-gazing than most stuff in the City Paper. I don't know whether to be contemptuous or amused. Both, probably.

    Y que Al Gonzales se quite el palo que tiene por culo ya. For f**k's sake....

  • Truth hurts

    Yo estoy de acuerdo contigo, Ignacio.

  • Rick Mangus

    This cover depicts white liberals so well in this city, isn't it TRENDY!

  • Natalie Hopkinson

    Eric, as Steve Colbert says, people SAY you're a white male, but really, you are just American. Of course that wouldn't be a hot-button issue for YOU. If you're not 'just American,' sucks to be you!

  • Comrade Comadante Al Gonzales

    The White City Paper - all the news slanted to curry favor with White People.

  • jordan

    his cover depicts white liberals so well in this city, isn't it TRENDY!