Although terrorism hurts, 'Chickens Come Home to Roost,' D.C. Black residents say
by Raoul Dennis
"You can't keep going to somebody's neighborhood, bustin' people in the head and think that one day they won't come back to your neighborhood and try to kick your ass," said the oldest young man among a group of young men standing on a corner across from the D.C. municipal building where police stood like sentinels.
He was referring to the U.S. government's international policies as world leader. He believes the U.S. meddles in the affairs and lives of other people and nations without concern for those peoples.
His younger buddies seemed to agree: at one point he was holding court.
"You need to let people settle their own (affairs)," said the oldest man, asking to not be identified. "If you don't, eventually that s--- will come back on you. That's what happened down there."
They spoke at the corner at 14th and U streets, in the District of Columbia's northwest section. Historically, it is a Black neighborhood--a place where legends like James Brown and Ray Charles solidified their places in American culture as D.C.'s hottest Black stages, theaters and restaurants were located along the strip.
The riots in 1968 stole the glory from U Street but, gentrification, like so many other cities across the U.S. in recent years, has created a more diverse resident pool in the area.
But it was especially diverse after the Tuesday attack on the Pentagon. The street was teeming with people trying to escape what might be the next terrorist explosion downtown.
Everybody knows that when they start that [bombing], the safest place to be is in a Black neighborhood," said an area business manager. "They come here trying to blend." She faulted the arrogance and insensitivity of the Bush Administration in foreign policy for the resentment many have for America.
ANC Vice Chair Mahdi Leroy J. Thorpe, Jr., who leads Ward 2 in the District made no bones about his sense that the attack is a matter of the U.S. getting a taste of what it dishes out.
"If you are African American, Latino, Asian or any person of color, you may see this as a great day when you consider the way people of color are treated regularly," he said.
Thorpe rattled off rationale for his thoughts in rapid-fire fashion.
"Look at the Palestinians, where they are trying to wipe out those people the way Hitler tried to do with the Jews. And look at the race conference in Durban last week. The U.S. just acted as though it had no responsibility whatsoever. They just tried to ignore the opportunity to sit at a table and work out differences. And then look at the way people of color are treated everyday. It's horrible. Hopefully, this is a wake up call to undo the injustices that are done. You can only do so much evil before it comes back to you. Like Malcolm said: 'The chickens have come home to roost.'"
Armstrong Williams, a Black nationally syndicated columnist, disagreed wholeheartedly. "It's sad when you hear people say that," he said. "When they came home too roost, they were looking for everyone. When someone drops a nuclear bomb on America, we all die.
"Americans need to get a grip," he said. "We need to unite under one banner, and that is together." As officials in New York and Virginia struggled to pull bodies and the wounded from the wreckage and to make sense of the attack, Washington, D.C. residents in the predominately Black U Street corridor gather on their doorsteps and at their windows, all the while shaking their heads as they watch screaming police sedans speed through their streets.