Opinion | Readers critique The Post: A diversity of views on D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood

As the co-director of a project on how race shaped D.C.’s housing landscape, I’d like to correct the statement that the movement of Black families into Mount Pleasant, beginning in the 1950s, caused “housing prices to slump,” as reported in the Jan. 30 Real Estate article “From village to ‘oasis in the city.’ ” As The Post reported in the 1960s, Black buyers paid far more than White people were charged for comparable houses, leading home prices to go up as Whites fled the city, not down.

The article also implied that Mount Pleasant became a “vibrant” neighborhood only after the arrival of Salvadoran immigrants in the 1980s. This perpetuates a common association of Blackness with decline that has been repeated ad nauseam in Post coverage of topics such as public housing, the urban uprisings of the 1960s and gentrification. Though The Post has recently joined other major media outlets in bringing greater attention to systemic racism, it must attend to its own use of racial tropes. 

Sarah Shoenfeld, Washington

The writer is co-director
of Mapping Segregation in Washington DC.

An unlisted number

Perhaps when Philip Kennicott writes an architectural review about the Helix building, readers will learn where the building is to be situated. PenPlace, the location referenced in the Feb. 3 Metro article “A debut for Amazon’s new HQ plans,” does not show up on any map searches that I tried.

Because development and trendy neighborhood names come and go, please remember to include an address or at least some street names.

Forgetting funny women

To list but a few: the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal (“Duck! Rabbit!”), Julie Falatko (“Snappsy the Alligator Did Not Ask to Be in This Book”), Kelly Bingham (“Z Is for Moose”), Jan Thomas (“Rhyming Dust Bunnies”), Laurie Keller (“Arnie the Donut”), Cece Bell (“El Deafo”), Shannon Hale (“The Princess in Black,” “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl”), Andrea Beaty (“Rosie Revere, Engineer”), Ame Dyckman, Kelly DiPucchio, Tammi Sauer, Tara Lazar — whew, need to take a breath! — and believe me, there are many more of us. Just ask librarian and funny woman author Betsy Bird, whose anthology “Funny Girl” came out in 2017.

Funny female writers are not a new phenomenon. My aunt Emily Perl Kingsley wrote for “Sesame Street” for more than 40 years, beginning in 1969. She, too, was influenced by her male colleagues such as the incomparable Stone, as they were by her.

Erica S. Perl, Washington

The writer is the author of children’s books.

No arbitrary difference

Arbitrators decide contract disputes in much the way a judge would decide a contract lawsuit brought in civil court. Mediators do not make decisions; rather, they assist the parties in reaching a mutually agreeable resolution. Some labor-management contracts require the parties to attempt to resolve disputes with the assistance of a mediator, then proceed to arbitration if mediation does not result in an agreement. In mediation, the parties retain control over the outcome; therefore, no one can lose in mediation. In arbitration, typically one party wins and the other loses. 

The article did not indicate whether the proceeding between the D.C. school system and the teachers union was mediation or arbitration (with the arbitrator issuing a binding decision).

Charles M. Carron, Alexandria

The writer is a mediator.

A boy in his late 1s

It would be difficult to overstate how endearing and encouraging my wife and I found the Jan. 31 Metro article “In D.C., a new normal emerges amid imposing measures,” about how D.C. residents are adapting to the lingering security measures in the wake of the attack on the sanctum sanctorum of our democracy. In particular, we enjoyed the recounting of the Savoy family’s expressions of gratitude to the soldiers and police — and this very much included the captivating photographs and captions describing little Noah Savoy’s contributions to these efforts. As the caption noted, knowingly and carefully by an astute editor, Noah is “almost 2,” that is to say, as he likely would, not 1, and we admire how his parents are getting such an early start on raising him to be a good citizen. 

Peter Ward Comfort, Arlington

Hey, liberals dig Grave Digger, too

I am elated at the election of President Biden and Vice President Harris. I look forward to participating in growing this experiment of democracy in a venue of civility and respect. We are often reminded that words matter. So I would like to point out a sentence appearing in Peter Marks’s Jan. 21 Critic’s Notebook, “The world sighs in relief, then awe” [Style]. The article stated, “The inaugural ceremony for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Wednesday had to rank among the classiest presidential swearing-ins of all time.” It went on to say that the vulgarities of the past four years have set the bar so low “that anything more than a monster truck exhibition might have seemed artful.” Does this remark smack of the elitism that the “far right” often ascribes to liberals?

We have never had a true democracy — ask any person of color — but we are working on it. To succeed, we must be respectful. 

Recreation without procreation

In her Jan. 30 Style column, “Sex is not the answer to the nation’s problems,” Monica Hesse pointed out the ridiculous argument that more sex for men trading alone in basements would have stopped the recent GameStop stock market debacle. Though I appreciate her humorous description of the situation, as well as her noting that some of the traders involved were women, I take issue with her suggestion that because two reports show that “cooped-up couples” aren’t procreating, they are having less sex across the board. Without further study, a lower birthrate indicates only that fertile heterosexuals are having less sex without birth control. It is possible that people who are living together (or in a safe pod) — heterosexual or not — are having the same amount, or even more, sex, but are wary of bringing children into such a precarious world.

Jessica Beels, Washington

Look at that coverage

I was thrilled to see a large photograph and article on the front of the Jan. 29 Sports section with the article “For Terps, a huge rebound.” The article and the photo featured female athletes playing in a game being reported on as an athletic event with the score and description of the game — coverage that read like the coverage for men’s athletic events.

I hope this signals a change in The Post’s approach to women’s sports coverage. I long for a day when I see a women’s game covered in The Post and don’t think “Wow!” but rather just see it as another normal day of sports coverage where the games of both men and women are featured.

Please give us more gender equity in the sports section of The Post.

Diane Wray-Cahen, University Park

Getting the three-fifths compromise wholly backward

Christian Cooper’s Feb. 2 Tuesday Opinion essay, “Scrap the filibuster and make D.C. a state,” repeated the common misunderstanding “of African American disenfranchisement, as old as the United States, whose Constitution counted our enslaved ancestors as three-fifths of a person” and is echoed today in political institutions that “still see us as only three-fifths human.” In reality, the three-fifths clause had nothing to do with disenfranchising slaves. State laws disenfranchised slaves. 

Southern delegates, who gave slaves no rights whatsoever under state law, nonetheless proposed that slaves be counted fully as persons for the sole purpose of altering the census to give Southern states greater congressional representation only for White citizens and voters. It was the Northern delegates who recognized that slaves had no voting representation, and proposed therefore that they not be counted at all for purposes of apportionment. The three-fifths clause was a compromise that overall favored the Southern position by increasing the power of the slave states in Congress. Had slaves been counted as full persons for the purpose of reapportioning additional House seats to states in which slaves could not vote, the injustice would have been worse, not better, than counting slaves as three-fifths of a person.

Over and over, the argument is wrongly made, often by civil rights advocates, that slaves would have been better off had they been counted as full persons in the original Constitution. Its erroneous repetition now seems ingrained in the minds of too many members of the public. But The Post should not give credence to the false contention that the Constitution treated slaves as less than human because it counted slaves “only” as three-fifths of a person, rather than the truth: The Constitution permitted states to treat slaves as property, not as persons at all, and counting slaves in any proportion as if they were actual voters only exacerbated their mistreatment.

Frederick Ansell, Chevy Chase

No longer a unique word

Please retire the word “unprecedented” for a year or so. As with the word “unique,” whose meaning, “singular,” was eroded through overuse to mean “pretty special,” the adjective “unprecedented” had an original and vivid meaning: “never done or seen before.” It has been overused so badly since 2016 that it now indicates “just look at this.” (Still, I am hoping that 2021 will not feature ghastly events meriting its former meaning.)

Sharon Palmer-Royston, Potomac

It’s probably Ted Turner’s fault

‘Mark Twain Tonight’ — and forever

The Feb. 3 tributes to Hal Holbrook — Peter Marks’s Style appreciation, “Hal Holbrook’s eloquence wasn’t confined to stage,” and the obituary, “Indelible Twain enactor, Deep Throat in ‘President’s Men’ ” — highlighted seven decades of Holbrook’s “Mark Twain Tonight!” performances, demonstrating the continuing cultural and political relevance of an iconic American author and humorist. Twain wrote passionately about racial discrimination and unjust wars and invoked humor as an indispensable weapon in speaking truth to power. Holbrook enabled Twain’s voice to resonate today.

Two vignettes about Holbrook, who was often a presence in D.C., illustrate the point. I attended one of his performances at the Warner Theatre right after the invasion of Iraq. As Holbrook, a.k.a. Twain, assailed corruption and dysfunction in Congress, the D.C. audience roared with laughter, but when Twain spoke of false patriotism and preemptive wars, the stunned audience sat in cold stone silence. Twain spoke truth to power that night.

Holbrook starred in the Shakespeare Theatre’s “Merchant of Venice” in 1999. He admitted that in growing up in all-White communities, he first learned about the evils of discrimination by reading “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” He said he applied that learning in transforming the controversial role of Shylock into a teachable lesson on the evils of antisemitism. 

Donald Tiffany Bliss, Bethesda

The writer is author of “Mark Twain’s Tale of Today: Halley’s Comet Returns — The Celebrated Author Critiques American Politics.”

Your small fries come from small fries

The article stated that franchisees and “other big businesses” received 1.5 percent of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds distributed between April and August. The repeated correlation between franchisees and “big businesses” is a common misconception that results in discrimination between franchised and independent businesses. While franchised businesses may be recognized by a common name, logo and product, most are owned and operated by franchisees — local business owners who live in and employ those in the area. Seventy-five percent of franchisees have fewer than 20 employees, and nearly 30 percent of franchises are minority-owned (compared with 18 percent of non-franchised businesses). 

Another misconception is that costs incurred by franchisees (payroll, benefits, rent and utilities) are paid for by franchisers. In fact, while some franchisers are deferring franchisee obligations such as royalty payments and ad fees, franchisees are suffering the same losses in income as their independent counterparts and still have the costs to contend with. It is important that as we continue to analyze the loss of small businesses during the pandemic, we do not lose sight that all small businesses, including franchises, have been and continue to be affected.

The writer is chairman of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations and a Dunkin’ franchisee owner and operator.

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