Archive of ‘Reading Analysis’ category

Project 2: Mapping Commonplaces

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For my final project in my Spring college writing class, I have chosen to reflect upon the cultural, demographic, and socio economic changes in Shaw. Through Le Diplomate, a French bistro located on 14th Street, I discover the true gentrification that is taking over the Shaw area and beyond. But is it for the worse or better?

My complex local system, CLS for short, is the building where the drugs were hidden in S Street Rising by Ruben Castaneda. My site is located at 1340 S Street NW, located in Shaw, Washington D.C. When I first travelled to Shaw, I was quite lost and unaware of my surroundings, as I only came for one job, to take pictures and videos of my site. But as I stepped out of the car and began to walk around, not only did I notice things, I realized them too. I realized I had been to Shaw before. I had come here multiple days and nights to eat at the fun restaurants and shop at the boutique stores. Little did I know that it was the same neighborhood I would spend all semester uncovering and discovering. 

The gentrification of this neighborhood, in this case, is not necessarily a bad thing because of the new demographics it brought, the revenue, and beautiful construction.

 One of my favorite places to eat in Shaw is a cafe called Le Diplomate, which is located a few blocks south of my site. 14th Street has really taken over and revitalized the Shaw area, and in my opinion, in a great way. 14th street has become popular for millennials to eat at new cafes sand shop at the chic furniture stores to the speciality stores. The new stores and restaurants are placed in areas in which the owners believe their store will thrive. The places that have recently come about in the Shaw area show the extreme gentrification of the neighborhood. Besides restaurants, shopping such as West Elm, a higher end furniture store, Lulu Lemon, an elite workout clothing store, grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and various trendy bars prove that Shaw’s demographics are changing. However, there is tension between the young higher class citizens moving into this area and the older, lower class residents who want to keep their ground, and not have the area change.

Le Diplomate is a french cafe serving brunch, mid-day, dinner, and drinks. The European design and quality food attract elite people to this restaurant. From what I’ve observed the times I have been there, the place was flooded with millennials. The aesthetic of the food made the diners eager to take pictures of everything they ordered. Not only does this restaurant have very “instagram worthy”, artistic food but the experience of dining here is what brings the customers back. The authentic french cuisine, the tasteful decoration, refined music, and the professional waiters make customers forget they’re in D.C., and escape from reality. The elegant appearance of the restaurant and fresh, warm loaves of bread at the entry way satisfies every customer who walks in.

 

However, Le Diplomate is not the only bistro in Shaw that has mastered this skill. Up and down 14th Street lies individual, unique, and creative restaurants. Le Diplomate is a great success story, only opening about 4 years ago, it attract millennials, hipsters, and socialists, as well as Michelle Obama and other politicians.  

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-stephen-starr-made-le-diplomate-the-hottest-table-in-town/2014/03/04/f40cc19e-a24e-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html?utm_term=.306cdd92fd76

(Above is an interesting article about Stephen Starr, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the creator of Le Diplomate bistro.)

While Shaw is being gentrified, my site remains untouched. It’s a very private house, even with intensive internet search, I couldn’t find all the details of my site. The last time it was sold was 15 years ago and now, it is worth over a million dollars, because of it’s location. Shaw is drawing in a newer crowd because of its demolition and reconstruction and it is now home to higher income residents who are demanding more from this neighborhood and in return, getting exactly what they want. 1401 S Street is a 5 star apartment building located directly diagonal from my site.

Jack Evans, now mayor of D.C., launched his campaign in front of the Bistro in June 2013. Evan says, “’what better place to showcase the change on 14th Street and the city than with the transformation from a vacant laundry to a fancy restaurant?’ he says. ‘It represented everything I was running for.’” Although not everyone, mostly the residents who have been living in Shaw for decades now, agree with the gentrification of their neighborhood, it seems that everyone else is for it. Gentrification in the Shaw area is growing their economy. With Le Diplomate opening only 4 years ago, Starr admits that his restaurant isn’t what made 14th Street “hot”, as it was already booming with restaurants and stores before his. However, he has deeply contributed to the changed perception of Shaw. 

 

Gender

reading analysis #6:

You used to be given a choice. Male or Female. Now, those two words that used to separate people, actually bring us together. Suzanne Tick, author of article His & Hers? Designing for a Post-Gender Society, explains how our corporate world is not only changing, but evolving for our new “post-gender society”. A society that is accepting of those who don’t identify male or female, and a society that actually builds each other up rather than tear one down. Tick gives examples such as women becoming more prominent in the work force and acceptance of gay-marriage. She goes on to say that fashion and beauty are the first to adopt this trend and keep it going, mostly because their at a more fast pace than architecture and interior design, “with 85 percent of tech workers at the top companies being male”. This is just one circumstance that is already beginning to change. And again as Tick said, “we are only at the very beginning with gender-neutral design, but having safe places for anybody to function and do what they need to do, no matter who they are, should be our first step”. While there is now a blur between male and female, some can become confused. Companies are transitioning into this new era and being extra careful not to offend anyone.

A perfect example of this is the American University bathrooms. There are certain bathroom not only throughout the dorm buildings, but other buildings on campus too that are open to gender neutrality. I think it’s a wonderful thing here on this campus to show our support for the LGBTQ community. Another personal example is the other day when I was creating a new email account specifically for work, and when asked about my gender it gave me more options than male or female. There was trans and a choice not to answer.

Tick, Suzanne. “His & Hers? Designing for a Post-Gender Society.” Metropolis. N.p., 15 Feb. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Bathroom sign at American University

 

The song, Same Love, by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis came out a few years ago and was created to support marriage equality. While I was reading Suzanne Tick’s article, this song popped up in my head so I thought I’d share.

The Final Words

Reading Analysis 5:

In the last chapter of the book City of Rhetoric, author David Fleming wraps up his final words  by explaining what his overall point of this book is; to consider and better understand our metropolitan lives together as well as our civic responsibilities. He mentions1990’s urban poverty and how it was lower because those years had an especially good economy as well as a liberal federal government and compares it to the first couple of years in the 2000’s. Rising unemployment rate, fewer individuals with health insurance, high rates of poverty, inadequate housing, and a harsh national government.

Housing projects were supposed to be way stations on the road to a better life, but they quickly became dead ends for most residents. Robert Taylor Homes was America’s largest public-housing project and evolved into an emblem of failure. (Chicago Tribune photo by Ovie Carter)

Our society isn’t perfect, but then again no one’s is. Fleming mentions how we lack public life and concrete places meaning there are some grey areas where citizens still feel separated and there is no middle ground. The ever changing political activity in our society is why there is an “impoverished, ‘middle-range'” (212) of public activity. There are connections that still need to be made whether it’s between a neighborhood and society, a city and the country.

Capitol Building, Washington D.C.
(photo from house logic.com)

The solutions to these problems remain “individualistic and private” (212). Basically, the government is telling you you’re on your own. There are no publics that will help the people, so therefore there needs to be more private enterprise.

And in the end, all the public housing projects in Chicago were eventually torn down or failed. Areas like this remain racially and economically segregated, but not only in Chicago. All over the United States this problem remains constant and keeps growing because more suburbs keep developing. However David Fleming remains optimistic on this issue and the future because he understands that design counteracts economics and politics, hopes that people will understand we need to save our natural environment, and he is a teacher and feels obligated to be hopeful for his students.

Photo of writer David Fleming (photo from theleaneconomyconnection.net)

Work Cited

Fleming, David. “City of Rhetoric” SUNY Press. 2009.

 

Sociospatial Environment

Rhetorical Analysis #4: Fleming Chapter 8

Throughout the book, author David Fleming constantly argues that our built environment, along with civic public discourse and education, continually shape who we are. In this specific chapter, the first of section 3, Fleming examines the scenes he has talked about in previous chapters such as the ghettos, white suburbs, and mixed-income neighborhoods, as well as the overall built environment in the Chicago area.

As Fleming re-caps what he has mentioned in the past 7 chapters, he concludes that “we have failed, in other words, to help our young people appreciate and deal with the inevitable conflicts of living together in concrete space with people unlike themselves” (180). Referring to the teaching of politics in our country, teenagers are the most susceptible to learn and change our future than any other generation is at this point in time. And for Fleming to say our country, as a whole, has failed to teach the millennial generation life, growing up, and all the baggage that comes with it puts our future in a hold. And this is where the term commonplace comes to play because it could create a balance of a more unified and amalgamated public sphere.

By now it is obvious that Chicago is not the only one at fault here for segregating their people by race and class. The public housing was meant to provide shelter to the poor but instead completely separated the city. Chicago is not the only city that has done this, in fact, “Americans have not done a good job of making space for diverse peoples to come together, openly and fairly, to determine together their shared destiny” (181).Because of the economic divide in our country, it has become difficult for people of different classes to relate, especially on a political level. And it’s not the low-income citizens living there, it’s their environment. It wasn’t a voluntary choice to grow up poor or to be uneducated because the school system is bad, it’s the poor environment in which they grew up. Where they were constantly in fear because of crime, violence, and drugs that surrounded them. Which lead to poor education systems and joblessness. Their environment was toxic, sucking them in, and allowing them no opportunity to escape.

The one exception was 1230 North Burling Street located in Cabrini Green. The citizens created their own rules, security, and jobs in hope for a brighter future. They were successful for a period of time but “the only way to build a self-governing community in our society, a culture of argument that brings people together to work actively and discursively on common projects, is to make sure that they are all relatively similar in background and goals” (183). Because of America’s past, similar background means similar class which means similar race. The continuation of sticking with similarity will only create disconnections with the rest of the world. Diverse communities learn from one another and therefore grow from one another.

Work Cited

Fleming, David. “City of Rhetoric” SUNY Press, 2009.

“Home”

 

Reading Analysis #3:

In chapter 7 City of Rhetoric, David Fleming dicusses public housing and it’s effects on society as a whole, including health and wealth, as well as its individual effect on people of different socio-economic class. More specifically Fleming argues that while public housing benefits the poor, the wealthy benefit more from the program. Although the wealthy’s tax paying dollars are going towards building apartment complexes for the poor to live in, it is worth it to the rich because they don’t have to live near or associate themselves with the poor. Also, as some may have assumed, violence and crime started up in the public housing neighborhoods due to the lack of opportunity that surrounded these high-rise complexes. In turn, the complexes were filthy, depressing, rat infested, graffitied parts of bricks and cement stacked upon one another. David Fleming mentions Cabrini Green, a public housing area in South Chicago. He says that the “three-quarter mile long stretch of high-rises populated almost exclusively by the poorest of the poor” (156) is now going under redevelopment. In doing so, this could potentially combine and mix different races and classes.The city was divided in half because of public housing, but the buildings were deteriorating and not suited for anyone to be living in. 

Are there possible alternatives to demolition? As Fleming had mentioned,instead of tearing down the buildings, working class citizens could move into the area in order to deconcentrate the poor, or repair the high-rises (157). However these solutions were tried in the past and failed. Some consider public housing dysfunctional and the best, let alone, only solution is to completely demolish the building and scatter the residents around the city.

 

Public Housing in Chicago

My opinion on the chapter:

Demolition may be what the city wants, but it’s not what the residents want. Even with promised housing in other areas of Chicago, the residents would rather rehabilitate their buildings than have them destroyed and be forced to move else where. It is also not fair that these citizens living in public housing are classified and stereotyped by their environment. After all, they are human beings and deserve the same rights as a millionare. Because living in a poor neighborhood can involve higher rates of drug abuse, crime, prostitution, and teenage pregnancy, does not mean every person living in these areas are involving themselves in illegal or explicit behaviors and activities.  

http://www.thecha.org/residents/public-housing/

 

Reading Analysis 2

City of Rhetoric: A New Civic Map for Our Time

In order for our society to function properly, David Fleming, author of City of Rhetoric, argues that the size of the community is the most important. The amount of citizens in a city determine the participation levels, the political talks and debates, the separation of class, and the educational systems. Another important factor is that the society participates in public discourse. Citizens not participating in political actions only causes harm to the society as a whole because the less they participate, the less diversity and power their is.
While Fleming argues that smaller communities with shared political beliefs individually benefit citizens more than the United States’ federal government does (56), I still believe that the U.S. educational system can better equalize the education system and better provide fair education to all students. Fleming argues that the textbooks used in this country are all the same and all American (39). Although in theory it might work well to have smaller local governments to control school districts based off location and local beliefs, the vast income inequality in our country would reflect in the quality education nationwide. It would not be fair to separate curriculum based on an area because not all areas have equal funding to provide quality education. Rather, I believe, that the students across the United States should be taught the same in order to have equal opportunity.

Because of the specific writing, reading, and speaking courses in this country, the “role of individual citizens in such politics is almost entirely, therefore, spectatorial” (Fleming 41). A citizen being an onlooker in politics only further un involves them in activities. Indirect participation leads to a lack in a shared sense of common good and then gives all the power to the upper hand leaders. In terms in the United States, we are a democratic society, the people participate and get back what they give in- with taxes, voting, and so on. But other countries, such as Afghanistan, do not get a say in the political events in their country, instead they have to watch by the sidelines. So American’s should feel lucky and honored to be able to participate in such activities involving the government.

Works Cited

Fleming, David. “City of Rhetoric” SUNY Press, 2009.

Reading Analysis #1

City of Rhetoric: The Placelessness of Political Theory

In David Fleming’s scholarly text, The City of Rhetoric, he argues that your surroundings are every aspect of who you are, from your choice of food, to even your political ideology. Fleming brings up this claim many times throughout the chapter. We would not be who we are without place. Place meaning our origins, our surroundings, and the people that make it up. Individuals values, beliefs, and morals are stemmed from where they grew up and what they call “home” (Fleming 22). Every location has its own unique properties, independent from others. Their individuality brings their citizens a very defined sense of self. For example, many Americans identify themselves as American, but they also identify themselves as New Yorkers, Floridians, etc.
Stemming from Fleming’s argument that our surroundings influence who we are, the individuals who surround us, who are also a bi-product of that environment, also have a profound impact on our morals and values. Fleming uses the ideas of republicanism and liberalism. Republicanism in the golden-age of Athens was not only small and independent, but active participation was expected of each and every citizen. However, republicanism was often criticized for being too demanding and controlling. Republicanism was “founded and maintained by selfless citizens zealously guarding their own and their fellows’ freedom through physical combat and public displays of verbal eloquence, practical wisdom, and communal spirit” (Fleming 25). The selflessness of citizens shows the powerful uniting force of ideas and values based off a specific location. The idea of dying for your country is still prevalent today. For example, American’s would sacrifice their lives for the United States, despite it being a place in space, it represents so much more than just that.
Fleming uses liberalism to express individuality and privateness. Each place has a different sense of liberalism however, individual happiness is found through involvement in family, church and other nonpolitical activities rather than participating in politics (Fleming 26). In liberalism, participation in politics is not required due to its emphasis of expression and civil society. This directly impacts the ideals and values a society contains.
Being able to understand our origins and understand our background allows us to advance as people. In an everly more interconnected world, people often overlook the influences that are apparent in our surroundings. By understanding these influences we can further understand our own society and solve the issues that arise by understanding their origins.

Work Cited

Fleming, David, “City of Rhetoric,” SUNY Press, 2009.