Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hawk & Dove, Race, and Class

Many identify gentrification as whites moving out blacks. While one has to recognize the role that race plays in gentrification, the key feature of gentrification is the replacement of a less affluent group by a wealthier social group. Back in March, the Washington City Paper published "Confessions of a Black Gentrifier." Black gentrification has been going on for some time around the country, as discussed by sociologists such as Mary Pattillo and Michelle Boyd about Chicago and by numerous scholars about Harlem. Generally, however, the displacement of the less affluent and the shift in class composition are the defining features of gentrification. DC has had a working class including white and black residents. Even though gentrification has moved the working class outside of the District, DC's working class world continues in various forms today.

On Saturday, after being in business for over 40 years, the Hawk & Dove will close. The new Hawk & Dove will open with "a locally-sourced, seasonal bistro menu prepared in an open kitchen." A couple of days ago, I was sitting at the Hawk & Dove bar talking with a long-time (white) customer. He regularly comes to the bar as part of his circuit through the city to see his working-class friends at working-class bars. This circuit is shrinking as places like the Hawk & Dove change and working class jobs continue to disappear in DC. Also, those who had those jobs are quite old and are passing away. Yes, there were many working-class jobs around the Navy Yard, the Capitol buildings, and most importantly Foggy Bottom. At Foggy Bottom, according to my "informant," Pepco and Washington Gas employed many people, who regularly patronized Lindy's Red Lion. These jobs are now gone, and the expanding subcontracting of government jobs and the movement of many jobs to the suburbs has further undermined DC's working class world. Yet, there are still working class jobs in DC, such as those in the Capitol buildings, and the working class still patronizes Lindy's Red Lion and Hawk & Dove. What does my informant miss about DC's working class world? Those who live in all the new condos don't know their neighbors. The working class knew their working-class friends throughout the city. On Saturday, bid farewell to Hawk & Dove, but also keep an eye on the working-class networks that remain.

P.S. Thanks to Alex B's comments, I'll suggest that the current Hawk & Dove is a (at least partially) cross-class institution, unlike Senart's and Chesapeake Room nearby and owned by the new Hawk & Dove owner. Such cross-class institutions are difficult to create because they must be affordable and open/comfortable to a broad range of people. The interns who frequent the Hawk & Dove are usually working for free and have more in common with the precariat (see video interviewing the precariat) -- precarious work is temporary, informal, often unpaid or poorly paid, uncertain, insecure -- than with the proletariat.


  1. Not sure I buy the hypothesis that a place like the Hawk closed because there weren't enough blue collar patrons left. There were plenty of white collar patrons who just like a bar like that, and I don't think the Hawk closed because of any lack of business.

    I know plenty of rich people who like cheap beer, and likewise plenty of relatively poor folk who enjoy high priced drinks.

  2. I wasn't talking about *why* the bar closed. I heard that it was because new rent was too high, the owner didn't own the building, and the owner was getting on in years.

  3. Ok, but I'm still not sure that I understand the narrative. You equate the demise of the Hawk (for whatever reason it may be) to the demise of working-class networks, and I'm not sure that's really the case.

    Every eulogy about the Hawk that I've read in the media goes on and on about this being a gathering place for Hill staffers (among others) - not a particularly blue collar contingent. Likewise, most of the online commentary about the proposed renovation from the various myopic little twits has been negative.

    Point being, the constituency of a place like the Hawk is, I'd argue, a lot broader than you imply with the working class angle.

  4. It is also on the blue collar circuit, which is what I wanted to talk about: How there is such a circuit and how gentrification in numerous ways is shrinking this circuit, though the circuit is still around here and there.


Due to spammers, I am restricting comments.