The D.C.-based blogging community has been quite upset over the shooting of Brian Beutler. I don't know Brian, but obviously my heart goes out to anyone who gets shot three times and has to have major surgery. I've been hanging with a couple of political bloggers here at Aspen who work out of D.C., and all of them sound absolutely terrified of crime in Washington. This has really shocked the hell out of me--I lived in D.C. in the early to late 90s, when crime was a lot worse. Given the subsequent drop-off, the idea that D.C. could feel like Murderland is mind-boggling to me.
I was just reading this entry from Ezra Klien where he notes that fully half of his friends have been mugged. That is just a shocking number to me. I got to thinking back on my days in the District, and I couldn't even think of more than three or four people who I knew that had been mugged. As I reflected more on it, I came to a very uncomfortable--if obvious conclusion--if you're a mugger in D.C., a young, white, bookish blogger probably looks like the perfect mark.
For most of my tenure in D.C., I was going to Howard University. This was before the advent of gentrification, and it was generally thought that Howard students, themselves, were easy marks. But me and most my friends knew that to be a simplification. It's true that if you walked through, say, Clifton Terrace star-gazing, if you're roaming the streets acting like it can't happen (as us ancient hip-hop heads say), you were very likely to get stuck. But as anyone whose spent some time in the city knows, if you moved through the streets with purpose, if you kept the ice-grill on and looked like you were all business, if you kept that sixth sense of yours buzzing, the chances of you actually falling prey were pretty low. I may have had one encounter my whole time in D.C. You may attribuite that to me being 6'4, but the same was true of virtually all of my friends because they tended to be, like me, kids who didn't have a thuggish bone in their bodies but were still intimately acquainted with, as Dre would say, the Strength of Street Knowledge.