Every population has a Mecca. A place worthy of praise and pilgrimage. A hallowed ground where all things begin and end. For Muslims, the Mecca is, well, Mecca. For crackheads it’s Home Depot parking lots. For Black basketball players and fans it’s Rucker Park in New York City. For White basketball players and fans it’s wherever the hell in Indiana Hoosiers was filmed.
And, while Atlanta is seen as the Black American Mecca, the D.C./Maryland/Northern Virginia (DMV) area stakes that claim for Bougie Black People (BBP).
When you mention the DMV to a BBP, watch their eyes sparkle, their cheeks rose, their skin blush, and their hair stand. Feel their blood pressure rise when namedropping places like Busboys and Poets, Park, Bohemian Caverns, Oohh’s and Aahh’s, and Sequoia. Listen to how those who don’t currently live there say things like “That’s where I need to be.” while those who do live there make sure to tell every BBP within earshot that “This is where you need to be, man.” Pay attention to how a population drenched in snark and cynicism speak of the DMV with a sincere reverence reserved for season four of The Wire.
To understand why exactly the DMV is so revered by BBP is to understand both BBP and the DMV’s predominate culture.
First, this area is one of the few places in the country where it’s not uncommon to find entire communities full of Black people making at least 75 grand a year. This is largely due to the preponderance of important sounding and largely inessential government-related jobs found here—occupations with titles like “Search Optimization Control Specialist,” “Director of Afro-Latino Coalition Initiatives,” and “President of the United States.”
These types of jobs check each of the BBP’s boxes. They’re usually not accessible unless you possess an advanced degree, making it an immediate BBP status marker. They sound important enough to justify the six figure student loan debt needed to receive that advanced degree. And, it’s the only place on Earth where one can get a good job with a degree in Afro-American Studies.
Also, most government-related organizations have certain quotas that need to be filled, making them particularly friendly to Black people. Since BBP are Black, this benefits them.
The DMV also serves as a hub for several incubators of current and future BBPs—Howard, Hampton, Morgan State, and all the other DMV HBCUs that don’t matter enough to be listed individually—breeding grounds where BBP culture is first indoctrinated. Only Atlanta has a comparable base of prospective BBP, but Atlanta also has Katt Williams. And worms.
When you consider that most of the country’s BBP were able to attend school through Stafford, FAFSA, and Sallie Mae—all federal programs—D.C. is basically the Magwitch to the BBP’s Pip.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that the current real (Barack and Michelle Obama) and fictional (Scandal’s Olivia Pope) benchmarks for BBP life have direct DMV ties. This by itself would be enough to draw BBP to the area. There’s no higher compliment you can pay a BBP than calling one a “younger, nerdier Barack” or a “shorter, browner, hungrier Michelle with Olivia Pope’s calves,” and they’d migrate there just for the hope of somehow being Obama-ed by osmosis.
Most importantly, while certain major cities have their own unique currencies, D.C.—and, by extension, the entire DMV—trades in power and connectivity. People who migrate to D.C. aren’t looking to become rich and/or famous in the same way a person drawn to LA, NYC, or even Chicago might be. There, it’s about “making a difference” and “affecting change”—ultimately, the self-affirming power to influence other people’s lives: the BBP’s most potent aphrodisiac.
That this particular type of power is often gained by being a bit savvier, a bit more competitive, and a bit more socially intelligent than the rest is also key, as your potential for growth is directly tied to your tendency to make better, smarter decisions. BBP would not be BBP if they didn’t possess these skills. The BBPs attraction to D.C. is largely based on the concept that this is the part of the country where their particular skill set is most appreciated.
Yet, while the DMV is filled with BBP, it’s also filled with enough regular Blacks to help BBP still feel somewhat connected to the community. Perfect for BBP looking to impress socially conscious parents or convince friends that he’s still “not all that far removed from the hood, you know.”
All of this combines to produce a place where BBP began to migrate to because it’s BBP friendly. And where BBP continue to migrate to because…
1. It’s filled with enough BBP to feel comfortable
2. It’s filled with enough regular Black people to scare White people.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)