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Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City

Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City book cover

A New Book from MPC Director Derek Hyra

For long-time residents of Washington, DC's Shaw/U Street, the neighborhood has become almost unrecognizable in recent years. Where the city's most infamous open-air drug market once stood, a farmers' market now sells grass-fed beef and homemade duck egg ravioli. On the corner where AM.PM carryout used to dish out soul food, a new establishment markets its $28 foie gras burger. Shaw is experiencing a dramatic transformation, from "ghetto" to "gilded ghetto," where white newcomers are rehabbing homes, developing dog parks, and paving the way for a third wave coffee shop on nearly every block.

Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City is an in-depth ethnography of this gilded ghetto. Derek S. Hyra captures here a quickly gentrifying space in which long-time black residents are joined, and variously displaced, by an influx of young, white, relatively wealthy, and/or gay professionals who, in part as a result of global economic forces and the recent development of central business districts, have returned to the cities earlier generations fled decades ago. As a result, America is witnessing the emergence of what Hyra calls "cappuccino cities." A cappuccino has essentially the same ingredients as a cup of coffee with milk, but is considered upscale, and is double the price. In Hyra's cappuccino city, the black inner-city neighborhood undergoes enormous transformations and becomes racially "lighter" and more expensive by the year.


William Julius Wilson, author of The Truly Disadvantaged
"Based on six years of field research in a Washington DC community undergoing revitalization, Hyra addresses a set of innovative questions regarding neighborhood transformations. These include the role of broader political and economic forces, the decision of some whites to live in a black-branded ghetto community, the racial and class dynamics when people who had been previously segregated come together, and the gains and losses experienced by the low-income blacks who haven't been displaced by gentrification. Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City is an insightful and compelling book. I highly recommend it not only to scholars and students, but to general readers and policymakers as well."

Elijah Anderson, author of Code of the Street and The Cosmopolitan Canopy
" Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City is a poignant, provocative, and well-written study of the gentrification that threatens to fundamentally alter so many of the nation's urban black ghettos, not only by displacing the poor and increasing local property values, but also by effectively changing the color of the people who reside in the inner-city. This monograph is a major contribution to our knowledge of the city."

Blair Ruble, author of Washington's U Street: A Biography
"Few American cities have changed as much and as rapidly as Washington, DC, where a process of private urban revitalization has swept through countless neighborhoods. Few areas have changed as much as Shaw, once home to the nation's preeminent African American elite, then an epicenter of a vigorous narcotics trade, and now home to ever more visible young professional millennials. Hyra takes us to the street to explore, in the words of local DC hero Marvin Gaye, what's been going on in a neighborhood where long standing local carryouts have been replaced by $28 burgers of foie gras and lobster. Hyra shows how, for all the change, much remains the same when it comes to social, economic, and political justice. As he reveals, when it comes to gentrification, little is what it seems to be."