Woodley Park, Washington, D.C. is an affluent neighborhood of predominantly white, highly educated, liberal Washingtonians. Single family homes start at about $800,000 and can run into the millions, while a renovated one bedroom apartment can be had by four interns sharing the rent.
I appreciate, for the most part, residing in this part the District. I take the Metro to work alongside well-scrubbed and clearly smart folk who keep the government running, ruminate at think tanks and serve at nonprofits. I like coming home to tree-lined streets with squealing toddlers chasing after squirrels under the watchful eyes of brown-skinned nannies on smart phones.
There are times however when I am reminded that just like everybody else, my progressive worldly neighbors have their own set of racial blinders. I am judged, in spite of my education, profession and surrender to the Washingtonian navy blazer and khakis drag, according to the color of my skin and facial features. Since I look Latino then I must be Latino. Never mind the fact that I am not.
During my first year at the “luxury” apartment where I live, the head of the tenants’ association summarily assumed without looking me in the eye that I was one of the building’s custodians. “You’re coming up later to fix my cable, right?”
Just last week, a middle-aged woman admitted that though we have met multiple times, she can’t seem to remember my name and wants to call me Carlos. “I don’t know why I think your name is Carlos … you just don’t look like an Erwin.”
The funny thing is, she pretty much solved her puzzle – I don’t look like an Erwin to her. In her mind, I look more like a Carlos or a Mario. Admitting that however would be owning up to her deeply ingrained racial stereotypes. And we all know that well-off and educated liberals are post-racial.
You can follow me on Twitter @ErwindeLeon.