Article Sparks Demographic Debates in Hyattsville
An article in the Washington Post generates discussion among Hyattsville residents about local demographics, development and class.
For a few days now, area residents have been digesting a Washington Post story which speculated that Hyattsville was among some Prince George's locales luring newer, younger and whiter families to the county.
According to census data analyzed by the Washington Post, Prince George's County's white population increased 2.4 percent as a result of roughly 3,100 new, white residents over the last 15 months.
The data, culled from census estimates, did not specify where those resident were moving to in Prince George's County. That did not stop the Washington Posts' reporters from hypothesizing that Hyattsville is among the areas impacted by this demographic shift.
Citing St. Jerome Catholic Church Pastor Rev. James Stack's recollection that he is performing less funerals and more baptisms, the presence of a Rise and Rhyme children's storytelling series at Busboys and Poets, and a 3 percent increase in the number of white students at Hyattsville Elementary School, the Washington Post painted a portrait of a city undergoing a demographic transformation.
"I was troubled by the tone of the article," said Hyattsville resident Jennifer Mendenhal, a decorated actress on the regional scene. "Furtively racist? Equating 'diverse' with 'risky'? White people moving in is reason for celebration–why?"
Hyattsville Councilor Candace Hollingsworth (Ward 1), a black woman and a somewhat recent transplant to the area, also took issue with the story.
"I don't think it gave credit to the white residents who have been here," said Hollingsworth in an interview. "It's almost as if new white residents are saviors for a struggling county."
Indeed, Hyattsville was already fairly diverse and has boasted a higher concentration of white residents than other areas of the county for some time. According to racial demographic information from the 2010 Census, 35 percent of city residents were black, 33 percent were white. Hispanics, counted separately as an ethnicity rather than a race, accounted for 36 percent of Hyattsville's residents.
In fact, Hyattsville's policy makers have been more concerned with reaching out to a booming Hispanic population in the south and west areas of the city. Over the last 10 years, the percentage of Hispanics living in Hyattsville doubled from 18 percent in 2000 to 36 percent in 2010. Earlier this year, the Hyattsville City Council voted to create a Hispanic minority-opportunity ward during the city's redistricting process.
Other local readers looked to the comment section below the article. Many of the comments can safely be described as openly racist in their assessment of Prince George's County's changing demographics.
"The article was broad brush, but that didn't bother me so much," said Hyattsville resident Meredith Massey on Facebook. "What really shocked me were the comments People really hate P.G. county and I don't understand why."
Hollingsworth thinks she has an answer.
"The outside world has a complex about who Prince George's residents are," said Hollingsworth. "When people don't think you are good enough, they will find whatever indicator they need to keep saying that."