Washington DC

Chinatown

The archway and train station in Chinatown, D.C.

Washington D.C.’s Chinatown is a place that I will get to know well this semester — in addition to being the site of the closest subway stations to school, I am also externing at a law firm in the heart of Chinatown.

The Friendship archway in Chinatown, Washington D.C.

The Friendship archway in Chinatown, Washington D.C.

Washington D.C.’s Chinatown is beautiful, but the name is a bit misleading

It appears that although Chinatown used to be a place were many Chinese-Americans actually lived, it’s now just a collection of Asian restaurants among luxury apartments and chain stores with random Chinese subtitles.

Starbucks, Walgreens, Bed Bath & Beyond, and even the Irish bar in the neighborhood have Chinese subtitles beneath their names. Most of the neighborhood’s former Chinese-American residents have migrated to the suburbs, and even many of the black residents are having a hard time staying in the area.

Although some point to Chinatown as a clear sign of gentrification, I am not sure that’s the most accurate of characterizing the neighborhood. The ethnic and cultural makeup of many D.C. neighborhoods has changed over the years. Chinatown has managed memorialize its Chinese roots, even if it’s just present in architectural details and subtitles on the Starbucks cafe. Questions of ‘authenticity’ aside — it’s still a cool place to spend time in this semester.

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