Here’s the quote that was featured in a front page article, Feb. 23 about Kenya’s coastal tourism industry, which is hurting because of Western travel warnings that were issued there after “a round of violence last summer.”
“Our policy doesn’t make much sense,” said the American official in Nairobi. “There are neighborhoods in Washington, Anacostia, for example, that are way more dangerous than Nyali or Diani,” he said, citing two relatively quiet Kenyan beach towns.
The point this official is trying to make is that the U.S. State Department is overreacting with its strict travel advisories and hurting the Kenyan economy, which could create a more favorable environment for terrorism. But using Anacostia to make this case, is, as Nikki Peele — a Congress Heights resident who writes about Ward 8 issues for her blog, Congress Heights on the Rise — put it, “derogatory.”
“People use those type of derogatory comments to show how in the know they are of D.C.,” Peele said. “But what happened in the past three to five years is that people look more ignorant than anything.”
Anacostia is a historic, largely low-income and black neighborhood east of the Anacostia River in Ward 8. The neighborhood has a burgeoning arts scene and appears to be on the cusp of redevelopment, with an active community base trying to determine how the neighborhood should redevelop. Yes, there is violent crime in Anacostia that is hurting the neighborhood, but crime is not unique to Anacostia or Ward 8.
Nylali and Diani have seen violent attacks in the past year; although without similar and contextualized crime data, it’s hard to determine if Anacostia is actually “way more dangerous” than the two Kenyan towns.
“Nine out of 10 times, when people make these comments, they don’t know where Anacostia is and probably have never been there,” Peele said. “At least if you live east of the river, it’s clear that these people, those self-described Anacostia experts, probably have never been.”
The State Department hasn’t responded to a request for comment.