Authenticity, Cuisine, and H Street’s Quality-of-Life Aesthetics
This chapter considers the significance of “authenticity” and “quality-of-life” aesthetics as they relate to city life. Authenticity has become a means by which people attach meaning to things and experiences rather than people—hence the proliferation of boutiques, craft breweries, and cafés alongside the practice of branding neighborhoods in terms of distinctive cultural identities. The policing of “quality-of-life” relates to the notion that white residents are more interested in improvements to lifestyle (bike lanes, farmer’s markets) and Black residents want equitable social and economic opportunities. While displacement, through a loss of access, is certainly taking place on H Street, this chapter argues that it is this exact tension between the polar class/race/lifestyles that spurs attraction to the area. At the same time, one can be stern or exhibit anger over the changes (as aesthetic, not critique), as long as the fundamental power relations of society, founded on broad appeal to white buyers, remain intact. Therefore, blackness in the marketplace must be that which sells, and that which can be easily transacted by proprietors of capital.
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