Like Detroit, could D.C.’s next Mayor be ‘white’?

The Washington D.C. mayor's race could show the change coming to America's cities. Photo: Councilman Tom Wells/ Flickr

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2013 — Since the late 1960’s, as the District of Columbia obtained it’s ‘home rule’ clause; giving the city the ability to allow council-managers to become fully recognized Mayors, all of its mayor’s representing the nation’s capitol have been black’. However, that could soon change in this upcoming Mayoral election, where the District of Columbia or “D.C.” could soon elect its first white’ Mayor in history.

With the current D.C. Mayor, Hon. Vincent Gray still deciding if he wants to seek re-election, a host of other candidates, comprised of D.C. city council-man, community leaders and business leaders have already made that decision. As the nation watched how Detroit, a city comprised of 80 percent African-Americans, elected its first white mayor since 1975; few are wondering if that same ‘phenomena’ can happen in D.C. Not to mention, Mayor Gray’s tenure as mayor hasn’t quite been the picture of success for many D.C. residents, perhaps making his candidacy, if he decides to run for a second term, extremely vulnerable.

Just imagine, for the first time in Washington, D.C.’s history that four white candidates have jumped into its city’s Mayoral race; D.C. City Councilman Jack Evans (DC, Ward-2); D.C. councilman Tom Wells (Ward-6); who primarily represents the more culturally and economically diverse sections of Washington, D.C. Not to mention, candidates David Catania and Phil Medelson, are also both running as at-large candidates who have expressed serious interest in D.C.’s high seat; which indicates how a city once considered “Chocolate City’ in reference to the large population of black residents; is now at the threshold of diversity, just as cities like New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Let’s face it; D.C. is clearly no longer a majority black’ city, but how did this happen? Well, last election cycle, Washington, D.C. for the first time lost its black majority, according to the U.S. Census Bureau; from the result of more diversity moving into Washington, D.C., including college students staying in the area post graduation, more white’ families leaving the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia and relocating to the district, and the rising property taxes and easy accessibility to navigate anywhere in D.C. via the metro transportation;  all significant factors for any successful major city.

Just consider of the D.C. mayoral candidates, any white candidate wanting to be Mayor a decade earlier would not even be considered a serious contender. Now Evans, Catania, Wells and Mendelson all believe that they can win in a city that prided itself as the first majority black- city in America. At the height of D.C.’s urban demographics, blacks made up approximately 75 percent of D.C.’s population, including Georgetown, Foggy Bottom and even the Waterfront, now known for its’ diversity. If that doesn’t move you, just remember that once D.C. Mayor Marion berry won election three times in this same city, following a massive sex scandal involving illegal drugs; so D.C. has always been a strong black’ political hub.

In recent times, the aftermath of race and class always presents socio-economic problems, whenever areas find themselves being gentrified. D.C. has found its black population moving out, and its white counterparts slowly moving into areas once deemed lower-income neighborhoods. According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, only 8-9 percent of whites residing in the nation’s capitol live in poverty, in comparison to almost 35 percent of blacks from the ‘district’ now are living in that same poverty or worse off economic conditions. Nevertheless, the possibility of a ’white’ mayor in D.C. brings new challenges; for example, what will the city’s demographics be in 10 years, where will those blacks’ being priced out relocate to, what does this mean for the future of D.C., and will D.C.’s taxation without representation ever be recognized?

Well, D.C.’s population in the past 10 years has already seen a rapid decline in poor blacks’ living in the district, as younger white couples have slowly increased in once heavy ‘black’ populated areas of North West and North East sections of the city. In fact, the poorest of black residents living in D.C. quickly found themselves relocating to Maryland and southern parts of Virginia. Some critics of D.C.’s gentrifying efforts have blamed upper class whites moving into the district for the reasons why many lower income black families have left the area.

Even D.C.’s former Mayor Marion Berry, who “ran the city from 1979 to 1992 discusses the changing of the cities demographics, and the prospects of having a white Mayor, saying “What’s important is who the white people are and what their platform is. Helping the poor? Uplifting Blacks out of poverty? Black folks aren’t going to be supporting you just because they’re black. They want to get something out of it. That’s called politics.”

Still, the trend of electing ‘anyone capable of doing the job, can always  leave a community better off, doesn’t matter if they’re white or not. Not everyone in D.C. will be delighted to make room for economic development, only once they realize that it’s a way to create jobs. Just as not everyone will accept the electing of a ‘white’ mayor, if the voters elect them. Perhaps it may take a’ white mayor to highlight some of these economic tensions, putting less emphasis on race and more on black inequality in D.C. Only time will tell; but voters in D.C., as in Detroit, are showing that substance should always prevail over one’s race.



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