With last week's election, Washington DC's City Council now has a slim 7-6 white majority.
This bears watching, given that we'll probably see an increase in two phenomenon:
- White mayors elected to run majority black cities.
I've already talked about Mike Duggan in Detroit. But there are likely others coming.
- Black cities becoming non-black ones.
Cities like Atlanta will likely "revert" to majority white status by the next census…and then likely become majority-minority cities by the census after that. Cities like Detroit if they want to continue to stay relevant will likely have to make neoliberal pitches to immigrant enclaves. So this DC result is the wave of the future. How will this change politics on the ground?
Assume we can break DC's population down into three:
- Poor long-term DC residents (predominantly black)
- Working class long-term DC residents (predominantly black public sector workers with a growing immigrant group)
- Professional short-term DC residents (predominantly white public and private sector workers)
Assume also that given the election results most government workers will be center-liberal along ideological lines. I think what you'll see is a consensus that continues DCs gentrification policy.
To the extent race matters it'll matter in the following ways:
- For mayoral elections.
Black City Councilpersons will deploy the language of race in order to bind together disparate black communities for the purpose of retaining the mayor's seat. The language will sound somewhat similar to that deployed by whites when black mayors first threatened THEM in the seventies, but will have very substance policy wise.
- In instances of explicit racism.
Whenever there is a clear instance of anti-black racism–an act of police brutality, or racial profiling–we'll see a few city councilpersons talk explicitly about race and racism. Marion Barry looms large here but there are likely one or two others.
- In instances of business set asides and public service workers.
We'll see it here more than anyplace else. In cities like D.C. the concept of "black interests" is usually applied to black middle-class/small business interests. Poor blacks needing transportation services don't really count. Black contractors looking for more city contracts DO. Black teachers needing better contracts do. When it's clear that gentrification isn't paying off for this population, city councilpersons will align along racial lines. Perhaps peeling off one or two white councilpersons.
Other than these instances I'm pretty sure it'll be business as usual because the white and black city councilpersons (with the exception of Marion Barry and perhaps one other) are largely uninterested in the issue of class inequality. But it'll still be interesting to follow what happens in DC going forward.