2010 Elections


“A New Era of Polarizing Racial Politics in the District”

Flickr: dharmabumx

Adidas shoes, Chocolate City-edition

Now reading: “Will white identity politics come to post-post-racial D.C.?“, by Adam Serwer at the City Paper.

But just as the browning of America has awoken a novel white identity politics nationally, the demographic forces that framed D.C.’s last mayoral election may prove to be the prologue to a new era of polarizing racial politics in the District, one in which explicitly catering to its most affluent white residents is a path to victory rather than a route to an ignominious defeat.

The Census numbers released last week showed that D.C.’s black residents have been fleeing the city in even larger numbers than expected, leaving blacks with a bare 50 percent majority of the population. The raw racial and cultural divide exposed by the contest between Gray and Fenty is also exacerbated by which residents are leaving. In 2009, the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute noted that “while incomes have risen for white households and those with the most advanced educations, incomes have been stagnant or falling for others.” The exodus of the city’s black middle class only exacerbates the trend. Playing to a base of black voters, now more than ever, also means playing to a base of poor voters.

Kanye West-sampled diss track attacks Vincent Gray

You’ve been missing the Ron Moten-produced Adrian Fenty support songs from the 2010 campaign, we know. So thank goodness Moten has released a new, heavily-sampled political stump song. This time he’s remixed Kanye West’s “Power.”

This new song breaks the relative silence we’ve had since “Five for Fenty” and “Don’t Leave Us Fenty,” efforts to bolster Fenty’s street cred that obviously weren’t effective enough in getting him re-elected. We’re not sure if this latest song will make much of effect in the already waning support of the Gray Administration. We’re just excited there will be another music video. Yes, another one.

Fenty Lost Because of Style, not School Reform

Flickr: Intangible Arts

Former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty with a young constituent in 2007.

Our former Mayor is in denial about why he’s no longer in office, according to TBD. Hint: he may not be a martyr to education reform, after all.

In interview after interview, the ex-mayor and Michelle Rhee, his former schools chancellor, have argued that political defeat is what happens to those who are so bold as to champion an aggressive stance toward teachers unions and a program of radical shifts in how business is conducted in the classroom…

The real danger lies not in pursuing Fenty-Rhee-style education reform, but in pursuing anything in the Fenty-Rhee style. That means no dissing the media at every turn. No brushing aside the concerns of great Americans. No scorning the notion of legislative oversight.

For as long as he remains in denial about his mayoralty, Fenty will likely keep peddling his tale of woe about education reform. As time wears on, however, he’ll have to make peace with the facts: His signature issue of education reform is popular among District voters, who still saw fit to vote him out of office.

DC’s New Construction Signs = Gray’s Old Campaign Signs?


Recognize this image from Vince Gray's mayoral campaign? Prepare to see something like it on improvement projects all over DC.

DCist flags a notable executive order in this week’s DC Register:

According to Executive Order 2011-45, [...] you’ll be seeing a lot more of “One City” around these parts — like everywhere the D.C. government maintains a presence.

The branding has already begun: the city’s annual Summer Youth Employment Program is now officially called the “2011 Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s One City Summer Youth Employment Program.”

The commenters at DCist are already bringing the snark, as they do. “Aside from the race baiting connotations, and campaign use, it’s not a slogan for a city,” posts Stmove. “It’s embarassing, as if the best thing we can say about the District is that it’s one city. It sort of makes Baltimore’s ‘Charm City’ look totally non ironic in comparison.” Best comment: “Yet another example of the “Novus Ordo Secretum” as prophecied in The Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accept Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, the Book of Revelations, the Last Words of Dutch Schultz, and the Fun 4 Kidz placemat at the Expressway 83 Shoney’s near McAllen, TX.”

How about it, DCentrists? Any thoughts on the logo, soon to be on DC business cards, letterheads and signs near you?

Gray Off to Not-So-Inclusive Start

Flickr: thisisbossi

"Gray Pride" at the Gay Pride Parade, this year.

The social web is buzzing about Mayor-elect Gray’s broken campaign promise to the LGBT community; while campaigning, one of Gray’s answers to the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance questionnaire included a promise to include LGBT community members in a search for the new police and fire chiefs. That didn’t happen:

The key point is that Mr. Gray did not invite anyone from the LGBT community in the search process. It isn’t clear that he checked with anyone outside of his transition team’s inner circle. Arguably, Chief Lanier is not “new” but that’s really being Clintonesque.

Chief Lanier essentially disbanded the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) at a time when anti-LGBT hate crimes are on the rise. The true value of the GLLU was community involvement. There was a time when the GLLU would visit community groups, bars, and social events just to introduce themselves and say hello. That was a time when the community started to trust the police. Lanier squandered that good will. I don’t recall the last time that I saw someone from the GLLU at any event. I did see them at a couple of the Pride events where they were not talking to anyone in the community. It was quite a waste of an opportunity. Unlike Chief Ramsey, Chief Lanier does not meet with us regularly, and would only do so if she had no other choice. It would be nice to have a police chief that treated us like a welcome part of the community. Mayor-Elect Gray says that she is an advocate of community policing. My experience is that she opposes that policy.

Continue reading

Understanding Courtland Milloy

It’s one of the busiest days of the year, but I wish I had a half-hour of quiet and a good cup of tea to sit down and give the City Paper’s front-page profile of Courtland Milloy the attention it deserves. Milloy infamously earned the ire of my laptop-toting peers when he mocked them by calling them “Myopic little twits” in his Metro column for the Washington Post. While my friends of one hue were outraged that the Post would legitimize a point of view they considered backwards, incendiary and racist, a few friends of another hue quietly maintained that he is the only one publicly representing the point of view of many D.C. residents who are otherwise never heard.

In Milloy’s telling, his barbs at D.C.’s creative-class newbies aren’t about lashing out at them because they’re new. He’s lashing out at them because they’re not. As gentrification takes hold of Washington and issues of inequality emerge, it’s not enough to take solace in Obama’s post-racial ideal while neighborhoods acquire a new mono-cultured cast. People who move into changing neighborhoods have a responsibility for what’s going on. Or so Milloy, in his role as the crotchety grandfather they never wanted, wants to tell them.

Milloy sees new Washingtonians as the flip-side of a process that, in his view, involves older ones being pushed out. And if the actual truth behind African-American departures is more complicated—plenty of folks, starting with Milloy, decamped voluntarily—he argues that it’s pretty damned egocentric to imagine that everything is sweetness and light.

“Well, I don’t know why people think I have a problem with the influx itself,” he says. “Not to be deliberately provocative, but that is the white view, it’s white-centered. ‘Why are you opposed to us moving in?’ But nothing about, ‘Why are you concerned about the way black people are being kicked out?’

Continue reading

Mayor-Elect Gray Prioritizes Lunch over a Funeral

My twitter feed is buzzing about Mayor-Elect Vince Gray missing the funeral of a police officer who died while serving, last week. Gray was having lunch downtown:

It’s going to be a long day for Vince Gray, Mayor-Elect of the District of Columbia.  Instead of attending the funeral of Officer Paul Dittamo, who died last week in the line of duty, Gray was in the dining room at the 4th Estate, the restaurant in the National Press Club, according to the restaurant’s Twitter account.  We called The Fourth Estate, and he arrived at 1pm for a lunch with Council Chair-Elect Kwame Brown, where he still sits at press time.

According to the Post’s Mike Debonis, Fraternal Order of Police chief Kris Baumann was “apoplectic” at the no-show.  You can understand his frustration and anger, given that Baumann and the Police union were leading supporters for Gray on his campaign.

Local blog We Love DC deserves credit for spotting the restaurant’s tweet and figuring out where the Mayor-Elect was. Even outgoing Mayor Adrian Fenty, who was criticized in the past for being a no-show at high-profile funerals, managed to make an appearance and offer remarks, though he was late.

The comments under this We Love DC post highlight why this was a bad move for Gray. “Welcome back to Barryland!“, a reader said, comparing the Mayor-Elect to Mayor-for-Life, Marion Barry. Here’s another:

Is anyone at all surprised by this? Vince’s first two days post election have been a disaster. It’s not going to get any better, people.

It’s been years since I worked on a campaign, but I feel qualified enough to offer this wee bit of advice; don’t give your detractors fuel with which to flame you, if you can help it, especially when you’re trying to eliminate division and lead “one city”.

A Better Post about African Americans and Voting

So, I’ve been a bit sad that no one ever comments on DCentric, even though I know better than to take it personally– I’ve been blogging for eight years, and in the beginning, no one. ever. comments. But, after yesterday’s post about African Americans and voting, several of you spoke up– and one of your comments was better than my post, itself.

Making up 10% of the voting electorate can’t meant that only 10% of registered African Americans voted. ~ 90 odd million people voted, so 10% of that is approximately 9 million voting African Americans. Voter participation in this midterm election was supposed to be 42%, so if 90 million = 42%, the total registered voter pool was 214 million, and 13% of that means there are probably 27 – 28 million registered African Americans. 9 million out of 27 million is much closer to 32- 33% participation rate, not a measly 4.7%. That’s pretty comparable to the general rate of 42%, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the discrepancy is due to being disproportionately burdened by the factors that depress voting for the less than wealthy. It’s a working day, not a holiday, there’s no childcare, and polls are often hard to get to–all things we should fix. ( I got my statistics on the voting numbers from this AP article by Matthew Daly.). According to Wikipedia In 2000 there were 36 million African Americans in the united states, so assuming growth was steady, there are about 40 million *now*. Many of those people are under the age of 18, so they can’t vote, so that means over all participation was AT LEAST 25%. That strikes me as pretty respectable–especially when you consider wide spread evidence that African Americans have been disproportionately and unfairly disenfranchised b/c of the discrepancy in felony status laws regarding the use of crack vs. the use of cocaine, not to mention other less clearcut kinds of unfairness in the criminal justice system.

Moral of the story: we need more numeracy in all of our communities. Support the Algebra Project.

Uh, I’ll take quality like that over quantity, any time. Thanks for breaking it down so beautifully, Saheli.

Why was “African Americans” a trending topic on Twitter?


A riff on Slate's infamous "Brown Twitter Bird", inspired by their “How Black People Use Twitter”-piece.

At any point throughout the day, Twitter lists the ten most popular “topics” being discussed on its micro-blogging service. As soon as they rolled out this feature, I opted to see a more specific list of what was popular in Washington, D.C. vs. a world-wide compilation of hot topics.

This afternoon, I noticed that “African Americans” was trending. Initially, all the tweets I read regarding that topic had to do with yesterday’s election, specifically a rumor that only 4.7% of African Americans voted. There was no source for the statistic and it was on fire, showing up in hundreds of tweets, every minute. There was also some consternation being expressed at the lack of African Americans in the Senate. I chose to focus on the former issue, and collected some tweets:
Continue reading

Another Reason Why D.C. Needs Voting Representation


Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek lost in Florida yesterday.

I hadn’t thought of this fact, until I read “America Is So Post-Racial, We Don’t Even Need Black People in Our Senate“:

I wanted to raise awareness around the rather unbelievable fact that the next United States Senate will not have ONE African-American in its ranks.

As reported by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, all three black Senate candidates, Kendrick Meek (D-FL), Alvin Greene (D-SC) and Mike Thurmond (D-GA) have lost their bids. The only incumbent black senator, Roland Burris (D-IL), is retiring.

Only six black senators have served including Burris: three Republicans and three Democrats, Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL), Edward Brooke (R-MA), Blanche K. Bruce (R-MS), Hiram Revels (R-MS before 1874, D-MS after 1874) and current President Barack Obama (D-IL).