As voters in the nation’s capital head to the polls on Tuesday, a key race puts a spotlight on gentrification in the place that was once rightfully called Chocolate City.
The city council race between longtime incumbent Phil Mendelson, the council’s chairman, and political newcomer Ed Lazere has shaped up to be a proxy fight on gentrification and economic inequality, the Washington Post reported.
Lazere, 54, has been knocking on doors in neighborhoods that were once home to scores of working-class Black families to discuss how he would stem the mass exodus. He’s criticizing Mendelson for his alleged role in crafting policies that have failed to address the growing wealth gap between Black residents and the wave of new white residents with deep pockets.
The Black population in the District of Columbia has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in decades. A Georgetown University study that analyzed gentrification paints a picture of profound economic disparities between the city’s Black and white residents. The average net worth of a white household is $284,000, compared to just $3,500 for Black households. There’s also a huge gap in median annual incomes: whites at $120,000 and Blacks at $41,000.
Many of these inequalities stem from a history of discrimination that pushed the district’s Black residents to the fringes of the economy, the study said. Historic discriminatory practices range from segregated schools to redlining, in which banks declined to lend money to Black entrepreneurs and home buyers.
The situation angers many longtime Black residents. A new federal lawsuit filed in April by attorney Aristotle Theresa, on behalf of several Black residents, accuses local lawmakers of enacting policies that discriminated against low-income Blacks in the city by taking proactive steps to attract affluent, young white professionals.
Lazere has an uphill political battle on his hands, according to the Post. Mendelson, 65, has more campaign money, name recognition and support from influential community leaders.