D.C. Mayoral Candidate and At-Large Councilman, Robert C. White. (Courtesy DC City Council)
District of Columbia in-person primary elections will be held on June 21. To vote in the D.C. primary, you must be registered with the Democratic, Republican, Statehood Green or Libertarian Parties. However, all voters- including independents- may cast votes on initiatives and referendums, according to the District of Columbia Board of Elections.

For the next several weeks the AFRO’s D.C. section will feature summaries of each of the three mayoral candidates. This week’s feature provides a perspective of the life and platform of Robert C. White, current At-Large City Council Representative.

By Cara Williams,
Special to the AFRO

Robert C. White Jr., the At-Large Member of the Council of the District of Columbia, has seen his fair share of the atrocities – the kind of troubles that could have derailed him at several points early in his life.   

However, White could not be deterred – not from the goals of finishing high school, becoming the first college graduate in his family, and being a lawyer. 

That tenacity and drive, he says, have positioned him to run for Mayor of Washington, D.C.

After losing his mother to breast cancer as a child, and a month later being involved in a near-fatal accident that left him with a severe head injury, White fell behind in his studies from the third grade to the tenth grade. 

In opposition to the predictions of a high school guidance counselor who told him he would never go to college, White not only went to college at St. Mary’s in Southern Maryland, but continued on to  American University Law School, entered the legal profession and used his training as cession and became a lawyer, and worked on Capitol Hill.  

Moving from the seat of struggles to the benches of justice, he attributes his success to the support from “Monica”, his church family, and his father.

“My family really wrapped around me and kept me protected long enough so I could get my footing,” White said.

The 40-year-old fifth-generation Washingtonian is married to Christy White, who he met in law school. They are the parents of “two young queens,” Madison, 5, and a three-year-old, Monroe.

“My wife was my wing woman in law school,” White said, “law school friends that fell in love,” he continued.

White began his journey to politics in junior high school.  Following in his father’s footsteps as a “political news junkie,” White believed that elected officials could make a real difference for people; he just had to find his path.

As a lawyer, White believed the system needed more people of color as prosecutors, judges, and police officers. 

“If you want to influence systems, you’ve got to be inside to make the necessary changes,” White said.

Nevertheless, an unforeseen opportunity would present itself to White and divert his ambition to engage in civil law, and instead, he became legislative counsel for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

“It wasn’t the career path I was planning on,” White said, but that was the only member of Congress that I would consider changing my career plans for.”

He would go on to work for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton for five years. 

In 2014, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine appointed White as the first Director of Community Outreach for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General.

Having known the Councilmember for seven-plus years, Racine said White played a critical role in connecting with the residents across the district.

“Robert is smart, capable, honest, and he truly cares about all District residents,” Racine said.

Racine went on to add, “Robert will focus government resources on our most vulnerable communities to maximize every child’s potential and implement innovative solutions to the most pressing issues in our city.”

Finally, in 2016 White was elected At-Large to the D.C. Council, where he is striving to improve the communities in the D.C. area.

Today, White’s vision as the mayor of D.C. is to reduce violence and crime with a seven-point plan starting with violence reduction and improving the District’s education system. 

White wants to address housing, a critical need that has become unaffordable for many moderate-income families who were the bedrock of the community where he grew up.  He seeks to address employment and most importantly, White aims to create a local government we can trust.

According to his website, White proposes a Jobs Guarantee for D.C Program to help citizens provide for their families in a healthy and productive way. He believes that is the best tool to stop violence in the city. 

As an At-large Councilman, White pointed to the legislation he championed as a start in delivering what the communities of Washington D.C. need.

He has passed legislation to expand childhood education and restored voting rights for incarcerated citizens who lost their right to vote because of Jim Crow.

White has expanded workforce programs for the District’s returning citizens, like his brother. He wants to do more to create pathways to productive and contributing years for people who have served their time in the criminal justice system. 

Describing himself as focused; White says he identifies the problems and blocks out everything to solve them.

White says he wants the people of D.C. to know that he “sees them”. 

“I think what we need in the next Mayor is somebody that makes the communities feel seen,” White said. 

“Someone who sees the value in our communities and the struggles that everyday people are going through.”

The At-Large Councilmember has been encouraged by many in his life to serve the people of his community with empathy and dignity.  White has incorporated bits of inspiration from each of his “historical heroes.”  

In examining the life of Frederick Douglass, White realized that if Douglass could overcome his life circumstances and transition from a young failing student to one of the greatest writers and orators in the world, then there was no excuse for him.

“I found a lot of inspiration in the Frederick Douglass story, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” White said.

“Barack Obama,” White said, “served with such distinction and worked really hard not to give in to the political harassment that he walked into.”

“He was really a steadfast leader that tried his best to represent the black community,” White continued. 

Bobby Kennedy, who White said, had a focus on social justice, which was in line with the direction White will pursue in governing Washington D.C. 

“The work that I do is social justice work. That is just what I do,” White said.

“I’ve learned how to be a problem solver,” White continued, “and this city needs a visionary mayor.”

Councilmember White realizes that there is a lot of work ahead to get Washington to the place where it is a safe home for all of its residents. White is forward to what “will be and not what was.”

“Four decades on this earth and about a half dozen of them in or around politics has not made me lose my sense of optimism,” White said.

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