In July 2014, the San Antonio City Council selected Councilwoman Ivy Taylor to fill the last year of Mayor Julian Castro’s term of office, when he accepted a political appointment to head up Housing and Urban Development in the President’s administration. The significance of this selection is that Ivy Taylor becomes the first African American Mayor in this city’s long history of racial relations, which has always been more progressive than the rest of the south.
Mayor Taylor also becomes only the second African American woman to become leader of a major city since Shirley Clarke Franklin was mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. What is even more impressive is that the black population in San Antonio is less than 10%. That is the lowest black percentage of a city over 30,000 that has or had a Black woman as its mayor. The other city was Asheville, North Carolina in 2011, and its percentage was 17.6.
However, let’s not restrict these impressive statistics from an African American perspective only. The larger picture is just as important in terms of the progress that women have made in the political arena. As of January 2014, of the 1,351 mayors of United States cities with populations over 30,000, 249 or 18.4% were women. Given that women are the majority population in this country, these figures are encouraging but not nearly as high as they should be.
Andrea Dew Steele, founder of Emerge America, a non-profit devoted to training more women for elective office, rationalized the reason for such a low figure in an article in the Philadelphia Tribune back on December 22, 2011. She told Marc Morial President and CEO of the National Urban League that, “We don’t feel as qualified as men; we’re not recruited in the same number; we feel turned off by the mechanics; we have persistent family barriers, and we don’t have the same networks as men.”
If Steele had followed Ivy Taylor’s career, she would know her excuses are nonsense. Ms. Taylor has won two impressive victories for the council seat in the Second District of the city. She did not win twice by feeling inferior in her ability to compete on the same level as a man. Her family is quite supportive, and her daughter is often seen with her at events. Her husband is a strong partner, not intimidated by his wife’s success, which is often a problem for a progressive and successful Black woman in this country.
One of the residuals that accrue to the black community with her elevation to the highest office in the city is that it can serve as a source of inspiration for young black girls, who are too often exposed to negative images to admire. Her success is a symbol for what can be accomplished by all young people if they have the will to achieve. Mayor Taylor did it the right way; she earned it through hard work and dedication.