Prior to today’s election, Mary Norwood was nursing a six percentage point lead over mayoral rival Keisha Lance Bottoms. That lead is compounded by the gloomy looking weather outside, although supporters holding campaign signs on the corner of Tenth Street and Peachtree this morning offset the cloudy day with their enthusiasms.
What kind of signal would a Mary Norwood win send to Atlanta? It would an indication that the city has changed demographically. As I was telling my Uber driver this morning while we sat at the corner of Tenth and Peachtree, Atlanta in 1985 was just black and white. Blacks didn’t live in Buckhead. We just visited Lenox Square Mall every now and then. We saw white people at work and that was about it. The phrase, “the city too busy to hate” really meant “Everyone has other things to do so we aren’t interested in hanging out together.” That phrase has fooled a lot of people looking at the city from the outside thinking that Atlanta was becoming a mecca for racial harmony.
Quite the opposite. “Too busy to hate” was merely a blueprint for a new kind of segregation, a blueprint that also served as a marketing scheme to attract more Yuppies and Buppies to the capital city of Georgia. It included a truce, that Blacks would enjoy the political privileges stemming from having a majority of the city’s voters while kept what was really most important: economic power.
The thing with political power based on the number of people with black skin is that even if that power can be passed down the nepotism chain to other people with black skin, it is only a matter of time before that power becomes diluted. As the demographics changes and the city became more diverse, the power base naturally became diluted by other groups that did not share either skin color or the struggle narrative as promoted by Atlanta’s political elite.
Not only did economic power stay with whites (and it is only reasonable to expect this), whites also distributed opportunities stemming from economic power to non-black groups typically under the argument that these groups brought more value because they had the high-tech skills a diversifying Atlanta economy needed.
If anything, this is where Atlanta’s black elite screwed up. The establishment types, led by old heads like John Lewis, never expressed any sophisticated knowledge about capital, finance, and technology. So immersed were they in continuing the 1950s and 1960s legacy of Martin Luther King and Ralph David Abernathy, that they didn’t appreciate changes in the domestic or global economy. So alluring was their Pied Piper flute playing, that the masses followed them over the cliff of complacency.
Now tonight, after a day of gloomy clouds, Black Atlanta faces a new uncertainty …