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10 May 2010

Changes In ATL Demographics Could See The End Of Race-Based Politicking

A new study from the Brookings Institution says that more whites are moving back to Atlanta and other cities.

White flight? In a reversal, America's suburbs are now more likely to be home to minorities, the poor and a rapidly growing older population as many younger, educated whites move to cities for jobs and shorter commutes.

Washington, D.C., and Atlanta posted the largest increases in white share since 2000, each up 5 percentage points to 44 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Other white gains were seen in New York, San Francisco, Boston and cities in another seven of the nation's 100 largest metro areas.

Whites Move to Atlanta, Other Cities. WAGA-TV. Retrieved on 2010-5-10.

Such a significant change in the demographics of Atlanta could result in dramatic political change as well; meaning that the current Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, could be Atlanta's last black mayor for awhile.
In fact, that kind of race-based politicking may trigger a backlash from some voters. Or even worse, white voters could return the favor by only voting for white candidates; and that benefits no on


Former Atlanta City Council member Mary Norwood, who is white, came very close to ending more than 35 years of blacks holding the Atlanta Mayor's office.

During Norwood's campaign for Mayor of Atlanta, there was a lot of discussion surrounding the possibility of Norwood becoming Atlanta's first white mayor since 1974. Clark Atlanta University political science professor William Boone penned a memo that read in part:

Time is of the essence because in order to defeat a Norwood (white) mayoral candidacy we have to get out now and work in a manner to defeat her without a runoff, and the key is a significant Black turnout in the general election;

With the “Black Mayor first” approach there is an unstated assumption that having a black mayor in Atlanta is equal to having a black social, economic and political agenda or at least someone in office who would be sensitive to that agenda if not a full promoter of that agenda;

Galloway, Jim (2009-8-27). The memo that’s about to shake the Atlanta mayor’s race. Political Insider. Retrieved on 2010-5-10.

The Boone memo seemed to strongly suggest that since Mary Norwood was white, she was not right for Atlanta. And Norwood's political opponents pulled out all the stops to discredit her as a viable choice for Atlanta's top job.

Aside from the Boone memo, the race card was not played on a very visible level (to my knowledge). However, the "Blacks-should-only-vote-for-Democrats" and "Atlanta-is-a-Democratic-city-and-deserves-a-Democratic-mayor" cards were played heavily and frequently.

With this new Brookings Institution report, the old way of campaigning in Atlanta municipal elections may be a thing of the past.

Fostering blacks' fears of a white elected official breaking out the dogs, water hoses and billy clubs (a la John Eaves) isn't going to win a candidate too many elections in a city that is almost evenly divided between blacks and whites. Neither will memos implying that only black elected officials care about the plight of black people

In fact, that kind of race-based politicking may trigger a backlash from some voters. Or even worse, white voters could return the favor by only voting for white candidates; and that benefits no one.

It is past time to end race-based campaigning, and move towards an era of campaigning on ideas. If a candidate has a vision and platform that voters feel are in their best interests, then that should be the final word not the candidate's race.