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24 March 2015

OUR OPINION: Atlanta's Proposed Annexation of Sandtown is Built on the Rock of Racial Politics

Atlanta, Georgia's capital city, is at its tipping point.

In 2009, three decades after electing its first black Mayor, Atlanta was on the verge of electing its first white female chief executive.

Certain members of Atlanta's black political establishment recoiled at the prospect of someone white leading the so-called "Black Mecca" for the first time in 36 years.

The black establishment even put those fears into words, writing, "Time is of the essence because in order to defeat a [Mary] 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” [Jonsson (1 September 2009). Was Atlanta's 'black mayor first' memo racist - or just blunt?. Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved on 24 March 2015.].

Mary Norwood was defeated in that 2009 election, but only by the slimmest of margins -- 715 votes.

Norwood might have emerged victorious, six years ago, if it weren't for Atlanta adding roughly 2,000 residents from the Midwest Cascade and Regency Trace communities to the city in 2006. The 2,000 people, predominately black, are widely seen as the ones who gave Kasim Reed the edge in his runoff win over Norwood three years later.

Now, as we speed towards the 2017 Atlanta mayoral election, race looms like a shadow over the entire campaign.

Whites are increasing their numbers in Atlanta, while blacks are fleeing towards the suburbs. Atlanta is at its tipping point, and the right candidate could do what Mary Norwood could not -- become Atlanta's first white mayor in over three decades.

Potential candidates such as state Representative Margaret Kaiser (D - Atlanta) and former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard might succeed in this endeavor, if Atlanta's proposed annexation of the Sandtown community fails.

You see, much like Midwest Cascade and Regency Trace, Sandtown is a majority black community that is very politically active and engaged.

Sandtown votes, and Atlanta knows this; hence the capital city's ravenous interest in annexing Sandtown this year.

In a close contest between the heir of the Maynard Jackson political machine and the great white hope, Sandtown could provide the edge, and keep Atlanta in black hands for four more years.

Atlanta's black political establishment has a tenuous hold on power. And as we know, all those who gain power are afraid to lose it.

The only question left is not if, but when the black political machine of Atlanta will finally break.