Getting race out of the race

Thank you, Aaron Turpeau.

Turpeau, one of the original cogs in Maynard Jackson’s political machine, has been distributing a memo for the so-called Black Leadership Forum that burst into the public realm Thursday. The document describes, among other things, a desire for black voters in this fall’s Atlanta mayoral election to back a single black candidate in order to defeat Mary Norwood, the first serious white challenger for the office in some years.

Judging by public reaction to the memo on ajc.com and by statements from some of the candidates, there is rightly a lot of anger among blacks and whites alike about any ploy to make race central to this election.

For this contest is too critical to be decided on anything but the issues. The City Too Busy to Hate is fast becoming the City Too Mismanaged to Function .
So let’s look at this memo as an opportunity.

For starters, it should be more difficult now for any candidate to turn the election, even obliquely, into a race about race. That ugly prospect was denounced Thursday in no uncertain terms by Lisa Borders, whom the memo names as the logical “unity” candidate for the black community, and by Kasim Reed, the black candidate closest to her in opinion polls.

Let’s hold them to their lofty words. Race was bound to be a subtext of an election with a rare white front-runner, in a city that has had only black mayors since Jackson broke the color barrier in 1973. Now that it’s been exposed, may it be less potent.
Even more interesting are the “other things” to which I alluded earlier. Quite clear, for example, is that there’s no love lost between the memo’s author(s) and Mayor Shirley Franklin, considered part of the line of Maynard.

The memo also states:

“It is debatable to what extent the objective socio-economic and political position of the African American community has improved” since 1973.

“… Just having a black mayor doesn’t guarantee that African American issues and concerns would be effectively addressed either… . In other words, are we simply providing votes without any expectations of the candidate that would enjoy our support?”

“The changing demographics” in Atlanta — the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the proportion of white city residents has grown by 4.5 percentage points to 37.7 percent since 2000, with the black population declining by a similar amount to 56.8 percent — “requires that we critically evaluate all candidates.”

“To ignore the alienation that exists among black voters towards the Franklin Administration’s performance is naive at best and dishonest at worse [sic].”

“…In 2009 we have arrived at a place in time where we can no longer afford to just look at race in the Mayor’s race or individual [City Council] races.”

Granted, the memo uses the foregoing to argue for a “Black Agenda” for the next mayor. Such a racial lens is divisive and tiresome, to say the least. It may even backfire among black voters who understandably resent being viewed as a monolith that will vote mindlessly for whomever this “leadership forum” backs.

But the agenda hinted at in the memo — which laments “persistent poverty in the city; the educational crisis in the schools; the human security/public safety concerns; the type of economic development policies being pursued; and the city’s awful financial management issues” — is actually color-blind.

These are the problems of both blacks and whites. The candidate, of any color, who understands that and points the way forward is the one for voters, of any color, to rally behind.

16 comments Add your comment

[...] Kyle Wingfield on getting race out of the race. [...]

griftdrift

August 31st, 2009
3:11 pm

Kyle,

Please stop being so reasonable. You’re giving me nothing to work with.

@@

August 31st, 2009
3:45 pm

Not being a resident of the city, I’ve got no dog in this fight. Unfortunately Mr. Turpeau may have diminished the chances of a candidate he supports through guilt by association.

Mr. Turpeau, who contributed $500 to Ms. Borders’ campaign, defended the memo’s message.

“You shouldn’t vote solely on having a black candidate,” he said. “You have to deal with the credentials and skill set first. After that, it’s a feeling of pride that we’ve had for 35 years in this town. Ego gets important.”

EGO!!?!! Ego can often be mistaken for arrogance — a characteristic within politicians that has become all too offensive to the “average” American regardless of party OR race.

Mr. Turpeau is exposed by the invisible “BUT” that falls between the first two sentences and the last. Forget what he said in the first two sentences — his intention was made clear in the last.

African Americans need to toss “pigeon-holes” like Turpeau to the curb.

Good article Kyle. Far more succinct and less-tainted with justification than another AJC columnist whose name I will not mention.

Welcome aboard!!!

@@

August 31st, 2009
4:02 pm

One more thing, Kyle. When was the last time a Republican held the office of mayor. Maybe the city should give one a try. I don’t care whether he/she is white/black/asian or hispanic.

He/she/they might just succeed in bringing the city out of its Democratic doldrums.

Disgusted

August 31st, 2009
4:26 pm

When was the last time a Republican held the office of mayor.

Oh, I can just see an Atlanta population gushing support for school voucher programs, business incentives, and big trickle-down city tax breaks for the wealthy. Dream on, @@.

@@

August 31st, 2009
5:06 pm

Disgusted:

I always say if one’s gonna dream, one should dream BIG!!! Otherwise it’s just waste(D) effort. Kinda like trickling down a storm drain. The opportunity to flush ain’t there. It just accumulates emitting a foul odor.

Hillbilly Deluxe

August 31st, 2009
5:12 pm

@@

Just guessing I’d say the last Republican Mayor of Atlanta was probably during Reconstruction.

@@

August 31st, 2009
6:34 pm

Hillbilly Deluxe, I’m so happy to see you back.

I’ve missed you more than you know.

If my rant scared you away, I apologize but only to you.

There are those who deserved it…then there are others who, I hope, understood it.

Hillbilly Deluxe

August 31st, 2009
6:48 pm

@@

Nah, I don’t remember any rant. Just don’t care for the goings on over there. I prefer to keep discussions civil and that seldom happens.

@@

August 31st, 2009
7:31 pm

Hillbilly Deluxe:

I’m glad you didn’t see my rant. I was so engrossed in my anger with one particular blogger that I wasn’t reading any of the other comments.

Anyhoo, go ahead and share your thoughts on Kyle’s column. I’m always willing to listen to a man of few words. Words delivered with wisdom.

(IW&SH)

BTW, oftentimes reconstruction (politically speaking) is a good thing. I never again want to witness one-party rule in Washington. The American people become an afterthought when a political party gains too much power. It becomes all about them and their party.

There are those that believe nothing can get done unless there’s one party rule. I’m thinking that there are enough moderates who are beginning to see that as a problem with a solution. THEM.

Of course….I could be dreaming but hey…

a girl’s gotta dream.

Darren

August 31st, 2009
8:24 pm

Some folks say that if there’s no majority in Washington nothing gets done.

I say good. We’ve reached a point where the less government does, the better off the people are.

Let them sit on their hands. Wait to be summoned by WE THE PEOPLE.

Danforth

September 1st, 2009
12:06 am

No, there does not need to be a Republican mayor if he/she is anything like Sonny Perdue.

Willy

September 1st, 2009
11:21 am

Apparently, all it takes to cover for someone to spout racist material and then cover for that material is that it was done in the name of “academic analysis.” If by analysis you mean openly laying out campaign strategy that singles out one race to be defeated because of that person’s race, then analyze away. Why stop there? Why not create whole districts that vote for a certain group favorable to the “academic analysis” scheme? Oh wait, it’s been done. How about decreasing the standards of an examination for fireman in the north to allow for a more “inclusive” pool? Been there, done that. Why not engage in an “it’s our time to turn the screw” mentality despite the overwhelming evidence that at no other time in American history has more opportunity been available to a wider range of the populace. Yeah. The only thing owed to anyone in this country is the opportunity of a level playing field. That has been achieved. The professors had every right under the Constitution to express their opinions. To deny them would deny basic rights. What they are guilty of is using their positions and influence to perpetuate the myth that keeping historically black districts within their race is a positive for their neighborhoods. Just shut up and win on the content of your character, not the ugliness of your policy.

bje

September 1st, 2009
11:42 pm

I don’t know if I am more offended by a) the obvious discriminatory message of the memo or b) the frighteningly illogical attempt by the memo’s authors to redefine what is obvious content wise to any learned person or c) the poorly articulated apologetics contained in the missive or, perhaps d) Clark Atlanta suggesting that this memo doesn’t represent the view of the CAU faculty when, in fact, these gentleman are CAU faculty members.

It is tough to decide whether the anachronistic nature of the advocation for a mayoral candidate based simply on race or the fact that these men get tabbed as “professors” when they clearly lack some of the fundamentals we would hope for in graduating students.

catlady

September 2nd, 2009
12:23 pm

Get rid of this dude!

Tootie

September 4th, 2009
12:23 pm

I’m enjoying reading these posts!!!!!! Catlady….@@ and Hillbilly Deluxe are very entertaining. You should name your dog one of those names.

-Tootie