The New Urban Regime: In Atlanta Gentrification Wears A Black Face

Submitted by Bruce A. Dixon on Tue, 04/30/2013 - 23:42
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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Black city hall, black police chief and mostly black cops, and black-landlords colluding to push working class African Americans out in favor of newer, whiter, more affluent residents? Sound familiar? You might be living under the new urban regime....

The New Urban Regime: Gentrification in Atlanta Wears A Black Face

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Edgewood Courts, a modest 200 plus unit Atlanta apartment complex is widely believed to be up for imminent sale. The surrounding neighborhood, like many in Atlanta, is being reclaimed by whiter and more affluent transplants, with the open blessing of mostly black city hall. Those who show up at local meetings of the area's Neighborhood Planning Unit, the quasi-governmental contraption through which some public monies and functions are funneled without the bother of involving less wealthy, less connected residents, are mostly in agreement ---- Edgewood's residents, including its children, present a clear and present nuisance, perhaps even a danger to the property values and lifestyles of their new neighbors, as proven by the stats which measure not crime, but police activity. Police simply don't bang on the doors of the affluent, or confront and abuse the children of yuppies.

Edgewood's adults and its children, then, are deemed deserving of aggressive and sustained attention by the only domestic part of government that grows in these times of austerity --- the police. Atlanta cops, for their part make it a point to attend all Neighborhood Planning Unit meetings, presumably to be available for just such instances. And sure enough, the complaints of well-off neighbors have resulted in a number of arrests and tense confrontations between dozens of police and residents over the last few weeks.

The apartment complex is owned by H.J. Russell, a black construction and real estate firm. Like everybody else in that business, they don't make money off stable neighborhoods. They only get paid when there's people moving out, and new people moving in. So mostly white yuppies sic black city hall and black cops on their black working class neighbors so they'll feel safer, and black realtors and tycoons can get richer.

The awfulness of what's happening in Atlanta's Edgewood Courts is that it's not unique or original at all. Anywhere black politicians are in power nowadays, their chief function seems to be that of what sociologist Jay Arena in his book Driven From New Orleans calls “the new urban regime...” Black politicians are able to serve white elites, and themselves better and more effectively than white politicians ever could alone. Black politicians, under the new urban regime are successful when they divert attention away from their actual policies and onto issues of status and symbolism.

When Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed runs for re-election later this year the call will be to protect the voice of black Atlanta from its first white mayor in forty years. It won't be about the mayor's gutting of employee pension funds, or his agenda of school and transit privatization. It won't be about Atlanta's racial poverty gap, at about 4 blacks to every one 1 white, the highest in the nation's forty largest cities..

Black Mecca is over. Welcome to the new urban regime.

For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

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