Special Virtual Issue of Journal of Urban Affairs

A quick note during a week when there’s not much else to talk about. My article Metropolitan Secession and the Space of Color-Blind Racism in Atlanta has been included in an accessible virtual online issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs on “Immigration, Ethnicity, and Race in the City” (or in my case, the metropolitan county).

Here’s the abstract:

The Reverend Joseph Lowery and the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus sponsored a 2011 voting rights suit, Lowery v. Deal, that demanded the disincorporation of several majority-white cities in Georgia’s Fulton and DeKalb Counties and preemption against attempts by affluent and majority-white north Fulton to secede from the rest of the county. Secession would have severe consequences for racial equity in the metropolitan area. Lowery’s 2011 dismissal by the District Court reflects ascendant color-blind racial ideology that defends white privilege in metropolitan space by attributing it to culturally and legally legitimate race-neutral processes. Historical analysis challenges this color-blind interpretation, identifying the nominally class-based interests of north Fulton residents with systemic racial discrimination and the politics of secession with historic patterns of spatial politics that have sought not only to exclude but also to manipulate political space to limit the ability of black voters and officials to make decisions affecting whites and their property.

Although I’m sure anyone reading this has had their fill of election analysis, and academic writing moves slowly, I think that there is one key element in my article that resonates with the shocking (or perhaps not so shocking) results of Tuesday’s voting. I highlight the vehemence with which many affluent suburban whites insist on the one hand that their political behavior is not about race (and indeed fixing blame for racism on minority leaders) while on the other hand taking extraordinary measures to prevent Black voters from influencing decisions affecting their property and avoid participating in a political commonwealth with Black people. Maybe that sounds familiar.

For whatever it’s worth, compare the county-level map of Georgia with the results of Congressional races (a precinct level map would be better, and maybe I’ll update with one later). At the larger scale, it seems like Metro Atlanta is a bastion of Clinton support, which makes the final 51.3-45.6 percent Trump margin (231,323 votes) seem inexplicable in a state many talked about flipping blue.

But if you look at the results of several congressional races in metro Atlanta districts, you’ll see the region is starkly cleaved on an east-west line separating strong Dem and strong GOP seats that also roughly tracks the geography of support for suburban secession.

In District 6, which includes much of north Fulton, Tom Price defeated his Democratic challenger by 61.6-38.4 percent (more than 72,000 votes). Adding up the Republican margins in districts 6, 7, and 11 on the north side of metro Atlanta yields a total advantage of 244,672 votes (bigger than Trump’s statewide margin). Assuming most congressional voters cast ballots by party preference for the presidency, that means that Trump won Georgia in significant part by dominating the white suburbs of Atlanta. I’d also heartily recommend Carol Anderson’s White Rage, which remains as relevant and important a work as ever.

A coda to my article. Voters in south Fulton County yesterday approved a ballot measure to pursue incorporation as a city, which would pretty much complete the municipalization of Fulton County. A few brief points: while South Fulton would be poorer and have more Black residents than any of the north Fulton cities I discuss, this does not support the idea that cityhood and fragmentation give desired local control to all communities on an equal footing. I’d say it’s much more likely that south Fulton voters recognized the degree to which Fulton County has been weakened as a service providing government by the incorporations of wealthy areas in the north (and of the more affluent Chattahoochee Hills area in the south) and the risk of incorporating later after existing municipalities annexed valuable land. Going forward, different parts of Fulton County will be using the same tools of local government but with vastly different resources at their disposal.

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This is Encouraging

The Intercept has posted what seems to be a leaked Pentagon video about the challenges, from a counterinsurgency and governing perspective, of mega-urbanization. If you’ve been keeping up on your dystopian futurism (my current favorite is Margaret Atwood’s treatment of the Pleeblands outside of the corporate compounds in her Maddadam trilogy, but YMMV) you will recognize a lot of this.


What’s interesting is that the broader alternate possibilities of promoting democratic and humane cities is completely outside the frame for the Department of Defense. If your only tool is a hammer, you start complaining about how many nails there are and wondering why they won’t sit still.