I”ve lived in Georgia. Almost ten years. All of it was in greater Atlanta. It is a beautiful, interesting city. It is in a beautiful, interesting state. One thing I learned about Georgia was the truth in the saying, “The only thing wrong with Atlanta is that it is surrounded by Georgia.” While there are unpleasant pockets of people in Atlanta, the further you go from Atlanta the rougher it becomes, especially if you are moving south. The “n” word is alive and well. Voice and body language tell the rest of the story. Many bad things still happen to people of color when travelling alone, sometimes even when travelling in groups.
Georgia is now in the middle of a bru-ha-ha caused by the state legislature and governor with the passage of what some have called a voting law that returns the state to the days of Jim Crow. Stirring this pot comes a bat swung by major league baseball as it moves the All-Star game from the state. That will cost Georgia millions of dollars. The news however spoke about it in a very interesting way. It said that Delta Airlines (the airline about whicfh it was said, “if you die in the south, your have to fly through Atlanta to get buried) and Coca-Cola (about which one speaks only in hushed tones) opposed the legislation after it was passed. Read that again: after it was passed.
There has been a long-standing policy, unwritten, held by the major corporate players in Atlanta. It was a policy that got Atlanta through the worst of the civil rights era. The major honchos–one or two of the banks, Coke, Delta, Emory–would have lunch or play a few rounds of golf. They’d decided what was best for the city and how that “best” should be achieved. They artfully achieved buy-in and mostly before you knew it the problem was solved, one way or another. Making trouble was just not good for business. The last year has seen Georgia spin out of the control of this policy, or seem to. The final chapter I think is yet to be written.
How has this happened? In a word demographics. I’ll give you one example. In the years I lived in Atlanta there were 35-50,000 Jews who supported a day school and six synagogues. The Jewish population has burgeoned to well over 100,000, there are 22 synagogues, several schools and Jews live now where years ago only lived cows and klansmen.
One can add religion to that equation. The southern Baptists are feeling the pressure from other evangelicals. The growth of the Catholic church, once .5% of the population, is seen. Such changes also have their political sides.
Similar examples could be given using Hispanics, Islanders and others. It is harder and harder to find a real old fashioned Georgia accent in the city and in many other places in the state. Part of the influx of folks has been from the northeast and with them their so-called leftist liberal ideas. These changing demographics will continue to change. This is what I see happening.
There will be a political war. Alot of it will be sub-rosa. A lot of it won’t. You will have those “leftist liberals” and their standard bearer, Stacy Abrams against the “real Georgians” like Governor Kemp and his minions. Unless the conservatives can find a way to limit voting in a way that won’t be overturned by the courts (and that’s one battle yet to be fought), their battle is lost to demographics. The only question is how long it will take. Will a combination of losses in the courts and rising number of more liberally disposed in-migrants sweep away the southern establishment or will they wear it down and wear it away? The latter will take more time than the former.
In the backrooms and board rooms of Atlanta you can be sure consternation reigns. It is likely that the political chaos will not be good for business. It is likely that business will want to tamp down the chaos, stay ahead of the coming change. The only question is how they do that. Can they find a way to find “peace in the valley? Old ideas die hard. Here’s another example. I was part of a group that tried to get Leo Frank’s conviction for killing Mary Phagan overturned. The evidence was clear. He did not and could not have done it. The problem was that the evidence didn’t matter. Our strategy was to find people linked to the hanging who would shed their stalwart conviction that what was done was done was right. I was assigned to visit the great-niece of Mary Phagan who looked so much like the little girl whose picture hung above the mantle looking down at our conversation that it was spooky.
Here was the end result. Yes, she believed the hanging was wrong and that the exoneration should be granted, but… The but was her daddy, who was still alive and he believed with all his heart that Frank had done the deed. She said,, “While my daddy is a live I will never go against him.” And she said it in a pure Georgia accent.
While my own heart is for the Abrams forces to find a way to unleash another voting avalanche, my head tells me that for the good of Atlanta and Georgia this change must be managed gingerly and that the big boys have to have a hand in it. How to make that happen? Pour every penny you can spare into backing the liberals. Sign every petition that comes your way condemning the new law. That way the powers that be will see that time is a-wasting and they’d best find an accommodation or else–at least from my perspective.
Bill Gralnick’s profile and other incidentals can be found on his website williamgralnickauthor.com. For his lighter side there is the acclaimed book, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales From Brooklyn.” It’s sequel, “George Washington Didn’t Sleep Here,” a romp through college and graduate school will be out this summer. Both books are far less depressing than the newspaper.