AMERICAN TALE OF TWO CITIES: THE GROWTH OF ECONOMIC APARTHEID
The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce will produce reams of hype about
the city this summer for the Democratic National Convention. In turn,
the media will dutifully hype the rest of the nation about Atlanta.
But there is another side to Atlanta that has gone largely unreported
by the U.S. Media.
Economic forces at work in Atlanta are "producing a new kind of
segregation, which threatens to leave blacks out of the great job
reshuffling that is taking place not only in the Jewel of the South
but throughout the country."
In Atlanta, corporations are moving their operations and jobs to
Cobb and Gwinnett counties, two overwhelmingly white, affluent,
Republican-voting suburbs to the north of Atlanta.
Though many media have profiled the MetroAtlanta economic
renaissance, specifically highlighting Gwinnett County, the fastest
growing county in the nation, most have failed to state that both Cobb
and Gwinnett, though considered part of MetroAtlanta, do not share the
tax base or government with the city.
Black citizens of Atlanta have no share in the new economic
affluence profiled by the media. In fact, with the particulars of
this MetroAtlanta economic demography in mind -- no shared tax-base,
no shared government, no shared public transportation system, new
freeway project connecting outlying suburbs and bypassing inner city
access, corporate flight, and the traditional (racist) dividing line
of Interstate 20 -- the proliferation of an economic apartheid is
When asked why corporate development went north, J. Patrick
Murphy, the senior vice president for economic development of Gwinnett
County's Chamber of Commerce, pulls out a map and points to Interstate
20, which runs from east to west straight through Atlanta, halving the
metropolitan region. "Since before the time of the Civil War, it was
understood that free blacks weren't to come above this line. And most
of them still live south of it," says Murphy. "I suppose development
just follows the money."
David Beers and Diana Hembree, who exlored this issue with
support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, said it "would be
a mistake to interpret Atlanta's racially skewed boom as peculiar to
the South and growing mainly out of the region's historical
prejudices. It is probably more accurate to take Atlanta as it bills
itself -- as the shape of things to come. Similar growth patterns are
occurring all over the United States, invariably favoring white
suburbs and avoiding black urban centers.
SOURCE: THE NATION, 3/21/87, "The new Atlanta: A Tale of Two
Cities," by David Beers and Diana Hembree, pp 357-360.