By James Sweet | GEORGIA
Today, elections are being held across the country ranging from offices as small as mayor to positions as large as governor. Many eyes are set on the Virginia gubernatorial election due to mainstream media’s coverage of it, as well as the heat and closeness of the election. However, one election can have more of an impact than one would think. That is the Atlanta mayoral election, and it can have a greater effect on cultural and social issues than you think.
In 1971, Ebony magazine called Atlanta the “Black Mecca of the South”. In 1973, Maynard Jackson was elected the first black Mayor of Atlanta. Before being elected, the Mayor of Atlanta was Sam Massell, a Jewish white male. After being elected, Maynard Jackson’s mission was to help the city of Atlanta, a major location for the Civil Rights Movement that recently succeeded. Following Maynard Jackson’s election, every Mayor of Atlanta has been black. In 2000, the United States Census Bureau found that only 54% of the population of Atlanta was “black or African American”. This is different from the demographics of Atlanta from the 1990’s, where 67% was “black or African American”. Sources like Politico have stated that this decline is still occurring and that it is believed the black population has fallen below half of the overall population. The current mayoral election shows this clearly.
A poll taken on November 1st shows that Keisha Lance Bottoms, a black female on the Atlanta City Council, is in the lead with 25.4% of the vote. Mary Northwood, a white female also on the Atlanta City Council, is following closely behind with 23.4%. The margin of error of this poll was 3.6%. With this margin of error, it is entirely possible for Mary Northwood to come out on top. Now, if no candidate receives a majority of the votes, there will be a runoff election on December 5th. If Mary Northwood either stays as the second most popular candidate or comes out on top, she will be seen in the runoff election. For a city with historically black influence in these elections, it is quite unusual to see a white candidate close to winning.
This election can either continue the historical trend of a black Mayor of Atlanta or can change the way that Atlanta runs while breaking this trend. At a public forum held recently, candidates for mayor were asked many different questions. A question that Northwood garnered attention for was the following: “Do you believe that police target or racially profile black and brown males in the community?” At this public forum, the candidates were to merely respond by holding up a sign with “yes” or “no” on them. Mary Northwood, however, didn’t do so. Without raising her sign, she asked, “Atlanta or the country?” Northwood then received a scolding for disrupting the process of the forum. She then proceeded to indirectly answer the question. At a time where issues with law enforcement are high, it is shocking for Northwood to still be in second place in a city like Atlanta.
If Mary Northwood becomes Mayor, it is entirely possible for groups like Black Lives Matter to come out in disagreement with the city’s choice, and protests can be expected among the Southern black community. The United States has cultural divides, and these divides have been visible throughout all of 2017. If the historical trend of a black Mecca in Atlanta is ended by this election, the salt will merely be poured into the cultural wounds the United States is facing today. The election of the next mayor of Atlanta may just represent the influence of blacks in the South.
Note: 71 Republic will be reporting on the results of the Atlanta mayoral election, along with other elections, tonight.