Sunday, April 24, 2011

Imported Apartheid

"Liberalism flourishes where it is not challenged."

Though many may not know it, Georgia was on the losing side of the war between the states. This ignorance is not due to a failed education or a tragic accident, but is simply due to the fact that many folks, particularly those in Dunwoody (and we know how smart they are), ain't from around here.

These relative newcomers are not steeped in Southern Tradition and may not be aware that Civil Rights legislation, which never saw strong support from Southern States, nonetheless imposes certain restrictions and provides for direct supervision by alleged adults in Washington. A significant part of the Civil Rights legislative initiative was to counteract decades of minority voter disenfranchisement by a dominant white power structure.

As one might suspect, the South had no epiphany and did not rise up saying "we must change our ways for they are wrong!" Instead, it was outsiders, generally liberal elites, with no other concern for the South but that they get their house in order, who by force of law saw to it that the South was not left to its own devices with regards to the ballot box. This is true to this day.

One would expect this to have nothing to do with Dunwoody. After all the Justice Department signed off on the referendum vote. But now a civil rights icon, Rev. Joseph Lowery, has filed suit against Dunwoody and all the other new cities claiming they violate the Constitution and should be dissolved.  The basis of the claim is that by creating these cities a white power structure has segregated itself from a larger, more diverse community and thereby disenfranchises the now relatively few minority voters that are within the new city limits.

The Justice Department pre-approval probably means the referendum vote, odious as it was, passes judicial muster. But there are some interesting circumstances unique to Dunwoody. In an effort to ensure victory, the vote was held in July. Of an election year. A presidential election year. With a (later to be proven successful) black candidate. Perhaps the courts, should they examine the voter demographics in July and November, would find an alarming disparity in the demographics of voter turnout. Again, probably not enough to win the day.

A more significant issue is how Dunwoody's voter districts are laid out with regards to demographics. Dunwoody's minority community is largely confined to the apartments in the southern part of town. Dunwoody's three voting districts are eastern, western and a middle district effectively carving the minority community into three easily managed chunks. Every reader knows why our great white leaders did not create a southern, northern and middle district. That surely would have led to a minority voice on City Council.

Those readers from north of the Mason Dixon are surely thinking: "this is just those redneck cracker racists doing it again", but the origins of this white power structure is quite interesting. At the same time the South was being rehabilitated by the North, Northerners were migrating South for love of sun and money. Mostly money. Did they bring with them their great Northern Enlightenment? Most assuredly. NOT! We can tell by the fact that upon moving South they did not integrate themselves into the existing community, but rather segregated themselves in largely undeveloped areas to the North of town. Yes, enlightenment is a wonderful thing. In the abstract.

Dunwoody was one of these places. Farmland transformed into a bedroom community, filled with happy outsiders eager to create a community just like the one they left. White. And white they expected to stay as the mere cost of entry -- housing prices -- kept most undesirables at bay.

But the rest of the region, DeKalb in particular, was not frozen in time. As Dunwoody grew larger, richer and whiter, DeKalb grew darker. The tipping point occurred when the last white county CEO, from the Dunwoody area, was replaced by the first of a continuing series of black leaders. These new leaders took a more favorable view of developer plans to build apartments in Dunwoody which provided access to some of DeKalb's best schools. Even to those who could never purchase a home in the area--more often than not, people of color.

And that is what local control was really all about and it is what fueled the drive to form this city. But at the end of the day, the desire to maintain a segregated lifestyle is to the City of Dunwoody what slavery was to the Civil War. It is just that noble.

And the irony of relocated, "enlightened Yankees" creating neo-segregation in the South should be lost on no one.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pub King

In a land apart and a time ago there was a village characterized as so many were as a "one pub village". And as was the custom, the pub was where the men, and only some of the women would congregate to recount the events of the day and perhaps to talk a little treason. This made "pub time" an important event on anyone's calendar and led to the owner becoming one of the most influential men in the village.

As the village grew, the owner's influence expanded as well, to the point he was crowned "Pub King" in an event as auspicious as it was unofficial. He had gathered round a cohort of pontifical elders, toadies one and all, who were appointed by the newly minted "King" to his court, commonly referred to as the Pub King Gang. For many happy years the Pub King and his Gang basked in the adoration of the villagers, holding court and giving counsel on all matters large and small. During this golden age of the Pub King, the village continued to grow and with it the stature of king and court.

Until one day, when a Wanderer from afar came to the village and was so struck by its wonderous beauty that he knew then and there this was to become his home. This Wanderer had traveled the world visiting many a village and found this one to be vastly superior to all others. Except in one regard. This was the only village of its size, in all his travels, that offered a man only one option to refresh body and soul. The village's singular imperfection was its equally singular pub and the Wanderer immediately set about addressing this easily corrected imperfection.

The village was to have a second pub.

This revolutionary act was fueled not just by an obvious lack of bar stools on any given Friday night but also by the Wanderer's unquenchable desire for some mysterious brew known as "Hoegaarden". Clearly a contrived name evoking either a quaint pastoral image of a farmer slaving at back-breaking field work or maybe "Hoe" in the common, vulgar form refers to a "garden of delights", or perhaps a combination of both with wild oats being sown. Probably one of the latter as aficionados of the brew liken it to absinthe: exotic, often illicit, and with a magical, romantic quality that no matter who imbibes, man or woman, 'tis the woman who becomes more fetching.

Nonetheless, the village was to have another pub and in that pub would be Hoegaarden. Or thought this Wanderer.

The Pub King was not amused. He called his Gang and set about a plan to "inform" the villagers that the new Pub was not to be entered on penalty of excommunication. No one seen entering the Wanderer's Pub was welcome ever again in the presence or establishment of the Pub King.

Many villagers speaking of loyalty but acting of fear bowed to the Pub King's wishes. But some did not and as tales of the delights of the Wanderer's Pub spread, often in hushed voices lest the Pub King hear, more and more of the villagers were drawn to the Wanderer's Pub. And they were drawn not only to a mysterious new brew, but to tales of far off lands and peoples. They came to understand their neighbors, to see people and customs previously withheld from their view.

But the Pub King was furious, spewing rage from his pulpit backed by the chorus of his toady Gang. But he grew hoarse and soon he found himself surrounded only by his Gang. The villagers had taken no notice of his rants, no longer lived in fear of his threats. Given choice they had chosen and they had not chosen the Pub King.

Only a few years later yet another pub opened and the Pub King found himself all but alone and now being unable to retain a loyal following was forced to close his once famous pub. Shortly thereafter he succumbed to the senility and gout that many believed plagued him for most of his adult life. In death, as in life, the Pub King was ultimately of little note and in the village there was no sense of his passing. Not even the surviving members of his Gang were to be found in mourning, crying.