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.