Black Community: Unity Over Division – The Demise of the Buckhead Secession Plan in Georgia.

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( The idea to create a new Buckhead City finally died in the Georgia state legislature. And rightfully so. Democratic members of Atlanta’s state delegation never favored allowing the affluent, majority-white neighborhood of Buckhead to secede from the city of Atlanta. It became a measure long opposed by the city’s business leaders, while many of the city’s Black residents strongly believed it was racially motivated.

Black Community: Unity Over Division - The Demise of the Buckhead Secession Plan in Georgia.

The proposed Buckhead City ended when 10 Republican state lawmakers broke ranks, joining with Democrats in rejecting the measure. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who forged a close working relationship with Democratic Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, also questioned the legality and practicality of Buckhead City. Kemp’s chief lawyer, Executive Counsel David Dove, sent a memo attacking the de-annexation plan.

Dove wrote that the split could wreck the ability of all Georgia cities to borrow money, based on bond markets fearing that cities could default on their debts if they broke into pieces. “If we jerk the heart out of the city of Atlanta, which is Buckhead, I know our capital city will die,” said Frank Ginn, a Republican state senator.

Buckhead, known for its high-end shopping and several famous residents, has a median household income of $109,774 compared to $68,806 in the rest of the city. Residents and other proponents who supported the de-annexation measure claimed the city was not doing enough to fight crime and provide services despite Buckhead making up 40% of Atlanta’s tax revenue and less than 20% of the city’s population.

The reasons for justifying such a move will never overcome the racial symbolism of having a wealthy white neighborhood separate itself from a majority Black city. It becomes another version of white flight. Once the reality check ran its course, both sides realized they needed each other. “Constitutionally, it’s not possible to divide the city of Atlanta, with its schools, with its debt obligations,” said Sen. Jason Esteves, who represents a section of Buckhead. Practical arguments against the cityhood measure involved whether a new Buckhead City would still send its students to Atlanta’s school district. Members of both parties understood the magnitude of having Atlanta divided into two separate jurisdictions.

Despite the problems, both sides are stronger together as one city rather than becoming two broken and weak jurisdictions. It is a message of unity that took years to accept in Georgia. Still, the idea of maintaining a unified city was overruled in the case of the Louisiana state capital city. A predominantly white section of the city of Baton Rouge is now allowed to secede from the Black-majority city.

After the Louisiana State Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling, an eastern Baton Rouge parish will now be known as the city of St. George, ending a hostile and divisive 10-year campaign that divides wealthy white residents from poorer Black neighborhoods. Residents and parents living in the proposed city of St. George now face the same dilemma as those residing in Buckhead: schools.

Should a new St. George school district come to pass, children will likely be forced out of their current schools because they would be unable to live in one district and attend school in another. Be careful what you ask for. There are 8,349 pupils living in the proposed St. George school district but attend school elsewhere. Where local and state

lawmakers in Georgia took into account the logistical nightmare involved in creating and running a new city, Louisiana lawmakers failed to address the realities of two cities with two school districts.

There are times when lawmakers must resist the racial pressures from within their communities, where creating divisions becomes the quick-fix solution to social problems. This is particularly true with Republicans. The conservative school of thought will too often resist social change while tolerating social inequality. The liberal school of thought is the opposite, with the tendency to embrace social change while rejecting forms of inequality. Social inequality is the root cause of poverty.

Poverty leads to crime and underperforming schools: two issues that were driving the secession plans proposed in Georgia and Louisiana. Separation is not always the answer to complex social problems. Separation between the “haves and “have nots.” Separation due to fear or hate of “others.” Separation due to pride and the sense of being superior. Separation based on cultural differences. Too many times, they will all have the backdrop of race.

Written by David W. Marshall

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