March 22, 2021
Atlanta No question. Having visited Atlanta somewhat regularly over the years, and more frequently over the last six months, there doesn’t seem much question that the area is exploding. Traffic is soul-crunching, although much, much better during the pandemic. Suburbs are sprouting like weeds. Apartment complexes are hidden behind every stand of trees and around the corner of every hillside.
The Wall Street Journal jumped into the conversation from two sides recently that were headscratchers. On one hand, they interviewed African-Americans who had relocated to Atlanta or had stayed in the area after attending one of the bunches of historic Black colleges and universities in the area. Given the fact that the majority of the city proper is African-American, all of that made sense, especially since some of the movement was from Silicon Valley, the W-2 capital of the country for Whites and Wealth. On the other hand, the report underlined how these same tech companies were expanding in the Atlanta area and adding thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of square feet in office space in the name of diversity. Looking at the second hand was less comfortable, once you think about it.
It’s probably neck-and-neck on whether the last post-war years are more profoundly case studies of corporatist government control and policy between Dallas and Atlanta. Both are what and what in terms of Fortune 500 headquarters, airport traffic, and general transportation hubs. In fact, that’s why they exist. These are not port towns or big river cities. They are gateways in no small part built by railroads. Atlanta business interests are perhaps more publicity and image conscious than Dallas, which noses them ahead perhaps. Both cities try to keep two conflicting ideas in their heads at the same time: the ability to attract workers and companies of all stripes which means at least seeming a bit more liberal, while also maintaining rock ribbed conservative policies and programs just this side of reactionary at the state level. The current Georgia legislatures voter suppression efforts are perhaps the best example. The outcome will still be bad, but after major corporations weighed in recently so that no-excuse absentee voting and Sunday voting will now survive, because Republicans were about to create barriers that would embarrass their overlords.
Nonetheless, the notion that Atlanta might be Silicon Valley east in order to finally achieve diversity at this late stage shouldn’t bring any standing applause for best practices. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Googles and their like have much better diversity numbers in Atlanta that are triggering their expansion, but that sounds a bit like playing with the numbers, stacking the deck in the South while leaving Silicon Valley as white, wealthy and privileged as it has been for decades. More space and workers in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville doesn’t solve the issue in California.
No one in Atlanta is going to turn down new jobs. That’s the DNA of the city. Silicon Valley still needs to get its house in order and end its de facto segregation.