There are fears in Atlanta’s black community that its declining presence in the population could shrink its political influence and endanger social policies that support diversity, Mayor Shirley Franklin said Friday.
“It’s not spoken about much, but there are concerns that we will lose, as African-Americans, our political base, which has largely been the city of Atlanta for major leadership within the state,” Franklin said.
She spoke in Manhattan as part of a panel discussing urban issues and the middle class.
“We are more diverse, but less black and white than we were 30 years ago,” Franklin said, noting the influx of Hispanics and Asians and the migration of blacks to surrounding areas. “African-Americans are choosing to live outside the city for the same reasons everyone is, which is bigger house, so-called better schools.”
Since the 1970s and 1980s, Atlanta’s black residents have gone from representing upwards of 70 percent of the city’s population to less than 60 percent, Franklin said.
“African-Americans of the city of Atlanta have been among the most progressive on issues of inclusion of anyone,” Franklin said. “In our metropolitan area, there have been traditions of exclusion, so we are concerned that the loss of political power might undermine the progression of these social policies.”
The panel at Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy also included Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty and Thomas Suozzi, executive of Nassau County on New York’s Long Island.
Fenty said Washington, whose black population is gradually losing its majority status, has experienced a crisis where a lack of affordable housing has pushed people out of the city.