Getting Race out of the Race

By Quentin T. James, Political Action Chair of the Howard University Chapter of the NAACP The symbolism of having the first African American President is being interpreted in many ways throughout American politics, and more directly in both the Atlanta and Charlotte mayoral races. In both southern cities, race has long been a deciding factor in the representative politics of the post-civil rights era. However, one must ask if symbolism and the level to which a glass ceiling is shattered is a worthy enough reason to measure a politician's success or failure, without regard to their policies? Since 1974 Atlanta has elected African American mayors to lead its city in every election. These mayors have done everything from developing the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport into the world's busiest airport to bringing the 1996 Summer Olympic Games to the city. Their mutual successes have garnered Atlanta's reputation as "the Capital of the South." State Senator Kasim Reed and Atlanta City Council President Lisa Borders, both African American candidates for mayor, hope to continue this tradition despite the perception that Atlanta is due for change in its racial politics. By contrast, Anthony Foxx, the only Democrat in the Charlotte mayoral race, is attempting to become the city's first African American mayor since 1987, and only the second ever.