The recent endorsements by prominent black leaders of Atlanta mayoral candidate Mary Norwood over the highly qualified Keisha Lance Bottoms is quite troubling to me.
It seems that some black leaders still do not believe that blacks are capable of governing. Their actions remind me of the 1973 snub that Maynard Jackson received when he decided to run for Mayor of Atlanta.
He sought the blessing of important black leaders and was also snubbed, despite his extensive education, his being an attorney, and having served as vice mayor.
He ran anyway – and won.
Now, 44 years later, here we go again with some prominent black leaders refusing to give their support to candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Jackson proved that black men could govern.
Shirley Franklin proved that a woman could govern.
All they needed was the opportunity.
For 398 years, blacks in this country have sought the opportunity to participate in all positive aspects of American life. When given the opportunity for blacks to have some semblance of power or governance over the majority population, too often that opportunity has been denied them – whether by Jim Crow laws, or the cowardly actions of other blacks.
Former University of Arkansas men’s basketball coach Nolan Richardson once said that America may not be a racist country, but it is a racial country. I, too, believe this wholeheartedly, and anyone thinking otherwise is looking at this country through rose-colored glasses.
The impact of race in the Atlanta mayoral contest cannot be overlooked. It is regrettable, I believe, that some black leaders and some former mayoral candidates may not be endorsing Keisha Lance Bottoms because of revenge, because they lost, because they are not convinced that another black woman can do the job, because of fear of the white population, or because of some other trivial reason.
It is my belief that the self-hatred that some blacks demonstrate began during slavery and continues to manifest itself today. They refuse to acknowledge that many white politicians do what is white, rather than what is right; and these self-hating blacks are too willing to go along to get along.
Blatant defections like those demonstrated by those leaders who refuse to endorse Keisha Lance Bottoms are shameful.
People are free to endorse whomever they please, and I respect that freedom; but it is, in my opinion, despicable for the black leaders not to give Mrs. Bottoms the benefit of their support.
The support of Atlanta’s black leadership would demonstrate its appreciation of high achieving blacks and would be a source of encouragement to them. It would continue to show that highly qualified African Americans candidates can lead—if given the opportunity.
– John Evans is the founder and CEO of the civil rights organization Operation LEAD and former president of the DeKalb NAACP. He lives in Stone Mountain.