Patrick Saunders, Editor of Georgia Voice

Patrick Saunders: The Atlanta mayoral results, race and the Atlanta way

So the Atlanta mayoral election is over and about half of you are pissed off. At least that’s what it seems like from the conversations we’ve had with you and with the dialogue on our and others’ social media channels.

What’s interesting is how upset some people are considering that — up until about a week before the election — there didn’t seem to be a consensus (or even much enthusiasm overall) in the community about either Keisha Lance Bottoms or Mary Norwood becoming the next mayor of Atlanta.

As far as the LGBT community was concerned, the tide appeared to shift after Cathy Woolard and then Georgia Equality threw their support behind Norwood. This was with one week left in the race, giving the impression that Woolard and the LGBT rights group were as torn on this pick as much as anyone else was. But the endorsements were made, and then a new crop of supporters bullish on Norwood emerged, and when Bottoms eked out a win, they let their frustration out.

It was interesting to observe this happening, and I couldn’t help but wonder how much this reaction had to do with race.

I had conversations with friends about this notion that some people have that if they’re LGBT, they’re automatically progressive and open-minded. They’ll keep reminding you that they are too, even after they’re openly calling for more gentrification in Atlanta in the wake of a black woman winning the mayor’s race. That’s something I saw angry Norwood supporters do multiple times in the days following the results. Some were able to think a little more about their comments and what exactly gentrification means on a number of levels — others weren’t and kept up the bluster.

It was an embarrassing look for our community, and we can do better — I hope.

Another common topic after the election was the map showing how all the city precincts voted in the election, with almost all of the precincts on the south side of town going for Bottoms and almost all of the precincts on the north side of town going for Norwood.

I don’t blame people for getting all doom-and-gloom after seeing that map, especially considering how divided this country is right now. Who needed another reminder of that division, right? Especially here in our hometown.

But this isn’t new.

Pull up the precinct map from the 2009 runoff between Kasim Reed and Mary Norwood. If you do, you’ll see a similar result.

Telling you to take comfort in the fact that we’ve always been divided like this is a depressing ask, yes. But know that this division isn’t something Atlanta came to in the wake of a crazy year or two in America. We know division. We also know how to work through it. And that’s what we need to do now, as a community and as a city.

Don’t know much about Keisha Lance Bottoms? You say she didn’t show up to anything LGBT-related until she ran for mayor (a fair point by the way)? Get to know her. She knows she needs the support of the city’s LGBT community to help make Atlanta thrive. I hope she makes the effort to get to know us better, and I hope we as a community are receptive to that effort.

Editor’s Note: This editorial has been updated for clarity regarding the precinct maps.