This new tweet sensation asking the nice/nasty, neatly packaged, passive-aggressive question, “Why do black people think moving to Atlanta will solve all their problems?,” is both annoying and complicated. Here are a few reasons why.
Atlanta is not the promised land, but it has been. Yes, ATL was ‘the promised land’ for many African Americans a part of the generation before mine (Gen X). I can remember a family member moving to Atlanta during the booming 90s with a hoopty Toyota that had a bad transmission. Two years after graduating from college and living there, he was driving home in a new Range Rover. Many people can remember this, so there is some evidence to the “solve your problems” belief. Even recently, Atlanta was named the nation’s Best Place for Black-Owned Businesses. Amid the mid-2000s recession, Atlanta black businesses still grew a whopping 99%. Forbes names ATL the City Where African Americans Are Doing Best Economically. Black home ownership is also 46.7%, higher than the national average. Black self employment is #2, only behind New Orleans. But black unemployment is higher than other large-sized cities, hovering around 13% (overall employment is strong, only 5.7% unemployment rate). So…there are current receipts. On paper, you should be doing better in Atlanta.
Moving to Atlanta cannot replace your drive. Yes, a move to the city is great, but what are you doing in your current one? Are you in school? Are taking professional development courses at your job to qualify for raises and promotions? No, so stay your ashy knees where they are.
You cannot survive ‘working at the call center’…anywhere outside of Bucktussle, Oklahoma. I’ve witnessed many people live in their city as a dusty and mediocre human being, then move to Atlanta as a dusty mediocre human being. Being able to visit your favorite night club, bar, park or mall whenever you want–using it as a reason why you want to move to ATL–is very basic. All of those things fade, many times shut down and become irrelevant. When that happens, then what? If all you want to do is work a low-wage job, but expect a random promotion to a high wage at your low wage job, then you’re already in for trouble. That theory does not work anywhere.
Housing in Atlanta is different. So, it can easily look like people are ‘doing better.’ In cities like NYC and DC, people make more, and the education is higher, but you will be living in a sandbox, paying townhouse prices in the Atlanta area. People in Atlanta can look like they’re ‘living better’ because of larger living quarters and residing in suburbs that are not Atlanta, but it does not mean that they are making more money or have a better quality of life. You can have a large apartment in Marietta somewhere, but have a dead end job and may not have a stable enough position to commit to purchasing a home. But indeed, a basic 3 bedroom home in my neighborhood in DC sold for $1 million. For $1 million in ATL, you could finish Chateau Sheree.
Atlanta was coined as ‘Black Hollywood’ during the 90s. LaFace Records and So So Def were based there. Black culture was pouring out of the city during the 90s. Now, it’s home to reality TV shows, Tyler Perry Studios, Turner Studios (where many black TV shows are taped) further making the city boom with a glam image. There is some magic happening there, so it makes sense to believe that life could be better. If Nene can go from being a booty dancer to a millionaire on HSN selling shoulder tunics…then why not believe?
See, Atlanta is one of the first major cities where black people ran the government, business and culture. The promise and dreams turned into action. Dreams can happen in ATL, but if you don’t have a plan of action, you won’t be successful anywhere.