Saying The Quiet Part Out Loud

Objections to racism in Hoschton

Black people live in Hoschton. Who knew?

Perhaps mayor Theresa Kenerly should have considered that possibility when she whispered to city council people that Hoschton wasn’t ready for a black city manager, according to documents obtained by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The revelation, along with comments from Councilman Jim Cleveland — apparently unbidden — attacking interracial marriage from a “Christian” perspective, blew up a Hoschton city council meeting last night. The mayor and council walked out under the guard of four Jackson County sheriff’s deputies while a crowd of about 75 demanded their resignation.

The email chain obtained by the AJC and Cleveland’s comments at the hearing last night put any meaningful doubt to rest about the truth of the claims made by Hoschton Councilwomen Hope Weeks and Susan Powers.

“You do not represent our community and I didn’t move here for that,” said Shantwon Austin, a black man who moved to Hoschton with his family two years ago. the AJC reported. Another black woman who said she had lived in Hoschton for decades chastised the councilman and mayor as they got up and left the meeting without a word to the crowd.

I note in passing that the AJC reported that the city is “poised for growth” because of a Del Webb development nearby. Del Webb Chateau Elan has a Hoschton mailing address but it’s not in the city limits.

For those who are wondering, Theresa Kenerly is the cousin of former Gwinnett County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly, who pleaded guilty to a bribery charge in 2014 for taking $1 million from developers, subsequently resigning in disgrace. Theresa managed his campaigns.

It is also notable, perhaps, that Hoschton is in Jackson County, in the district of State Rep. Thomas Benton, a defender of the Ku Klux Klan. Benton’s commentary about the Klan calling people to “straighten up” left him in speaker Ralston’s dog house for all of about 18 months before being named chairman of the House Retirement Committee a few months ago.

Is this where we are, today, in North Georgia?

In 2016, Benton said the Klan “was not so much a racist thing, but a vigilante thing to keep law and order” … and managed to hold onto his seat, twice. He beat Republican Wes Lewis about three to one in a primary in 2016, and Republican Sam Thomas by about three to two last year. No Democrat has challenged him since 2006.

Outliers? Maybe. Councilwomen Weeks and Powers went public and have the backing of the Jackson Republican Party.

Lost in the maelstrom, perhaps, is the harm that is actually done to public service in general, and to black public servants in particular.

Multiple studies have shown that a black job applicant with a clean criminal record is less likely to be called in for a job interview than an identical white applicant with a recent felony conviction. Job applicants that “whiten” their resumes by taking racially-identifiable markers off their resume have call-back figures similar to white people. None of this, of course, captures what happens once an interview takes place and an employer discovers the applicant is black.

Discrimination is rampant, and it explains much of the white-black wealth and income gap. It also explains part of the education gap, because education counts for less for black people than it does for white people … because of the job discrimination.

Though there are rare — and unfortunately local — exceptions, this isn’t a problem white people have to worry much about. There simply aren’t enough black hiring managers willing to discriminate to make a dent.

Do everything right and you still have to beat the house advantage on the roulette wheel, where there’s a chance an employer will round-file your resume for the color of your skin.

Consider the number of people who have the power to veto a job applicant in a bureaucracy. Three? Five? Only one of them has to be a racist for the application to go in the trash. Multiply the number of people who can say no by your own guess at how often people are racists and you’ll start to get at the scope of the problem.

This is part of the reason that black professionals tend to gravitate toward public sector employment: enforcement of workplace discrimination is more robust. About 20 percent of black people work in the public sector, compared to about 14 percent of white people. As a practical matter, this means that experienced public administrators are, disproportionately, going to be black. That’s the talent pool.

If Hoschton isn’t “ready” for a black professional administrator, it means it’s not really ready for professionally-competitive management.

Now comes the hard part. If the mayor is willing to apply a racial litmus test to hiring a city manager, what does the the rest of the city’s workforce look like? What about city contracting? Zoning decisions?

Hoschton is exposed. As long as the mayor remains, any claim of racism made by someone with business before the city is going to have credibility.

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Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

It’s been out loud in code since Obama’s birth certificate, a decisive factor in Trump securing the nomination. The Hoschton elected officials remarks are hardly unexpected. They’re supporters taking a cue from their cult Leader. The reader can draw their own conclusion about the sentiments and private actions of their base when these are the sentiments expressed by elected officials. In 2017, 37% of Republicans viewed racism as a big problem, down from 40% in 2015. Trump is Making America Great Again—it’s just a matter of perception.. [snark] They can’t help themselves—white Christianity is integral to their identity, but we… Read more »