Jelani Cobb on the "The New South"

Good piece from Jelani Cobb, on ATL, Barack Obama and the New South:

In ATL, a thicket of race, success, vanity, poverty and glamour is packaged with great municipal swagger. If BET could design a city, it would look a lot like this one. Both the cable TV network and this city have prospered thanks to black music -- and by marketing a vision of black success and conspicuous consumption. In 2005, Mayor Shirley Franklin, a Philadelphia-raised transplant, undertook a branding campaign that actually commissioned music producer and longtime resident Dallas Austin to create an R&B song called "ATL."

A friend of mine who moved here, opened a successful business, bought a huge house and married a beautiful woman said that he came to the city because he "knew that as a black man, there was nothing that you couldn't achieve in Atlanta." You can see why he believes that. In 2007, Georgia's capital had the second-largest black middle class in the country, teeming with college graduates...

The large number of black Atlanta homeowners contrasts with the highest percentage of children living below the poverty line in any major American city. According to the most recent U.S. Census data, 48 percent of Atlanta's children and about 24.4 percent of the total population live below the poverty line. The disproportionate number of blacks with master's degrees coexist with one of the country's least efficient school systems.

In 2005, the majority-black city council passed a resolution banning panhandling in the downtown tourist districts -- an area that includes the King Center, a memorial to the civil rights leader's legacy. Thus the doctrine of progress has made it possible for a homeless person to be arrested for begging in front of the Gandhi statue on Auburn Avenue