There’s a possibly apocryphal story featuring longtime Coca-Cola President Robert Woodruff—although the direction Atlanta took afterwards seems to confirm it.
In the early 1950s, in a smoke-filled room at the exclusive Piedmont Driving Club—the all-white club for the Atlanta WASP elite that Jay Gatsby couldn’t have bought his way into—Woodruff supposedly made an announcement: the Old South was dying. Integration was coming. There was no use resisting the end of segregation, Woodruff supposedly said. Capitalism must be colorblind—to ensure that Atlanta led the way for the “New South.”
Looking around the room, he asked that a vote be taken by public show of hands: those for integration, and those opposed.
The men who raised their hands in opposition had their names jotted down by one of Woodruff’s Coca-Cola flunkies.
Woodruff’s goal from that point forward: to ostracize them—to see that their businesses and commercial endeavors failed.
This story is unconfirmed. But it is indisputable that, for example, Woodruff strong-armed Atlanta’s white business community into attending (white) Mayor Ivan Allen’s banquet in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. upon King’s being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Realizing that if respectable Southern society didn’t attend, the national Main Stream Media would embarrass Atlanta, and, by extension Coca-Cola, Woodruff made it known through his subordinates that he favored the dinner. [For God, Country, and Coca-Cola, by Mark Pendergrast, p. 282.)
Woodruff and Atlanta’s white business elite aimed to stay wealthy by protecting the image of the city “too busy to hate”—fostering outside investment and attracting talent to staff the Fortune 500 companies that called the metro area home.
Secure in their upscale economic gated community, they simply did not care how inept and corrupt the black-ruled city of Atlanta became.
Exactly one year ago, it emerged that the very white Atlanta Chamber of Commerce was complicit in covering-up the very black Atlanta Public Schools (APS) cheating scandal—the systematic falsification of test results that involved teachers, principals and apparently even APS Superintendent Beverly Hall. Farcically, Hall had been named 2009 National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education, largely after being hyped by over-eager white business leaders hoping to promote an image of Atlanta that would be inviting to outside investors.
The scandal had been first exposed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was finally confirmed in July 2011 by a special investigation ordered by Georgia’s then-Governor Sonny Perdue after he rejected the district’s own whitewashing report. (Investigation into APS cheating finds unethical behavior across every level, by Heather Vogeil, July 6, 2011. For more AJC coverage, see here)
Prior to Hall’s fall from grace, the Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta had been touting Superintendent Hall as the Superperson that black children had patiently waited for. white business leaders from Delta Airlines, Georgia Power, GE, UPS, Home Depot, and Coca-Cola all considered Hall a great investment who would help bridge that notorious “racial gap” in achievement—and, more importantly, continue Woodruff’s policy of keeping the pig that is Atlanta’s race relations slathered in lipstick.
In a devastating follow-up story, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Alan Judd showed the extraordinary lengths members of the respectable white community went to cover up the scandal:
In February 2010, some of Atlanta’s top business leaders realized they had a problem.
For a decade, they had aligned themselves with Beverly Hall, the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. They willingly accepted Hall’s story line of rebirth in an urban school system. They promoted and sometimes exaggerated Hall’s achievements — for her benefit and for their own.
State officials, though, were suggesting gains by Atlanta schools resulted from widespread cheating. Suddenly, the deal between Hall and the business community took on Faustian overtones.
The way business leaders responded underscores their complicity in creating the façade of success that hid a decade of alleged wrongdoing, an examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows…
The city’s chamber of commerce and another business group took control of the district’s investigation last year into irregularities on state-mandated tests. Executives at the Metro Atlanta Chamber set the parameters of the inquiry and largely selected the people who ran it. Later, they suggested ways to “finesse” the findings past the governor.
Business leaders published opinion pieces and letters to the editor defending Hall before cheating inquiries were complete; calls for the superintendent to resign, they said, could undermine the district’s progress. And just as they had lobbied almost a decade earlier to give the superintendent more autonomy from the Board of Education, this year they sought new power for the governor to remove recalcitrant board members.
A memo drafted by a chamber executive on Feb. 15 last year laid out the hazards that a cheating investigation might unloose:
“This issue has serious implications—on Dr. Hall’s reputation and career, for the principals and administrators who perhaps let lapses occur in testing procedures, and most importantly for the children who may be missing out on critical remediation,” said the memo, obtained recently by the AJC.
But, the document continued: “It also has implications on the business community, many of whom ... are heavy investors, and on the economic development community who touts the superintendent and school board’s recent awards as best in the nation”.
[Major execs invested in Hall, July 17, 2011]
(For more on how the white business community was complicit in hiding the embarrassingly black APS scandal: How biz community dealt with APS scandal by Maria Saporta, Atlanta Business Chronicle, July 15, 2011, and leftwing loony John Sugg’s The `Atlanta Way` failed a generation of children: The city`s business elite were complicit in Beverly Hall`s con, Creative Loafing, July 20, 2012).
The enrollment of APS is currently 79 percent black and 12 percent white. (Needless to say, the sons and daughters of Atlanta’s white elite going to private schools like Marist and Westminster). The teachers, school administrators, and principals behind the cheating scandal were virtually all black.
Principal Diane Quisenberry noted that the investigation seemed to be targeted exclusively at African-American schools. Principal Carla Pettis suggested the whole kit ’n’ caboodle was a cynical front to conceal white folks’ racist urge to retake the predominantly black city of Atlanta.
Since they—and not I—were the ones who brought up this culturally touchy subject, I will note that every picture I’ve seen of every educator named in this report is of African ancestry. And many of the teachers’ names—lively handles such as SuJuana, Raqketa, Chynel, Tremelia, Denethia, Lucious, Lashaine, Sheretha, Cernitha, Kwabena, Tiffonia, Lesma, Ketchia, Letrecia, Tabeeka, Cawanna, Lucrelia, and Jamesia—likewise suggest that sub-Saharan genetics are involved.[See the official report, PDF 828 pp.]
It was overwhelmingly Atlanta and other majority-black counties that showed testing irregularities.
[Won’t Get Schooled Again, July 11, 2011]
But a year after first being reported, the Great Atlanta School Scandal has completely disappeared down the Orwellian Memory Hole. (See The Nation`s Biggest Cheating Scandal A Year Later, Questions Still Remain, by Rose Scott, WABE, July 5, 2012). No-one has been prosecuted. Twelve of the accused have just been allowed to return to work, provoking former state Attorney General Mike Bowers to say of APS: “They haven’t learned a thing.” (Special investigators question APS teachers` reinstatements, By Bill Rankin and Jaime Sarrio, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 1, 2012.)
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Journal Constitution investigated other extreme test score swings in major cities, finding signs of cheating in Baltimore, Dallas, East Saint Louis, Detroit, Los Angeles, Houston, and Mobile. [Cheating our children: List of cities that show high probability of cheating in schools, by AJC Staff, March 24, 2012]. The AJC calls these “urban school systems.” But of course they are all overwhelmingly black.
And last month, Birmingham School System (98 percent black enrollment) was taken over by the state of Alabama because of corruption. Like Atlanta, virtually all the teachers, administrators, and those on the district’s governing board are black.
Nevertheless, the scandal in Atlanta has evoked barely a murmur from those who still expect Superman to appear and magically save American education—which, curiously, only needs to be saved for Non-Asian Minorities [NAMs]; whites and Asians are doing just fine.
Instead, what the APS scandal teaches us is this: the descendants of those white elites who signed on to Woodruff’s vision of Atlanta, and the white businessmen who moved to the city and run Fortune 500 companies, are irrevocably wedded to a governing philosophy that excuses black failure and black wrongdoing in any manifestation.
And the APS scandal further teaches us that this elite will, with calculated malice aforethought, cover-up any such black failure and black wrongdoing.
These are the people who fund Conservatism Inc. for the political cover it provides them—which is why no Conservatism Inc. mouthpiece that I can find has discussed the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s disgraceful role.
Only one year later, the biggest test cheating scandal in American history can no longer be mentioned—for it is a proof that Establishment educational policy, and much of our current social order, is based upon a lie.
But, in the proud tradition of Coca Cola’s Robert Woodruff, we can just cover up this fact and smile. Better yet, have a Coke and a smile.
That’s the Atlanta Way.
Paul Kersey[Email him] is the author of the blog SBPDL, and has published the books SBPDL Year One, Hollywood in Blackface and Captain America and Whiteness: The Dilemma of the Superhero.