CCDA '16 and Questions a/b Racial Change in Atlanta

I spent Labor Day weekend in Los Angeles at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) National Conference. It was amazing. Since being home, I’ve had a few friends ask me what my number one take away was from the conference. Honestly, that’s a nearly impossible question to answer because I learned so much. As an attempt to respond to that question and in light of my desire to keep processing what I learned over that weekend, I’ve decided to do a week-long blog series about it for you curious ones. Each day this week I’ll share a quick reflection or question about something I learned, observed, was challenged by or encouraged by on the journey.

Gosh, where to begin. Perhaps with my first meal.

Upon arriving in downtown LA, my friends and I made our way to Grand Central Market for lunch. After we picked our restaurant – Ramenhood- I looked around me and was delightfully surprised by how diverse the market was. If you’re anything like me, a woman of color who is frequently in majority white spaces, you get used to playing this “race-counting” game all the time. What I mean is that I am always aware of the racial make-up of a room. I’m sensitive to power dynamics along racial and gender lines and I’m usually trying to figure out what sort-of unstated social games are at play in a given setting. Sometimes this is a gift; sometimes it’s a nightmare. Either way, it led me to see that unlike what I’m used to in Atlanta, for the most part, every social space I entered while in Downtown L.A. was made up of a variety of different colors.

This stood out to me because as I navigate my world in Atlanta, this doesn’t seem to naturally be the case. While we may work together across race and gender lines, and occasionally go to church together across lines of race and gender, I feel like most social spaces are pretty segregated. Do you agree? Disagree? What do you think?

I have so many questions about race and diversity in Atlanta. I wish I could wrap my mind around what’s really going on. On the one hand, we really have learned to live together across racial lines. I don’t have to fear being spit on when I walk down the street and I can go into pretty much any establishment that I would like and be treated with relative decency. Heck, my boyfriend is White and I can proudly hold his hand without fear or shame about being in an interracial relationship.

But at the same time, I know it’s important that my family teaches my Black nephews how to respond to the police. At the same time, I'm aware that I’m being followed when I’m shopping in certain stores because people think my Blackness is inherently suspicious. At the same time, I know that I have to overcompensate with kindness when connecting with White Southern people who are from an older generation because I fear their rejection and hostility towards me.

Beyond these personal experiences, I enjoy how our city is changing and seeing the ways in which economic development is coming to the Westside. I love the restaurants, coffee shops and cool buildings made of reclaimed and recycled old materials. But at the same time, I learned this morning that within the next five years, the majority population within I-285 will be White. White people are returning to the city and Black people, who can’t afford it anymore, will be moving out. So this makes me wonder if there is even a place for racial reconciliation.

I have no idea.

All of this points to one of my first big realizations from CCDA 2016, which is really a question. What does racial justice look like in Atlanta in 2016? In the South at large? And what are we, as the peculiar people of God, called to do in the face of an ever-changing social and economic landscape?

I’m not sure, folks. You all know how much I love a good question.

Leave your thoughts below!