Tinubu: Atlanta Olympics racist?

While the Democratic primary for the Seventh Congressional District seemed to avoid overt racial overtones, many felt racial identity played a major role in the race. If the race card was played to help Tinubu win the Democratic nomination, it wouldn't be the first time that the Green Quitter, a.k.a. Democratic nominee Gloria Tinubu, has done it in her public career.

While many called the 1996 Olympics, held in Atlanta, where Gloria Tinubu served on City Council, lost two mayoral bids and represented a part of it for a few months in the Georgia State House, Tinubu accused the event of hurting minorities and accused city officials of racially-targeted purging, while she criticized the city's mayor for engaging in racially-charged rhetoric.

According to Harvey Newman of Georgia State University, the event generated an economic impact of over $5 billion, as well as numerous improvements to infrastructure, housing and sporting facilities around the entire metropolitan area. It was also praised for raising the reputation of the Atlanta metro area among major business leaders.

But Tinubu's assessment of the impact of the Olympics seems to reject the Kennedy-esque view that a rising economic tide lifts all boats. Quoted in a report published five years ago by the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions, an international liberal advocacy group, Tinubu said the 1996 Olympics adversely impacted minorities and accused Atlanta officials of discriminatory purging of the city for public relations benefits:

The 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games had a disproportionate effect on minority groups such as the homeless and those living in poverty (including those earning minimum wage and/or on fixed incomes) and racial minorities (in particular African-Americans). The racial disproportionality in the impacts was noted and criticised by many: people found it incredulous that “the world was coming in all its shapes and colours, but we had to sanitise our streets?” (p. 123)

- FAIR PLAY FOR HOUSING RIGHTS: Mega-events, olympic games and housing rights. Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), 2007, page 123.

Ironically, while Tinubu played the race card in the COHRE study, she was quoted in a CNN story criticizing a former Atlanta mayor (who defeated her in her first mayoral bid) for playing racial politics:

I am troubled by the recent stance that he has taken particularly in light of the fact that he has appointed a commission to deal with the issues of race and racial tension in the city ... I think the mayor should lower the rhetoric.

When it comes to issues related to economic development, which is major challenge in the economically-distressed Pee Dee region which makes up much of the Seventh District, Tinubu's willingness to look the proverbial economic gift horse in the mouth, as well as playing both sides of the race card, should be of concern to residents and economic players in the district.

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