Why They Kneel: New York City and Atlanta Prove Everything You Know About Jim Crow Is Wrong

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To examine the injustice and inequality that prompted some NFL players to protest during the national anthem, each week, for the remainder of the NFL season, The Root will explore the data behind racial disparities in the two cities represented in the National Football League’s premiere matchup—Monday Night Football.


Tonight, the New York Giants travel to Atlanta to take on the Atlanta Falcons.

If you read the comment section on any article about racism, you are sure to find at least one comment by a reader explaining why they moved from the deep South to one of the more progressive, coastal areas of the country where racism is long gone.

But racism has less to do with hate than it has to do with the systematic inequality that black people across this country face regularly. While demeaning looks in grocery store lines can seem distasteful, America’s real problem is the real-world, societal disparities that disproportionately affect African Americans. And the statistics on inequality quickly disprove the narrative that places like New York are progressive oases devoid of the same kind of hate that plagues places like Deep South Georgia.

But which is more racist, New York City or Atlanta?

Voter Suppression

By now, most people are aware of the Republican nominee for Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, and his desperate attempts to thwart Stacey Abrams from becoming the country’s first black female governor. In his capacity as Georgia’s Secretary of State, Kemp has purged voters, discarded ballots and used every tool in his voter-suppression toolbox to stop black people from voting in his state.


But most people are also surprised to learn that New York has one of the biggest and broadest records of voter suppression in the country. It is one of 13 states where early voting is unavailable. It has an outdated voter registration system that puts the onus on registrants to mail in forms with no prepaid postage. It makes it almost impossible to switch parties. Before the April 2016 primary election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, the New York City Board of Elections purged more than 200,000 voters, most of whom lived in Brooklyn. Its failure to comply with DMV voter registrations warranted a legal threat from the Justice Department. And in every instance, its tactics disproportionately suppress poor and nonwhite voters.


In fact, in the 2016 Presidential elections, New York ranked 41st for voter turnout. If that seems abysmal, it is much better than coming in at 48 for the 2014 midterms, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, according to FairVote, Georgia ranked 30th in turnout in the 2016 elections, around the middle of the pack.

So why do Georgia and Southern states get all the negative attention?

It’s because Southern politicians have to cheat to maintain their political edge. Most people are shocked to learn that African-American voters in the South register and vote more than black voters in any other region. Nationally, 65.3 percent of African Americans registered to vote in the 2016 election, according to the U.S. census, but the number was higher for Southern black voters (69.6 percent).


Georgia is one of the few states where blacks register to vote at a higher percentage than whites. (66.8 percent for blacks to 66.3 percent for whites). And in the 2016 presidential election, even though there was no black president on the ballot, black voters in Georgia voted at almost the identical rate as whites (67.9 percent of black registered voters cast ballots and 68.1 percent of white voters did.) That may be why Georgia’s state legislature is 25 percent black and New York’s is 15 percent black, according to Governing magazine.

Winner: New York City

Economic Inequality

The median household income for a non-Hispanic white family in Atlanta is $85,700, while a black household earns $28,500. While that may seem like a huge difference, the disparity is even larger in New York where white households pull in $111,000 and black families bring home $33,200.


Manhattan’s unemployment rate for African Americans is nearly three points lower than Atlanta’s but BlackDemographics.com reports that Georgia has one of the top 10 highest black ownership rates in the country. The black-to-white homeownership gap in the Atlanta metro area is 29.6 percent, 15 points lower than the 34.6 percent gap in the New York metropolitan area, Urban Wire reports.

Also, remember that New York has the most segregated schools in the U.S.

Winner: New York City

Criminal Justice/Police Brutality

There are far more people in New York, so it makes sense that the New York Police Department killed four times as many of its black residents than the Atlanta Police Department between 2013-2017, according to Mapping Police Violence’s data. And the NYPD’s homicide rate for blacks (4.895 per 1,000,000) was lower than Atlanta’s (5.944)


But Atlanta’s rate of police killings for all people (4.233) was much closer to its rate for black people while the NYPD’s rate for all people (1.767) showed a much larger disparity. And in New York, for every white person in prison, there are eight blacks. In Georgia, there are 3.2 blacks for every white person in prison, according to the Sentencing Project.

And to bring it full circle, New York’s felon disenfranchisement laws strip the voting power away from three times as many potential black voters as it does whites. In Georgia, twice as many black voters are disenfranchised by the felon voting restrictions.


Winner: New York City

Overall Winner: New York City

So there you have it. When someone screaming “Brooklyn!” speaks about the racism in the South, tell them that they might be surprised if they saw the statistics, B.


Also, tell them they shouldn’t be wearing Timberlands and a Yankees cap at a wedding.

And while the accent and the media narrative would have you believe that racism has been relegated to the South, racism is just as prevalent in the diverse oasis of America’s melting pot as it is in the home of Jim Crow. New York only has one advantage over Atlanta:

The Giants never blew a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.

Never forget.



I’ll bite - you mentioned DMV voter registrations. So, if you go in to get an ID or a drivers license, you are automatically registered to vote? Assuming you have the rest of your ID to say you’re a citizen?

Welllll... Shouldn’t everywhere do that? Seems like the DMV is in a great position to look at your documents, say

‘yep, you’re a citizen, and can vote. Would you like to be affiliated with any particular party? OK. That’ll be $34.50, we only take cash. There’s an ATM right by the door if you don’t have cash. Just wait over there while we print out your ID/license’.

“Thank you”

‘mrrnmgh. NUMBER 114! NUMBER 114 ARE YOU STILL HERE? NUMBER 115! (so on)