Any­body but Mary

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“No hon­est or se­ri­ous leader is ir­re­spon­si­ble enough to ig­nore the dy­nam­ics that bind our so­ci­ety, and when you naively pre­tend skin color and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion are non-fac­tors in our cul­ture, you de­fault to a sys­tem that has never val­ued black or LGBT lives.”

Mary Nor­wood is noth­ing. That is not (en­tirely) shade, but the im­age the city coun­cilmem­ber has crafted while run­ning for mayor of At­lanta for the past 10 years: a po­lit­i­cal out­sider who has been in pub­lic of­fice since the turn of the cen­tury, a pop­ulist from the Buck­head­i­est en­clave of Buck­head, Tuxedo Park.

Nor­wood in­sists she has no ide­ol­ogy, nei­ther lib­eral nor con­ser­va­tive, Re­pub­li­can or Demo­crat. The only thing she be­lieves in is bet­ter neigh­bor­hoods.

Some folks might con­sider non-par­ti­san­ship re­fresh­ing dur­ing th­ese fiery times, but Nor­wood’s born-again in­de­pen­dence is her only hope of be­com­ing leader of a city as pro­gres­sive as At­lanta. Prior to run­ning for mayor in 2009, Nor­wood served as a del­e­gate to the Na­tional Re­pub­li­can Con­ven­tion, and af­ter los­ing that race was a Re­pub­li­can rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Fulton County board of reg­is­tra­tions and elec­tions.

Her cam­paign trea­surer, Jamie Ens­ley, is the im­me­di­ate past chair of the na­tional Log Cabin Repub­li­cans, and is as en­thu­si­as­tic about Pres­i­dent Trump as he is the pos­si­bil­ity of Mayor Nor­wood. As cities form the back­bone of re­sis­tance to the mad­ness of the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion, it is in­con­ceiv­able we would put con­trol of At­lanta in the hands of a clos­eted Re­pub­li­can.

Nor­wood’s eyes are as va­cant as her be­liefs. She prides her­self on be­ing so col­or­blind she wouldn’t have even re­al­ized she could be the first non-black mayor of At­lanta in four decades if some­one hadn’t told her she was white.

No hon­est or se­ri­ous leader is ir­re­spon­si­ble enough to ig­nore the dy­nam­ics that bind our so­ci­ety, and when you naively pre­tend skin color and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion are non­fac­tors in our cul­ture, you de­fault to a sys­tem that has never val­ued black or LGBT lives. Nowhere is Nor­wood’s con­ser­vatism more con­spic­u­ous than her as­sump­tion that the sys­tem is fun­da­men­tally fair.

Fol­low­ing the il­le­gal At­lanta Po­lice Depart­ment raid on the At­lanta Ea­gle in 2009, Nor­wood en­cour­aged ci­ti­zens to have faith in law en­force­ment, and had three ques­tions she wanted an­swered be­fore ren­der­ing judg­ment, the first be­ing: “Were there crimes be­ing com­mit­ted at the bar?” No, Mary, there were no crimes, but even if some­one had been caught giv­ing a blow job in a dark­room, it wouldn’t have jus­ti­fied po­lice be­rat­ing pa­trons as cock­roaches and fag­gots, and vi­o­lat­ing their civil lib­er­ties.

Nor­wood was equally def­er­en­tial to APD last month when of­fi­cers swarmed Black Gay Pride and closed bars two hours be­fore the city’s last call, say­ing she ac­cepted the po­lice chief ’s ex­pla­na­tion that the raid was the re­sult of “mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” rather than the re­cidi­vist tar­get­ing of Black Gay Pride.

In­deed, the only pro­gres­sive po­si­tion Nor­wood has trum­peted was on an is­sue that was out­side the re­spon­si­bil­ity, and ac­count­abil­ity, of mayor. And LGBT At­lanta fell for her con in 2009, dump­ing an ally who had fought for hate crime pro­tec­tions in fa­vor of some­one who had re­fused to vote for ex­panded do­mes­tic part­ner ben­e­fits.

We must not be duped again. The next mayor of At­lanta should be any­body but Mary Nor­wood. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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