Mayor Andre Dickens part of delegation to the United Nations

The United States Delegation attend the conference at the United Nations office housed in Geneva, Switzerland. // Photo courtesy of www.un.org

Last month Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens served as a delegate for the U.S. Presentation to the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva. 

The U.S. presented updates on the 2021 report on the implementation of U.S. obligations under the “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.” 

The mayor highlighted the progress in the U.S. and Atlanta in addressing racial discrimination during his opening remarks.

“Like all major cities, we face challenges of affordability, of inclusion, and of racial, economic, and health disparities. In Atlanta we don’t claim to have all the answers; we are transparent on the challenges we face and take a collaborative approach to identifying and implementing innovative solutions,” emphasized Mayor Dickens.

He also described the city as “a black tech mecca, best city for diversity in the tech workforce, and a top city for women-owned businesses.” 

While the mayor’s remarks did not expand on the specific challenges the city faces or the praise he gave it, he did emphasize the need to invest more in addressing racial inequalities. 

The committee hearings also reviewed the U.S.’ compliance with its human rights obligations related to its prisons. 

Opponents of the mayor quickly expressed concerns about his proposal to lease 700 beds from the Atlanta City Detention Center to Fulton County, citing its contradictions to the human rights pledges made during the committee hearings. 

The mayor justified the proposal as a temporary solution to address the “humanitarian crisis” resulting from the conditions in the Fulton County jail before repurposing the detention center in the future. 

The proposal in city hall highlights the ongoing tug-of-war cities across the country are facing in addressing large rates of incarceration while making statements in favor of addressing racial discrimination and inequities. 

According to a recent study, racial residential segregation still persists throughout residential zones in Atlanta, although progress has been made since the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968. David Sjoquist, a professor of economics at Georgia State University, authored the study.

Sjoquist said he “was unaware of how much the racial composition had changed outside the city of Atlanta, particularly on the north side” when looking at the change in Black and white populations of 10 counties in the metro Atlanta area between 1970-2020. 

The Brookings Institution conducted a national study on neighborhood segregation. The dissimilarity index, which indicates the extent to which two groups are unequally spread across neighborhoods and ranges from zero (complete integration) to 100 (the percentage of one group that would need to move to be evenly distributed with the other group), has remained high for most racial groups in metro Atlanta. 

According to current indices, around 50-60% of Black and Asian residents and 40-50% of Hispanic residents would need to move in order to achieve full integration. 

While these trends are not indicative of explicit racial discrimination, they show the underlying inequities that remain in housing in Atlanta. 

Addressing this issue has been a priority of Dickens during his time in office. 

Dickens’ participation in the UN delegation has created an opportunity for Atlanta to be a national and global leader in addressing racial discrimination and creating a more equitable society. 

Dickens hopes that Atlanta can pave the way in creating a brighter future, stating that his goal “is to build a strong coalition of city and state leaders to shape national and global initiatives.” 

It remains to be seen what Mayor Dickens will do to address discrimination and inequities in the city, but his participation in the recent delegation is a step in the right direction for inclusion. 

More information about the delegation and Mayor Dickens can be found at www.atlantaga.gov.