Reading: White Flight and the “Hartsfield Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Spa...

White Flight and the “Hartsfield Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Spaceport and Nail Emporium.”

by
Nonfiction - April 27

The Facebook page is called “Hartsfield Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Spaceport and Nail Emporium.” It exists only virtually—a parody nickname for the world’s busiest airport, located on the southwest perimeter of a city too busy to hate, or so they say.

The stars on the page give it a 4.6 average from 109 public ratings. Nearly 24,000 have visited it. There are nearly 2,000 likes.

You can read the reviews on the wall. A guy named Davie has a playfully innocent recount of his experience, told like a Star Wars episode. He recommends manually docking your spacecraft, and lets fellow travelers know that droids are welcome.

John posted a link from an Uproxx article that talks about the “elevated airport food” you can eat. John recommends, unironically, that you read the story, whose writer refers to an airport called “Hartsfield-Jackson.” But that’s a whole different page—one for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, a real, actual place in the world. And John’s recommendation isn’t posted on that page.

Robbie is a red-bearded white Millennial. On his Facebook page he shares a Change.org petition. He wants your help making Colorado superdelegates who’ve pledged to support Hillary Clinton switch their voting commitment to Bernie Sanders. He must be a good guy. Despite when he writes that he opted to only have his nails done the last time he docked at Hartsfield Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Spaceport and Nail Emporium. That’s just because his hair was already “did,” you understand, which is why he told “Empress Ming I wanted gel, so my nails would sparkle like diamond in the sky.”

Drew, a white Milwaukee resident, has a photo of himself wearing a pink “Cabin Mom” tee on his Facebook page. He calls Hartsfield Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Spaceport and Nail Emporium the “Best nail emporium in this sector.” Others who call such towns as Denver, New Orleans and San Francisco home have also checked in here.

Pretty young white ladies—employees of Delta, and assumingly newly hired flight attendants—have checked in to this imaginary airport/space station as well, posting photos of their newly earned security badges, which they call their “Delta Wings.” The one who posted the photos uses the hashtag #deltaproud.

A lady named Morgan simply tells us, upon landing and checking in, that she’s “Back in the ‘hood.” Guess what? She’s white.

The high majority of reviewers are white like Morgan. After 10 minutes scrolling dozens of reviews on the timeline of Hartsfield Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Spaceport and Nail Emporium’s Facebook page, barely getting past the middle of March, I counted a single black reviewer. And I’m not even sure he counts, since White is his actual last name, which literally, legally, makes him white as well.

There are members of other races representing on the Facebook page for Hartsfield Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Spaceport and Nail Emporium. Asians, Latinos, folks whose cultures and ethnicities I’m not comfortable guessing. But there’s certainly a lack of black. And as black as Hartsfield Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Spaceport and Nail Emporium sounds, you might be surprised that black people aren’t really flying out of Hartsfield Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Spaceport and Nail Emporium, or at least aren’t using Facebook to check in and out.

Maybe it has something to do with calling it a “Nail Emporium.” I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those in a non-black community, and if I did I’m pretty sure it was called something else. Nail “emporiums” are, after all, the kinda shit you expect at flea markets, swap meets, and neighborhood strip malls near Greenbriar. They are part of the deteriorating mold that happens in poorer African-American communities when opportunistic outsider slumlords rent buildings and open denigrating shops. Unfortunately, the economic dreams of many longtime residents of these neighborhoods were grounded, once white flight occurred.

Or maybe it’s because they put, of all the Jacksons, motherfucking LaToya in the title. Because we all know that bitch crazy. Don’t worry—me being black, or at least sufficiently Jackson-Family skin-toned, gives me free license to call black women bitches. Maybe you believe that black men call all of our hoes bitches, because that’s just the fly shit to be doin’. Plus we be high. High as a muh-fuckin satellite, on that space-aged shit. You’ve probably heard a Pimp C song or two on Atlanta radio; don’t pretend you’re not familiar with the stereotype.

But what you may not know is the story of Maynard Jackson, and how cute jokes like “Hartsfield Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Spaceport and Nail Emporium” threaten to scrub his legacy from the public consciousness. And if there’s one thing nobody needs in a rapidly gentrifying city like Atlanta, where white flight is a real thing, whether it’s retreating to or from inside the perimeter, it’s a lowered consciousness.

Maynard, like me, was an alumnus of Morehouse College, except he graduated at 18 and I didn’t. His maternal grandfather, history-making ATLien John Wesley Dobbs, was another Morehouse Man who helped end the racist “white primary” electoral system, leading a voter registration drive that resulted in more than 20,000 black voters. Such electoral power came in handy when he went to convince Mayor William Hartsfield—you know, from the airport—to integrate the Atlanta Police Department. And as a black man, I admit to you that the best thing about Atlanta is not having to be scared of police treatment. And Jackson’s widow, Valerie, or Mrs. Jackson if you got good home training, has been a host on Atlanta’s NPR Station WABE for years. The Atlanta Jacksons are an institution.

There’s be no MARTA without Maynard. There’d be no Atlanta Olympics without Maynard. There’d be way less black wealth in Atlanta, because Maynard mandated that the airport award at least 25 percent of its contracts to minority-owned businesses. That number swelled to almost 40 percent by 1979, and as a result, when I walk out of my house in East Point, which has been called “the most dangerous suburb in America,” I’m able to wave at my millionaire neighbor who owns businesses inside Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. I know for a fact I don’t have anywhere near her amount of money in the bank, but that shit still makes me feel fly as fuck.

The Tri-Cities area, just minutes from the airport and outfitted with golf courses, nature preserves, thriving businesses and lots of open-minded black people, was once much less diverse than it is today. Pictures of the world’s 1st Chick-Fil-A—which I’ll remind you was in Greenbriar Mall, and not in Hapeville—show comfortable white families enjoying America’s favorite fat, flightless yardbird, after being deliciously seasoned, fried and placed between two buttered buns. It’s too bad so many of my white neighbors moved away—we might have had a chance to realize how much we had in common.

But that’s white flight for you in the Southwest Atlanta, East Point, College Park and everywhere else in Georgia’s most liberal city. That’s reality for Inside The Perimeter-South residents who can turn left or right from State Route 166 onto I-285, and see tons of black wealth and success. We know who deserves credit for helping aspirational African-American people find upward-mobility. We know who made Atlanta fly as fuck. And his name isn’t LaToya, he wasn’t a space-aged pimp, and he didn’t do nails.

Maybe, my ironic white friends, you’d know that already if you were checking in to the right airport before your flight.endcap

Mike Jordan is an Atlanta-based writer and “Editor Emeritus” at Thrillist Atlanta. He lives in East Point with his wife and daughter, and hosts a monthly public book club called Lit Atlanta in the historic Old Fourth Ward. He is committed to shaming insensitive people into being better citizens, drinks local craft beer, and supports creativity in all forms. Find him at MikeJordanOnline.com and on Twitter at @michaelbjordan.

  1. Janet

    27 April

    I don’t know you, Mike, but I think I love you. This was a very enlightening article. I’m not one who “checks in” places, but I did titter a bit the first time I noted someone one my FB feed checking into the “Nail Emporium” and I sometimes call my neighborhood “the hood”. As someone who tries to be one of the “good ones” (the open-minded, diversity loving, Black Lives Matter supporting, white girls), I appreciate broadening my own understanding about how “little things” (I’m big into the quotation marks, you see) aren’t little and are indeed harmful and demeaning.
    I appreciate you shaming me and others into being better citizens and would love to grab a craft beer with you sometime.

  2. Larry Wallace

    2 May

    You make a lot of great points and give us the window to “special” irony behind Latoya’s place

  3. Dillon Aldersgate

    28 July

    My opinion, for what it’s worth. Your article is FAR TOO LONG, and only held my interest for about 3 minutes. The Facebook page and posts are arguably cute. But you should really spend your time and efforts on issues that matter.

    • Jerad W. Alexander

      28 July

      If you’re incapable of reading past three minutes, you’re not our audience. Go back to Buzzfeed. Cheers.

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