In the wake of protests and riots over police-involved killings of black people, the city must return to the “Atlanta Way,” said City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit in a June 4 constituent newsletter.

“We will find our way back to what we proudly call the ‘Atlanta Way,’” wrote Matzigkeit, who represents Buckhead’s District 8. “We will continue to do what is in our best interest, while finding ways to look out for others, too. We need to rediscover the ‘Atlanta Way.’”

Atlanta City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit.(Special)

He did not define the “Atlanta Way,” but it is a term dating back to the Civil Rights era. It is a term for white business leaders and black activists agreeing on a method of gradual reforms, lack of confrontation, and a focus on business activity when it comes to civil and human rights. The “Atlanta Way” has been credited with the city avoiding violence during previous widespread riots over policing and race, and with making the city more racially progressive than much of the South. It also has been criticized as an elitist and paternalistic approach that has slowed reforms and increased economic inequality and gentrification.

In the newsletter, Matzigkeit wrote that both the video of George Floyd’s killing in Minnesota and looting he witnessed last week in Buckhead made him sick to his stomach. “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” he said he told District 8’s neighborhood associations in an email.

He called for conversations and a “sorely lacking” return of empathy.

“District 8 is affluent. Our citizens have worked hard for what they have achieved and have a right for it to be protected. We need to now pause and ask why so many don’t enjoy the lives we have,” he wrote.

“Then, we need to listen,” he continued. “That’s never easy, especially when we hear things we may not like. But listening is the first step to understanding, healing, and finding solutions.”

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.