The pernicious banality of racism and white supremacy culture within our political system is not a new phenomenon. Frederick Douglass spoke to this hypocrisy in his transformative speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” & Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eerily warned us of the moral treachery that we would experience by the hands of “moral” leaders in “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. It is not lost on me that both luminaries spoke to the harsh truth that a post racial America is more aspirational than within the reach of our reality. For many, January 20, 2009, was the first steps to a new America, an America with a Black man at the helm, but sadly one whose post-racial ideologues use the words of King for racial cover rather than referencing King’s radical work that was and continues to be a more critical measure of the strategic legislative warts that perpetuate the hemorrhaging of Black and by proximity poor Americans.
Last Tuesday’s midterm elections have served as a litmus test, proving that the experiment known as The United States of America is still under construction at best and abandoned at worst. With most eyes turned to Georgia’s impending runoff to represent the Peach State in The United States Senate, the cultural and racial tropes that have become emblematic of the Warnock/Walker race cannot go unnoticed as they offer an opportunity to examine the ways in which the political landscape has given license to an America that is more aligned with the dark and predatory ethos of Bull Connor than the light of humanity of Dr. Martin Luther Jr. Nasir Jones recently wrote, “America’s a baby that’s teethin’ Shittin’ on itself, cryin’ for its next feedin’ As odd as it gets, it’s not even a toddler yet Gang members got nothin’ on these congressmen.” This past election cycle reminds conscious members among us that the vestiges of racism, white supremacy, sexism, a woman’s choice, voter suppression, homophobia, classism are still prevalent, capped by the calculated fear mongering and gaslighting that has led to dangerously misguided discourse around education curriculum. These cruel and vile vehicles drive the division in our country. Our nations’ children continue to be political pawns, simultaneously victims of daily institutional violence and traumatized by gun violence due to policy members inability to “play nice” on the most basic civil right — equity, and human need — safety. The campaign ads in the races for Governor and Senate spoke to the normalcy of hate in our country that is both directed and endorsed by those seeking to lead us. There is no greater example than the visceral hatred lobbied at Black Women who unlike any other body, have stood both tall for and have literally served as, the gold standard of the Democratic party while their white counterparts often clumsily vote the proximity of their partners, in support of existing power structures and against their own interests. This tacit trend was evident in non-votes for Hillary Rodham Clinton and in Georgia (twice now) for the state’s most qualified and ready-on-day-one candidate, Stacey Abrams. These slights will not disappear with a win even in liberal bastions like my home state of Massachusetts where Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is constantly under siege for pushing to positively inject change in one of our nation’s most ethnic and economically diverse districts. Like Pressley, we must cover Attorney General Elect Andrea Campbell in prayer as we have done with New York Attorney General Letitia James, and scores of Black women in political power who are subjected to a level of scrutiny that is unmatched to anyone else. Attorney General Elect Campbell will likely elicit a series of hollow opposition reminiscent to the absurdity Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was subjected to; histrionic hurdles to be jumped simply for being brilliant and bold Black women. Black people charged to legislate are never granted the freedom to simply do their jobs without having to deftly toe the line of respectability, restraint, accountability to their constituents and conviction to their vision for true equity and progress.
There is no political race more important to the discussion of race in America than that of Reverend Raphael Warnock and retired football great Herschel Walker. There will be those seeking to create a Venn diagram of this unusual electoral pairing and seek to invoke overzealous comparisons like Booker T. Washington and WEB DuBois. To understand the legions of political racism in America one must acknowledge that a country doesn’t have the audacity to elect a character like Trump, unless it comes off the heels of our nation’s first Black President Barack Obama. The acceptance of racism and white supremacy culture allows for both silent, and outward acts of violence, in communities that have historically been under attack physically, systemically and legislatively, which further complicates the Walker conundrum. Such a brazen endorsement of a dim and damaged candidate is beyond tokenism — it will further solidify the willfully naive notion, to a large swatch of The United States, that racism and white supremacy are of the past when in fact they are growing increasingly stronger both in front of our eyes and behind closed doors. Walker who is grossly unqualified and wildly unprepared to make tough policy and legislative decisions that will impact a state that is top 10 for income inequality, ranked 30th in the nation for educational performance and the last place out of 50 statistically for maternal death (even worse for Black women). If he were to win, he would further perpetuate the vaudeville blackface tropes that have been synonymous with the emasculation, mockery and infantilization of black men in this country for over a century. One might also add weaponizing to the list of ways America seeks to mutate the dignity and promise of Black Men in this country. It is achingly transparent that tapping Walker was not about his credentials, candor or capacity. He was handpicked and uprooted from Texas to Georgia for the sole purpose to oppose Warnock to be used simply as a tool to represent fame, football and faith for Georgia voters. How painfully ironic that over 80% of Georgia evangelicals voted for a faux police officer, alleged abuser, and abortion financer above a second-generation pastor, placing the values which they seek to impose on the nation on hold for party solidarity. Somehow, they have made peace with this hypocrisy and beckoned Walker to “Run, Herschel, Run” despite not too long ago urging LeBron James to shut up and dribble and keeping Colin Kaepernick on his knees for 6 years.
We have learned over the weekend that the Democratic Party will maintain control of the Senate and remain competitive in reclaiming the House. Just as some have challenged the moral imperative of the evangelical subset in GA, each of us of good will must remind the Democratic National Committee that ignoring the state that, along with PA, served as the catalyst to secure the win for Biden with Black folks doing a considerable amount of the lifting, will only reinforce the argument that the party uses black folks. Georgia should be on all our minds as it will serve as a salient barometer of the continued work that must be done for America to truly live out its advertised ethos.
Tony Clark is a Professor of Cultural Studies, Co-Founder and Co-President of The My Brother’s Keeper Cambridge Task Force, and Principal of The T.Clark Group