Racial resentment hangs over the November midtermsby Diane Roberts / October 26, 2018 / Leave a comment
Race-baiting is depressingly common in US politics. The current occupant of the White House played on white people’s fear of losing power when he claimed that the previous occupant was born in Kenya. And could be a Muslim. The current Republican candidate for governor of Virginia defended the white supremacists who rioted in Charlottesville and now vows to protect the state’s “Confederate heritage.” In New York’s 19thcongressional district, incumbent John Faso loses no chance to point out that his African American opponent Antonio Delgado was once—clutch those pearls!—a rapper, whose lyrics protested against racism. Antonio Delgado was also a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and a graduate of Harvard Law School, but never mind all that: he used to wear a hoodie.
We don’t yet know who is behind the bombs mailed to Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, George Soros, Rep. Maxine Waters, CNN and other “enemies” of Donald Trump, but nobody’d be surprised to find that it’s connected to white nationalists. After all, white nationalism is Trump’s brand.
Look at the Jim Crow-style disenfranchisement going on right now in the south. Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Republican candidate for governor, also happens to be the secretary of state, the official in charge of elections—all elections, including his own. Kemp, who is white, ordered that any absentee ballots which looked “odd” to his staff, that is, with signatures that did not exactly match those on file, should be discarded. Most of these disputed ballots come from heavily African American areas. A federal judge has recently intervened, ordering that those ballots be preserved and voters given the chance to confirm their identities and have their votes counted.
Kemp also oversaw the purging of more than 100,000 citizens from the voter rolls. Their infraction? They didn’t vote in the last election. Another 53,000 voter registrations in Georgia have not yet been approved, again because signatures are allegedly missing middle initials or there’s a mysterious space between words or the handwriting looks different—anything that doesn’t perfectly replicate the state’s “official” version. Of the voter registrations currently in limbo, 70 per cent belong to African Americans. Kemp’s opponent Stacey Abrams, an African American herself, calls this voter suppression. Kemp calls it “routine maintenance.”
If Abrams wins, she’ll be the first black governor in Georgia history. Over the border in Florida, Andrew Gillum, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, might become his state’s first black governor. Trump protégé Ron DeSantis kicked off his campaign against Gillum by warning Floridians not to “monkey up” the state. In the midst of much protest, DeSantis claimed he had no ideaconnecting an African American with a simian was somehow offensive. Nor did he see why his 2011 book Dreams of Our Founding Fathers, which explains that slavery wasn’t that bad, or his attendance at ultra-right conferences with various white supremacists, might alarm many of his potential constituents. During televised gubernatorial debates, Gillum referred to DeSantis as “congressman” while DeSantis kept addressing Gillum as “Andrew” or “Andy.” I suppose we must be grateful he didn’t call Gillum “boy.”
Looming over the midterms, the “caravan” of desperately poor asylum-seeking Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans who might, if they walk really fast, make it to the US border in two weeks. The president waxes hysterical, calling them an “invasion,” threatening to call up the military to stop these brown folk Trumpians insist must have been funded by George Soros and organised by the Democratic Party. The Trump-voting white populace seems to have decided that they’re victims, persecuted by people of color who unfairly benefit from political correctness and affirmative action and other absurd liberal social programmes. This phenomenon is being called “white fragility,” the sense that somehow America is a white nation under attack by sinister dark people who will take all the good stuff, all the political offices, all the top corporate jobs, the education system, the media, the military, you name it. They refuse to see that all these institutions are still, by a vast majority, very, very white. Demographic change is indeed coming, but it’s a long way off. For now, this re-racialisation of American politics harks back to the nation’s worst days.