UVA, Confederate Symbols, and Georgia’s Gubernatorial Democratic Primary
In 2015, I proposed legislation that would remove any confederate symbol or flag from property owned by the State of Georgia. It was my position that we shouldn’t delete history but rather put it in its proper place, museums. The confederates lost the civil war yet the confederate flag still flies in our state like a sign of victory. As we saw in Charlottesville, white supremacist still rally around these symbols while exercising their first and second amendment rights because these symbols are the basis of their hate. As long as, confederate symbols still permeate the south the supremacist will continue to allow their hate to spill out into the public square. Even our elected leaders are too afraid to use the power of the laws to correct history. Reality is, we cannot stop racist people from holding their beliefs but there are things we can do about it.
Stone Mountain is the largest confederate symbol in the entire United States of America. The face of confederate generals were etched in its side to ensure that no one could destroy the revisionist history that the Confederate Army was not treasonous in their attempt to divide America. In Georgia, after the Supreme Court desegregated public schools and declared that, “separate was inherently unequal” the then Democrats in the General Assembly changed the Georgia flag to display the confederate army’s battle flag. Eventually, the Georgia General Assembly removed the “Stars and Bars.” However, that version of the Georgia flag and several others still fly at the foot of the Stone Mountain. These flags act as welcome signs to the trail that leads to the top of the mountain where the KKK reformed, where KKK lynched dozens of people, and where they still meet to plan the terrorism of thousands of other Americans.
Prior to the 2016 legislative session, I followed protocol and contacted the then leader of the then Democratic Caucus of the State House, Leader Stacey Abrams. I asked Abrams to support my legislation and make a positive step in the direction against hate. This legislation proposal was following the Dillon Roof shooting of the unarmed worshipers in the church in Charleston. I wrongly presumed that the party of freedom would jump at the opportunity to make a stand in that historic moment. Abrams quickly and definitively said “NO.” Undeterred, I then asked that she, as the leader of the democratic party, at least present this issue to the entire democratic caucus ahead of the next legislative session and determine if the majority of members would be interested in addressing this difficult issue. Again, Abrams refused, she did not even venture to poll the caucus to determine if they were interested. She was not willing to address hate when she was in power. She was comfortable allowing Georgia to be the last state to take a stand.
Still undeterred, I reminded Leader Abrams that it was the “Dixiecrats” (who were once Democrats but are now considered Republicans) that changed the Georgia flag to the confederate flag in the first place. I argued it was the job of the Democratic party to finish fixing what Democrats of the past had once destroyed by ensuring that the flag created by the Dixiecrats was not on State owned property. The only proper place to do it was in the Georgia General Assembly. We had the momentum to make a historic stand. It was the duty of the leader to at least give the Democratic members an option to take a party position on the issue. This time Abrams did not say no, she said “that sounds like a legislative black caucus thing.” Here I thought it was a democracy thing, a slavery thing, a Georgia thing, but did not expect the leader of the Democratic Caucus to shrug off what could have been a transformative move for racial healing in this State. Even if it was a black “thang” I thought Abrams was black. Fast forward two years.
During this weekends Netroots Nation conference, while the UVA protest and counter protest were underway, supporters of Abrams chose to protest a speech by Representative Stacey Evans, also a democratic candidate for Governor. The chant “trust a black woman” was yelled over the speech Evans eloquently gave. Imagine my confusion as I hear women supporting a candidate solely because of her color. Imagine my frustration as a Democrat, after what we saw in the 2016 election, that other Democrats were not even willing to listen to what the other candidate had to say. Imagine my anger at hearing “trust a black woman” while simultaneously watching UVA unfold around confederate symbols miles away.
I too as a black woman had an extra amount of faith in Stacey Abrams to assist in certain matters because she was a “black woman” until she absolutely let me down again and again. I did not take Abrams rebuke of what I felt was timely and important legislation personally. It had long become obvious to me as a representative that Abrams, although doing many things that was intended to helped the Democratic party, only did things that also helped Abrams. For this reason I have doubts about her being our Democratic nominee for governor. Frankly, with the Republican’s majority in the House and Senate, we had little to lose yet we still didn’t fight. This lack of will to fight was a trend found under Abrams’ leadership of the Democrats. I do trust Abrams as a black woman to help Abrams first and the State second which is why she is second in line to get my support for the Democratic nomination in May 2018.
Charlottesville, New Orleans, Mississippi and many other places have removed confederate symbols from government owned property since I proposed the legislation. Georgia missed the opportunity to allow the Republicans to show their true colors because it would not be beneficial to Abrams. In light of the Dillon Roof shooting Republicans may have had a few members that agreed. We may have made a change. Now we will never know and anything done will come after the violence of UVA making it much more difficult.
With all of that said, compared to the Republican candidates for Governor, Abrams falls far more in line with my policies than any of the Republican candidates. Which is why it was my hope that this Democratic primary could be transformative in the way we choose our candidates. Not hateful and race based. I wanted to talk about the few differences that separate these two women, look at how they handled their campaigns, and evaluate the way they were received around the State to decide who should be our nominee. I also wanted to uplift the fact that that democrats have two intelligent, hard-working, experienced, lawyer-legislators to chose from. Now I am afraid all we will discuss is race.
The take away is if we are going to discuss race, let us not only look at the color of the candidates but also how they actually will address race base issues. I hold Abrams to a higher standard on the issue of confederate symbols because she was the leader who halted the entire conversation and because as a black woman she pushed off what is a State issue as a “black thang.” I will have to always doubt whether or not Abrams is making choices and deals to benefit her run for the next highest office.
With all due respect, because it is still owed for her other contributions to our state, Abrams should hope that when she asks for support from non-black people that they don’t tell her “naw, that sounds like a black thang, you should seek help from the black caucus.”