Georgia Is Ground Zero for the GOP’s Jim Crow Renaissance

Black voters took control of the state in the recent Senate elections. Now the backlash has arrived.

The Georgia State Capitol building. Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article called “Trump’s War on Black Voters Is Far From Over.” Donald Trump had just lost the presidential election largely due to Black folks organizing in Georgia, and we were weeks away from Democrats regaining Senate control, thanks again to those same Black voters organizing to get Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff elected. In that article, I said that “anytime Black people utilize their voices to make seismic electoral shifts, a backlash ensues, whether that’s through changing laws or extrajudicial violence.” The Georgia GOP and the people who follow them have proven that to be true, rushing to bring Jim Crow back as fast and ruthlessly as possible.

At the very top are the Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly, who are trying to push through the most restrictive voter suppression laws in the country. House Bill 531 and Senate Bill 241, both introduced in the past two weeks, would:

  • Restrict the Sundays where people could participate in early voting — a direct attack on Black churches that hold “souls to the polls” events.
  • Limit the amount of time people have to request absentee ballots.
  • Ban counties from accepting private funds to help with elections.
  • More strictly enforce a law that volunteers can’t provide food and water to people standing in line.
  • Limit the availability of ballot drop boxes.
  • Ban no-excuse absentee voting.
  • Require absentee voters to get their ballot envelope signed by a witness and enclose a copy of their photo ID with the ballot.

That’s not even all of it. Here’s how I voted in the 2020 elections: I got an absentee ballot mailed to me. I filled it out and left it at a dropbox on my way to Target weeks before Election Day. Georgia Republicans want to make this impossible.

Georgia had the most scrutinized election results this country has seen since Florida in 2000. And unlike Florida, Georgia’s votes held up against numerous recounts and audits and allegations of fraud from half the country. So the idea that these laws are to “secure” the election is merely gaslighting. This is all about the return of Jim Crow by any means necessary. The Republican decision to suppress the vote is a war on the Black electorate.

At the same time, George has produced the new face of the Republican Party: Marjorie Taylor Greene. The QAnon believer has espoused conspiracy theories about Jewish people, harassed members of Congress about LGBT rights, and may or may not have actively aided the insurrection in January. If the Republican primaries were today and Greene ran, I honestly think she’d win the nomination — if Trump himself weren’t running, of course. Greene has been presented as a radical outlier when she’s merely saying the quiet parts of the GOP’s stances out loud.

Meanwhile, at Pebblebrook High School in Georgia’s Cobb County, forensic science teacher Susan McCoy reacted to her principal holding a moment of silence for Breonna Taylor by blaming the woman for the way police murdered her. “If you hang out with people with guns that shoot at cops, you’re likely to get caught in the crossfire,” she said during a Zoom class. “I’m sorry she died, it’s sad, but she put herself in that position by hanging out with somebody she shouldn’t have been with.”

The video felt particularly cruel in light of everything else happening in the state. White supremacy seems so embedded in the state that it’s ripping apart our voting rights, inciting violence, and infecting our kids. It’s all connected in the most intentional, anti-Black ways. There’s no break from white supremacy and no pause from the fight.

This is how whiteness fights back. Not through fair elections or reimagined policies that work best for the most people, but through anti-Blackness. Violence. Misinformation. Authoritarianism. It’s been the recipe for suppression for so long that it’s as exhausting as it is painful. This is how the rest of the South maintained its redness despite the actual makeup of its states’ respective populations. This is how they think they will win.

But if these last few months — and the decades and centuries that preceded them — have shown us, it’s that we will always find a way to overcome. Even when we wish we didn’t have to anymore.

Level Sr. Writer covering Race, Culture, Politics, TV, Music. Previously: The Undefeated, The Atlantic, Washington Post. Forthcoming book: The Movement Made Us

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