Confronting Racism on the Campaign Trail

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams probably didn’t expect James Stachowiak, known for posting an online video saying black people should be shot on sight, to attend her campaign event in Augusta, Georgia earlier this year—but she found herself face-to-face there with Stachowiak and other members of Nationalist Liberty Union, a white nationalist group, once it was underway.

Five members of the group disrupted the event, holding up signs bearing her candidate’s name and yelling over Abrams as she tried to speak to the crowd of combat veterans in attendance; even after being asked to leave, the group continued to yell racial slurs and threaten violence outside the event.

Unfortunately, Abrams is not alone in suffering such ignorance on the campaign trail. In advance of the midterm elections, racist attacks on voting rights are threatening to silence people of color across the country. For candidates of color, however, the tensions around race in America have reached a much more dangerous fever pitch.

At the #MarchForBlackWomen, feminists came together to advance an intersectional agenda that addresses race and gender. For Black women on the campaign trail, the urgency of that mission is a clear as ever. (Black Women’s Blueprint)

In September, Shelia Stubbs was confronted by police after someone called 911 while she was canvassing their neighborhood. That same month, Kiah Morris, Vermont’s only Black woman representative and first Black woman legislator, stepped down from the race for the Vermont House of Representatives and resigned from her current seat in the body amidst growing threats and harassment. After President Trump’s election in 2016, Morris saw a surge in white supremacist and Neo-Nazi propaganda in her community, and she noticed an uptick in the harassment she was receiving online which then escalated to vandalism, death threats and break-in to her home. Even though she was running unopposed, Morris decided not to re-run because of her family’s safety—but the harassment continued. Morris, along with her husband and 7-year-old son, ultimately had to relocate.

In the midst of this hostile climate, white supremacy is becoming ever-more-closely tied to mainstream and national organizations. A growing number of companies have been revealed to support Steve King, who has made racist comments on the record and keeps a confederate flag on his desk. Republican lawmakers have publicly shown support for the “Proud Boys,” an “alt-right” group that has a long history of racist violence, even in the wake of a recent storm by the group in Manhattan that led to nine arrests for rioting and assault.

It’s clear that the “post-racial era” many imagined beginning with the Obama administration has yet to come to fruition—and that, in its absence, a reckoning around racism nationwide is long overdue. That reckoning can and should begin at the ballot box.

Miranda Martin is a feminist writer and activist and an editorial intern at Ms. She has written for a variety of publications and been published by The Unedit and Project Consent. Miranda recently graduated from University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a major in Interpersonal Communications and a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She loves to travel, read, exercise and daydream about the fall of the patriarchy.

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