On the Ground in Georgia: A Much-Needed Message of Change

We can celebrate Warnock and Ossoff’s victories, at the same time that we hold accountable those who want to destroy the equality feminists and women of color have worked towards for centuries.

warnock ossoff georgia change feminist trump
“As a feminist, and as a feminist of color myself,  we have to stand up for our country and fight anti-Blackness by continuing to vote and organize,” writes Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I was thrilled to see that major news outlets had called the Georgia runoff election for Raphael Warnock and that Jon Ossoff was on the verge of a win. For months, the campaigns of these two candidates and numerous grassroots organizations around the state have been mobilizing voters on their behalf. As a Georgia voter, it’s been beautiful, and, at times, overwhelming because we’ve been bombarded with political ads since August 2020.

Stacey Abrams of Fair Fight, the Georgia Latino Human Rights Coalition, Mi Gente, LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright of Black Voters Matter and many, many more, organized voters of color for high turnout during the November 2020 election. They redoubled their efforts so that Warnock and Ossoff could increase their victory margins in counties like DeKalb (where I live), Cobb, Fulton and more rural counties like those on the border with Florida with large Black populations.

In Decatur and DeKalb county, there are particular strategies that worked to energize voters.  Every afternoon at 3 p.m., without fail, the residents of Clairmont Retirement Community, across from the VA hospital, were out on the four corners of the intersection with the Emory Clairmont campus, campaigning for Warnock and Ossoff. These senior citizens, mostly women, were dedicated to change and the progressive mission of the two candidates. Every day I drove by after picking up my child, I honked to let them know we were in solidarity. 

Up the street, at the intersection between Clairmont and Decatur Road, the Raphael Warnock team campaigned from 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday. Last Sunday, a caravan of 10 vans campaigning for Warnock and Ossoff in pre-election door knocking wound their way through Decatur at 9 a.m., starting the day’s work in direct political action. 

Further up the road at the Plaza Fiesta, both Warnock and Ossoff made targeted appeals to Latinx voters, in Spanish and English, with signage and canvassers who went door to door. One in 10 Georgia voters is Latinx, and Warnock in particular used faith and family in his Spanish language advertisements to appeal to our community. I myself received a stack of postcards from all over the nation and from Warnock’s campaign in Spanish. As a Latinx suburban mom, I appreciated his campaign’s gesture to recognize us as potential supporters—even if Spanish is not my first language.

Warnock’s campaign materials utilizing Spanish. (Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez)

But the real stars of this effort are the members of the Black church, and Black women in particular, who voted and organized, fueled by rage and determination in response to Kelly Loeffler’s attacks on the foundational institutions of Black community-building and citizenship. You don’t want to piss off the church ladies because they will hit you with a stick—or in this case, a ballot. 

In Decatur, early voting for the runoff was smooth and I was again welcomed by some of the same African American poll workers who helped me during the November general election. Mostly elderly women, these poll workers showed a strong commitment to voting in a South that had excluded their ancestors from the franchise, only to be guardians of it in their later years, and I will forever be in their debt. 

But when I voted on Dec. 16 for the runoffs, I saw something very different from my experience voting in the November general—numbers of young women seemingly under the age of 21, voting for the first time. 

These young women saw an opportunity to vote early and exercise their right to vote—spurred, no doubt, by the Young Democrats of DeKalb county and the Feminist Majority Foundation, who have been especially active via text, mailers and social media, given that college campuses were ghost towns by the end of November. 

“It was sort of weird to vote for the first time because I went alone,” Kaming Courtney, a young first-time voter from Decatur, told me. “I really had to observe my surroundings to see where to go and how to do everything correctly. [The election] could personally affect me in ways regarding health care and regulations on COVID-19.  As a Black woman, my identity inclined me to vote for the less conservative candidates because the right wing has a history of not caring about the people of color or women in the United States.”


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Like so many other young women and men of color, young voters in Georgia and elsewhere have taken a far more active role in political activity since the peak of the BLM movement, further galvanized by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks. It is a necessity to take a stand against anti-Blackness because it impacts our communities through race, immigration policy, and policing.  

Taking a stand against anti-Blackness meant voting out David Perdue and Loeffler, who represent the bastions of white supremacy and power in the south that have historically excluded people of color. Loeffler’s plantation mentality and disparaging of Black folks also spurred the entire Atlanta Dream Women’s WNBA team—a team which Loeffler co-owns—to defiantly endorse Warnock after she banned them from wearing BLM gear on the court.

But on the same day we celebrated the monumental unseating of white wealth and supremacy with Warnock and Ossoff’s wins in the morning of Jan. 6. 2021, all hell broke loose in the nation’s capital at 2 p.m. 

Trump incited his supporters to violently attack at the seat of government as Biden’s presidential election win was to be certified. As white supremacist Trump fanatics stormed the Capitol in the name of a falsely proclaimed “stolen election” they literally walked into the Capitol grounds unfettered. No one was beaten and their arrests were minimal. Capitol police shot Ashli Babbitt, 35, a military veteran and Trump supporter, as she reportedly tried to break through a barricaded door. She was one of four people who died during Wednesday’s chaotic events.

“Why is it that Black and Brown folks were tear gassed, beaten and shot this summer but they let the white supremacists into the Capitol?” I asked on Twitter.

I was baffled by security detail and police officers joking and taking selfies with the mob. I can’t even begin to imagine what they would have done had Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez been in their offices when the Trump white supremacists violently stormed the Capitol.

Guidotti-Hernandez.

Trump has emboldened white supremacists to openly put their anti-Semitic, anti-Black, misogynist, anti-immigrant views into action on the grounds of the seat of government. We have 13 days left, and I hope we can survive it. 

As a feminist, and as a feminist of color myself,  we have to stand up for our country and fight anti-Blackness by continuing to vote and organize. We can’t let the Georgia 2020 and 2021 elections be a fluke. Senator-Elect Warnock will be up for re-election in two years. We have to make sure that the first Black man elected to the Senate in the state of Georgia gets another term so that this becomes the norm, not an exception. 

We can celebrate Warnock and Ossoff’s victories at the same time that we hold accountable those who want to destroy the equality feminists and women of color have worked towards for centuries.

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About

Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández is a professor at Emory and Charles Warren Fellow at Harvard. She received her doctorate degree from Cornell University in English, with a graduate minor in Latina/o Studies in 2004. She is the author "Unspeakable Violence: Narratives of Citizenship Mourning and Loss in Chicana/o and U.S. Mexico National Imaginaries."