Sometimes America’s legacy of white supremacy is hiding in plain sight, literally. When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a hastily passed voter suppression law that many are calling the new, new Jim Crow on Thursday night, surrounded by a half-dozen white men, he did so in front of a painting of a plantation where more than 100 Black people had been enslaved.
The fitting symbolism is somehow both shocking and unsurprising. In using the antebellum image of the notorious Callaway Plantation — in a region where enslaved Black people seeking freedom were hunted with hounds — in Wilkes County, Ga., as the backdrop for signing a bill that would make it a crime to hand water to a thirsty voter waiting on Georgia’s sometimes hours-long voter lines, the GOP governor was sending a clear message about race and human rights in the American South.
The portrait of the plantation was the starkest reminder of Georgia’s history of white racism that spans slavery, Jim Crow segregation, the rebirth of the modern Ku Klux Klan, and today’s voter purges targeting Black and brown voters — but it wasn’t the only one. At the very moment that Kemp was signing the law with his all-white posse, a Black female Georgia lawmaker — Rep. Park Cannon — who’d knocked on the governor’s door in the hopes of watching the bill signing was instead dragged away and arrested by state troopers, in a scene that probably had the Deep South’s racist sheriffs of yesteryear like Bull Connor or Jim Clark smiling in whatever fiery hellhole they now inhabit.
Indeed, Twitter was on fire Thursday night with posters drawing the straight line from notorious past segregationists like George Wallace to the 2021 actions of Kemp and the GOP-led Georgia Legislature in passing — at great speed and with little debate — a lengthy bill that also limits easy-access drop boxes for ballots and places onerous voter-ID restrictions on voting by mail, and which the New York Times reports “will have an outsized effect on Black voters.”
On one level this new voter-suppression law — “voter integrity,” in the modern GOP’s Orwellian branding — is inspired by the current and possible future events of ex-President Donald Trump’s Big Lie about fraud in the 2020 election, the narrow upset wins in Georgia for President Biden and two new Democratic senators, and the threat that voting icon Stacey Abrams poses to Kemp in the 2022 election. But there’s also a powerful pull back to Georgia past. That link is made clear by the history hanging right behind Kemp on Thursday.
There’s much more at the link.
From Ari Berman at Mother Jones, a reminder that we can thank John Roberts for the many Republican voter suppression efforts around the country: John Roberts Said “Things Have Changed Dramatically” in the South. Georgia Shows Why He’s Wrong.