Bitter Work: Race, Gerrymandering and Partisanship in Georgia 

Raina Carfaro, Scarlet Staff

Hot take: The South does the work and the North takes the credit, but not without mocking the South first and absolving themselves of all wrongdoing. The South is more complex than those in the north like to pretend it is. Racism does not simply disappear when one crosses the Mason Dixon line. Class and race struggles may appear differently throughout our country, but they are not exclusive only to Southern states. Both the North and South have – at one point – profited off of the enslavement of Africans, the genocide and cultural erasure of indigenous peoples, and the exploitation of the working class. Just as the South exploited enslaved peoples for labor, the North reap the benefits and create new institutions to perpetuate the social divisions. The North will not be absolved of blame, just as the South should not carry the burden of history alone. While White students here in Massachusetts crack jokes about the homogenous culture of a racist-hillbilly South, Black folks in Atlanta, Jackson, Baltimore and Memphis fight for black liberation and voting preservation. 

While screaming at the TV, my peers scorn the southern states turning red and joke that the next time the Carolinas cry for aid, we in the North won’t help them. We don’t consider why these states with high Black and Latinx populations, who tend to lean Democrat in the polls, have been red states for generations. However, all of a sudden, Georgia starts to turn blue. I cried to be completely honest. Relief, joy, overwhelming gratitude, and pride. Georgia turning blue was a shock to many people who don’t know the politics and history of Georgia. While Georgia hadn’t voted for a Democratic president since 1992, it had exclusively Democratic governors for more than a century before 1998. During the 2000s, Georgia has increasingly voted red, often due to the strict redistricting that has been taking place since Republicans won office. In a battleground state such as Georgia, the ability to redraw legislative districts is highly sought after as it can drastically alter the political landscape for a decade or more, and in this case, help decide a presidential election. Just like most of America, the rural parts of Georgia tend to vote red and the cities tend to vote blue, which makes legislators keen to redistrict areas to benefit their party. The redistricting is viciously partisan, and, for decades, Republicans have dominated the districts of Georgia, even the notoriously blue Atlanta until two seats flipped a few years back. An example of this would be legislators taking a district that is already comfortably red and then carving out a blue part of a nearby swing district which would then dilute the blue population, and result in two red districts rather than one.  

This redistricting, when it becomes extreme, easily becomes gerrymandering which dissuades potential voters from trying to vote as they feel their voice no longer has any sway or power. It becomes impossible to challenge an incumbent from an opposing party, so the only challenges come in the primary. This has caused even further partisan polarization, and the moderates are slowly starting to disappear. That is often the nature of politics in the South. The people in power uphold the status quo by suppressing voices when they do not work to their advantage, and uplift the voices when they play in their favor. It creates a tough battle for anyone looking to make tangible change, when in order to even create a fair fight, systemic discrimination and voter supression must be addressed and challenged. This has been the fight Stacey Abrams has been taking on, along with countless unappreciated poll workers and volunteers doing the nitty-gritty work that is far less glamorous than other tasks, but just as – if not more – important. Stacey Abrams, a Black woman, was the Democratic candidate for Governor in 2018 and very closely lost her election to her Republican opponent – a White man. She lost by only 50,000 votes out of around 4,000,000 cast. Her opponent was the acting Secretary of State at the time and, therefore, was in charge of the election. Evidence has shown that there was outward voter suppression in majority-Black precincts, in the form of voting-machine malfunctions and long lines at the polls. Making voting even more difficult for already disenfranchised peoples will easily decrease the turn out in key districts, and her opponent knew that. He even created a false claim against the Democratic Party for a “failed hacking attempt”, but the investigation revealed that he himself had approved of the activity and had been responsible for fraudulent computer activity. Stacey Abrams, despite the loss she suffered at the hands of a man who abused his power, has continued on to fight for the people of Georgia. It is a tale as old as America: an overqualified Black woman loses to an outwardly corrupt White man in a rigged election, and when she challenges the decision, people all agree she was wronged but do nothing to change the outcome. This is what systemic white supremacy looks like. But, nevertheless, she has been doing the same unappreciated work that countless Black women have done before her. Abrams and her team registered over 800,000 Black voters since 2018, and, with her actions and by her hand, Georgia turned blue. And by Georgia’s hand, Trump will fall.