Stacey Abrams Lost. But She Brought Blacks And Jews Together Again.
Stacy Abrams may not be the governor of Georgia, but she has made a significant impact in this cherry red state.
Georgia has a history rooted in racial terror, systemic oppression and white supremacy. People of color navigate through a maze of historical racism, injustice and past phobias that still threaten their freedom and safety.
Abrams has shown us all the power of resilience. As the first Black woman to run for governor of Georgia, she is a symbol of hope for traditionally oppressed groups in a state with a strong Confederate history.
And even though she did not win, Abrams will continue to lead a movement that reconnects different communities in the fight for justice and equality.
In my work on voter registration, I witnessed white Jews speaking out and standing up for Abrams with historically marginalized groups to fight against hate and injustice just like they did in the Civil Rights movement. Though the days of Dr. King are behind us, Abrams presented Blacks and Jews another opportunity to mend, bond and create a better Georgia together.
Abrams has reconnected these communities and is herself a role model for courageous leadership, and her values and commitments deeply resonated with many in the Jewish community.
“Stacy Abrams exudes the tenacity, strength, and courage that Jews of color — especially Jewish women of Color — must have within the Jewish community,” says Heidi Senior, Co-founder of Multicultural Jews. “Just like Stacy’s political journey and mission, we are determined to pave the way to crash stereotypes and open doors for future generations within the Jewish community. The end goal is to have a place, a voice, and a seat at the table.”
“Much has been made about the power of women in this election cycle and this rang true for me in the Jewish community as well,” another Jewish woman who supported Abrams, Mary Baron, told me. “At almost every event I went to, whether a campaign rally, debate or postcard party, there was always the presence of strong Jewish women. For me, and for these women, Stacey Abrams’ commitment to healthcare issues, public education, civil rights and equality spoke to core Jewish values. Their leadership and organizational skills are inspiring and I believe they will continue to be a powerful force for social justice in the south.”
While Jews in the South typically vote blue along with Jews across the country, some white Jews have assimilated into conservative Southern culture and have become less active in authentically advocating for disenfranchised groups. Over time, the powerful connection between people of color and the Jewish community during the Civil Rights era has faded.
But today, President Trump’s empowerment of white nationalists and supremacists has created a racially and religiously divisive and hateful environment, eerily similar to the injustices of the 1950’s and 60’s. The progress we’ve achieved for minority groups in this country is now threatened due to President Trump’s ignorance, misogynic views, racism and hate.
The leadership of the nation has reinvigorated once closeted racists and anti-Semitic individuals. In 2017, anti-Semitic incidents surged nearly 60 percent, according to the ADL. Many Jews are beginning to understand that their freedom and safety are tied to the freedom and safety of all people.
Although the Jewish community still has significant work to do in order to eradicate racism and systemic oppression against Jews of Color, many are making renewed efforts to ensure diversity inclusion and equity.
Jews and Blacks are again fighting together for justice and peace. Many Jews supported Abrams with their time, talents and money, registering voters, canvassing neighborhoods, providing legal support, donating money and strategizing on her behalf.
“The support I got on social media from my Jewish friends all over the United States, as well as overseas, was incredible,” wrote Leslie Smith Rosen, a Jewish educational leader. “One of my dear friends in California sent money to support the campaign and said to me simply that helping the election of Abrams was ‘Tikkun Olam’ [repairing the world], and I couldn’t agree more.”
Jews supported Abrams like they supported Dr. Martin Luther King and the causes he fought for. Jews marched for Stacy like they marched with Dr. King. Jews made calls, rode buses and canvassed for Stacy, like they did when they fought for civil rights in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
As a Black woman, single mother, and a Jew, I personally supported Abrams, and will continue to be in this movement of justice with her, because I believe she will carry on a powerful legacy of fighting for justice.
Throughout her campaign, I witnessed the beauty of historically marginalized groups joining forces, taking risks, getting uncomfortable and openly taking actions to repair and create a new state, nation and world.
As an activist, advocate, artist and author, it was an enriching and fulfilling experience to represent my Jewish values of justice, morality and serving others. It was an amazing opportunity to work with so many other Jewish and non-Jewish people to create the change we want to see in the world. We worked tirelessly and sacrificed much to support Abrams and the Democratic ticket, and to fight the rampant voter suppression in our state.
I believe the most powerful way to impact change is through exercising our right to vote. As we work to eradicate systemic injustices, racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and oppression, we must vote our values.
We must make sure our individual and collective voices are heard. As a member of the Gwinnett NAACP and as a board member of Alliance for Black Lives and March on Georgia, I worked with individuals who were passionate about making sure every eligible person exercised their right to vote. And yet voter suppression in Georgia is systemic. Many people were purged from the voter rolls for trivial reasons like exact letter name match and discrepancies in addresses, among other reasons. Organizations such as the Georgia NAACP filed a lawsuit against Kemp and his campaign due to voter suppression tactics. Abrams and her team did their best to ensure that every vote was counted, and she has now created a Political Action Committee, Fair Fight America, dedicated to the issue.
Our Jewish community will continue to support change and participate in the movement for justice. We will support Abrams as she leads Fair Fight Georgia.
Watching Abrams campaign with some many other fellow Jews and African Americans reminded me that we will once again be united in the fight against systemic oppression.
And in that sense, Abrams won.
Dr. Tarece Johnson is an author, poet/speaker, activist, multicultural expert, entrepreneur, and future political candidate. She is a Jew and a single mother with two pre-teens.