The outcome of this year’s US Election has certainly churned out its heroes and villains. Depending on which side of the political pendulum you swing towards, (for the sake of argument let’s pretend we’re all liberals), it’s easy to say that Joseph R Biden and Kamala Harris are the superheroes. And a certain man (child) whose tantrums cause him to have embarrassing meltdowns on Twitter, is the villain. Yet, there is another superhero that people need to be aware of: Stacey Abrams. If you don’t know about this lady, then get to know her name. She could very well be the first African-American Madame President, if Kamala Harris doesn’t beat her to it.
In 2018, Abrams ran for governor in Georgia. She ran against Republican, Brian Kemp. The race was the first time I heard of Abrams and its outcome had me gripped. Not only was it highly-contested, Kemp’s then position as Georgia’s secretary of state, which oversees the state’s election was questionable. In 2018, The New Yorker wrote an expose that called Kemp ‘the Martin Shkreli of Voter Suppression’ and went on to claim his time as secretary of state was marred by “voter suppression and intimidation tactics”.
Abrams lost the election by just 55,000 votes, and in spite of all obstacles, she had nearly turned the state blue. The historical racial tension throughout the southern states of America is widely-known, so the very idea that Abrams came so close to changing Georgia’s traditionally right-wing political viewpoint is exceptional. Clearly, Abrams and the Democrats thought so, and she continued to campaign on their behalf for the US Election through her organisations, Fair Fight and New Georgia Project. One is dedicated to broadening the electorate by registering voters, while the other helps to train voter protection teams across the US. Thanks to their combined efforts, a mind-blowing 800,000 new voters were able to exercise their democratic right in the state. This was a highly significant factor as to why Georgia finally turned blue.
After her last defeat, it would have been easy for Abrams to feel dejected, if not hopeless about changing the status quo. But she didn’t, instead she decided to bulldoze the very system that probably cost her a rightful victory in 2018.
When life serves you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade. But more often than not, the other ingredients required to make this tasty beverage may not always be immediately available. This means, you may have to dig deeper to assemble what’s needed to produce the outcome you want. Abrams’ determination shows us that to change a system that thrives on oppression, racism and a warped ideology that race, wealth and education should determine whether your opinion matters, it requires a deeply-rooted self-belief that every ounce of your being and strength must be dedicated to dismantling a structure that frankly destroys lives, dreams and limits people on who they truly can be.
I often compare systemic racism to a 400-year-old monster, that grows in strength when society allows its tentacles to poison its ability to do what’s right. Yet, like anything that is old, it has its weaknesses and one of those is youth. Not in the sense of young people, but as society continues to evolve and refresh its gaze, a yearning to be more accepting of others is inevitable. After all, no one wants to be the old man grumbling about the “good old days”, unless you’re Nigel Farage.
Abrams embodies that youth. She is showing people that representation matters. Poorer communities don’t solely consist of Black and Brown people – working class white people belong to this group also. If we are to truly live believe in a democracy, then universal access to voting must be a basic right.
Since the Black Lives Matter protests that took place throughout summer, I have seen and heard people already becoming weary for change. Without sounding cynical, this does make me laugh and I wonder if people really understand the beast they’re fighting against. Abrams did and she got to work soon after her defeat to register as many Black and Brown voters who had previously been denied access. She understood that for the Democrats to have a fighting chance in Georgia, it required planning, discipline, determination and a clear vision of what a fairer voting system would look like.
Like Abrams, I personally understand that a lack of progress not only impacts my career ambitions, but it also hinders the lives of my nieces, my god-daughter and god-son, my cousins, friends and anyone else who’s been told that they don’t matter. For people like Abrams and the communities she represents, they carry the burden of past generational pain of being denied access to opportunities to achieve social-mobility. This leaves them with a ‘do or die’ mentality – something I can identify with.
Abrams’ work is not over. Just like everyone else, she doesn’t have the luxury to rest. Her next fight is possibly helping the Democrats to secure the two Senate seats in Georgia, which will give them a much-needed majority. And this is why Jay-Z’s rap in ‘Apeshit’ that states “I said no to the Superbowl. You need me, I don’t need you,” springs to mind. Stacey Abrams doesn’t need the world, but the world needs her and we’re blessed that she loves the world enough to stick around.