A black Democratic Senate candidate, Gary Chambers, hangs a Confederate flag on a clothesline with clothespins, douses it with gasoline and sets it on fire – this video has collected 750,000 views. The previous one is almost seven million: on the screen, a politician lights up a marijuana joint, drawing attention to arrests for possession of drugs. RIA Novosti investigated what popular African-American leaders offer voters and whether they can change US policy.
Fire and cannabis
“We continue to be oppressed throughout the South. Gerrymandering is the legacy of the Confederacy. It’s time to burn down what’s left of it!” Chambers exclaims off-camera. The video is called “Scars and Stripes” (an allusion to the stars and stripes of the American flag).
The term that the candidate mentions is the demarcation of constituencies for the artificial regulation of political forces. Chambers is referring to Louisiana’s refusal to create a second black majority congressional district. At the same time, African Americans make up about a third of the population of Louisiana, from which Chambers is running for the Senate.
In the video, he gives examples of racial inequality in the southern states: poverty, poor access to medicine, electoral restrictions. And it’s not just in the South.
“Every 37 seconds in A-merica, someone is arrested for possession of weed,” he says in another video. “Blacks are four times more likely than whites. As a rule, these are not dealers, but occasional smokers like me.” The authorities should legalize cannabis and forgive those arrested because of outdated ideology, Chambers believes.
Although the video went viral, not all Democrats in Louisiana liked it. Gov. John Bel Edwards critici-zed a party ally: “Smoking marijuana will not add popularity to a politician.”
Chambers’ goal is to oust incumbent Republican Senator John F. Kennedy. The Democrat blames him for the state’s plight: Louisiana ranks 50th (that is, last) in crime control efficiency, 49th in economics, 48th in education, 46th in health care, and so on. “Wherever you look, we are at the very bottom. We are the worst,” he resents.
Where he got this information, he does not specify. Presumably in the Census Bureau: there are indeed similar data.
With the collection of funds for the election campaign, Chambers does not care: only 600 thousand dollars. The opponent already has 11 million. Nevertheless, the black rights activist overtook another Democratic candidate, former Navy pilot Luke Mixon.
In Atlanta, the birthplace of Martin Luther King, African Americans have long dominated business and cultural life. However, recently the image of “black Mecca” has faded. Expensive new developments are crowding out affordable housing, crime is on the rise, and the affluent, predominantly white neighborhood of Buckhead wants to break away from the city.
In June 2020, less than a month after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a police officer shot and killed 27-year-old black Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. The protests quickly turned into riots. Armed African Americans opened fire on a passing car and fatally wounded an eight-year-old girl. The mayor of the city, the black Kisha Lance-Bottoms, who had previously supported the protesters, called what was happening chaos and called on the rioters to go home. “You shot a child and killed him,” the mayor said. “There is a limit to everything.”
In the spring of 2021, Lance Bottoms announced that she would not run for another term: she had had enough. But former mayor Kasim Reed, also a black Democrat, nominated himself. In earlier years, he gained notoriety: several of his assistants were convicted of bribery and tax fraud. Both blacks and whites spoke negatively about him. Reid lost, losing to the non-partisan Andre Dickens – again an African American.
Democratic congresswomen Cory Bush in Missouri also have a dubious reputation. The Black Lives Matter activist, a vocal opponent of police funding who called the security forces “another system of slavery,” paid almost $70,000 to private police protection for three months of service. Previously, she was homeless and single-handedly raised two children.
“A swarthy guy with that name can’t win in Hamilton County,” Aftab Pureval was told when he wanted to run for state office in Ohio. It was advised to change the name to a more familiar one for whites. But the son of an Indian immigrant and a Tibetan refugee ignored this. In November 2021, he became mayor of Cincinnati.
Several other people of color won that election. Michelle Wu, daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, took over as mayor of Boston. Pittsburgh, St. Petersburg in Florida and Durham in North Carolina were also led by blacks for the first time in history. Moreover, some have won elections in those areas where there are not so many African Americans.
Moreover, the mayor of Durham is a woman. In total, according to Rutgers University, fourteen major cities are run by women of non-European descent, including eight blacks and four Asians.
One of the most famous Hispanic women in politics is the young New York native Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In 2019, she got into Congress from the Democrats, defeating Joseph Crowley, who was a senator for ten years. Moreover, she organized the election campaign herself. She promised to support workers, migrants and LGBT people. And she really paid a lot of attention to social protection.
A pretty and purposeful woman won the sympathy of the Americans, she was even predicted for the presidency. But she seems to be tired of big politics. Recently, a congresswoman criticized Joe Biden. She did not like that the head of the White House allowed moderate Democrats to block key bills of his “Road to Better” program. In particular, free college tuition, three months of paid family leave and several proposals for environmental protection.
In an interview with The New Yorker, she described her place of work obscenely. According to her, the participants of this “show” do nothing but make a fuss. She admitted that she was thinking about leaving public office and wants to engage in social activities: changes in the country are possible only at the initiative from below.
Great ambitions were also attributed to Vice President Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica. In 2019, she was nominated for the highest post, but later called for voting for Biden. In November 2021, when the head of state was under anesthesia, Harris had his powers for a day – the only woman in American history. Nevertheless, her activity has faded away, and the media no longer discuss the possible presidency of Harris.
There are blacks among the Republicans. Winsome Sears, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, is conservative: a Trump supporter, supporter of a ban on abortion, and shot in an advertising campaign with an assault rifle in her hands. This is a reference to her past: Sears worked as an electrician in the US Marine Corps in the 1980s.
She was born in Jamaica. “There, blacks can become whoever they want,” she said in an interview. According to her, after immigrating to the United States, she was sent to an elementary school in her homeland, where the educational program was much stricter.
Sears is the third black lieutenant governor of Virginia. African Americans from her party have held office in Maryland and North Carolina. Formerly in Kentucky, Ohio, and Florida.
At the same time, writes The Washington Post, about 90 percent of African Americans historically vote for the Democrats. However, says Michael Dawson, a black professor at Harvard, 30 percent consider themselves conservatives. As researcher Tasha Philpot explains, black and white conservatism are different. The first focuses on the social sphere and religion, the second on public morality and the role of government.
Vladimir Vasiliev, chief researcher at the Institute for the US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that the influence of politicians of non-European origin in the American government is growing. We cannot rule out their claims to a chair in the White House. “There is a change of generations and a reassessment of values. The time when the representatives of the white majority led the state is ending. Perhaps Biden is the last politician of this era,” the expert says. And he gives an example: the majority of candidates for the post of the head of the US Supreme Court are African-American women.
However, Vasiliev emphasizes, under the pressure of a new liberal wave, the country has split. Ethnic minorities have shifted the Democratic Party to the left. “The tone is set by those whom the Republicans call Marxists and socialists. This is not far from the truth,” the political scientist notes. However, conservative Republicans and some Democrats are still able to remove radical competitors from the chessboard.
Yet even Donald Trump won more black votes in 2020 than four years earlier, presumably because of pledges to support regional businesses in the South. He lost those elections, but the presidential campaign of 2024 may already take place in the new America.