Judging by how closely many African Americans were watching the nail-biter of a Senate race in Alabama earlier this week, you’d think all of us lived in Alabama.
And in a way, we do. Because this special election wasn’t just about Alabama, or even just about the legacy of the South. This was about the lingering and persistent history of black oppression in America that the election of a white supremacist as president of the United States has reminded us all is not much divorced from the present.
On the surface, just technically speaking, this was a special election to replace the Senate seat vacated by U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (can you get any more white male southern than that? I don’t think so) who left his former elected post to join the Trump administration cabinet. Before Trump turned on him, he was one of the man’s earliest and most enthusiastic supporters, which was why he got rewarded with the cabinet position. Trump was heartily and openly endorsed by members of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists in addition to Sessions.
Which takes us just below that surface, which is where the truth of the matter resides. Because Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is enough of a verifiable racist to have alarmed the late Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Keep in mind that Sessions has been a popular Republican senator in Alabama for the past two decades.
In a letter written to Congress in 1986, King, urged the body to block the nomination of Jeff Sessions for federal judge, saying that allowing him to join the federal bench would “irreparably damage the work of my husband.”
“Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts,” said King. “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.”
A Senate committee later denied Sessions that federal judgeship. He was a 39-year-old U.S. attorney in Alabama at the time. His former colleagues had testified that Sessions had no problem using the n-word and often joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were OK “until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
So now it comes time to replace ole Jeff, and the choice for voters is either yet another Southern white male racist who also happens to be a child molester, or a considerably more evolved Southern white male who has chosen to openly and demonstrably break from that bloody lineage of white male oppression.
Disgraced former Judge Roy Moore, who rode in on his horse to cast his ballot (true story), embodied just about everything that most black folks would say has remained wrong with the South. This is a man who actually responded in the following way to a question at a rally posed by a black man asking when was the last time Moore thought that America was great:
“I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction,” said Moore.
Moore is that foul piece of crap progressive white Southerners have been trying to wipe off the bottom of their shoes for decades now, and that black folks wish…well… we wish things that can’t properly be said in a family newspaper.
Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor, wasn’t especially well-known to many black voters in the beginning. But once they learned that he had successfully prosecuted two white Klansmen for their roles in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four African-American girls? That, plus the dread of suffering under the foot of another wacko cracker for possibly another two decades, was all the motivation they needed to take their souls to the polls.
In the end, thanks to black folks, especially black women, Doug Jones pulled off an Oh Thank God miraculous victory to replace Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (I just can’t get tired of that name).
According to CNN exit polling, 30 percent of the electorate was African-American, and a full 96 percent of that energized black electorate voted for Mr. Jones. Jones’ backers figured he needed to get at least 25 percent of that black vote, so he exceeded expectations by 5 percent. And a remarkable 98 percent of black women voters supported Jones. Just by way of comparison, the share of black voters on Tuesday was higher than the share in 2008 and 2012 when Barack Obama was on the ballot.
Predictably, Roy Moore refused to accept the results, admonishing his followers to remember that “God is in control.”
Roy, you don’t know how right you are, son. As the old folks say, He may not always come when you want Him, but He always comes when you need Him.