Tuesday, March 13, 2012

With Such High Percentages of Blacks in the South, Why Don't Blacks Have More Political Power There?

Originally posted to Kwik on Mon Mar 12, 2012

As millions of white Republicans (and I suppose a few from other races) prepare to vote in Tuesday's GOP Presidential Primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, I can't help but wonder how Republicans retain such strongholds on political power in southern states with such high percentages of black citizens not named Ward Connerly, Thomas Sowell or Alan Keyes.

     Before my late father-in-law died, my wife, our kids and I used to visit him in Sandersville, Ga. a few times a year.  Sandersville is exactly what you'd expect from a small southern, rural town.  Three things used to stand out to me during our visits:  the genuine warmth from folks of all races, the glaring neighborhood segregation between the haves and have nots and that the very few whites I saw seemed to own and/or manage all the businesses in town -- except for the black funeral home.

     According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Sandersville is about 59% black and 40% white.  Based on what I've seen I have serious doubts about the accuracy of those figures.  I'd put the black percentage up around 75%.  Yet, of the six city council positions (including the mayor), four are held by whites.   

     Once I asked my father-in-law if the mayor of Sandersville was black.  He shook his head and said, "They ain't gonna let that happen."  I suppose the "they" he referred to are the same "theys" who are working hard to suppress the minority vote in the South and all across America today.  He went on to say, "We get along around here as long as we accept the status quo.  As long as we accept the fact that they have all the money and the power there's an uneasy peace between the races here."  I suppose having a white mayor is part of keeping that uneasy peace.

     I'm not saying that just because blacks make up the majority in Sandersville that they should, just by virtue of that majority, have a black mayor or even the majority of the seats on the city council, but the fact that they don't makes me wonder why not?  The town was founded in 1796.  It would seem it would have had at least one black mayor over 216 years. 

     But it makes you wonder if the blacks in Sandersville and the rest of the Deep South even care about political power.  Or are they somehow discouraged from voting or holding office?  Are they still afraid of cowards in white hoods coming in the night burning crosses in their yards?  Could it be residual effects from the Reconstruction Period and Jim Crow era?  And with all the voter suppression efforts and laws passing across American, I think it's about to get worse.

     It's a shame that more blacks don't vote in states like Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and Mississippi where we make up at least a quarter of the statewide populations.  If so, then maybe the Republican South wouldn't be so Republican.