During the long haul aftermath of the U.S. Civil War, as the federal occupation of the south was drawing to a close, White southerners were increasingly desperate and devious in regaining White political control of the south. The 14th and 15th amendments had both been passed and ratified, making Black Americans citizens of the U.S., and at least for Black men, with the protected right to vote in federal, state and local elections. But the majority of White male southerners, in particular, were relentless in finding ways to take back any political power that the newly freed Black man had managed to gain in the Civil War’s aftermath.
Called Redemption by many American historians, the White Primary—a part of that process — became one favorite device to deny both the Black vote and successful Black candidates. Another device was to run a vastly unprepared Black candidate for office who presented “Sambo”-like characteristics known to infuriate and embarrass African-Americans so they wouldn’t vote for that candidate and the White candidate would inevitably win.
Herschel Walker, the current GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, is a return to that old tradition. Trick Black folk any way and every way that one can, was the White motto. Just keep them away from the ballot box whenever possible, regardless of the law, and definitely keep them from winning any elections that mattered, was the White southern mantra.
Clearly, the tactic did not work in every situation, but it worked well enough. The long list of successful Black elected officials during the 1870-1890s scared Whites enough for them to stay consistent in resisting the expansion of Black political office-holding.
Herschel Walker is a throw-back to an old tradition, the ‘Ole Black Joe’ buffoonish character. He is doubly useful, as before. On the one hand, he would scare Blacks away from the polling booth, and on the other, if, by some happenstance he got elected, he could be counted on to do exactly what his White masters told him to do.
Mr. Walker, with all of his justifiably credible exploits on the football field, is a political idiot. He neither understands the American political system which he claims to want to be a part of, nor is he a quick study. He would simply be a brutish stereotype who would blindly follow the orders of White Republicans, and daily embarrass Black folk to stay out of politics.
As many Black folk will say, though, we’ve come too far from when we were treated like political nothings, to allow ourselves to go, or be taken back, there. So, the Mr. Herschel Walker project in Georgia will fail. In the next eight days or so, he should be declared the loser in the U.S. Senate race in Georgia. A few Black citizens will vote for him because of his football hero status, but most Whites, who vote, and a very clear majority of Black voters should and will reject him. He is simply not ready to be put into such an important legislative position, and if he did succeed in some way, he would be a terrible embarrassment to the entire Black population of the United States.
African-Americans can sometimes look to be very, very confused on and off the political stage in the U.S., but embarrassing ourselves is something most of us try not to do. Collectively, we are also not forgiving of those who try to make fools of us. Ask Bill Clinton what happened in the South Carolina primary when he tried to chastise Black people there for voting for Obama rather than Hillary Clinton.
In an old-fashioned reverse play from football, Herschel Walker as another “Ole Black Joe,” should be sent back home to Texas.
Just In: A legal complaint against Mr. Walker has just been officially filed in Georgia. It accuses him of still being a legal resident of Texas.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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