by: Carrie L. Williams
S.E. Region News
Staring into the near future of the year 2020, in the state of Georgia, currently there are no African American candidates running in Georgia’s two U.S. Senate races.
Except for Al Bartell.
Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have made it clear that the black vote will be critical to election success in 2020.
Despite the imperative, Stacy Abrams -- clearly a
“top tier” candidate
-- chose not to run for U.S. Senate in Georgia. Not even with all of the fundraising resources within her reach. Not even with everything she has built out of her run for Governor. Not even with having secured 90% of the black vote in Georgia -- a significant measurable result, since African Americans and others of color are roughly 44% of Georgia’s population.
Yet, Al Bartell is running.
When one looks at the history of
African Americans being elected
to the United States Senate, the brevity is stark: only 10. During the Reconstruction Era, two of the ten were elected. It would be almost a century before another African American would be elected. As of September 2018, there have been nearly 2,000 members of the United States Senate. Between 10 and 2000 is a grim gap.
It’s the gap Al Bartell is running to close.
“The local, state, and national interest in a black candidate from Georgia in the 2020 U.S. Senate race,” Bartell told local supporters this weekend at a private gathering, “is the most daunting, compelling, destiny-driven American political conversation in recent history.”
He laid out the scenario:
Slave labor economy versus market-rate economy framed the debate in the United States up to the Civil War. After the Civil War, the slave labor economy was no longer a practice that was legal. Enter the Reconstruction Era, which was a transition era from legal ownership of humans to separation of humans; in other words, blacks being legally separate from whites.
Since President Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, Bartell informed, we’ve been dealing with being legally separate -- blacks separate from whites.
“The question for the last 150 years has been, ‘How do we develop leadership in a system that has us be legally separate?”
“One of the ways we develop leadership is to petition the system for what’s called ‘civil rights’. We’re still in transition with a system that’s gone from legal ownership of humans to separation of humans. In the 1960’s, we got the right to challenge being legally separate.”
Pausing for a moment, Bartell slowed down and emphasized, “In the current leadership model, we can ask ourselves, ‘What are the opportunities to close the gap on the rights in this system in transition?’ One of the ways we measure closing the gap on the rights in that system -- is getting elected.”
In the hushed silence that followed, Bartell added, “The elected office in America that still practices being separate, that perpetuates the most practices for being separate -- is the office of the United States Senate.”
Seeing the realization hit those present, the seasoned veteran of 40 years of public service advised his supporters, “This U.S. Senate special election is more about leadership than anything else. It will require real communication with people, not just a catchy marketing slogan.”
“There’s a saying, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ In this time of destiny, much is required of me as an American citizen. I understand what that means. I am committed to answering that call of destiny in such a time as this."
The first African American U.S. Senator from the 'Deep South' state of Georgia?