By Rosetta Miller-Perry
Looking back on 2022, it was a year marked by both triumph and heartbreak for Black Americans, as well as all people of color and poor folks. This nation makes glacial progress in the areas of social justice and economic opportunity, while constantly being negatively affected by those in power who continually seek to turn back the clock, most notably led by the Tennessee Congressional delegation in Washington.
This group remains determined to make Tennessee the new Mississippi, championing ideas and measures that are repressive, backward, and hate-filled, while also consistently displaying in their public discourse an open contempt for diversity, fairness in economic policies, even democracy in their support for a failed and borderline criminal former president.
The biggest victory achieved this year in the political arena was that of Raphael Warnock in Georgia. He won a full Senatorial term, defeating an unqualified, comical Republican candidate Herschel Walker, a Trump Black minstrel stooge selected solely to try and decrease the power and influence of Black voters in the state.
Fortunately, not only did the African American electorate turn out in force for Warnock, but much of the Republican faithful who supported the GOP candidate in the governor’s race didn’t return to the polls and vote for Walker.
The Warnock election proved even more critical after turncoat Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema decided to become an independent right after Warnock’s win gave Democrats a 51-49 working majority. Sinema says she won’t caucus with either party, and she has mostly supported the Democrats, but her decision to become an independent means had Walker won the Republicans would have 50 votes, and Democrats 49 in the Senate.
Unfortunately, Black voters were unable to push Stacy Abrams through in her second bid to become Georgia governor. Brian Kemp was able to capitalize on a lot of the old style, right-wing Southern prejudices that remain in place throughout the region. But at least Warnock’s presence means that the nutcase types like Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene won’t be the only Georgia voices being heard in Washington.
President Joe Biden also kept his promise to Black voters by appointing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. This still remains the worse Supreme Court since the days of Plessy vs. Ferguson that ushered in decades of Jim Crow laws and paved the way for the Civil War of April 12, 1861 – April 9, 1865. The court overturned Roe v. Wade in a stunning reversal of precedent and may well soon outlaw affirmative action in education. But Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at least provides the only real Black voice on that right-wing bench, and a counter vision to the toxicity epitomized by my former boss, Justice Clarence Thomas.
Unfortunately, we also must look back on another year of horrible mass shootings, with the one in Buffalo being the most heinous. An 18-year-old white racist, Payton Gendron, traveled to Buffalo, New York, picked a Tops supermarket that was the only place in the area most Black could purchase groceries and opened fire with multiple weapons. When the carnage ended, 10 Blacks were killed and three severely wounded.
Thankfully, this murderer has been convicted of multiple state charges and still facing 27 federal counts of hate crimes. But the news remains dominated week after week with mass shootings, as America remains unable to find ways of stopping gun violence, or even preventing people who have no business getting guns from having easy access to them. Regrettably, it is not a problem we see being resolved in 2023.
The Tribune was also quite proud to see Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippian who has been chair of the Committee on Homeland Security twice, most recently since 2019, standing tall in a leadership position on the January 6 Committee. The array of right-wing reactionaries who are taking over control of the House of Representatives will disband the Committee, and they’re even talking about investigating the people on it, all to retaliate for the committee correctly pointing out that lord and master Trump tried to mastermind the overturning of a legal presidential election in America.. The committee has turned all criminal referrals to the Justice Department.
The Republicans in Tennessee brings us to what was a huge local story and remains a major disgrace, the conduct of the Tennessee state legislature. The Republican supermajority”s gerrymandering ranks supreme in Tennessee’s historical records of outright power grabs. The Republicans newly drawn map effectively eliminated any chance of cosmopolitan, urban areas like Nashville and Memphis having equal political power. The state lost its best representative in Jim Cooper, who resigned rather than run within these new boundaries.
Let no one fool themselves into thinking that the current Republican legislature cares one iota about constituents in cities, and certainly not about the interests and concerns of voters who are Black, poor, unhoused, LGBTQ, or other people of color. What they did with that map might as well have been done by the White Citizens Councils of the 60s or the radical Republicans of the 19th century who destroyed Reconstruction in terms of stripping any chances for fair representation for numerous voters.
But despite that, The Tennessee Tribune hopes Black Democrats in the legislature don’t just meekly accept what the Republicans have done or sit back and refuse to oppose their agenda. Though both the national and state GOP continue to label the Biden administration radical, in truth what they want to do is both radical and extremist in the worse possible way. The continuing story for 2023, both locally and nationally, will be how far the Republican Party continues to tilt towards white supremacy and hardcore reactionary politics, and how much the members of Tennessee’s state legislature and national delegation continue to remain faithful to a tax cheat who stands accused of everything from obstruction of justice to interference in elections and gross sexual misconduct.
We wish all our readers a very Happy 2023, and pledge that we will continue to speak out strongly and without hesitation at the corruption and bigotry that represents so much national and statewide Republican political philosophy and policy.