Gary Chambers Jr., an activist based in Baton Rouge, has attracted viral attention after having posted a video as part of his campaign to be elected Senator of Louisiana. Chambers, a democrat, hopes to unseat incumbent John Kennedy, a republican, in an election which may represent a cultural and political struggle relevant to America in its entirety.
Chambers, in his video, delivers succinct, powerful narration in which he articulates the South’s systemic racial bias. As the senate candidate bluntly puts it, in the South, “The attacks against black people, our right to vote and participate in this democracy are methodical.”
Don't need mealy mouth euphemisms when you got the truth https://t.co/SIESr9k8Ah
— A Shady Dame From Seville (@SorayaMcDonald) February 10, 2022
He draws attention to the American tradition of gerrymandering, the deliberate effort to draw district lines in a way which ensures black people do not form the majority of the voting population in certain regions. This is a largely Republican effort, which seeks to suppress the vote of black Americans, who are far less likely to vote in their favor.
The attack on our right to vote and ability to choose our representatives is rooted in the confederacy. It’s deliberate, intentional — disenfranchisement.
— Gary Chambers (@GaryChambersJr) February 10, 2022
He also draws attention to voting laws, which, often passed under the guise of preventing electoral fraud, which experts have continually asserted happens at negligible level, have the effect of disenfranchising many Americans.
Related articles: Voting Rights in America: Where Are We Now? | How Education Sustains Racial Inequality and White Supremacy
As pointed out by Chambers, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU,) black people are particularly affected by these laws. Trump’s thoroughly debunked election fraud conspiracy, whilst attracting condemnation from politicians in both parties, has excited enough of his base in a way that may facilitate even further voter suppression. As pointed out in the video, 1 in 13 Black Americans are deprived of the right to vote.
Aside from this, Chambers also draws attention to the general neglect of black Americans, and black children who are exposed to poverty at rates that should put an economy like the USA to shame. In a statistic noted by Chambers that may be shocking to those not familiar with America’s continued struggles with racial and economic equality, 1 in 3 Black children live in poverty.
Burning the confederate flag: A symbolic gesture intended as a call to make the South a more inclusive and just society
However, frustratingly, what may infuriate many people more than the failure of America to ensure the ability to participate in the democratic process is extended to all, is Chambers’ decision to burn a confederate flag.
The confederate flag emerged in the American Civil War, during which time it was carried by rebel states (based in the South) who decided to secede from the “Union,” the agreement of America’s many states to form one country. The confederacy, as they were known, attempted to set up a new nation state in which American slavery, and the ideology underpinning it, would continue to thrive.
Long after the defeat of the confederacy, the flag continues to be championed by both open white supremacists and those using it to represent a nebulous idea of “Southern culture” that does not contend with its institutionalized racism.
If this message wins in the South, establishment Democrats might be madder than the GOPpic.twitter.com/WZfRmOQQrG
— ℮oin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) February 9, 2022
Chambers’ video however, is not an attempt to do away with southern culture and pride in its entirety, rather by burning the confederate flag, he symbolically makes room for a more inclusive and just iteration of the South.
“The South shall rise again” is a phrase that is often repeated by those who see the region as downtrodden since the confederacy’s defeat in the Civil War, and carries with it a disregard, or even approval, of the abominable treatment of slaves and black civilians under Jim Crow laws that the South has historically championed.
Chambers however, imbues the phrase with a sense of inclusion, and accountability, declaring “I do believe the South will rise again, but this time, it’ll be on our terms.”
Chambers has previously gone viral for a video in which he smokes Marijuana, whilst speaking about the ways black Americans are disproportionately criminalized for doing so. The video, regardless of one’s opinion on whether or not marijuana should be legalized, points to way in which black Americans are forced to live under a different set of rules to their white counterparts, experiencing completely different versions of the justice system, policing and the democratic process.
I can’t go for that @SenJohnKennedy. I won’t sit by while you disrespect Black women being considered for the Supreme Court.
— Gary Chambers (@GaryChambersJr) February 3, 2022
Chambers, described as a progressive, has previously called out John Kennedy, his competition, for his derisive use of the word “woke.” Republican politicians and supporters often dismiss the concerns of progressive voices, or voices of minorities and vulnerable people, as part of some kind of greater culture war.
Discussions that should be about how to tackle material and practical problems and inequities, described in “Scars and Bars,” become mired in identity politics. The actual arguments of certain voices are not argued against, rather their “wokeness” becomes the topic of concern.
Chambers certainly has demonstrated an ability to both capture attention, and make sure his policy aims and criticisms are clearly understood. We are yet to see how his campaign goes on to influence the politics of the South, and whether or not other democratic hopefuls will follow suit, and adopt a blunter, more honest approach to political campaigns.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — Featured Photo: A screenshot from the campaign video from Gary Chambers Jr. Photo Credit: Gary Chambers Jr..