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Mayoral race in Washington, Ga., is a disappointing look at racial divide

Posted: November 23, 2011 - 1:01am  |  Updated: November 23, 2011 - 4:38am

Looking for reasons to be thankful this holiday season?

Here’s one: Our community isn’t Washington.

As in Washington, Ga., not Washington, D.C.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve visited the nearby town of Washington, or just bypassed it while en route, perhaps, to Athens. But it’s a beautiful town.

One recent visitor wasn’t there for the antiques or the tour of homes, though. He was a reporter for The Washington Post. They hit upon an intriguing idea: Do a story about a miniature version of the national political divide by focusing on a town called Washington, in which a black leader was running against a white challenger.

The story is revealing, in part, because of the lens through which the outsiders view the election, narrowing it down to black vs. white, us vs. them, poor vs. rich – even using actual railroad tracks to represent a “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” divide.

But it’s also revealing for what it says about the state of racial politics, and politics in general.

Admittedly, I am not without bias. If you hadn’t noticed, I’m white. I don’t have much choice. So feel free to take my comments with whatever grain of salt you deem necessary.

My very general impression always has been that, over time, we have seen the development of two distinct societies: Society as a whole, and the self-identified black community. It’s indisputable that the origin of that divide was imposed by the white community when the black community didn’t have much say in the matter. But since the enforced divisions were eliminated, it is the black community that maintains them.

That’s why there is no such thing (at least not in the acceptable mainstream) as a Miss White America, or a National Association for the Advancement of White People, or a parent organization for historically white colleges. The opposites of those, and many more, not only exist, but generally are not considered “racist” – though the very notion of expressly “white” versions of anything would, immediately, be rejected as racist.

Those concepts are crystal-clear in The Post’s coverage of the Nov. 8 Washington mayoral race, pitting black incumbent Willie Burns against white newcomer Ames Barnett.

Running for re-election in a majority black town, Burns said outright that he had no interest in pursuing white votes. The story follows him as he campaigns in a housing project, offering his view that he’d just be wasting his time to knock on white doors. The reporter accepts it with a shrug.

Yet just imagine the outcry if Ames had said he wouldn’t bother to ask for black voters’ support.

Instead, the challenger collected and spent tons of money mass communicating with all of Washington. The result: Ames won, narrowly. Considering the city has a lopsided black majority, that’s pretty significant.

The exceptionally disappointing part is that rather than accept Ames’ victory and issue one of those calls for “unity” we always seem to be hearing about, Burns’ immediate response was to protest the results.

In that sense, Washington, Ga., does indeed seem to be a microcosm of our nation’s political climate. We don’t have winners and losers anymore, because losers never accept defeat and work with the winners. They simply keep beating on the winner, hoping to prevent him or her from accomplishing anything and thereby allowing their opponent to succeed.

On second thought, we might as well be in Washington, Ga. It’s no worse than anywhere else.

 

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/
barrypaschal.)

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Comments (1)

Riverman1

Colonial Government

The British rulers of colonial India thought they could do a better job, too, but there's something about being ruled by your own race. Disclaimer, I, too, am a white Republican happily living in white Columbia County.

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