When will politicians, cops, educators and other government officials realize that nothing good ever comes from fighting about race on Facebook? Inevitably, the whole awful exchange gets a screenshot, and then there’s a 48-hour news cycle of said bigot claiming, I don’t have a racist bone in my body or I was just reciting a rap lyric or I thought “nooses” were a popular brand of neckties in the black community.
This week’s “Face-bigotry” comes courtesy of a fight over Confederate monuments in Georgia between a black woman, former Democratic state Rep. LaDawn Blackett Jones, and a white guy: current Republican state Rep. Jason Spencer (no relation to Richard Spencer … we think). Jones and Spencer, former colleagues in the Georgia Legislature, got into an argument about the role of Confederate monuments, which led Spencer to say if “North Georgia” Democrats like Jones tried to come downstate to agitate about statues, they might “go missing” in the swamp.
In the wake of the Charlottesville, Va., terror attack, any fight about Confederate statues is national news, but in the state of Georgia this story is a bit more complicated. Jones is being depicted as the strong black woman fighting back against the racist white guy—and while Spencer was out of line suggesting that Jones might go missing in a swamp, knowing her political history in Georgia, one might think that she could already be in “the sunken place.”
Jones and Spencer sat next to each other in the Georgia Legislature from 2012 to 2016 and developed the kind of grudging relationship you create with your old high school friends who are racist but basically harmless. When Spencer started posting pictures in which he was proudly standing next to Confederate monuments in Georgia, Jones took the bait and went in, calling him a bigot, predicting that his children would abandon him and making Game of Thrones references (you can see the entire exchange here.)
Even after Spencer said, “I guarantee you will not be met with torches but something a lot more definitive. People in South Georgia are people of action, not drama,” Jones didn’t seem fazed; she ended the whole conversation with sarcastic and laughing emojis.
While the Facebook posts have brought the former representative national attention, Jones insists that she didn’t take Spencer’s “threats” seriously. Which makes you wonder: What kind of African-American politician (current or former) gets into heated debates about the symbolism of Confederate monuments online but, when threatened with a Southern-style lynching, gives a big shoulder shrug?
Maybe the kind of politician who likes to stir up racial drama but ain’t really about that life. Jones served for four years in the Georgia Legislature before resigning to continue her law career full-time. During her short tenure, she made a name for herself as a rabble-rouser and trash-talker who was willing to make some strange alliances depending on who invited her to the cool-kids table.
Jones was presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Georgia campaign director in 2016, and after the election of Donald Trump, she chastised the Democratic Party for focusing too much on Native, Asian, African-American and LGBT issues and not giving enough attention to working-class white men. She even went so far as to say that the Democratic Party should create a “white guy” caucus to make sure white men don’t feel left out of the political process. Is the teaspoon stirring yet?
The Georgia Democratic primary for governor is a competitive race between Stacey Abrams, head of the state Democratic caucus, who is vying to become the first black female governor in American history, and Stacey Evans, a lawyer and state representative from Cobb County who is seeking to become the 41st white female governor in American history. Evans also supports school vouchers, has been relatively silent on police brutality and violence against African Americans in her county, and straddles the fence so hard on Confederate monuments that she could split a pantsuit.
Despite Evans’ decidedly nonprogressive policy positions, Jones has become one of her biggest supporters in the Democratic gubernatorial campaign. Not only that, but Jones has adopted the tried-and-true position of becoming the official African-American attack dog of the Evans campaign—every white Democrat facing a black Democrat has one. She has even been trotted out to question Abrams’ “blackness” on the campaign trail, arguing at one point that Abrams, a black woman, would not be better or worse on racial policy issues than Evans, a white woman.
When chants of “Trust black women” drowned out Evans’ speech at the liberal Netroots Nation convention in Atlanta last month, it was LaDawn Jones who fired off a blog post and did interviews complaining how black women in the Democratic Party (the same black women who make up 40 percent of the Georgia primary electorate) aren’t giving white “progressives” enough space to speak.
Which brings us back to Facebook. It is easy to empathize with LaDawn Jones becoming the latest victim of Donald Trump-encouraged bigotry, and to enjoy her Face-bigotry clapback. However, before we crown her the Maxine Waters of the Dirty South, her role in Georgia politics has to be put in context. Jones can find it in her heart to forgive a racist death threat, endorses a candidate who is silent on local issues of criminal justice and believes that white men are the most aggrieved group in the national Democratic Party. All while going out of her way to chastise black female voters, the Democratic Party—the party that 96 percent of black women voted for last fall—and a black woman who is running for governor. Jones should have all of the seats, except of course in the Statehouse, where she no longer has one.
What Rep. Spencer posted to Jones was a cowardly racist threat, and he should be punished by the Statehouse of Georgia. Jones’ convenient racial anger on issues suits her, but her silence on others is problematic. Former constituents and African-American voters certainly don’t want to see Jones disappear in the swamps of Georgia, but it might be a good idea if she dug herself out of the sunken place.