Between Feb. 10 and Feb. 20. 2021, Texas, among other southern states, suffered unusually low temperatures due to a winter storm that spread throughout the region.This winter weather left an unprepared Texas to deal with a power crisis as they were unable to winterize power sources. Furthermore, it left Texas’ residents unprepared to deal with winter weather, with many southerners taking to social media apps such as TikTok for advice on how to deal with snow and ice.
In response to this call for help, many people from the North, particularly white liberals, took this as an opportunity to bash the South, specifically citing the fact that they elected primarily republican state leaders.This notion that southern states are inherently republican and are composed almost entirely of Trump supporters is misguided, lacks nuance and doesn’t take into account the history of voter suppression laws in the region.
Although the 2021 storm is a more recent example of this type of hate, the same pattern can be seen in election maps during the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. In both elections, voting trends were very similar, with northern states (particularly areas with more urban populations) voting blue, and southern states voting red. This trend of the South voting red has negatively influenced how many in the North view voters in the South.
While many white liberals may see voting trends, especially throughout the 21st century, and make assumptions about the South that make sense on the surface level, much of the South’s republican legislators assumed power through historically racist voter suppression tactics, such as gerrymandering and voting barriers. These tactics harm marginalized communities the most–especially Black citizens–a majority of whom live in southern states. As of 2019, 58.7% of the Black U.S. population lived in southern states.
In sum, this trend of “hating the south,” one that runs rampant among white liberals with intentions of being anti-racist, avoids issues that affect Black southerners the most. While this view may seem understandable at first–considering the South’s overwhelming republican majority–white liberals can benefit from a more nuanced take of the South, especially by redirecting that contempt toward the voter suppression laws that have led the South to be conservative.
The reality of these voter suppression laws were brought to light by Stacey Abrams, a notable activist and author, during the 2020 presidential election. To combat the systemic oppression, Abrams challenged voter suppression laws, such as unnecessarily long waiting times in Black communities, and additional barriers for minorities, such as an ID mandate. According to Politico, Abrams challenged these laws by engaging with Black communities, providing them with political information and effectively registering more than 800,000 voters with her two organizations–Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project. Abrams recognized historical gaps, saw issues with a lack of voter engagement and worked with these two organizations to bring out the true demographics of the South, which aren’t necessarily republican.
What this particular historical instance exemplifies, is that there are myriad Black voters living in districts subject to gerrymandering and other voter suppression tactics that are forced to contend with legislators who are against their interests. This instance also gives context and weight to voting trends from the 2016 and 2020 elections. While many white liberals see election maps and assume that the South is composed primarily of Trump supporters, Stacey Abrams took that notion, and engaged the hundreds of thousands of Black voters who have historically been suppressed by voting.
Moreover, instead of looking at the south as a whole under a critical lens, activists–particularly white liberals–could take a more nuanced approach by looking critically at unjust political processes, voter suppression techniques, and southern state leaders that tend to give the south a bad reputation. Essentially, glossing over gerrymandering techniques that give Black people less of a voice and barriers to voting are harmful and hinder progress toward more equitable voting practices.