January 6, 2021 was a shameful day in U.S. history with the pro-Trump invasion and desecration of the Capitol. Because of that disgraceful incident, the positive and progressive history that was made in Georgia the day before was overshadowed.
Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won the Georgia US Senate seats. Senator Ossoff, a 33-year-old investigative reporter, film producer and Georgetown University alumnus is Georgia’s first Jewish senator and the first Jewish senator from the Deep South since 1879. Senator Warnock, the 51-year-old Morehouse College graduate and pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church (where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was co-pastor) became Georgia’s first African American senator.
During the past four years, when Donald Trump nurtured an environment where people could feel comfortable with their prejudices and expressive with their bigotry, it was uplifting and inspiring to see a Jewish millennial campaigning arm-in-arm with a Black pastor and winning in the state that is home to the largest monument to White supremacy: Stone Mountain.
There was much history and symbolism intertwined in campaigns and victories of that dynamic duo. Ossoff grew up among Holocaust survivors and interned in the congressional office of the late civil rights icon John Lewis. Warnock grew up in Savannah’s public housing and pastors the church where the funerals of John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. were held. This is another example of the Black-Jewish coalition at its best.
Civil rights history is replete with examples of Blacks and Jews coalescing to fight injustice. Last year we lost the young and super-talented actor Chadwick Boseman whose film Marshall focuses on future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in his early legal career teaming up with a Jewish lawyer in a 1941 case of a Black man accused of raping a White woman. The 1964 Freedom Summer murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner shocked the nation. The latter two Jewish activists from New York had gone to Mississippi to help register Blacks to vote.
Given this historical alliance, we Blacks should and must condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. To me hatred is the same be it swathed in a swastika, wrapped in a white sheet or clothed in a clerical collar. Also, our Jewish sisters and brothers should also be vigilantly opposed to racism whether it manifests as populist political demagoguery or the systemic status quo.
I have never understood or appreciated the anti-Semitism of some of our Black leaders. As a Christian, I along with many of my fellow African Americans have been investing my hopes, dreams and prayers in Jesus Christ – a Jew. Therefore, being anti-Semitic is not only hateful, it is counterintuitive.
Many DC political activists wanted to go to Georgia to knock on doors for Ossoff and Warnock, but the COVID pandemic prevented that. But there were many DC activists who donated, raised funds and made phone calls for those two candidates who both support statehood for the District of Columbia.
And that is what keeps Georgia on my mind.
Philip Pannell is a long time Ward 8 community activist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.