It’s always been my opinion that white conservatives only embrace Black conservatives because Black conservatives provide a “Black friend” effect that brings at least a smidgen of diversity to the “old white man” party that is the GOP. Now, white conservatives claim to be sticklers to meritocracy who hate the idea of intentional diversity just like that hate the idea of slavery soldiers not being deified by Confederate monuments. But let’s be clear on one thing: There’s just no way in hell anyone thinks Herschel Walker is qualified to be a U.S. senator.
I mention Walker because another reason I think the GOP loves itself a Black right-winger is that Republicans hold onto hopes that Black Republicans will bring more Black voters to the party—despite the fact that they never do.
According to most polls, Walker and his Democratic opponent, Sen. Raphael Warnock, are running a tight race. But if you were to only count Black voters, Walker is about as popular with us as empty spice cabinets and potluck potato salad that didn’t get the Black auntie stamp of approval.
From the New York Times:
Since June, polls have routinely shown Mr. Walker attracting less than 10 percent of Black voters in the race against incumbent Raphael Warnock, the pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. Although Mr. Walker often boasts he is going to win “the Black vote,” surveys have found him poised to win no more Black voters than other Republicans on the ballot.
In fact, according to the Times, even Black residents in the rural Georgia town Walker grew up in—including some who said they knew Walker and his family—are saying they would never vote for him because he just isn’t skinfolk and he never really has been.
Residents in Wrightsville, Georgia, where Walker is from, say his campaign signs can only be found in front of big houses with big yards in the Whitesville part of Wrightsville. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)
“All those campaign materials were in the white community,” said Curtis Dixon, who coached Walker in the late ’70s when he was a high school football prodigy. “The only other house that has a Herschel Walker poster is his family.”
More from the Times:
It may not be an exaggeration. In a predominantly Black neighborhood of small homes about a block from where Mr. Walker went to high school, nine people, including a man who said he was Mr. Walker’s cousin, gathered on a steamy Saturday in July to eat and talk in the shade.
No one planned to vote for Mr. Walker. Most scoffed at the thought.
Around the corner, a retired teacher named Alice Pierce said nice things about Mr. Walker’s mother and family, as most people do.
“But I’m not going to vote for him, I’ll be honest with you,” she said.
So, Black people being unwilling to vote for a Black conservative is news like Donald Trump’s visible tan lines are news, but what is interesting is that Walker has a bit of a reputation of not being for his people in Wrightsville that goes back long before he was anyone’s congressional candidate.
“Herschel’s not getting the Black vote because Herschel forgot where he came from,” Dixon told the Times. “He’s not part of the Black community.”
Apparently, Black folks in Wrightsville have felt this way about Walker for decades, because Walker was always a no-show when it came to civil rights protests in a city that, in 1980, was described as “a mean little town” by Atlanta Journal reporter Ron Taylor, who also wrote at the time that it “hangs at the damaged roots of all that did not grow after the sixties.”
More from the Times:
Schools had been integrated, but plenty else felt separate and unequal. City jobs and services mostly went to white people. The police force was white. There was an all-white country club but no public parks or pools. Black neighborhoods had dirt roads and leaky sewers. There was still an all-white cemetery, Mr. Wilson pointed out.
And plenty of residents could recall 1948, when the Ku Klux Klan marched on the courthouse and not one of the 400 registered Black voters voted in a primary election the next day.
Mr. Wilson and John Martin, a local leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, saw Wrightsville as a rural echo of Birmingham a generation before, with Sheriff Roland Attaway in the hardened role of Bull Connor.
But when civil rights protests were on the rise in Wrightsville and the Klan and other white supremacists showed up in opposition to them, Walker was an 18-year-old star athlete who simply had no interest in being involved. Protests would erupt into violence as the white coutherprotesters attacked the Black demonstrators they outnumbered and sheriff’s deputies reportedly went door-to-door in Black neighborhoods arresting residents for no apparent reason and jailing most of them without charges. But Walker was safe, because he didn’t get involved.
“I’d like to think I had something to do with it,” said Gary Jordan, a white man who coached Walker in track and football. “I said, ‘You can’t get into shape marching. You’ve got to run. And practice is at 3.’”
“As a student in school, his role in society was not to solve the racial problems of the world,” said Walker’s white math teacher Jeanette Caneega.
“I don’t want to be divisive,” Gary Phillips, Walker’s whitehigh-school football coach, said, “but as an 18-year-old Black kid in Wrightsville with a lot of pressure on him, can you see how or why he might have decided that this is not the best thing for me, to start getting into this?”
It has always been easy for white people to trivialize Black injustice and treat our fight for our very humanity to be recognized like it was some optional side mission that would only derail America’s main story.
So, maybe Walker was a young teen with a bunch of white mentors in his ear and that’s why he just stayed out of all things civil rights-related. Or maybe Walker chose his color-redacted and Black justice-indifferent mentors because Walker has always been the same 60-year-old Walker he is today who marches along with his white conservative overseers who hate all things racial-progress related such as Black Lives Matter and critical race theory.
Maybe Herschel Walker has always been Herschel Walker. And maybe that’s why he’ll be just another Black Republican who will ultimately fail to garner the Black vote.
He’ll still be a good ol’ “Black friend” though.