By Max S. Gordon
Look down, look down that lonesome road,
Before you travel on.
–That Lonesome Road, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973)
This is America.
— Childish Gambino
I suppose it was inevitable that one day it would come to this, that racism would meet itself traveling down that lonesome road.
Witnessing it has been both ugly and delicious, new — yet hauntingly familiar. Lindsey Graham gets off a plane and walks through an airport in Virginia after recently acknowledging on the Senate floor that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. He is greeted by a mob of enraged Trump supporters who yell “traitor” and record him on their cell phones while he is escorted through the crowd by a detail of police. A woman screams above the others, “You know [the election] was rigged, you garbage human being. Piece of shit. It’s going to be like this, wherever you go for the rest of your life.” A man beside her shouts, “Welcome to the new America, Lindsey.”
I watch him move through the crowd and recall the iconic image of 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford as she desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the photo, taken by photographer Will Counts in 1957, Eckford maintains her composure behind dark sunglasses while clutching her notebook to her chest. She is followed by a mob of chanting whites, as one woman stands directly behind Eckford, taunting her, her face distorted with rage. She could be an ancestor of the woman shouting at Graham in the airport. A man who only a few weeks before had allegedly attempted to disenfranchise Black voters by privately calling an election official, now faces a mob of angry whites himself. The irony is spectacular.
Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia, who remained steadfast in insisting that there hadn’t been voter fraud in his state despite Donald Trump’s imploring and eventual condemnation, requires 24-hour security these days. I assume his children must be escorted everywhere, his house carefully watched. He too faces a white mob and death threats. I imagine him and his wife, peeking through the curtains of their…