Late Night with Seth Meyers

Georgia gubernatorial candidates Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are set to debate for the first time at 7 o'clock tonight. There's much to discuss, like, oh, I dunno, Kemp's shameless and repulsive attempts to steal the election with Jim Crow tactics so obvious he and his staff should just go ahead and wear black turtlenecks with "GOON" printed on them like the Penguin's henchmen.

Fortunately, though, the New York Times dropped a story Monday that should distract from Kemp's attacks on democracy and focus attention on the more pressing matter of Abrams's youthful attacks on fabric.

At a protest on the steps of the Georgia Capitol in 1992, Stacey Abrams, now the Democratic candidate for governor, joined in the burning of the state flag, which at the time incorporated the Confederate battle flag design and was viewed by many as a lingering symbol of white supremacy.

Way to undersell the ugly history of the Confederate flag, guys! You might as well say Nazis are "viewed by many" as "more than just recurring Indiana Jones villains." The timing of the article — a literal October surprise — is suspicious, and I wonder if the Times didn't receive the tip from an anonymous source with the email address ""

During her freshman year at Spelman College, Abrams grabbed a flag by its pole and set it aflame, in an expression of her First Amendment rights that is completely unacceptable because she's not a white man misgendering trans people. It's not even an embarrassing attempt to appear sexy like the rightwingers who pose provocatively with handguns and rifles. A teenaged Abrams is pictured in an Atlanta Journal-Consitution article that misspells her name (and this was when newspapers still had copy desks). If she were Brett Kavanaugh, that would be sufficient to argue this was someone else entirely. "This woman is clearly a quarter century younger! Also, my calendar has an entry for Freaknik that week but no scheduled political protests."

Abrams's campaign reminded everyone again of the Bill of Rights, free speech, and all that jazz in a statement on Monday, pointing out that her actions in 1992 were part of a "permitted, peaceful protest against the Confederate emblem in the flag." Aaron Sorkin's idealized Bill Clinton surrogate, played by Michael Douglas, summed it up best when he said that "the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising [their] right to burn that flag in protest."

But the titular American President is referring to the US flag and not the Confederate flag, which does not in any way symbolize the freedom or even basic humanity of people like Stacey Abrams. Kemp, like many annoying white men of his shoe size, claims that we shouldn't "rewrite the past," and he's right: The past was hella racist. This is the Georgia state flag during the height of segregation, when white people rode black people like cabs and movies didn't have all that foul language.

Now here it is literally the year after Brown v. Board of Education ruled that icky black kids could legally attend the same schools as white kids. It's also the same year as the ongoing Montgomery bus boycott and the arguable start of the Civil Rights Movement.

Kemp doesn't just want to embrace a racist past but also to honor it with statues and memorials that he vows to protect from what he calls "the radical left." This would lead one to logically assume that Kemp is racist or racist adjacent, but let's not draw conclusions from something as trivial as one's words and deeds.

It's hilarious that an armed insurrection against the United States is not what's considered "radical," nor is continuing to honor traitors who literally killed US soldiers. Southerners left America to pursue a relationship with a younger, more racist nation, and when it fell apart and they had to come crawling back, they insisted on keeping the mementos from their affair around the house: "Yeah, sure, that blanket in the family room is the same one my lover and I had sex on in Maui. But let's not rewrite the past. It happened. And you're crazy if you expect me to throw out that souvenir tiki glass I got while there. What are you, the Taliban?"

I'm OK with the burning of items with Confederate imagery. There should be like an eternal flame for Rosa Parks that is fueled by Confederate memorabilia. If the Times discovered Abrams had burned actual people wearing Confederate flag hats, that'd be a real scoop and I'd (briefly) consider endorsing a third party option.

It's hard to say if "Flag-gate" is potentially fatal for Abrams. White folks weren't voting for her anyway, which is why Kemp is trying to reduce black voter turnout to antebellum levels. It's believed that the "Access Hollywood" tape wasn't that damaging to Donald Trump because his grossness was already baked into his campaign persona. The relatively small percent of white people supporting Abrams might already assume that she burns flags while drinking Kool-Aid and eating SNAP-funded fried chicken and they're OK with it. But if it's enough to tip an already tight race, well, thumbs-up (actually just my middle finger), New York Times!

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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