By Lucas Munson, a Virginia-based writer and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action.
Ed Gillespie must think I’m stupid.
He thinks an ad attacking immigrants and people of color will scare me into voting for him. Well, I have news for Ed Gillespie.
I’m not scared, I’m angry.
I’m angry that it’s 2017 and instead of debating the issues that matter most to Virginia families, Ed Gillespie is airing bigoted and hateful campaign ads, demonizing an entire population in an attempt to win an election. Gillespie is playing on the ill-conceived fears of white supremacists, Nazis and racists – many of the same people who helped send Donald Trump all the way to the White House.
Unfortunately, these racist, xenophobic beliefs are still alive and well in Virginia. When I volunteered for the Obama campaign, I saw firsthand how deeply racism is embedded in the minds of voters. I was still in high school at the time, but that did not stop me from working tirelessly on his behalf, one of the few people making phone calls to voters across Prince Edward County. The morning after the election, as we were watching the news in my homeroom class, I heard someone behind me say, “Time for every good redneck to get his gun. We’ve got a coon in the White House.”
I was furious. This confident, intelligent man I’d just worked so hard for had been reduced to a racial slur. I was also deeply perplexed. How could a kid who went to a school where 60 percent of his classmates were black spew such hateful rhetoric? On any given day, he probably had more interactions with people of color than he did white people – but that did nothing to stop him from inciting racial violence.
Almost a decade has passed, and politicians are still targeting people like my high school classmate. Ed Gillespie is the latest iteration. Stoking racial fears is the only play Gillespie has left. Gillespie is exactly the kind of leader Donald Trump wants – the kind of leader who uses fear to manipulate us and hate to divide us.
But fear has never helped anyone. Fear has never given health insurance to someone who lives below the poverty line. Fear has never given a child a good education. Fear has never helped someone open their own small business. Hell, fear has never so much as filled a pothole. Fear has done nothing to make America great.
Gillespie’s ads have made me think deeply about the kind of person I want running our Commonwealth. I’d like to see someone who respects all Virginians, not someone who plays on people’s fears. I want a governor who is interested in having a conversation, not dominating one.
And I am confident that Dr. Ralph Northam is that leader – a children’s doctor and lifelong public servant who made a commitment to making Virginia a more welcoming place to live, no matter where you were born or the color of your skin.
We should be looking for nuance and intelligence in our elected officials, not ham-fisted racist appeals. We are smarter than racist ads, and it’s insulting our intelligence that politicians like Gillespie think it will work.
It’s 2017, and I’m tired of politicians assuming I’m stupid. Let’s send a message this November 7 that we won’t be manipulated by fear.