Racial tensions mark US election campaign

Racial tensions mark US election campaign
Donald Trump supporters at US President's meeting on Wednesday, October 31 in Estero, Florida / AFP / Archives

Donald Trump supporters at US President's meeting on Wednesday, October 31 in Estero, Florida / AFP / Archives

June and her two friends were the only black faces in the ocean of spectators at a Donald Trump meeting this week in Florida during a race-marked election campaign in the United States.

These tensions tend to crystallize around President Trump, with some black candidates emerging as rising political stars.

Among them are Andrew Gillum, who wants to become Tuesday the first black governor of Florida, Stacey Abrams, first black candidate for a governorship in the neighboring state of Georgia, or Ben Jealous, Democratic candidate in the state of Maryland, which had a more local echo.

June, she, adheres without restraint to the policy of Donald Trump, who plays big in these parliamentary elections mid-term.

"No, he is not racist," says the 42-year-old secretary. "What I do know is that he defends the United States, he returns his greatness to America."

Photomontage showing, from left to right, Ben Jealous, Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum / AFP / Archives

Photomontage showing, from left to right, Ben Jealous, Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum / AFP / Archives

Yet in this big Florida campaign rally, the only visible African Americans, besides June and her friends, are the street vendors of President's promotional items, such as the now-must-have red caps.

The rest of the nearly 8,000 supporters gathered in the Hertz Arena in the city of Fort Myers are white.

In July, 79 percent of African Americans believed in a Quinnipiac poll that Donald Trump was racist.

"If racial tensions have reached this level, it is Barack Obama who is at the origin," says AFP Stacy Pignatti, a white woman of 46 years, pro-Trump activist.

The former Democratic president had just made the trip to Florida on Friday, to support Andrew Gillum, candidate for governorship.

"An election will not eliminate racism, or sexism, or homophobia (…) But that will mark a beginning," Obama said to enthusiastic supporters.

Like Mr. Gillum, Stacey Abrams has enjoyed the public support of Barack Obama, in addition to a very media-related visit of the famous presenter and American businesswoman Oprah Winfrey.

This has favored the national echo of their candidacy.

– Ability to write History –

"The current environment is the product of the Obama era and then that of Trump," said Perry Thurston, black senator elected to the assembly of Florida. Racism is "a sensitive and painful theme," he added in an interview with Politico. "But it's good that this debate is coming out."

"Race has been a theme since the beginning of this campaign, not because I introduced it," said Gillum on Wednesday.

Famous presenter and businesswoman Oprah Winfrey at a Stacey Abrams meeting on November 1, 2018 in Georgia / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP / Archives

Famous presenter and businesswoman Oprah Winfrey at a Stacey Abrams meeting on November 1, 2018 in Georgia / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP / Archives

He recalled that it was Ron DeSantis who provoked a controversy by using a compound verb from the word monkey towards his opponent ("monkey this up"), to say that the latter risked harming economic progress.

This comment was considered racist, which Mr DeSantis denied. The latter in turn accused his opponent of wanting to divert attention from an FBI investigation into suspicions of corruption in the city of Tallahassee, of which Mr. Gillum is the mayor.

Andrew Gillum replied that Mr DeSantis was attracting "racists, xenophobes and anti-Semites".

This kind of exchange marked the whole campaign in Florida. According to the polls, the two candidates are knee-to-elbow, in a state where the results are often expected with apprehension.

If Mr. Gillum is able to mobilize black, Hispanic and youth communities, he could be a surprise.

According to a Quinnipiac survey, 79% of blacks in the United States feel that President Trump is racist / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP / Archives

According to a Quinnipiac survey, 79% of blacks in the United States feel that President Trump is racist / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP / Archives

In Georgia, Abrams accused her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, of using her leadership position to promote her campaign.

Many applications for registration on the electoral lists are pending because of the discrepancy between the information provided by voters and those given, for example, when applying for a driving license. Most of them are African-American voters, according to an observatory of racism in the United States.

The election of Mrs Abrams depends, like that of Mr Gillum, on the strong mobilization of minorities.

"Progressive black candidates are betting that Donald Trump's low satisfaction rate among black voters, coupled with the ability to write History, will be enough motivation to increase voter turnout," commented Theodore Johnson of Brennan Center for Justice.

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