Voting rights activist and former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D) on Wednesday said that boycotting Georgia businesses over their failure to condemn the state’s new controversial voting rights law are currently “not necessary,” though she hinted that they could be needed in the future.
In an op-ed published by USA Today, the former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee responded to increased calls among voters to boycott Georgia-based corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines after they did not immediately condemn the sweeping voting bill signed into law last week.
The legislation imposes several restrictions on voting in the state, including requiring photo IDs to submit absentee ballots and limiting the number of ballot drop box locations.
Others have called for major sporting events to be moved from Georgia to put pressure on state lawmakers to remove portions of the new law, while Hollywood actors and directors have called for others in the entertainment industry to direct films and other projects away from the Peach State.
Abrams wrote Wednesday that as “a Black person, a Southerner, an American, I respect and defend the right to boycott — and the advancement of civil rights has relied heavily on economic boycotts.”
“Until we hear clear, unequivocal statements that show Georgia-based companies get what’s at stake, I can’t argue with an individual’s choice to opt for their competition,” she added.
However, the founder of voting rights advocacy group Fair Fight Action added, “one lesson of boycotts is that the pain of deprivation must be shared to be sustainable.”
“Otherwise, those least resilient bear the brunt of these actions; and in the aftermath, they struggle to access the victory,” Abrams continued. “And boycotts are complicated affairs that require a long-term commitment to action.”
Abrams in a video posted to Twitter Wednesday outlined similar arguments, explaining that while she understood the calls to boycott, “Black, Latino, AAPI [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders] and Native American voters whose votes are the most suppressed under SB 202 are also the most likely to be hurt by potential boycotts of Georgia.”
In her USA Today op-ed, Abrams went on to say, “I have no doubt that voters of color, particularly Black voters, are willing to endure the hardships of boycotts,” adding, “But I don’t think that’s necessary — yet.”
Abrams argued that “the events and films that are coming to Georgia will speak out against the laws. And they will hire the targets of SB 202: young people, people of color and minimum wage workers who want to elect leaders to fight for their economic security.”
“I ask you to bring your business to Georgia and, if you’re already here, stay and fight,” she added. “Stay and vote.”
Abrams then outlined suggestions for Georgia companies to take substantive action to promote voting rights, including encouraging corporations that do businesses in other states considering similar laws to speak out before they are passed.
The voting rights activist also urged corporations to use their voices to support federal voting rights legislation, as well as allocate money they would normally donate to political candidates to instead help ensure poor and minority communities have access to voting in Georgia.