Where Things Stand: The Racist Skin Darkening Has Returned

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ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 24: Republican gubernatorial candidate Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during his primary night election party at the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame on May 24, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. Kemp ... ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 24: Republican gubernatorial candidate Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during his primary night election party at the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame on May 24, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. Kemp defeated former U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) in the primary as he bids for a second term as Georgia governor. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) MORE LESS

Back during the 2020 Senate election in Georgia, the campaigns of the two soon-to-be-defeated GOP senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, were both accused of digitally altering images of their Democratic opponents in negative campaign ads in racist and antisemitic ways.

Loeffler’s campaign was criticized for seemingly darkening the skin tone of Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) in her attack ads. Perdue’s campaign pulled an ad from circulation that appeared to have been doctored to enlarge the appearance of Sen. Jon Ossoff’s (D-GA) nose. At the time, the campaign blamed the edit on an outside vendor, but Ossoff didn’t buy any of it.

“Senator, literally no one believes your excuses,” he tweeted at the time. “This is the oldest, most obvious, least original anti-Semitic trope in history.”

The two are hardly the first to be accused of such a practice in American politics, especially during the closing days and weeks of a competitive campaign season. The darkening of Black candidates’ skin has been going on since long before John McCain’s campaign was accused of altering images to make President Obama’s skin look darker in 2008.

And, predictably, the racist tactic appears to have returned this midterms cycle, with both the Brian Kemp gubernatorial campaign and Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) accused of darkening the complexion of their Democratic challengers, both of whom are Black. The Bulwark has a deep-dive into this year’s examples here. But Kemp has made the accusations almost too easy — he tweeted out a clearly darkened image of Stacey Abrams himself:

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