Georgia bookstore owner Julia Davis has felt the sting of racism. Sometimes, it’s been subtle, like when people assume she’s the hired help and ask to speak to her boss. Other times, it’s more pronounced, an in-your-face reminder of the deep racial divide that still exists in Georgia.
Since buying her shop in 2020, Davis has had people walk in, take one look at her, and walk out. Sometimes, their actions were followed by words, ugly and bigoted.
The New York native knew it would be a tough transition to Powder Springs, GA, but it was her dream to own an independent bookstore, and she went for it. She had no idea that she would be caught in the middle of a nasty redistricting fight a year later.
Davis has worked tirelessly to make her store a standout. The Book Worm is one of just three in the country that is a licensed sensory-inclusive bookstore. There are earplugs and whiteboards to help people who have difficulties expressing themselves, along with other aids. Her shelves are lined with books, both new and used, about people from all walks of life, a carefully curated tapestry that is supposed to represent America’s diversity.
But Davis, along with other black business owners and Democrats in Powder Springs, received a harsh reality check when Georgia lawmakers redrew their district. The new maps, which were signed into law on Dec. 31 and are effective in this year’s elections, were part of a Republican push to blunt Democrats’ power. What ended up happening is that two predominantly black and Democratic areas in Georgia, Powder Springs and Austell, fell into the district of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, arguably one of the most conservative Republicans in Congress.
Several people in Powder Springs, a small city about 25 miles northwest of Atlanta, told the Washington Examiner that they feared going to Greene with their concerns would be akin to screaming in the wind and worried she would not advocate on their behalf.
“An ideal candidate would not just look at the color lines, whether that’s the red-blue color line or the white-black color line,” Davis said. “Being a woman of color, that’s a hurdle I face every day no matter who is in charge.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican firebrand known more for her incendiary comments and less for what she’s accomplished in Washington, hasn’t exactly embraced her new Georgia blue corner.
Instead, she blamed “power-hungry” state leaders for not keeping her district 99% conservative.
She’s ignored calls, brushed off constituents, and has yet to reach out to a single black business owner in her new area.
Greene was cleared Friday by Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to remain on the ballot after a group of voters challenged her right to run, citing her role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. During the Atlanta-based hearing, Greene was confronted in court over past social media posts advocating violence against Democrats.
About a year before she was elected to Congress, Greene, a former CrossFit coach, had repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 in comments posted on social media. CrossFit has since severed all ties to Greene.
In a post from January 2019, Greene liked a comment that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In other posts, Marjorie Taylor Greene liked comments about executing FBI agents who were part of the “deep state” working against then-President Donald Trump.
In February, she spoke at a white nationalist event in Orlando that earned her a rare rebuke from Ronna McDaniel, the leader of the Republican National Committee, who said, “White supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech, and bigotry are disgusting and do not have a home in the Republican Party.”
Greene said she didn’t know the views of the people at the conference. In a tweet, she said she would not be drawn into “the guilty by association game in which you demand every conservative should justify anything ever said by anyone they’ve ever shared a room with.”
In a follow-up tweet, she said she was “not going to turn down the opportunity to speak to 1,200 young America First patriots because of a few off-color remarks by another speaker, even if I find those remarks unsavory.”
Greene’s penchant for justifying racist behavior and violence is what’s making her new constituents nervous.
State Rep. David Wilkerson, a black Democrat who represents the communities drawn into Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, said voters are looking for “someone that’s going to take your phone calls, who’s going to work on your behalf, who’s going to care what happens to your children, who is going to care about making sure you get to your job.”
So far, that hasn’t happened in Powder Springs.
Resident Ronald Altman put it simply: “There is no way that woman is coming down here.”
At Suga’s Cheese Shoppe and Cafe, owner Stacey West took a more optimistic tone.
She told the Washington Examiner that even though some people may be getting the cold shoulder from Greene, there has already been too much progress made in Powder Springs to stop the momentum. The area’s small businesses along historic Marietta Street are committed to championing one another even if their representative is missing in action, she said.
West, who does everything from washing dishes to cooking and bussing tables, moved to Georgia from Philadelphia seven years ago. She found work as a nurse but knew she wanted to be her own boss. In 2017, she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta and, in December, opened her popular eatery.
“When I first got here, a lot of the stores were vacant,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot of movement on the streets.”
Since then, the area has grown significantly. They’ve got a summer concert series, an upcoming seafood festival, and a new luxury apartment building being built.
“It won’t affect us when [Greene] comes or doesn’t come,” she said. “There’s change and opportunity. People are coming to our businesses, and she can’t stop that.”
Greene has five Republican challengers vying for her seat during the state’s primary elections on May 24.
During a recent debate, all the candidates said they’d be more effective than Marjorie Taylor Greene. Several, including Jennifer Strahan, James Haygood, and Democratic rival Wendy Davis, told the Washington Examiner that despite political and racial differences in the district, they would listen and work to serve everyone.
Greene’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.