Voting rights advocatesaid Tuesday that she felt chastised and insulted in the summer of 2020 while enduring questions about her capacity to handle the job of the Vice President of the United States when then-candidate Joe Biden was considering choosing her as his running mate. Abrams spoke to author N.K. Jemison on the first day of the South by Southwest festival, which is being held virtually this year.
"I was chastised for refusing to demur and pretend that I didn't have the capacity to do the job because I didn't have the title and the positions that people were used to seeing have," Abrams said, adding that she was asked a question very few people must contend with.
"There were all these insults as opposed to looking at the fundamental question. I was asked the question white men don't get asked, 'are you qualified?'" Abrams said.
The former Georgia House minority leader said there is "absolutely a discomfiture" in society with "the audacity of people of color thinking we belong in spaces and declaring we deserve to have access."
In 2018, Abrams lost the race for Georgia's governor to Republican Brain Kemp by less than 55,000 votes. She said the "blockage of so many thousands of voters certainly had an impact on the outcome" and jokingly referred to the trajectory of her career as "an asymptote of success."
"I get really, really close to crossing the line, but never quite getting over it," Abrams said. She noted that she's been able to become more involved with voting rights activism "because of an act of perfidy by someone in power who decided people who looked like me weren't supposed to be as active and proactive in their politics."
Abrams, who is coming out with a new political fiction book "While Justice Sleeps" in May, attributed much of her success in politics to storytelling and engaging voters.
"You have to center the voter, center the citizen, the person in the narrative," Abrams said. "If it's about someone else and they can't see themselves either benefiting from or being victimized by, then you give them a reason not to pay attention."
Abrams, who founded Fair Fight Action in 2018, a national organization that aims to address voter suppression, said voters need to remain vigilant about holding elected officials accountable "because in between elections is when life happens."
She said the more than 250 proposals to restrict voting in states across the country are currently trying to reverse the progress of voters who showed up in record numbers last election cycle to make their voices heard.
"We worked to engage the single highest number of communities of color as active voters in Georgia in the state's history….we did it by telling them a story about their power," Abrams said. "And now we have 253 bills going across the country trying to undo their performance."
Last week, the state senate in Georgia narrowly passed a bill that will repeal no-excuse absentee voting if signed into law. During the November election, 1.3 million voters in Georgia used mail-in ballots to cast their vote.
The new proposed legislation also creates stricter identification requirements for those who want to vote by mail and would turn Georgia into one of the most difficult states to request an absentee ballot.
On Sunday, during an interview with CNN, Abrams called the push by Republican state lawmakers to add more voting restrictions "racist" and a "redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie."
"The only connection that we can find is that more people of color voted, and it changed the outcome of elections in a direction that Republicans do not like," Abrams told CNN. "Instead of celebrating better access and more participation, their response is to try to eliminate access to voting primarily for communities of color," she added.
Abrams was speaking at the first day of the virtual South by Southwest festival, which is held annually in Austin, Texas. Other notable politicians speaking at the festival later this week include Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar and former President George W. Bush.