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Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith made a gross comment earlier this month that is both clueless of history and casually racist. On November 2, just before the midterm election, she was at a campaign event with cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson. Demonstrating just how "ride or die" she was for Hutchinson, she boasted, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row!"

This is an odd statement because public hangings are historically general admission. Maybe she's saying she'd be willing to camp out overnight to ensure she can watch some poor bastard dance at the end of a rope like a common psychopath. She is, of course, un-ironically "100 percent pro-life," because life has value until it's born. Eventually ending that life in a sickening, extrajudicial manner is a pleasant spectator sport. Bring the popcorn.


Mississippi is no stranger to public executions, and women like Hyde-Smith were often in attendance. There were 581 lynchings in the state during the years 1882 to 1968, the highest in the country with Georgia second at 531 and Texas at 493. One of those was Emmett Till in 1955. Although not technically "lynched," Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963 for his civil rights activism in the state, which helped inspire Nina Simone's powerful anthem, "Mississippi Goddam."

Hyde-Smith's statement takes on a vaguely threatening tone in this context. Her Democratic opponent in the upcoming November 27th run-off is Mike Espy, who is black. In case you don't know any black people, we're still touchy about lynchings, and we still get nervous if we're in the deep South and the power goes out in the evening. That's too much free time and no Netflix to keep white folks chill. Espy didn't care for Hyde-Smith's lynching routine.

"[Hyde-Smith's "reprehensible" comments] have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country. We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgment to represent the people of our state."

This is far more measured than my own response, which would be something like, "Lady, are you all the way out of your mind?" But Espy probably doesn't want to wind up personally headlining any public executions in the near future. Here's a fun fact: Hyde-Smith is MIssissippi's first woman senator but if Espy were to win the run-off, he would not be the state's first black senator. The first two black senators ever came from Mississippi. Hiram Rhodes Revels was selected by the state legislature in 1871, and Blanche Kelso Bruce, who was born into slavery, was elected to the Senate in 1874. He even presided over the Senate in 1879. Bruce is the first black politician to receive any votes at a major party's nominating convention when he received eight votes for vice president at the 1880 Republican National Convention. The nominee was James Garfield, who was later assassinated, so had Bruce won, he might've beaten Barack Obama to the punch by well over a century.

Southern Democrats opposed seating Revels in the Senate because they were racist and also some stuff about the 14th Amendment. Republicans mocked them for fighting that "last battlefield" of the Civil War. The more things never change ...

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner said, "The time has passed for argument. Nothing more need be said. For a long time it has been clear that colored persons must be senators... All men are created equal, says the great Declaration, and now a great act attests this verity. Today we make the Declaration a reality. ... The Declaration was only half established by Independence. The greatest duty remained behind. In assuring the equal rights of all we complete the work.

Wow, we were really moving on up. Then basically Birth of a Nation happened, with the Klan, racial terrorism, and Jim Crow. If you truly study the Reconstruction era, you can appreciate how quickly minorities can fall from unprecedented heights. A black president in 2008 doesn't prevent the election of a white supremacist in 2016. And just because a record number of women are joining Congress next year doesn't mean we still can't wind up the Republic of Gilead.

True to Trump-like form, Hyde-Smith refused to apologize or even admit to a "poor choice of words." She's only running for Senate, she's not a "Saturday Night Live" cast member.

"In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous."

You'll notice that when I mentioned Revels, the "bad guys" opposing him were Democrats and the Northern "n-word lovers" were Republicans. If you're Dinesh D'Souza, that's all the proof you need that Democrats are the "true racists." Fortunately, no morons are reading this so you understand that political parties and people's allegiances to them change over time. Hyde-Smith herself was a Democrat until 2010, when she switched parties. This had been an inexorable shift in the South since the passage of the Civil Rights Act (or "LBJ's Betrayal," as they call it down there).

During the Republican senate primary, opponent Chris McDaniel brought up the inconvenient fact that Hyde-Smith was a commie pinko Democrat for most of her life -- including a period where she would've voted in the Democratic primary race where a black guy and the worst woman who ever lived were on the ballot. Her explanation is as ridiculous as it is stupid.

"You can leave a ballot blank, or you can vote for the third or fourth person on there that nobody knows, because I assure you that I didn't vote for either (Clinton or Obama). That is just honestly the 100-percent truth.

"It was probably a no-name, but I still can't remember who the no-name was. But it certainly wasn't either one of them. Because you have so many folks who just, you know, their names on the ballot or you can have a write-in. That was, gosh, 10 years ago, and I have no idea what the name was."

No matter how unlikely it is, I still hope Espy wins in a couple weeks. Revels and Bruce would be proud.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Seattle. However, he's more reliable for food and drink recommendations in Portland, where he spends a lot of time for theatre work.

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