09/20/2012 04:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Somebody to Look Down Upon

Here we are in 2012, an African-American president sits in the Oval Office, and we are still confronting racism. Yeah, I know, Obama's election might be why the ignorance that has been hiding a bit is suddenly more visible. Even a half-aware observer knows what the subtext is in statements like "We are the real Americans" and "Let's take back America." Who stole America? Nobody. The population elected Mr. Obama, and by a comfortable margin. (If you wanted to take America back from anyone the 2000 Bush campaign in Florida and the Supreme Court ruling was a better place to start.)

The racial anger isn't just palpable any more; it's manifest. And again, Texas is getting attention for its ignorance instead of its greatness. In an upscale neighborhood of Northwest Austin, a Republican voter has hung an empty chair in effigy from a tree in his front yard. Progressive political website the Burnt Orange Report was the first to publish a photograph. The empty chair, of course, was Clint Eastwood's prop, intended to represent the president, during the actor's semi-creative turn on stage at the GOP's national convention. And now that empty chair is hanging from a front yard and sending the hateful, racist message that the resident citizen wants his president dead by lynching.


(Photo courtesy Burnt Orange Report)

Texas isn't riding alone on the hatred train. Another lynched empty chair was found over the weekend at Bull Run Park in Virginia. The lynch party that strung it up was a bit less subtle than the Austin homeowner since they decided to put a bumper sticker on their chair that read, "Nobama." Subtlety also dies a quick death with these chair lynchings. No one can misinterpret the message that the chair killers actually want the black president to be dead and they are content to use an old, racist, hateful method of getting rid of him so they can "take back America."

Texas, like much of the south, has a horrid history involving lynchings and using any mention of it any a political context at this point in American history ought to be off-limits to even the marginally intelligent. In fact, the federal anti-lynching law grew out of a crowd killing of a 17-year-old black man in Waco in 1916. Jesse Washington admitted in open court to the killing of Lucy Fryer, a farmer's wife. Although the law called for a life sentence, Washington was surrounded in the courtroom and dragged outside where a chain was slipped around his neck and he was dipped in hot coal oil. A crowd estimated at 15, 000 watched as the uneducated farmhand choked slowly to death hanging from the branch of a post oak tree, his flailing legs speeding suffocation.

A photographer recorded the lynching of Jesse Washington and witnessed body parts being cut off and passed through the crowd for souvenirs. The mutilated carcass was placed in a burlap sack and dragged behind a car before the remains were then hung from a pole. The photos and written descriptions were distributed nationally and the rest of the U.S. began to refer to the mob justice as, "The Waco Horror." Of the 4,742 lynchings known to have occurred on American soil between 1882 and 1968, Jesse Washington's actually had a sociological impact. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People employed the record of Washington's death as a tool to get the nation's first anti-lynching law passed by Congress in 1921.

Almost a half century later political opportunist and Texan Lyndon Johnson saw the direction the country was going and signed into law the Civil Rights Act, and almost a half century after that a black man named James Byrd was decapitated after being dragged behind a pickup truck through the East Texas woods. Johnson was famously quoted as telling his political allies that, "I'm afraid we've lost the south for a generation." Parts of it, apparently, are still resisting notions of equality and diversity.

But should we have to expect to see empty chairs hanging in trees in urban America suggesting the president be lynched?

Commentator Michelle Malkin's anger over Obama's politics may have prompted the low intellect clowns to grab their ropes. Malkin's website advocated something she called "National Empty Chair Day" and her homepage got loaded up with various photos of empty chairs. One shows a plastic lawn chair with a can of gasoline and another has an empty suit draped over the back. None is hanging from a tree.

The Austin man was hardly chastened when he began to get publicity for his lynched chair. He went out the next day and taped an American flag to the arm rest to make his message a bit more unmistakable. He's not ashamed. His actions would indicate he is energized. And there will soon be copycats because that's the way hatred and anger work. Eventually, there may just be a large angry mob of people just like him.

Anybody have any ideas on what happens next?

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