Trump’s Racism Doesn’t Have To Be A Political Strategy. Sometimes It’s Just Racism
In 1955, after the nation’s most infamous lynching ― of her son, Emmett ― Mamie Till-Mobley sent a telegram to President Dwight Eisenhower. In it, she pleaded with Eisenhower to “see that justice [was] meted out to all persons involved” in her son’s murder, which took place in Money, Mississippi.
She received nothing in response — not correspondence from the White House and not justice for her 14-year-old son.
This is helpful context for understanding the culture of Mississippi. While the state may have been rescued from the scourge of slavery, in many ways it still upholds the character of that era and the repressive years that followed. Mississippi boasts a higher percentage of black residents than any other state, a fact that historians say fueled its long tradition of anti-blackness dating back to the antebellum years. Since the murder of Emmett Till, there have been more lynchings in Mississippi than in all other states combined, according to the Tuskegee Institute’s Department of Records and Research.
All this is to say that when Mississippi’s Republican Senate candidate, Cindy Hyde-Smith, gleefully invoked hanging to express appreciation for a supporter of hers, she was drawing from a sordid history that is especially potent in her home state.
“If [the supporter] invited me to a public hanging,” she told a crowd during a campaign stop, “I’d be on the front row.” Hyde-Smith was met with raucous applause. In a separate incident that surfaced later, the candidate was heard endorsing the idea of making it harder for her opponent’s likely supporters to vote.
Hyde-Smith, the incumbent senator, will face Democratic candidate Mike Espy, a black man and former U.S. secretary of agriculture, in a run-off election scheduled for Nov. 27.
And when President Donald Trump visits Mississippi on her behalf ― which he plans to do on Monday ― he has given us every reason to believe that he will go because of Hyde-Smith’s racist evocations, and not in spite of them.