An Open Letter to Bud Johnson

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Dear Mr. Johnson –

I have to admit that when my friend Katherine Haenschen initially reported that a Republican in northwest Austin was lynching President Obama in effigy, by hanging an empty chair from a tree, I was a bit skeptical.

Surely, I thought, not in Travis County. Not now. There are plenty of ways for racists to say what they think about President Obama, without, you know, really saying what they think. Just yell “states' rights!” or falsely accuse the President of being a drug dealer of welfare. But a lynching in effigy? C'mon, it's two-thousand-and-frickin'-twelve. We live in an age where my 2 year old niece can use an iPhone. Is there some sad person out there who really thinks it is acceptable to lynch our African American president in effigy? That can't possibly be a thing!

Boy was I wrong.

It turns out that you knew exactly what you were doing when you hung an empty chair in front of your home. When asked about it, you replied “I don't really give a damn whether it disturbs you or not. You can take [your concerns]and go straight to hell and take Obama with you. I don't give a shit. If you don't like it, don't come down my street.”

Mr. Johnson, I've got news for you. You don't matter. You're 73 years old, and your time is surely short. But as I type this, my one-quarter-Jewish, one-quarter-WASP, half-Indian American, brown-skinned children are sleeping peacefully in my home. They're being raised to love their country, to love their family, and to stand up to pitiful, sad, racist bullies like you. And one day you'll be gone. But the world you're leaving behind – one where a black man with a funny name can be elected President – it's my kids' for the taking, because they are the future. And Mr. Johnson, I don't give a damn whether that disturbs you or not. I don't give a shit. You're sad man. And if you don't like it, don't come down my street.

– Jeff Rotkoff


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