Northwest Austin homeowner Bud Johnson has taken down the empty chair he lynched to a tree in his yard, seemingly owing to the local and national media attention that his racially charged tableau created.
Traffic was reported backed up to the entrance of his subdivision yesterday as rubberneckers drove by for a chance to see and photograph the chair in person. Several media outlets were able to interact with Johnson — who manages to out-do even Clint Eastwood's best Cranky Old Man routine — reported that the man said people were “getting the wrong idea” and that he meant it as a show of support for Eastwood's speech. He said he didn't have anywhere else to put the chair so he hung it from a tree. The chair is now sitting on the Johnson's lawn with the flag still attached.
If he meant it as a show of support, why did he lynch the chair in the first place? Why not simply place the chair on the lawn as he has done now?
Let's break it down.
- Johnson admits the chair was a sign of support for Eastwood's speech, in which an empty chair symbolized President Barack Obama.
- Johnson hung that symbol — the symbol of an African-American — from a tree in a manner identical to how white Southerners once lynched thousands of African-Americans.
- Johnson now claims lynching a symbol of an African-American isn't racist, but rather a show of support for Eastwood's speech.
Excuse me if I'm a teeny, tiny bit skeptical here.
Local CBS affiliate KEYE was there as Johnson cut down the chair. It's worth taking the time to watch the unedited 5-minute video of a KEYE reporter confronting Johnson.
While plenty of folks are still trying to dismiss this as unimportant, claim it's not racist, or suggest it's not even worthy of coverage, public racism needs to be confronted and called out. It's hard to interpret the lynching of a symbol of an African-American as anything other than racist, and Johnson's explanations do little to mitigate that interpretation.
This isn't the first lynched chair we've seen since the RNC. I do hope it's the last, but given the desperate and frenetic flailings of those who cannot accept an African-American president, I'd be surprised if we made it to November 6 without even more overt public displays of racism. Each of those need to be called out, too. The Republican Party has become the last respite for those who cling to antiquated opposition to equality for all Americans. While plenty of people want to stick their heads in the sand and take comfort in the myth that we've “solved” racism, the truth is much uglier — as ugly as a neighbor pretending to lynch the President on a leafy suburban lawn.
I'm heartened, however, by the force and volume of the castigating response to Johnson's displays, accelerated by digital media and transmitted by a younger generation of Americans that are vastly more accepting, who celebrate our pluralistic and multi-cultural society, and who value the diversity that makes America great. As my former State Senator Barack Obama said himself in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention, “in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”
So let's work hard these last seven weeks to re-elect President Barack Obama and Democrats up and down the ballot, not merely to show folks who share Bud Johnson's views that they're wrong, but to demonstrate again that as Americans, we're committed to moving our country forward.
Previously on Burnt Orange Report: