Skip to main content

The image at left was taken by a person passing through the neighborhood. Now, one could easily argue "it's just a chair, what's the big deal? That's not racist!"

However, in light of Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention, in which he had a largely one-sided conversation with an empty chair he pretended was Barack Obama, this imagery is now associated with the President.

The image of the chair is associated with the President. Now, lynch that chair from a tree, and you've got a pretty awful racist sentiment calling for lynching the first African-American President!...

I called the homeowner to ask about his display, citing my concerns as a fellow Austinite. He replied, and I quote, "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."

Ironically, the homeowner in question, Bud Johnson, won "Yard of the Month" in August 2010 from his Homeowners Association. I guess his display was a little different that month?

In these moments, I am struck by the dualism that is multicultural democracy in the Age of Obama. In many ways, formal racism has been vanquished. Yet, we are obsessed with finding examples of racism in order to remind ourselves of how far the nation has to go. The result is a national play coloured by the absurd and the bizarre.

I am all for calling out racism. I am also all for calling attention to white supremacy. However, there are moments when I just have to laugh at how racism chasing runs amok, and otherwise well-meaning people follow a fool's errand, taking the enemy's feint, holding on like a junkyard dog.

Be warned. Such choices are exhausting and will put holes in your racism chasing shoes.  

Apparently, two white racist reactionary conservatives have chosen to hang chairs from trees in order to lynch President Obama in absentia and by metaphor.  

I understand the deeply rooted structural inequalities of white racism in this society.

I also fully understand how the foul deeds of a few can tell us something about whiteness' deep sociopathology, and its assorted micro-aggressions against people of color.

However, something is horribly amiss when given all of the evidence about systematic white racism in this society, that "lynched" chairs are the source of a mass upset

There is a curious element at play here. For example, the Daily Kos has an essay on these "lynched" chairs, and the foul bigots who would defile furniture, that has almost 400 comments. By comparison, substantive discussions of white racism are often met with denial, deflection, and rage on the same site.

Ultimately, I would suggest that all of this hullabaloo over lynched chairs is a pathetic joke. It is a sugar high that lets good liberals feel that they are winning the good fight against those evil, old school, paleo-racists, that still lurk among us.

It is easy to confront low hanging fruit. It is far more difficult to critically engage how day-to-day white racism and white privilege, often enabled by "well-meaning" white folks, is a reality in this country.

I must ask: how would those folks who are offended, upset, scared, and not at peace over the equivalent of a failed Chappelle skit respond to real racial violence, or an event such as the KKK's march on Washington during the 1920s?

History teaches us again. During the postbellum period, the KKK were masters of psychological warfare who went to great lengths in order to intimidate and frighten free black Americans. For example, the lynched chairs remind me of this darkly comic anecdote:

Special effects designed to support the belief that Klansmen were Confederate dead returned from hell were later added to their tricks. If a Black was on trial, Klan members sprinkled a little powder which they called "hell fire" on the floor beforehand. When the Black defendant looked down at the floor, one of the Klansmen would run his foot over the powder line, causing a fiery-looking trail. Sometimes and immense volume of flame was blown from the nose.  
We have been conditioned to respond like Pavlov's dogs to racism. Consequently, in our efforts to do right, many of us have lost a sense of calibration, proportion, and precision. Black and brown folks, and white anti-racists, need to expend our efforts on those battles that can really make a difference in our collective life chances, as opposed to weakening our forces on fool's errands such as "lynched" chairs.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Not quite clear on your point (5+ / 0-)

    and have read through it twice.  Are you saying we shouldn't object to lynching chairs as a symbol of lynching the President?  That's how this sounds.

    Black and brown folks, and white anti-racists, need to expend our efforts on those battles that can really make a difference in our collective life chances, as opposed to weakening our forces on fool's errands such as "lynched" chairs.
    And excuse me but equating a Dave Chappell satirical skit with a racist asshole hanging a chair representing the President from a tree in his yard is absolutely


    Still enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:26:04 AM PDT

    •  When I get bothered by a chauncy diary I figure (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      howabout, Remembering Jello

      it's because he's trying to teach me something and I'm too pigheaded to realize it. So I usually don't respond until I think I get it. This one has me bothered for reasons similar to yours. Perhaps the diarist will explain it further.

      If we got Mitt to be slightly less dishonest and gave him some personality he could pass as a used car salesman.

      by ontheleftcoast on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:35:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  how kind, i like vexing people as a means of (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        2thanks, subtropolis

        making a point. do you follow your enemy and let them lead you where they want you to go, expending all sorts of valuable currency and energy or do you pick the fight, a battle on the field of your own choosing and to maximum effect?

        don't wear out your racism chasing shoes my friend as you may need them another time.

        •  Exactly. You have to choose your battles. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          For 4 years I heard them call the President, the First Lady and their children every name in the book.  I have reported those who threatened the first family's lives and held my tongue because I chose my battlefield.  It's not a place but a time - November 6th.  When this lifelong Republican is voting "blue across the board".

      •  I was just trying to say the same thing below. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        His diaries do bother me, and that is a good thing.

    •  i am saying we should save our energy (6+ / 0-)

      and be careful how much we wear out our "racism chasing" shoes. that is a chappelle skit gone wrong. are we so vulnerable that some raggedy hanging chairs upset us so?

       the elder gods, at least those who fought and died in the black freedom struggle, would want us to take on other battles.

      also of note, folks are in a fit over "lynched" chairs but would run like the wind from real photos or discussions of an actual spectacular lynching.

      my piece is about many things actually--race, panics, the progress we have made, how vulnerable we are, our fears, and our well as how to spend energy wisely. i simply do not have it in me to chase down every racial micro aggression or hung chair in a tree. chess not checkers my friend.

      •   That is RIDICULOUS. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Alice Venturi

        Save our energy?  How absurd.  You call out racism EVERY time not just the times you think are MOST EGREGIOUS.

        Other battles?  Bullshit.

        I dont know if you think there is just some sort of limited amount of righteousness in the world and we must use it sparingly lest we get TIRED OF IT like Ann Romney .... there is an endless amount of righteousness and it is absolutely absurd to suggest that lynching a President in effigy in an open way in a neighborhood is way beyond "racial micro aggression."

        I don't see anyone rioting in the streets?  Please indicate where you see anyone making a strenuous effort over this issue.

        Still enjoying my stimulus package.

        by Kevvboy on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:42:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  tell ya what, you fight that tree battle... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          subtropolis, starfu

          ...and when you're done, you can join us in exercising that same energy on the neighborhood development battles, the education battles, the public tranpsortation battles, the voting district battles, and all the rest of it...

          Thanks for helping out...


        •  as i said you can get up in tizzy (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          luckydog, tytalus, subtropolis

          over every issue--and yes a chair hanging in a tree is racist, pathetic, and a sign of a person with a problem. is it worth throwing a fit, especially when there are serious, substantial, structural issues we need to deal with. where is the 400 post comment on racism in mortgage lending and some related activism?

          i am a tactician. you can keep throwing your men at the line like the Battle of Ypres in WW1 and see what happens. Some folks are fodder; they are useful in that role. I think we also need quiet professionals who actually get stuff done on the macro level.

          i hear you, i understand, but ask yourself about those racism chasing shoes and how many pairs you have left to wear.

      •  OK, let's play some chess (0+ / 0-)

        The GOP leadership, long ago, realized their message wasn't working. They knew they needed a way to get lots of otherwise middle-class Jane and John Doe Americans to get in their camp even if they had nothing to offer them. So they started hauling in social issues like abortion and guns to achieve that. And one of the willing groups was racists, up until the 60's the racists (at least the overt ones) were split between the parties. After that time it became a proud hallmark of the GOP with the Dixiecrats switching parties. Since then they've used "dogwhistles" like "state's rights" and "affirmative action" to keep white America as afraid of blacks, Latinos, and others as possible. Sure, it's not dogs and firehoses, it's not lynchings. But if the ultimate goal is marginalization, loss of power (like denying the right to vote), then shouldn't we be vigilant against those "dogwhistles" and what you see as minor signs of racism?

        If we got Mitt to be slightly less dishonest and gave him some personality he could pass as a used car salesman.

        by ontheleftcoast on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:45:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yes and no (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          we give our enemies power by responding to every feign and move. everyone has a role to play. but let's play smart and efficiently. there is a double move with the dog whistles by the way, the more we call out white racism, the more white conservatives can retrench and play the victim. thus bringing in more aggrieved and resentful white voters.

          the dog whistle in essence works twice. what to do about it? i don't know. that is why the southern strategy and colorblind racism are such deadly foes.

      •  a chair hangs from a tree in Northwest Austin... (4+ / 0-)

        ...and generates quite a buzz.

        Meanwhile, over in East Austin, traditionally working class and poor black and Latino neighborhoods are being actively gentrified, sometimes with the assistance of gov't sponsored development loans. Economic pressures drive those longtime residents out into the suburbs, where there is little or no public transportation to link those folks to jobs, or to schools. Speaking of schools in Texas, there's a bit of inequality that could be addressed on that large set of issues...

        Meanwhile, between East Austin and Northwest Austin lies the Texas State Capitol, wherein occurs discussions that, for instance, will carve-up the state in such ways that voting districts will favor one constituency, rather than all the people of the state.

        Chauncey, your points seems simple and straight-forward to me, and easy to agree with.


    •  My own take on this (0+ / 0-)

      The diarist is suggesting that we should respond to these incidents in the same way that we'd have liked Muslims around the world to respond to that stupid video: to shrug them off as the work of very sick, but very isolated, individuals.

      I think there's something to be said for that. Without context, without any indication that these folks are speaking for any part of their community, without evidence that they're really aware of the history that their acts seem to refer to, it's possible that these individuals are little more than the moral equivalent of trolls, and should be brushed off about as lightly.

      (I write with awareness that I may not know the whole context of these particular incidents.)

      Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

      by Nowhere Man on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:53:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  my take is that the diary (6+ / 0-)

      warns us not to notice and concentrate only on a couple of showy flowering weeds in the larger field of weeds that is racism.   The bright flowering heads are easy to concentrate on as we ignore the larger issues, the more deeply embedded notions/acts of racism in some very basic assumptions about race and being white which are less noticeable but actually more pernicious in the long run.  

  •  In one way...... I do think that racism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ontheleftcoast, klamothe, howabout

    is fading more and more among the majority of people in our nation.....

    But on the other hand...... those that still possess it are getting more and more batshit-brained intense in their possession and intensity of display of it........

    This second group needs to be called out, and marginalized more and more as much as possible.  Legal actions such as lawsuits, possibly some additions or adjustments with local, state and national statutes, and even tighter enforcement of current laws need to happen.  

    And as well to the legal aspect of this..... quite possibly education and even making mental health available (under Obamacare, eh?) where possible have to be considered as weapons to finally put some closure to this terrible, destructive human condition known as racism!  

  •  Hmm. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfromga, Alice Venturi

    Some of us have been privileged to have witnessed very little overt racism between, say, the early 1980's and President Obama's election. All of a sudden people were yelling the N word out of car windows, making pictures representing the First Family as apes, etc.. People of color were not surprised in the least. But I think it has maintained the power to really shock white people and kind of short circuit our rational minds.
    I'm not agreeing or disagreeing here, just thinking through the keyboard...

    The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

    by emidesu on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:32:31 AM PDT

    •  i was surprised it wasn't worse (5+ / 0-)

      one of the great triumphs of colorblind racism is the fiction that racism is in the past. many white folks, and some young people of color, fell for that trick.

      •  Anyway I'm glad you're here (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        to prod us. I don't always agree with you but I very much appreciate your voice and help with my own blind spots.

        The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

        by emidesu on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 11:39:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Every attack on racism should be welcomed. (3+ / 0-)

      We need lots of them.

      I live in the northeast corner of a 20,000 square mile rectangle in Texas where the black population is dramatically lower than the rest of the state. In the middle of the last century blacks were not allowed to spend the night in the area. I don't know how much this has changed, but I wouldn't want to be the one to test the question.

      Racism is very strong here, you might not notice it, because there are almost no blacks here, and racism is the reason for it.

      So, anybody who wants to raise his voice against a specific example of racism is a winner in my book.

      Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

      by hestal on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:44:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks CDV. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nowhere Man, luckydog

    You always make me take time to think.

    And now I am going to go think about this.

  •  It was easy outrage (4+ / 0-)

    that didn't demand much action.

    "I'm addicted to placebos. I could quit, but it wouldn't matter." -- Steven Wright

    by tytalus on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:47:10 AM PDT

  •  Your concern and amusement are duly noted. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster

    Gosh, stupid white people conducting metaphorical lynchings of the black President are just so damned funny. Or they would be, if only the actual history of lynchings in the U.S. didn't get in the way.

    This "low-hanging fruit," this "sugar high" is part of the national dialogue on white racism, not just a distraction from it. Such national discussions do not take place in the hallowed halls of academe or the sumptuously-paneled dens of the pundit class, or even in the diaries and posts of bloggers. They take place in our neighborhoods, our supermarket check-out lines, our church entry halls, and over our back fences. This "lynching" of chairs is just the latest iteration of thesis-antithesis that typifies discussion of race in America. Both sides, for well-known historical reason, reject the false resolution of synthesis; there is no way to blend the two arguments or accommodate both in our modern society. It's winner take all. In trying to isolate the chair-lynchers from the over-all discussion, you are missing the forest by isolating the trees.

    The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature. - Arthur D. Hlavaty

    by Alice Venturi on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 09:57:55 AM PDT

    •  nah, i operate on multiple levels (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      luckydog, Annalize5, BlackNGreen

      i am asking folks to see the bigger picture is all. sure, if  i lived in that neighborhood i would have a little convo with said dude and it wouldn't be nice. is a "lynched chair" worthy of a panic and hysteria all of these Internets? No. As I said, it is mighty odd how substantive structural day-to-day inequality goes by without a peep.

      low hanging fruit is easy to pick.

  •  its a cage match between the perfect and the good. (0+ / 0-)
  •  Call it out and move on to the hard stuff (0+ / 0-)

    It's the deeply entrenched institutional racism that requires strategy, perseverance and very smart social movement to overcome. Here in Chicago we just had a major teacher's strike that very much involved 21st century educational apartheid in all of its inglorious plumage, yet this was rarely discussed in the media, even the progressive media.

    This was brought home to me during the strike when I worked as a volunteer at Strike HQ. Several older black teachers, some retired, some not, engaged me in conversation when they saw my red shirt supporting the strike. They were all loyal union members and they wanted the CTU to stay out as long as possible because of the vicious racist way that resources are allocated in the Chicago Public Schools.

    This happened not just while I was doing my volunteer strike duties, but also on the El platform and in the grocery store. The intense anger they expressed in exacting detail about  the embedded racism in the Chicago schools reminded me of how little educational racism was discussed anywhere in the public media.

    And all of this was to a total random stranger.

    The CTU did bring up the issue, but was largely ignored. This is just one example of how difficult it is to chip away at institutional racism that many people deny exists because they really don't see it.

    We've got one helluva job to do.

    As the song goes,"You know it don't come easy..."

    "Don't believe everything you think."

    by BobboSphere on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 10:20:52 AM PDT

  •  I was unnerved by the hanging chair (0+ / 0-)

    But I was more unnerved at the reaction here.

    I ended up thinking that all I really wanted to do was hang a sign near that hanging chair that said "Strange Fruit".

    "A pride of lions" "A murder of crows" "A wunch of bankers"

    by Glinda on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 10:22:39 AM PDT

  •  chasing? (0+ / 0-)

    I don't know if it's fair to call this "racism chasing".

    It's not like lynching-in-slightly-cryptic-effigy is a moving target.

  •  I enjoy reading CDV's diaries as there is always (0+ / 0-)

    much food for thought in them.

    Personally, my thoughts weren't of panic when I saw the hanging chair but more like, "Predictable, hateful and pathetic but predictable."

    Racism still thrives in this country.  The notion of post-racist America made me want to hurl when I heard the MSM "journalists" touting that phrase after Obama was elected.  Give me fucking break.  

    I live in New York City and between the Stop and Frisk on the street; cops gunning down young men in their homes, their cars or on the street on some trumped up trigger happy whim; the "random" searches of bags in the subways that more often times involve stopping a minority person (I've seen it close up); cabbies bypassing my African American friends in favor of picking up a white person; not being seen by a restaurant hostess when waiting to get a table; being followed in stores by security when shopping with my minority friends; I could go on - racism thrives in this country.

    I wish I knew what the remedies were but I don't.  All I can do is call it out as wrong when I see it.  People hate having a light shown on their darkness.  Will it make a difference?  Probably not but I feel compelled to do so on a personal level.

    BTW - I'm half Native American half French and grew up in an all white community.  I've experienced racism firsthand; know what it looks like and how it feels.

    Is anybody listenin' ? - by Tori del Allen

    by Dumas EagerSeton on Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 02:52:17 PM PDT

  •  As usual (0+ / 0-)

    substantive criticism deserving of substantive discussion. I don't really disagree with the points raised. However, there's aspect of the question that is absent from the diary. That being, the impact of this kind of inciting speech within the "white" class and whether anti-racists so classed can afford to be blase' about such murderous symbolism.

    Speaking from personal experience, I don't think those classed as "white" can afford anything less than a policy of zero tolerance for such expressions. The principle of silence implying consent very much applies. Our history is painfully clear as to the potential consequences. It is, as you've indicated elsewhere, a matter of public sanitation.

    That said, this is only one aspect of the fight against "white" supremacy and shouldn't be substituted for action along a broad front.


    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 01:49:38 PM PDT

  •  I think the best response to such behavior (0+ / 0-)

    is to purposely misunderstand it.

    Instead of assuming that the chair-hanger is a racist a-hole, ask him to explain the semiotics of the chair hanging from his tree. What exactly is the chair symbolic of and why is it hanging from a tree? Does he believe there are too many chairs in the world, or does he think chairs are somehow related to trees? Perhaps he thinks that people mistreat chairs, and by positing the absurdist view that "chairs grow on trees" he is really advocating for the conservation of chairs.

    Who knows? He may think it is a giant Xmas decoration.

    When President Obama wins his second term, I suggest we hang signs with a photo of the presidential chair that says: "This seat is taken--again" with a big smiley face.

    Let the ignorant racists suck on that. If they want to waste time hanging chairs, so be it. Now we all know where they live.

    Non-profit single payer health care. Next question?

    by terran on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 02:10:49 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site