Pardon me for the provocative title, but this being the post-racial wonderland of America, where the only racists are minorities and self-hating white liberals (of which I suppose I must count myself as one), but when I saw a story that a white man, and not just an ordinary citizen, but a public official, not only claimed to own a family heirloom fashioned from the skin of a black man lynched in 1896, but also specifically told African American residents of Algood, TN (that is actually the name of the town, I swear on the spirit of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) in order to intimidate a young black man from filing a complaint against the Algood Fire Department because its Deputy Fire Chief had refused to give his mother CPR, which might have saved her life, because she was, well, BLACK!!!! (excuse the all caps, but I find them appropriate in this instance), why, I just had to ask.
Apparently, the answer to my question is a man named "William Sewell,"a long time medical investigator with the Tennessee Department of Health. Here's the rest of the story:
Last summer, Sewell began investigating a case involving the Algood Fire Department in Putnam County.
In an interview with the man who filed the complaint, Shun Mullins, Sewell began telling a graphic story about a black man who was lynched near Baxter, Tennessee, many years ago.
The state claimed Sewell's conduct in that interview could be perceived as a "form of intimidation" toward Mullins.
First, after asking if Mr. Mullins had ever been a guest of the state's penitentiary, he heard Mr. Mullins describe the refusal of The Algood Fire Department to save his mother's life, and then falsified medical reports to cover up that fact, Sewell decided to relate a little of his own family history regarding race relations:
"Mr. Sewell goes into a story about a hanging, that he had been told, about the hanging of a black man," Mullins said. [...]Thankfully, even the Great State of Tennessee recognized that this was
"They hung him, and they started carving his skin out of his back. It was like he got excited telling this story," Allen remembered.
Judy Mainord said Sewell continued the story by saying, "They lowered the body, and all the white men standing around took turns removing the skin from the black man's back."
The three say Sewell finished with a shocking detail, that he still owned a "strap" of the lynched man's skin, passed down from his grandfather.
William Sewell sat down for an interview with NewsChannel 5 Investigates and said he was not trying to intimidate anyone.
"If they chose to conclude that was an intimidating comment, I'm sorry," Sewell said.
"It was a gruesome story. I got caught up in the moment trying to convince these people that I understood, and I just went too far," Sewell continued.
He said that he was trying to show Mr. Mullins that he understood bias in small towns.
In other words, he's no racist, he's a victim of an unfortunate misunderstanding by the
real racists misguided folks with a darker hued skin tone than his own. Right. And I'm P. Diddy's long lost twin brother. Honest.
By the way, the next time someone brings up the desire to preserve their "southern heritage" by having the "Confederate Flag" (you know the one I mean so no nitpicking please) officially acknowledged by, for example, having it embossed on his or her license plate (which the Georgia Department of Revenue recently agreed to do at the request of the Sons of Confederate Veterans), ask them if preserving the skin of a black man murdered by a mob of white people and passing it down to family members for, oh, I don't know how many generations, is part of that heritage, too. Because for some people we now know that it is.