If you haven’t been paying attention, there have been a number of folks playing off of Clint Eastwood’s lecture to the “empty chair” to express their political views. In a number of places across the U.S., people have been hanging empty chairs in their trees and there is some concern that this may be a veiled racist comment with Obama (a black man) being lynched. Here is a link to a news story about on of these displays in Michigan: http://www.wzzm13.com/news/regional/226919/5/Hanging-chairs-Political-statement-or-racist.
In my opinion, this is not a veiled display but a clear example of how white folks don’t think about the contexts of their decisions when it comes to a racialized issue like the American presidency. As Wingfield and Feagin’s book, Yes We Can? suggested, since 2008, the American public has not been able to separate race from the presidential election when a Black man is clearly running for the office. More important, as Bonilla-Silva points out in his book, Racism with Racists, white folks who hang these chairs in the tree don’t even think it could have any context to Jim Crow lynchings because they don’t remember the U.S.’s racialized past or present. They also camouflage any racist slight with abstract liberalism, calling out their rights to freedom of speech without recognizing that their words and actions do have consequences. Or, they don’t recognize that this plays into a larger theme in which nooses are often hung in trees as a warning to blacks (remember Jena Six?). In fact, check out this report in the New York Times about the rash of noose incidents across the U.S. in 2006 to 2007. Also, consider why nooses or even hanging a chair in a tree might be seen as a “racist” action based on this SPLC article. I’m sorry but when symbols gather their various socio-historical meanings, these meanings aren’t lost just because you didn’t think about it. And, one final thought to all those non-believers in Facebook land, you are right, no one would get upset if had happened to Mitt because HE DOESN’T HAVE THE SOCIAL CONTEXT TO MAKE IT OFFENSIVE!! However, what if we hung Joseph Smith in a tree? Think about it (or maybe you don’t get the reference).