Cindy HydeSmith.jpg

Cindy HydeSmith

The words came flying in from Mississippi and they were unbelievable. They were spoken by a politician, and they were so cruel and racist that the distance that they traveled did not soften them.

But in the hostile political environment we live in across the United States, they unfortunately raised only a few eyebrows. An hour later, the media and the public had moved on to bigger and more gruesome bits of bigotry and sexism.

Last week, Mississippi's Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said while on a campaign stop that if a rancher who had praised her had “invited me to a public hanging, I’d be in the front row.” Let those words sink in for a few minutes. From my vantage point, and that of many — OK, virtually all — of the people who look like me, the whole idea of public hanging is abhorrent.

Now think about this. Hyde-Smith is trying to keep her Senate seat against an African-American challenger. She uttered those words in a state that was the national champion or runner-up in lynchings of African Americans.

This kind of horrible rhetoric comes as a report just out says that hate crimes are on the rise — and that they zoomed up 17 percent in 2017 just as the Medal of Bone Spur winner was riding high and began stoking the flames with incendiary comments about minorities.

There was a time you would look to the leader of this country to use his bully pulpit to denounce such horrid comments as those by Hyde-Smith, especially knowing the widespread use of public and private hangings in Mississippi and around the South.

Yeah, you would think. But not this president. It’s those kinds of words that get some of his supporters in a lather, and he knows it

There might be a gentlemen’s wager somewhere that the president might be upset that he didn’t come up with the phrase. He still has his prized comment for the ultra-racists among his supporters. Remember when he said there were some “good people on both sides” in Charlottesville, when one of those sides were Nazis and KKK members. Good Nazis? It’s your viewpoint, I guess.

Getting back to the hate crime report. The Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s Hate Crime Statistics Report said hate crimes rose about 5 percent in 2015-2016, but jumped 17 percent in 2017. Hmmm. A closer analysis revealed that 59 percent of the hate crimes were over race, 20 percent over religion and 15 percent over sexual orientation.

But the numbers could be much worse because some law enforcement agencies don’t report hate crime at all. Reporting is not mandatory.

Do you think our president’s comments that there are “good people” among Nazis, his demonizing of Hispanics and constant ridicule of black professionals, especially black women, as dumb and low IQ, fans the flames? Those comments, like the wistful reference to public lynchings, hurt people of color from Washington, D.C. to Baton Rouge. But it revs up many in the anti-minority and religion community. The hate crimes report speaks for itself.

The findings of the report sure seem to indicate that the president’s comments and those like the one from Hyde-Smith have been stirring the pot for some of the recent rash of hate crimes.

Now the president is saying, as one of his growing mountain of lies, and without a smidgeon of proof, that some elections are illegitimate because people were voting, then using disguises to vote again. Of course, his comments are primarily focused on campaigns where African-Americans and other minorities are a large percentage of the voting numbers.

Let’s hope that Louisiana can remain above the racism that has been inspired by the nation’s commander in chief in the upcoming races and in the battle for the governor's office next year. Let’s leave the public lynching jokes in the cesspool from which they sprang.

Let’s hope the president will curtail his racist comments and be presidential and unify the nation by denouncing people like Hyde-Smith. OK, OK. We can hope.

Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at epratt1972@yahoo.com.