The fact that racism and bigotry continue to flourish in 21st Century America is a sad commentary on our country. Unfortunately, they are seemingly intractable character flaws in people that cannot be legislated away, a natural consequence of tribal mentality exacerbated by the competition of capitalism. However, what is truly making things worse is the candidacy of one Donald Trump, the reality TV star turned Republican nominee for president. Trump has run a campaign that focuses on and leverages the racial and religious schisms among too many American voters. He has given license to bigots and racists, and inspired by him, they have come out of the woodwork to cheer him on.
Rick Tyler, a restaurant owner in Polk County, Tennessee, who has decided to run for Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, posted a billboard with this image:
According to ABC affiliate NewsChannel 9, Tyler explicitly cites Trump as an inspiration for the sign, per Tyler’s congressional campaign website, on a page titled “The Billboard Strategy.”
“For these reasons we are confident that a widespread and creative billboard advertising game plan could go a long way toward making the Rick Tyler For Congress candidacy both viable and a force to be reckoned with. Clearly we are in uncharted waters, in that there has never been a candidacy like this in modern political history. Of great significance, as well, is the reality of the Trump phenomenon (my emphasis) and the manner in which he has loosened up the overall spectrum of political discourse.”
Other proposed titles for possible billboards include “Fight federal tyranny / Stop the Muslim invasion” and “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be miscegenators” (miscegenation, the newest buzzword to be embraced by racists across America, is a fancy way of saying interracial sex, marriage, or procreation.)
While the billboard has since been taken down, its message has angered and offended many locals. Some of them took to Facebook to express their thoughts. Citizen Amy Hines Woody said that “I am so enraged I can barely express myself without copious amounts of profanity. This disgusting bunch of bigotry was erected about 20 minutes from our house. The person listed, Mr. Rick Tyler, is a local business owner. He owns/runs the Whitewater Grill in Ocoee, TN. Please, if you are the decent and loving people I know you to be, boycott this business. We’ve already complained to the authorities (and so have MANY others). People of ALL colors have died in defense of our country and this reprehensible display is not MY America.”
As a loyal customer of Tyler’s grill, Jimmy Johnson said on his Facebook page that “As a person who has eaten at the Whitewater Grill, in Ocoee, and spoken with the owner regularly for the past several years, as well as highly recommended his establishment to hundreds of rafting guests, I have 2 things to say. First, I am surprised to learn that Rick Tyler is running for Congress, I had no idea. Second, I am shocked an[d] appalled to visit his campaign’s website and learn his views and beliefs through the audio clips, specifically about the “racial problem” America is facing.”
Tyler’s website (which has also since been taken down) also holds such gems as “as a result of the browning of America, we now stand on the precipice of destruction.”
The bottom line is that while this vile hatred is not new, Trump’s hate-mongering racist rants have allowed this streak to surface and fest in many Americans – as reflected by the nearly 15 million votes he has received. Trump has given this hatred a megaphone and mainstreamed white supremacy groups, and it will take years to undo the damage that he has done to this country.