“How is the white man going to control the government?” asked James K. Vardaman in 1907. “If it is necessary, every Negro in the state will be lynched; it will be done to maintain white supremacy.”
“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” said Cindy Hyde-Smith in 2018, to laughter and applause from her audience while campaigning last week.
Hyde-Smith’s comments underscore the audacity of white womanhood, a theme that played out nationwide as white women in many states overwhelmingly voted to elect right-wing, anti-choice racist men.
Hyde-Smith is the junior senator from the state which is known for the most lynchings in history. She is currently campaigning against a man who, if elected, would be the first African-American senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction. And she sees nothing inappropriate about her “joke.”
She’s not alone.
In 1922, Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia became the first woman to serve in the Senate, though only for one day. She was a strident white supremacist who openly supported lynchings, once declaring that, “If it takes lynching to protect women’s dearest possession from drunken, ravening beasts, then I say lynch a thousand a week.”
Note the way Felton reduces women’s value to their private parts. In a press conference on Monday, announcing her endorsement by National Right to Life, Cindy Hyde-Smith very much did the same thing.
After reiterating a statement calling her comment “an exaggerated statement of regard” and referring to those who see a “negative connotation” to her words as “ridiculous,” Hyde-Smith hid behind Governor Phil Bryant’s coattails as he went on an anti-choice rant.
Bryant cited a seemingly nonexistent Wikipedia page to claim that Hyde-Smith is much more “pro-life” than the black women he claims are responsible for “the genocide of 20 million African-American children.” Of course, Bryant’s refusal to expand Medicaid, support quality public education, create living-wage jobs or address the disparities in the maternal mortality rates of black and white women are acts much closer to genocide than women simply making healthcare decisions.
Moreover, Mississippi has a history of actual genocide — involving sterilizing black women, including Fannie Lou Hamer — which Bryant doesn’t feel compelled to address. His “pro-life” posturing is actually about controlling women, not saving lives.
Meanwhile, Hyde-Smith has still failed to articulate just how enthusiastic attendance at public executions makes her “pro-life.”
Jaz Brisack is a senior general studies major from Oxford.