No One Needs Lynching References

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) made the initial challenge to the seating of lawmakers from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on the House floor in the US Capitol on the first day of the 117th Congress, January 3, 2021, preceding the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6. (Photo by Bill Clark/via Getty Images)

Sorry to all you good ole boys out there who feel like the biggest injustice to ever face Americans has been increased impunity for having to think about what you say and how it might affect another person, but it’s time for a change. This over-reaction to cancel culture is clearly just an excuse to let the Bubbas of the world keep behaving badly and we all know it, and we are better than this.

So far, white men on the wacky right have used the concept to defend some fairly egregious statements — just look at Josh Hawley’s statements after his book deal was canceled when he tried to justify his poor words and actions that appeared to support the attack on the US Capitol. Now Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) thinks it’s completely appropriate to use Toby Keith lyrics during a public session to threaten to lynch people as a response to “cancel culture.”

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For the record, cancel culture hits people on both sides of the aisle and I didn’t hear a peep out of Republicans when Al Franken was being held accountable for his poor decisions, which ultimately led to his resignation. Conservatives seem to only deem the concept worthy of their outrage when it serves their purposes — primarily to make a false equivalency to defend their own poor choices and indecencies.

Enter Chip Roy of Texas’ 21st District. During a congressional hearing yesterday on discrimination and violence against Asian Americans following the recent slayings of predominantly Asian women in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday night, Roy made a completely inappropriate statement about lynchings. (See video embedded in the tweet below.)

Rather than focus on the task at hand, which was a meeting by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, meant to discuss the increasing instances of discrimination and violence against Asian-Americans, Roy claimed the real problem was the perceived crackdown on free speech. He then went on to reference lynchings to further defend his outlandish statement. “We believe in justice,” Roy said. “There’s old sayings in Texas about find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. You know, we take justice very seriously, and we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys. That’s what we believe.”

The first point here is that murdering people with a gun does not constitute free speech — violence or activity that incites violence, which one could argue Chip Roy was actually doing during his statement, is not protected under the the law in the United States. The next point is that ideas espoused by Toby Keith are never the solution to any problem.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) stated in a tweet that Roy was really glorifying lynchings (see above), which are particular methods for violence by white people against people of color, and that the largest mass lynching in the nation’s history was against Chinese immigrants. Rep. Grace Meng, (D-NY), who was at the hearing to testify on the very real issues of discrimination facing the Asian-American community, stated that it was actually Republicans helping to incite the violence. The continued use of negative rhetoric that President Trump first introduced, like the “China virus” to describe the coronavirus, was the real problem.

"Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don't have to do it by putting a bull's-eye on the back of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids,” said Rep. Meng, “This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community, to find solutions, and we will not let you take our voice away from us."

Representative Meng is correct in her assessment — Trump’s weaponized rhetoric amplified a specific anti-Asian narrative and members of the GOP have continued to stoke the fires of that flame despite Trump’s departure. A recent report released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism this month examined hate crimes in 16 of America’s largest cities and revealed that while hate crimes decreased in the US in 2020 by 7 percent overall, hate crimes targeting only Asian people rose by nearly 150 percent.

Asian Americans have indeed been victims in the rise in racist attacks since the onset of the coronavirus, which was first detected in China. Rep. Meng's hometown of New York City experienced one of the sharpest increases in the number of attacks against the Asian-American community during the Covid pandemic and continuing into 2021. Last month, Meng, who has spearheaded efforts to combat the rising Asian racism during the pandemic, reintroduced a new version of her previous resolution that condemned discrimination against Asian Americans and implored "media outlets, scientists and national authorities to avoid naming infectious diseases for locations to avoid stigmatizing groups of people."

Roy has claimed that his lynching references were made in support of Asian-Americans when he said, "And as a former federal prosecutor, I'm kind of predisposed and wired to want to go take out bad guys. That's bad guys of all colors. That's bad guys of all persuasions." But he made no further clarification about needing to reverse the traditional context of the lynching act itself, which is well-known to be an act of violence against minorities.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) testifies before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on "The Trump Administration's Child Separation Policy” on July 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/via Getty Images)

To then suggest that minorities should use that very tactic against their own oppressors not only misses the point, but is also indefensible. It makes no sense that a “former prosecutor” would endorse any tactic moving forward that involved violence or criminal activity, much less from the public forum of a televised seat at a Congressional Hearing on Violence against Asian-Americans.

Roy was also given the chance to clarify his intentions and clear up any mistaken assumptions made about his public statements during the hearing, but he refused to explain himself any further and doubled down in a statement to the conservative outlet the Daily Caller. “Apparently some folks are freaking out that I used an old expression about finding all the rope in Texas and a tall oak tree about carrying out justice against bad guys,” Roy said in his follow-up statement. He made a point to add that he “meant it” and had “no apologies.”

There is no place in the United States for encouraging metaphorical or literal lynchings by any group in any context — we are done with all of that now, or should be. The brutal history of lynchings and what they represent for America means the context of the phrase being used in modern times needs to be exact and carefully calculated. To demand tact and precision is not curtailing anyone’s free speech or enacting “cancel culture,” is is to expect basic human decency from those we have elected to serve and represent ALL of us.

Women protest the increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Pacific Press/via Getty Images)

To derail the conversation and try to make it about the non-existent problem of cancel culture is an insult to the many Americans who need help in combating the racist violence they face every day. To compare the two things in the first place is not only a false equivalency, or straw man argument, it is offensive to many in our country who deserve a more rapid evolution of the ignorant tendencies that racism is predicated upon, and to which bigots continue to cling.

One of the strongest ways to express your thoughts and feelings about Members of Congress continuing to further the racist rhetoric that was firmly established by the Trump administration, is to contact your Representatives to tell them you won’t tolerate this behavior. When you call your Reps and Senators (preferably at their local offices), the call has to be recorded and logged by staff — leaders take an influx in calls over a certain issue very seriously.

Chip Roy is up for re-election in 2022. You can take a stand now in defense of our Asian-American brothers and sisters by letting your voice on this matter be heard. Frankly, taking a stand on this issue helps to serve the equality movement at all levels. You can look up the phone numbers for all of your elected leaders here and you can access a basic script of what to say and how to say it here. Words matter. You can make a difference by reminding some in Congress that their job demands an adherence to dignity and the need to be impeccable with their words — especially in these post-Trump times.

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Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published authorcontributor to newspapers and magazines and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @mamasreallyrule.

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