African American Republican voters in Mississippi this week supported Cindy Hyde-Smith in the Senate runoff election, despite allegations of racism that came with plenty of receipts.
She defeated Black Democrat Mike Espy, although earlier this month she was thrust in the social media glare when a video surfaced of her bragging at a public event that she’d be “on the front row” if she were invited to “a public hanging.”
Given Mississippi’s unsettling history of having the highest number of lynchings of African-Americans of any state, civil rights leaders and activists condemned Hyde-Smith and endorsed Espy. If Espy had won, he would’ve been Mississippi’s first Black U.S. Senator since 1883.
McClatchy DC interviewed nearly a dozen Black Republicans in Mississippi who said they were not offended in the least by Hyde-Smith’s comments on Nov. 2.
“I just choose to look at it as a possible mistake and chalk it up to that,” John Mosley Jr., an African American Republican, told the news outlet. “And I haven’t given it much thought afterward.”
“I’m a Republican. I support Cindy Hyde-Smith,” Charles Evers, the 96-year-old brother of slain-NAACP leader Medgar Evers, told McClatchy. “She didn’t say anything about Black folks, she didn’t say anything about white folks. She just said ‘If there’s a hanging I’ll be in the front row’ or something like that. She didn’t mean nothing like that. She was just saying something. I don’t give a damn what other people think.”
To ensure Hyde-Smith’s win, Donald Trump held rallies in Biloxi and Tupelo, which reinforced Black conservative’s allegiance to her campaign.
Only seven percent of African Americans nationwide identify with the Republican Party, and of those who spoke to McClatchy argued that strengthening their party was a top priority.
Rogena Mitchell, a Black Republican from Vancleave, Miss., admits she was “startled and concerned” about Hyde-Smith’s hanging remark but then also clarified, “It’s not going to impact my vote,” adding, “as we face the scenario of a Republican versus a Democrat and the principles that both parties ascribe to, I’m going to have to support her regardless of her comments.”
“I’m a Republican. I support Cindy Hyde-Smith. She didn’t say anything about black folks…she just said ‘If there’s a hanging I’ll be in the front row’ or something like that. She didn’t mean nothing.“- Charles Evers
— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) November 28, 2018