Rick Tyler’s inflammatory racist billboards may have come down, but public outrage over Tyler rages on.
The local businessman-turned-candidate for U.S. Congress representing Tennessee’s 3rd District installed the massive billboards near Highway 411 in Polk County. One sign read “Make America White Again,” and another invoked civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and read “I Have a Dream” over an image of the Capitol surrounded by Confederate flags.
The billboard messaging directed voters to Tyler’s website, where he explicitly cited Donald Trump as the inspiration for the signs, suggesting that Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan cut close to “the very core and marrow of what plagues us as a nation.”
“With its towering and massive stature, the billboard sign is difficult to ignore and its message comes across as authoritative and influential,” said Tyler. “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 and the manner in which he has loosened up the overall spectrum of political discourse.”
The Kiwanis of Ocoee and other local residents disagreed with Tyler, and once they joined the boycott of his restaurant, the billboards mysteriously disappeared.
Of course, Tyler doesn’t think his signs are hateful at all. In fact, he plans to put up other billboards, including “Fight federal tyranny / Stop the Muslim invasion” and “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be miscegenators.”
In Tyler’s interview with WRCB-TV he also said he didn’t hate people of color.
Nice try, Rick.
“It was intended to elicit the idea in people’s minds of … what ‘Make America White Again’ could possibly mean. My quick response to that is the ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ ‘Ozzie and Harriet,’ ‘Mayberry’ America that I grew up in was a better America,” Tyler said, claiming that time had no “break-ins” or “Muslim sleeper cells,” had less immigration by people of color — and was so safe you could leave your doors unlocked.
Tyler also expressed fondness for a time when there was an “85 percent super white majority.”
Another independent candidate running for a seat to represent TN’s 3rd District in Congress named Topher Kersting said he met Tyler at an event in Polk County, had this to say about Tyler:
“He’s about as racist as you can get, from what I can tell,” Kersting said, noting the main image on Tyler’s campaign website.
Tyler’s campaign blog posts are no better: They include a series of audio clips talking about white fright and “the browning of America.”
“He wants to go back to the 1950s where whites are in control and blacks ‘know their place,’” Kersting said, adding, “He’s wide open about it. It’s kind of scary we’re not past this.”
“There will be some people who will latch on to his ideas,” Kersting said. “Unfortunately, with Trump in the race, there’s nothing discouraging that.”
Tyler’s billboard statement and run for Congress is just another example on the Trump effect we’ve been experiencing in the 2016 presidential election process. And we’ve witnessed this type of effect down through history. Unfortunately we still have not learned the lesson history has taught us. Hopefully, one day that will come.
In the interim, we must never forget our past, or the past of others across the world and what happened. As the esteemed Elie Wiesel has said:
We must always take sides.
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
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