Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
I spent some time yesterday looking into a claim I’d seen circulating the web about Mississippi governor Phil Bryant, which was that he was the nephew of Carolyn and Roy Bryant. Carolyn Bryant was the woman who accused young Emmett Till of propositioning her; Roy, her husband, was one of the men who then kidnapped Till and murdered him. Garden-variety American racism saw to it that nobody answered for this heinous crime, which was one of several galvanizing moments in the Civil Rights struggle of the mid-20th century.
At first I took the claim at face value — he was named Bryant and this is Mississippi, where the Confederate emblem is a key component of the state flag and where earlier this week a woman who had joked about public hangings and had a family history of supporting and attending segregationist schools was nonetheless elected as a United States senator. Why should I be surprised that its governor had such direct ties to the Till lynching?
Except the further one looks into the story the thinner its central premise becomes; there is an online essay from 2016 that relies on a USA Today article as its most prominent source, but that article was updated to reflect that the claim of Bryant’s heritage was unsubstantiated. The essay never noted that retraction, so if you read it without following the source link you walk away assuming that the story is true: Phil Bryant is the nephew of Till’s murderers.
Bryant, of course, consistently denies it and there is no hard evidence otherwise. And I try to hew to the principles of both power and accuracy when I nock the arrow in the bowstring and let it fly.
But after so many years of watching Barack Obama harangued about his origins, to the point that he was compelled to release his own long-form birth certificate in what turned out to be a failed attempt to end the conversation because the conversation was never really about his legal legitimacy to be president but about what right he had to consider himself the equal of any white man.
After so many years of that.
It can be difficult, is what I’m saying, not to toss another log onto a fire.
Author’s Note: Phil Bryant remains an awful person and terrible governor. Let none of that be in question.