The Republican Party of Virginia paid for the production of racist attack mailers against two state legislators up for reelection this year, both of whom are Black men. The existence of the mailers, which were sent to Virginians on Saturday, was first reported by Blue Virginia.
The mailers depict Del. Alex Askew, D-Virginia Beach, and Del. Josh Cole, D-Fredericksburg/Stafford, with rope around their torsos, hands, and feet, their bodies lifted in the air.
“D.C. Liberals are Pulling the Strings in Richmond… Alex Askey is just another radical puppet,” the text reads of one mailer. On the flip side, the mailer calls on recipients to “Vote early Karen Greenhalgh.”
While purportedly meant to depict the two Black delegates as “puppets”—those ropes are attached to a woman’s hand, and an image of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are in the corner—the message was different to those who were the subject of them and to those with knowledge of the violent means white Americans took to keep Black Americans subjugated throughout U.S. history.
“Now, your party is depicting me as bound & hanging by a rope,” Askew wrote on Twitter. “These images rely on some of the laziest, most blatantly racist tropes about Black people in history.”
The mailers follow two that went out in September featuring images of the two delegates that appear to be burning.
At the time of that mailer, Askew wrote, “My opponent’s attack mailer displayed a darkened, burning photo of my face. I’m a black man. Depicting any black person as burning or hanging propagates some of the most dangerous, racist tropes in history. This dog whistle attack has no place in our politics.”
His opponent, when called on to apologize, took to Twitter to address the latest mailers. “Many in the 85th district received an offensive mailer today,” Greenhalgh wrote Saturday. “Neither myself nor anyone on my campaign staff approved this mailer. I do not condone it’s imagery.”
Right Wing Watch reached out to the Republican Party of Virginia for comment; at the time of publication, we have not received a response.
The mailers weren’t the only of its kind sent out, but the difference in the depiction of Del. Chris Hurst, who is white, and that of his Black colleagues was notable: string was used in place of rope, his feet remained on the ground, and no rope was tied around his waist.
The @VA_GOP is embracing white supremacy. Compare these two mailers they sent against two Dem Delegates.@ChrisHurstVA (who is white) is tied to *string* & on the ground.@JoshuaCole (who is Black) is on *hanging by rope.*😳
This isn’t a dog whistle. It’s a racist blow horn. pic.twitter.com/duzif1cE7s
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) October 3, 2021
It goes to show whether this type of attack mailer will bring out Republican voters or fuel the engagement of those alarmed by the message being sent.
“Just remember, 20% of the 28th are Black Constituents … since you want to serve everybody,” Cole wrote on Facebook.