Conspi-racist candidates and middle names

Dear President Biden,

Maybe it was because of the heretofore unusual pairing of “conspiracist” and “candidates” in the WP Editorial Board’s piece “A Weird Story Out of Colorado Shows the Dangers U.S. Democracy Faces”, but when I first read it, I parsed “conspiracist” as “conspi-racist.” Here’s the full sentence:

“Across the country, conspiracist candidates are running for election administration jobs, from secretary of state on down.”

I think you can probably see why my brain homed in on the racist part of conspiracist. Yes, the GOP’s overarching mission is to corrupt voting and the general handling of elections so they can retain access to power and money in the face of their dwindling proportion of the populace. Check! But their time-tested way of achieving those ends rests squarely on the use of divisive, racist tactics dolled up in flowery legalize they can pass off as protecting the integrity and purity of the vote.

Whether they actually believe the racist bullshit they promulgate or are using it as an expedient means to an end doesn’t matter – it’s still racist. So, ergo, they need “conspi-racist candidates” to keep the game going, people who will at least mouth all the right stuff about stolen elections and the dire need to protect “democracy.” Better yet, if the candidates actually believe all this horseshit, they can go full throttle without any worry about pesky truth-tells.

I don’t think there’s much more to say about this linguistic parsing exercise except that I hope someone responsible for campaign advertising on the Dems’ side figures it out too since it could be a handy opposition tool.

The other thing I wanted to mention today is that I’ve become a bit obsessed with middle names since seeing “George Floyd” spray-painted on the old remains of the foundation of a house in the Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa. The picture is on the flyleaf of the new book An Impulse to Keep: Greenwood Art Project, which depicts and describes 100 art projects commemorating the Greenwood massacre. Laura got me the book a few weeks ago and while many of the art projects described are wonderful, it’s that picture of George Floyd’s name scrawled on a busted up house foundation that’s been haunting me.

Maybe because the book is about braiding together the area’s origin stories, the trauma of the massacre, and the rebuilding and resilience of Greenwood’s citizens, it prompted me to wonder what George’s middle name, his third name, was (is? – it’s still his middle name even if he is no longer able to claim it himself).


I don’t know – I think that’s giving me way too much credit for lofty, insightful thinking. I think it’s more likely that seeing his first and last names there looking so forlorn led me to want more and the only more I could come up with was to find out his middle name, which is Perry.

Sandra Bland’s middle name is Annette. Tamir Rice’s middle name is Elijah. Trayvon Martin’s middle name is Benjamin. Breonna Taylor’s middle name is Shaquelle. Michael Brown’s two middle names are Orlandus and Darrion.

I tried to find Charleena Lyles’ middle name – she who was one of the first people to be memorialized with the “say her name” campaign – and except for Serenity Seattle listing her middle initial as being C, there doesn’t seem to be any record of what it is.

I feel like there’s something tender about people’s middle names. Yours is Robinette. Mine is Lynn.

Knowing that George Floyd’s is Perry doesn’t do a damn thing about the injustices surrounding his murder, but it does help me feel a tiny bit closer to him and I think it’ll help me stay clear that he was someone’s child.

May we all be safe – simply safe.
May we all be willing to guard against conspi-racist candidates.
May we all be strong enough to honor each ones’ preciousness.
May we accept that to do otherwise damns us all.

Tracy Simpson

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