Monday, November 5, 2007

The Hangman's Noose: America's Dark Past And Present.

Monday, November 5, 2007

From the end of the Civil War until 1981, more than 4,700 people were lynched in America. That's insane. More than two-thirds of them were black. For each of the almost 3,500 black Americans who were lynched, thousands more of their loved ones would bear lifelong scars.

These numbers are hard to look at, but it’s a reality from our past that we must confront. And the problem is that violence is terribly uninstructive in America. It's almost numbing. We never seem to learn anything about racial violence. We commit the crimes; we forget them. We never seem to learn our lesson.

This is my lesson.

By now, we all know the story of Jena, Louisiana, a small town that was minding its own business, until it suddenly became a reluctant symbol for the racial ills still plaguing our nation. It started when three white teenagers hung nooses from a tree on the Jena High School campus. It was a small, but ugly episode, with enormous consequences. The following months saw fights between blacks and whites. And finally a group of black teens stomped a white boy into unconsciousness. The stiff charges brought against one of those black kids made Jena a potent symbol of racial division. You can debate the issues of Jena Six, but there's no denying the power of the noose, which has become increasingly popular of late.

Just hours after 20,000 protesters marched against what they saw as racial injustice in Jena, police in nearby Alexandria stopped two teenagers in a pickup truck. Hanging from the back, two yellow nylon ropes -- each with a noose.

In quick succession, more incidents. In September, the FBI began a hate crime investigation at my alma mater, the University of Maryland. A small noose was found hanging on a tree in front of the building which houses the Black Student Union. On September 28th, a noose was hanged at a police station in Hempstead, arguably the blackest area on Long Island. At the beginning of October, two kids hung a noose at a South Carolina high school. And five days later, a noose was found on the door of a black professor's office at New York's Columbia University.

I’m appalled by what the noose represents. When I think about the noose, when I see it, I think of my ancestors hanging off trees. I’m appalled that in 2007, someone has the audacity to hang it…anywhere. At the end of the day, whatever you may know about the Klan or race relations in America, the noose means one thing -- it means death by hanging.

Hanging a noose on a door or tree or anywhere reeks of cowardice and fear on many, many levels. I honestly feel like it's directed toward me individually, but I think, also, the community has been affected by it -- whites, and people of color. I’m not talking about those who are in the Klan or in a neo-Nazi group or who are waving Confederate flags or, in fact, participating in the noose incidents. I'm talking about a much broader swathe of the white American public, largely Southern, who I think are very angry about Jena and what they see as a misportrayal of what happened in Jena.

In this remarkably diverse nation of 300 million people, are two dozen nooses cause for concern? I think so. Most of those responsible for hanging those nooses will never be identified. What we do know, is that as America's dark history recedes further into the past, it's more important than ever that we - black, white, young and old - understand the horrors of the noose.


That Dude Right There said...

I honestly think that these people who hung the nooses got what they wanted. And that was to get people all pissed off. I truly believe that we can ignore them without forgetting about the meaning of the noose.

As long as we give them attention, they will continue to seek it.

Darius T. Williams said...

Thanks for our history lesson, bruh!

Mr. Jones said...

It really surprises me that more people didn't comment on this.


the only reason i see that the noose has become a racial issue is because of people like al sharpton making it a racial issue. prior to the first black person ever being lynched, the standard mode of execution throughout the world was hanging. pirates, those suspected of treason, horse thieves, cattle rustlers, murderers, bank robbers, arsonists and rapists. most were white. what the noose represents is vigilante justice and lawlessness. thousands of innocent people were hung by the stupidity of vigilantes long before the civil war and after. it's not a racial issue but a stupidity issue. anything can be considered racial if you make it that way. stupidity is just stupidity.

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