A Renewed Icon

“I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky–seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.”

– Joseph Conrad, Heart Of Darkness

Several weeks ago I predicted that, post-Jena, the noose would experience a revival as a powerful image of intolerance. Wasn’t exactly going out on a limb with that one; the lowest common denominator will almost always live up to inch-high expectations.

Still would have been a pleasant surprise to have been wrong:

At least 10 cases have been reported in recent weeks of nooses being found in public buildings in chilling reminders of the country’s deep-seated racial tensions. In one case a noose was left dangling from the door of a black professor at Columbia University’s teachers’ college in New York.The professor, Madonna Constantine, a specialist in psychology and education, has written a book on race equality called Addressing Racism. Officers from the New York police hate crimes task force are investigating.


Among other incidents recently: a noose was found hanging from a store being built in Chicago; a student drove into his high school in Chicago with a noose hanging from his rearview mirror; a noose was found in a police locker room in Long Island, New York; and a woman was arrested in Queens, New York, for flashing a noose at her black neighbours and threatening to kill their children.

brklyngrl @ Open Left and Jack Turner of Jack and Jill Politics have both compiled extensive round-ups of recent noose-related activity. Turner makes the point that even though a lot of these events “are copycats “inspired” by the Jena 6 story”, he cautions us to remember “that George Allen kept one in his law office long before that famous “schoolyard fight” in Louisiana.” In other words: same old shit, brand new yr retro.

Bottom line:

Hanging a noose, like burning a cross or blowing up school children (whether on a city bus or in a church) is an act of terrorism. It forces people to change their habits, quit their jobs and live in fear. It is a threat on one’s life. Black folks in America have been living with some form of terrorism since we arrived here, but somehow, I don’t expect the government will be sending the troops to Hempstead and Louisville and Pittsburgh anytime soon.

Just remember: these incidents are occurring nationwide; I wouldn’t be surprised to soon see it cross the border to Canada. So don’t break out the classist bullshit and shrug it off as a problem endemic to the Southern United States. Racial animosity transcends borders, rural/urban-North/South demographics; we in North America are all still subject to the ongoing hangover of slavery. Shit, that’s what happens when, instead of acknowledging the existence of a problem, one chooses the ostrich route to avoid the stench of corrupting hatred.

South Africa had it right after apartheid when it convened a truth commission “to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation.” The scars from slavery are deep, and reopen easily. And when you have an open wound, you gotta clean it ASAP, even if cauterization hurts like a motherfucker. Otherwise that wound will fester, become gangrenous, and eventually spread, as we see in this endless feedback loop of denial followed by wide-eyed revelation.

I’m sick to fucking death of all this ZOMG racism still exists?!?!!?1 bullshit. Yes, it does. Yes, it will continue to manifest in all-too-familiar form unless we all stop breathing sand and face the ugly truth, “‘The horror! The horror!'”

Related: More on the Columbia University noose incident from dnA, also @ Jack And Jill Politics , who highlights the following quote taken from a NYDaily News article covering the latest visceral reminder that lynching–and racism in general–is far from ancient history:

“I’m upset, but I’m not surprised,” said Shawn Maxam, 26, a master’s degree student who is black. “I think it’s just a reflection of what’s going on in America as a whole.

“We got tricked into thinking that race is not an issue because we’re in 2007 and Barack Obama is running for President. That’s not the case.”

2 Responses to “A Renewed Icon”

  1. Laura says:

    Pretty ominous photo; I’m not sure how a truth commission would work here. We seem to be pretty comfortable with liars these days. I see what you mean about post-apartheid, but what about when your country seems to be on the fast track to embracing apartheid as a great system. My guess is we’ll be seeing more outrageous behavior as people continue to accept hatred as the norm. There is so much openly evil rhetoric from all corners, I’m frankly worried. I was out in the yard the other day raking and my neighbor drove by in his larger than fits on the street SUV with his wife and young kids. He yelled out the window, “Hey, don’t you know that’s why we have all these Mexicans! HAHAHA!!” I’m probably part of the problem by being shocked, but I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. I never really do know what to say on the issue of racism. But thanks for opening the door here.

  2. matttbastard says:

    “…I’m not sure how a truth commission would work here.”

    Well, I sure wasn’t suggesting that the US gov’t set one up! More that the evils of the past–and present–require daylight if healing is ever to commence, using the SA model as an example. Continued denial that racism even exists (or only exists in extreme, isolated examples, like James Byrd) only allows the cycle to perpetuate. The recent revisionist Medved article, along with the post-Jena pushback, shows the loop still hasn’t closed.

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