Year of the noose

When does this…

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Mean this…

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And when does it mean this?

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When is a noose a symbol of execution, and when is it a symbol of lynching of more than 5,000 African Americans in this country — including Duluth?

That is what authorities in Minneapolis are trying to sort out.

Gabriel Keith, 23, said, according to the Associated Press, he “didn’t realize the racist implications of nooses and their connections to lynchings of blacks in the South when he put one up as a joke to get student writers to meet story deadlines” at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

“A noose to me signifies Boy Scouts and westerns, but to them it was racism,” said Keith, who is white. Two African Americans on the staff objected, saying it is a symbol of racial intolerance, the AP reported.

There’s no question who owns the interpretation of certain symbols. The swastika. The Klan hood. But the noose, though it has a past rooted in racist hate, has a broader past. So how to interpret its meaning at any given point?

To be sure, the instances of nooses used as a racial symbol are clear and unmistakable, particularly recently — Jena, Louisiana Columbia University; Valparaiso, Ind. (involving a Minneapolis woman) ;Baltimore; and Stamford, Connecticut. While this was being written, reports came in from Chattanooga and Baltimore (again).

Perhaps we should’ve seen it coming. Ida Castro, then the chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission first warned of the growing use of the noose as racial assault in July 2000.

It’s gotten worse. The Web site, DiversityInc., reports 58 noose incidents this year.

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Question: Is this racist?

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They were journalists, actually, protesting the crackdown on press freedoms in the Ukraine in November 2005.

Shannon Gibney, who teaches English at MCTC, suggested people be held accountable for actions that could be interpreted as racial, regardless of intent.

“There’s a huge history of white people saying, ‘I didn’t know,”‘ she said. “We’ve heard it so many times that we just don’t believe it anymore.”

The other side argues that symbolism is, by its very nature, all about intent; sometimes a noose is just a noose.

If there’s no room for interpretation, is there room for discussion?

  • Patrick

    I think this is the first blog you have done that i read through the whole thing. I really like this new blog. This may sound selfish but some people just need to relax and stop thinking everything is more then it actually is.

  • alonso

    it seems a shame that we get so involved in racial histrionics that we fail to address the real problems.

    is the swastika a symbol of nazi hate or a sacred buddhist and hindu symbol? is the hooded man a member of the kkk or a medieval executioner? is the confederate flag a symbol of slavery or state’s rights? is a noose a symbol of racist vigilante lynchings or symbol of the prison gallows of old europe? the fact is all those symbols represent all those things.

    we get so involved in what it means to us that we forget there is a great big world out there full of people who have a completely different life experience and therefore have a different perspective on just about everything.

    we should stop being so sensitive of everything to the point that it involves our communities on the trivial instead of the root of the problem.

    it doesn’t make our country a better place if no one displays a noose anymore, if it is full of racist people who want to display nooses. education, dialog, economic empowerment, tolerance – these are the things we should be working on. unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to pass a law against displaying a noose. unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to pass a law against displaying a noose.

    what scares me is that it is freedom of speech that is what is really put in jeopardy by this hyper-sensitivity. lynchings were a form of control to keep black people in line through fear. a form of terrorism to keep them silent about the injustice they faced in there daily lives. it is ironic that it is still being used to keep people silent.

    i have always felt that freedom of speech is the greatest protector of truth. give the crazies and the hate mongers enough rope and they will hang themselves. (no racism intended)