Nooses and the Silent Truth
This morning I was shaken awake by the thought of nooses (that and something that sounded like a Transformers battle outside of my window). Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past couple of weeks, you know that nooses have been making appearances all around, particularly college campuses. The most recent documented incident was at Columbia’s Teacher’s College but others have been recently been placed at the University of Maryland and now infamously in Jena, Louisiana. Taken together, the same strand runs throughout these incidents: cowardice.
Each time I hear about a noose hanging I become concerned, but at the same time perversely aware. As Ida B. Wells said, “Our country’s national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob.” While these incidents may be isolated in the forensic sense they are bound in the sociological sense by their support of a White supremacist ideology. A noose is not a joke, a noose is not a prank, a noose is a symbol of violence and threat. The hangings of nooses should rouse not just our consciousness, but also raise a sick sense of delight … now hear me out. We have to go back to see where I’m coming from.
The noose’s use has not simply been limited to racial violence (please save the asinine argument about nooses being used in the Wild West for some other blog), but for most contemporary Americans, its use is deeply tied to this country’s history of lynching.
Lynching, as documented by many researchers, was a group act of cowardice. While most the assailants in many lynchings were known, the crimes conspicuously occurred at the hands of persons unknown. Lynchings occurred in public but were treated like private affairs when it came to the formal distribution of justice (hmmm, guess young Black America isn’t the first folks with a ‘stop snitching’ campaign). For me, it’s most important that we realize racial lynchings really took hold of America when Whites, particularly Southern Whites, were losing power. The prospects of Black progress were/are so dangerous the last resort is violence or insinuation of violence. It’s truly the last resort of a dispossessed people. As scholars like Cornel West and others have pointed out, these crimes were some of the earliest and truest forms of terrorism we have seen on American soil.
In 2007, as my Black brothers and sisters challenge the status quo in Jena, continue to press through institutions of higher education despite the death of Affirmative Action in Maryland, and offer nuanced critiques and advice about the pernicious and viral effects of racism at Columbia … the old guard is getting nervous. After centuries of dedicated attempts to segregate, oppress, and dehumanize, we as a people continue to struggle towards equality, humanity, and our highest selves … damn right they’re nervous.
Now if you know anything about me, then you know I don’t look at the world through rose colored glasses, but I think this silent truth that White supremacists are getting nervous should continue to motivate us to push and continue to break down the infrastructure of White supremacy. As we stand up for the rights of the Jena Six, the students in Marlyland, the professors at Columbia do not lose sight of the larger project. There is much work still to be done in our community, so please protest the nooses, challenge hate, and continue to strengthen our community and children. My personal domain is education. Each day Black and Brown children are lynched by inadequate schools, hollowed homes, and a world that tells them ‘no’ when all they really need to hear is ‘yes’. I’ll leave you with the words of another ancestor, Carter G. Woodson, regarding the education of Black folks, though I cannot say I am in complete agreement, I definitely see his point. “This crusade [proper education of Blacks] is much more important than the anti- lynching movement, because there would be no lynching if it did not start in the schoolroom.”
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