The Return of the Hangman’s Noose: A Pathetic New Chapter in our Young History

Apparently it wasn’t enough that the whole Jena incident started with the hanging of a noose, which escalated into suspensions, violence and torrents of negative publicity for Jena, La. Now a couple of teens — ignorant is the only way to describe them — have decided to harass protesters by driving by them with nooses hanging out of a truck. The U.S. Coast Guard reported two miniature noose incidents: A black cadet found one in his sea bag in July, and in August a white female civil rights instructor found a noose in her office. On top of that, at Columbia University there was found a noose hanging on the office door of a black professor.

There are more than enough voices expressing outrage at these incidents, so I’ll try to explain the problem with these symbols. Nooses are a sign of death; they have been used, almost exclusively, to end human life. Seeing a noose is almost synonymous to a death threat. On top of that, before and after fighting on both sides of the Civil War, African-Americans were hanged without trial and often without reason, with the law backing the lynch mobs. What’s worse: That part of our history is current enough that many blacks alive today have relatives who told them stories about such incidents. The death of someone close is always a sensitive issue, but the grief is compounded when the death is caused through injustice. The noose represents unjust murders of black people, and for this reason the symbol causes undue hurt and ought not be used in a civilized society.

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