The noose is an ugly symbol. To put it in context, it is the equivalent of the secular crucifixion. The historical significance to Christians of the cross, source of persecution, is almost identical to the historical significance for African Americans of twisted rope.
My father found this out when he traveled South to Mississippi in 1967. A white man registering black men to vote and run for public office, he heard the racist epithets and felt the spittle of little children and saw the footsteps of the KKK, visible and proud.
And he saw nooses in the trees. To my white father, it was repellent. To his black clients, it was a daily reminder of the national sickness for which there were no vaccines or legislative cures.
So I abhor nooses, and the vile, acidic effect they have on the eyes and the spirit. You don’t play with them, even to make a point. Emmett Till and generations of unnamed martyrs don’t deserve that dishonor.
That’s why I’m angry about what I suspect happened this week on Lombard Street. Philly.com reported on Saturday that a noose had been found hanging from a tree near the old Graduate Hospital. It was haphazardly thrown, not tied to a branch, but the shape was unmistakable.
A police spokesman could not confirm who threw it there, although they had video of a white man throwing the rope in the tree, and then walking away. Tellingly, he met up with a black man and they engaged in what appeared to be conversation right after he threw the noose.
I say “tellingly” because at the very least, the color of the thrower’s companion raises a legitimate question about the motive underlying the act: Why would a black man be involved, even tangentially, in a hate crime involving a noose? This isn’t about the “N” word, which I’ve been told that blacks should be able to use with impunity, even though I, a white woman, can’t. At some level, I get that.
But a noose? A murderous symbol of genocide? Why would a target of that genocide be complicit in using it?
Unless … we’re being played, and instead of a hate crime, this was an attempt at agitprop from the antifa, the left-leaning groups that find relevance and a sense of mission in magnifying acts of bigotry and racism perpetrated by the right wing.
I’ve seen horrific inhumanity in my lifetime. I do asylum law, it’s a daily thing. Christians murdered in Lebanon and Syria, lesbians raped in Russia, women beaten and forced to abort their children in Honduras, Muslims killed for helping Christians by other Muslims in Pakistan.
The world is a dangerous place, and we are not spared, we comfortable Americans, from those dangers. Hatred of “the other” exists. I heard it in my radio show the other day, when I talked about the vicious symbolism of the noose and someone brushed it off. I also heard naiveté or deliberate dishonesty when another listener tried to paint the GOP as the true heroes of the civil-rights movement (uh, nice try but context is everything).
And I’m the daughter of a white man who saw nooses swinging in the trees outside of black clients’ homes.
But making this incident a front-page story about “intolerable racism” is unfair, unwise and unproductive if it turns out that the hands that tied the noose were also raised in fists protesting President Trump. We don’t know yet what happened. Let’s wait before jumping to conclusions, because far too many of these supposed incidents turned out to be fake news. And when you cry wolf often enough, people stop listening. That is a dangerous thing, as any real victim can tell you.
So if this was a hate crime, put their racist behinds in jail.. If it was an attempt to create a “hate crime” to further the political and societal divide, double the sentence.
Playing games with murderous symbols is a national sickness, too.