12 October 2007

What the noose?

On Tuesday morning a noose was found hanging from the doorknob of Madonna Constantine's office at Columbia University's Teachers College.

Madonna Constantine is black. She is a professor of psychology and teaches a class on social justice. She co-wrote the book "Addressing Racism: Facilitating Cultural Competence in Mental Health and Educational Settings."

She issued a statement saying, "I am upset that the Teachers College community has been exposed to such an unbelievably vile incident, and I would like us to stay strong in the face of such a blatant act of racism. Hanging the noose on my office door reeks of cowardice and fear on many levels. I want the perpetrator to know that I will not be silenced."

So as you can imagine the student newspaper was up in arms and they had rallies in the dining hall and now Columbia has turned over the security tapes to the NYPD hoping to spot whomever left the noose on the videos. I'm not sure what I think about all of this; I'm going to withhold any editorial commentary until I know more. It just seems very random and fishy; undoubtedly awful and malicious, but random.

So today cops found another noose at a post office on Church Street; a few blocks from "Ground Zero". And now it seems simply the sight of a noose somehow evokes instant images of racism. I dunno. Sounds like everybodys got a guilty conscience. Am I just being naive or selectively callous?

A noose on the door of a black professors office is fucked up and horrible and defies coincidence; its obviously laden with hate and symbolic of atrocity. However, simply the sight of a noose does not immediately make me think of racism and I think its odd that we've come to assume these things.

I suppose hot off the heels of the Columbia story on a slow news week, the major news outlets are running with it and impregnating simply the sight of a noose now with malicious intent; I just don't buy it.

Playing Devil's Advocate...

Nooses have been used on ropes in Colonial America as well as England during the 16th and 18th centuries. It is still used in those US states which allow hanging as method of capital punishment. The noose is also known as The Hangmans Knot and a "collar" during Elizabethan times.

The phrase "tightening the noose" refers to knots of this sort; it is used metaphorically to describe encircling military maneuvers, by law enforcement to describe either a physical attempt at surrounding a criminal or the ongoing success of an investigation generally, etc.

Now, I am not being naive, just trying to prove a point I guess; I do realise and regretfully appreciate the awful connotations of this particular knot as it is often seen as a reminder of lynching, the Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan; but for me, its just not what immediately comes to mind when I see a noose; it doesn't come to mind at all, actually. Do I have my head in the sand? Am I callous or just ignorantly blissful? I don't think so.

Honestly, the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word or see a noose is suicide. Lynching and racism and the fucking Ku Klux Klan never even enter my mind... Discuss.

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