much-heralded speech on
race relations, Barack Obama bemoaned the idea that
"We can tackle race only as spectacle."
Calling the manufactured hysteria about
the alleged proliferation of noose hangings across the
country a "spectacle" would be an understatement.
But now both federal and state governments are trying to
"tackle" this problem by passing
Recently, the state legislatures of
Maryland and Connecticut took significant steps towards
banning nooses. The Maryland House of Delegates voted
111 to 20 to give up to three years in prison and a
5,000 dollar fine for the offense. Connecticut`s
unanimously approved a similar measure 43-0. A bill
has already been enacted in Michigan and one is underway
in the District of Columbia.
According to Saqib Ali, a Maryland State
representative whose parents came from Pakistan, and who
cosponsored the bill in Maryland, "The noose is the
premier symbol of hatred now, people don`t burn crosses
Would Ban Noose Display, By Kate Queram,
Capital News Service, March 21, 2008] The bill
failed, but in all such attempts to pass bad laws,
the legislators only have to be lucky once.
abolition of slavery, over
3,000 African Americans and 1,200 whites were
lynched without fair trial. Though the majority of
lynchings were for serious crimes like murder and rape,
85 known cases where blacks were
lynched merely for insulting whites. (Statistics on
lynching are kept by Tuskegee University.) In light of
this history, a noose can have extremely racist and
However, unlike cross burnings, nooses
did not ipso facto represent racism and
oppression until recently. Depending on the context,
they could be a symbol of mob justice or
tough law and order. In the
Old West, the
"vigilantism" of which the Minutemen are so
frequently accused was
a matter of whites hanging other whites, such as
cattle rustlers or
Thus in 2003, Willie Nelson and Toby
Keith scored a number one hit with
"Beer for My Horses." In the duet, the
left wing Nelson
sang, "Take all the rope in Texas, Find a tall
oak tree, Round up all of them bad boys, Hang them high
in the street." This song attracted no controversy—unlike
Keith`s pro-War on Terror anthem
Courtesy of the Red White and Blue.
In 2006, a major factor leading to
George Allen`s defeat in Virginia was his
alleged racial insensitivity in calling an Indian
Jim Webb supporter "Macaca,"
which Allen`s opponents claimed was meant as a racial
slur. But even in this racially charged campaign, the
fact that he once had a noose outside his office while a
district attorney failed to gain any traction. Voters
understood that in proper context, Allen`s display did
not represent racism.
Yet just one year after Allen`s defeat,
the noose has come to embody all that is racist in our
- This past October, the
NAACP protested a noose at a private residence`s
haunted house in New Jersey.
- The city of
Germantown, TN fired three public theater
employees after a coworker complained that some
stage-rope knots resembled nooses.
These are not isolated instances of
political correctness. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack
Obama have made nooses and the Jena 6 incident into
campaign issues. Even President Bush made nooses a
central theme to his Black History Month speech. He
claimed: "The noose is not a symbol of prairie
justice, but of gross injustice." (So much for
What has happened in the last year that
justifies turning nooses into the
new swastika? It all began with the now
infamous Jena Six case in Louisiana. The story
concocted by the Left and
parroted by the media is that white students at Jena
High School hung a noose on a tree to intimidate black
students. A school yard scuffle broke out, and the six
blacks involved were charged with attempted murder,
while the whites who hung the noose were given a slap on
reality, the nooses were hung in school colors by
historically illiterate students prior to a football
game, aimed at a rival school with a Western-themed
team. Three months later, six black students,
some of whom had
extensive criminal records, beat an
isolated white student who had absolutely nothing to
do with the nooses. The vice principal of the school who
found him thought he was dead.
In the wake of the case,
the noose "epidemic" began. The highest
profile incident occurred when Columbia University
professor Madonna Constantine claimed a noose was hung
outside of her office. It has since came out that Prof.
Constantine was in the
midst of a plagiarism investigation when the noose
appeared. The police are now subpoenaing Columbia
records to see if she was the perpetrator.
Similarly, a number of other
"victims" of nooses such as a
Baltimore firefighter suspected of cheating on his
exams and a
Lowe`s employee charged with internal theft failed
to raise flags, and were later shown to be hoaxes.
There has yet to be a single noose
incident that was followed by violence.
But in all cases, politicians and civil
rights demanded harsh punishment for the offenders and a
media circus ensued. When they were exposed as frauds,
there was little reprimand or media coverage for the
Many states have imposed restrictions on
burning crosses. In 2004, the
Supreme Court upheld a Virginia law that banned most
cross burnings even on private property. The argument is
that their intent is to
intimidate and they are therefore not free speech.
That a symbol is not exclusively
associated with racism is now getting the same treatment
is more evidence of America`s slide down the slippery
criminalization of an
ever expanding definition of "hate speech."
Not for the first time, diversity proves
to be, not strength, but tyranny.
Marcus Epstein [send
him mail] is the founder of the
Robert A Taft Club and the executive director of the
Team America PAC. A selection of his articles can be
views he expresses are his own.