The Jena 6 happening brought nooses back to the mainstream mindset and we now seem to be in the midst of a media frenzy where nooses are seen everywhere and people are put on edge just waiting to be insulted by a length of knotted rope so they can express their indignant outrage.

Soon after the Jena 6 revolt, a Black professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College found a noose hanging on the handle of her office door. I didn’t immediately write about the Columbia noose incident here because it felt precious, imitative, button-pushing, convenient, phony, and contrived and the fact that the allegedly insulted professor immediately implicated a fellow “jealous” professor or a “disgruntled student” did not sit well in the gut:

Detectives with the New York Police Department’s hate-crime task force were investigating whether the noose, which was discovered on the fourth floor of the college at about 9:45 a.m., was put there by a rival professor or by a student who was angry over a dispute.

Columbia University president Lee Bollinger once again overreacted to the noose incident as he did when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke on campus:

The president of Columbia, Lee C. Bollinger, also released a statement condemning what happened, and said he planned to meet with student leaders this afternoon. “This is an assault on African Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us,” he said. “I know I speak on behalf of every member of our communities in condemning this horrible action.”

Does being so immediately outraged by a noose on a door encourage that future behavior or do rallies and protests and public gatherings against tied rope bring people together in a common cause? My concern is, as a people, we are becoming too easy to insult and we look for the offense in every action in order to falsely force a feeling of superior morality against the overblown perceived infraction. Is a noose insulting? Yes. Is a noose a hate crime? No. Should tying a noose be a felony? No.

We need to burn American flags. We need the Nazi lovers to feel free to spray paint swastikas on public buildings so we can watch them and identify them and condemn them. We need to question integrated Racist semiotics in American culture that too many people proudly defend as a preservation of history and culture. We need to call out the Macaca to condemn it — but we must not be consumed by a watchdog mandate where we live for slights and insults instead of shunning them. We need to accept people will do rotten, tasteless and hurtful things to get attention — but not every tied noose intends a broken neck just as every American flag lapel pin does not indicate patriotism.

We need to toughen up as a society and fight real ills and not imagined ones or intended ones or indicated ones. Students, who will seek any reason to not attend class, should stay in class to study these issues and not skip class to attend a protest. The more time we spend protesting and parading to self righteously feel better — and to provide our lives significance in states of stasis — is time and effort wasted.

A noose without a neck is a gun without bullets is a knife without a blade and we need to understand that distinction with a difference. A semiotic indicator is not a live action and we need to reserve our real outrage for those who deserve and earn our hatred for their irrevocable moral decay.

5 Comments

  1. I think that first American law needs to better define a “hate crime”. Is any action that doesn’t cause physical harm, property damage, or economic loss e.g. discrimination in workplace even a crime at all?

  2. jonolan —
    I think that’s an excellent point. I don’t think there are such things as hate crimes unless they inflict physical harm and then we call them felonies and not “hate crimes.”
    Do we prosecute people for hurting the feelings of others?
    Do people break the law for messing with someone’s mind or inflicting “psychic” pain?
    Hate Crimes laws always seemed to me to be about controlling the discussion by trying to regulate unwanted speech.
    If you truly believe in free speech — you certainly wouldn’t want to punish that speech, or even its hateful semiotic outgrowths, if no real damage was done.
    Maybe never means always.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Don’t you think those bad people would act upon you without those semiotic totems of terror? The reason they wield those representative against you is because terror can be struck within you without any further effort on their part.
    Have you read my article asking if the Confederate flag is a Racist semiotic? There are a lot of people in that discussion flow who wave that flag with pride and accuse us of misunderstanding…