The noose is making a comeback. In spite of the long, sordid and abhorrent history of lynching, some recently continue to hang nooses in public spaces because they understand the power of the symbol. Someone hung a noose recently at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and another was hung with bananas at American University.
A century ago this summer, W.E.B. Du Bois organized the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Silent Parade Protest in New York City. Close to 10,000 African American women, children, and men marched from 59th to 36th street to protest lynching and racial violence against black people.
Before the march, the NAACP sent a memorandum to all of its local branches, stating, “We march because we are thoroughly opposed to lynching and we want to bring the murderers of our brothers and sisters and innocent children to justice.”
During the early part of the 20th century, lynching was American as apple pie and the federal government refused to pass any anti-lynching legislation. More African Americans were lynched, (close to 4,000) than died following the 9/11 terrorist attack, (nearly 3,000) in New York. Much more recently there has been a surge of racist acts.
A 17-year old Illinois high school student in Crete was disciplined recently and apologized for his racist Instagram photo of himself wearing a mask with the caption, ‘3 Ks a day keeps the n—— away.'” The KKK is planning a march this summer in KKK in Charlottesville. In May, a white supremacist, Sean Urbanski, murdered James Collins, a black college student at Bowie State University. Urbanski’s social media included numerous racist posts with anti-black and anti-immigrant rhetoric. In March, white supremacist James Jackson traveled from Baltimore to New York and stabbed a black man.
Anti-black violence is alive and well in America. Anyone who says, “at least it is better than 1917,” or “there are a few bad apples” are part of the problem.
TV host Bill Maher used the N-word recently in his live HBO show and though he apologized weakly for the outrage, he was not fired by the cable channel. What’s even more telling is that Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse barely flinched, though he also apologized later for his complicity.
Someone painted the N-word on the home of LeBron James in Brentwood, California recently. At his press conference, James said, “No matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough.” A conversation about racism — not race — must not begin with James as a sole victim; this was an act by one racist individual. But what happened to James is systemic, and is part of the DNA of America. James also referenced Emmitt Till, and discussed how money and fame do not shield African Americans from racism.
Recently on Sam Harris’s popular podcast, Waking Up, Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, said whites are smarter than African Americans. In his public appearances and messaging, Richard Spencer is the poster boy for the “Alt-right.” Both men are separately repeating what Madison Grant, a lawyer and white supremacist, said nearly a century ago in The Passing of a Great Race: whites are more intelligent than blacks and African Americans are criminals.
Dr. Keenaga Yamahtta Taylor, assistant Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, recently canceled a speaking engagement because she received death threats from those who vehemently disagreed with her anti-Trump statements in her earlier commencement address at Hampshire College.
In spite of the death threats, Taylor states, “Their side uses the act of violence and intimidation because they cannot compete in the field of politics, ideas, and organizing.” This was unfortunately also true in 1917.
There is some progress. Harvard University recently rescinded the acceptances of students who posted racists comments on their Facebook pages, signaling they will not tolerate racist speech or actions on their university campus.More universities, organizations, companies and entities can follow suit and express the mandate that racism is not allowed here.
100 years later, the nation needs another Silent Protest March to remind the country how much further we need to go.
In January, 2.6 million women marched in solidarity to protest sexual violence, pay inequity and choice. Two months later millions participated in a March for Science and a need to combat globing warming, and last month a March for Truth demanded the federal government investigate Trump’s relationship with Russia.
Google and Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative created a database titled “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror. The website will allow individuals to find out the story of the family members who were lynched. In 2018, The National Memorial for Lynching Victims will open in Montgomery, AL.
We need to march in the streets across America again for the rights of black Americans. After all, it has been 100 years.
The use of symbols such as the noose and the N-word to express hatred and racism are more frequent in 2017 than they have been in generations. The goal is not to try and understand why this is happening, the goal is to make sure this does not happen again.