“It’s interesting how it takes a mere piece of rope to make people think race relations are just now “unraveling” in the United States.” — A.L., WVWNews Contributor
When three hangman’s nooses were suspended from a tree in a school playground in a small Louisiana town, it sparked a chain of events which has fuelled a furious debate over race, justice and symbolism in the US.
The coils of knotted rope which swung in the shade of the tree recalled the nooses used to hang black men in collective lynchings carried out by white mobs in the southern states as recently as the 1940s.
The incident in the small town of Jena, which culminated in a group of black youths being charged with attempted second-degree murder for allegedly beating a white boy, has spawned a series of copycat acts.
Nooses have been hung on doors, pinned up in workplaces and slipped into letters.
New York’s government is now considering criminalising any representation of the noose as a hate crime.
Some African-American analysts argue that the recurring use of the noose as an instrument of intimidation reveals deep and unresolved racial tensions in US society.
“The noose, in the context of Louisiana, is a symbol of a technique of racial intimidation,” explains Professor Anita L Allen, of the University of Pennsylvania’s law school.
“Up until the 1940s, African-Americans were ritualistically hung from nooses in trees, killed and tortured – and this memory persists.”
In terms of sheer numbers, more whites than blacks were hanged to death (by fellow whites) during this period.