I saw on CNN this morning that what appears to be a noose was found hanging in a tree at the University of Maryland on September 6. The tree is near the Nyumburu Cultural Center. Because the Black Faculty and Staff Association and the Black Explosion newspaper are located in this building some suspect that the noose was put in the tree to send a message of hate. There was, however, no not attached to the rope and no one has claimed responsibility or sent any threats.
The rope was apparently in the tree for a while anyone noticed it. This is hardly surprising-campus trees often have various items stuck in them and the noose was rather small and a fair distance from the ground. If someone was trying to make a statement with it, they certainly did not put a great deal of effort into making it clearly visible and recognizable. Of course, if someone was going to send a racist message of hate on a well observed campus (there are apparently security cameras on campus), they would probably want to do so quickly so as to reduce their chances of being caught.
The police are seriously considering the possibility that the placing of the noose is a hate crime and undertaking an investigation. Many members of the community are quite concerned by the matter and it is, as noted above, now receiving national attention.
On one hand, it is good that the matter is being taken very seriously and getting national coverage. In the past, racism was often encouraged or at least tolerated in the United States. The fact that this incident is being treated as a possible crime is a sign of how the United States has progressed: racist acts are now regarded as what they truly are-morally wrong and criminal in nature. Also, the coverage shows that people take such matters as a national problem and not something to be quietly tolerated.
On the other hand, there are grounds to be concerned about how the matter is being handled. While racist actions are wrong and should be dealt with, there is the concern that the people who commit such acts are being empowered. If those responsible for the noose intended to send a message of hate or a threat, their message has been broadcast around the world on television. Also, by focusing so much attention on the matter, it becomes an important event and thus those who placed the noose have become important players in a major incident.
To use an analogy, it can be compared to being insulted in public by a stranger. While it is tempting to respond to an insult, that is no doubt what the person wants. By treating their insult as unworthy of response, the insulter is denied what they desire. Of course, a reasonable counter to this is that some insults and threats simply cannot be ignored. They might be so serious that they require a response. Or, in some cases, failing to respond will send a message of weakness and merely encourage such behavior to continue. A noose in a tree is one such insult-it cannot simply be ignored.