The United States has recently seen an increase in the number of racist incidents involving hangman’s nooses, potentially signaling the return of a historically loaded display of racial hostility.
As a symbol of racial animus toward African Americans, the image of a hangman’s noose has become a painful symbol of a U.S. past that is littered with lynchings. More recently, nooses have been discovered strung up in trees outside national institutions such as the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, American university campuses, and even outside a middle school in Florida.
Earlier this year, when Taylor Dumpson was elected to be American University’s first African-American student government president, the announcement was mired by a series of racist incidents that occurred in the wake of the election. Bananas, marked with the letters “AKA FREE,” were strung up in nooses that were hanging across the campus.
Dumpson is a member of an African-American sorority called Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) and believes that the letters on the bananas were likely meant to represent Dumpson and her fellow black students.
“To me, a noose is a lynching. That’s immediately what comes to my mind, that someone is going to hang you, that someone is going to die. That’s a very chilling thing.”
Shortly after the incident, campus police released two videos showing footage of the culprits responsible for the alleged hate crime. The videos, captured during the early morning hours when the school’s Washington campus is vacant, revealed a suspicious figure walking around. So far, authorities have been unable to identify the culprit and any possible accomplices.
The Civil Rights Division of the FBI has joined forces with officials at American University to find those responsible for hanging the bananas in nooses in various locations on campus.
Following the discovery of the racist symbols, hundreds of students filled the outdoor areas of the campus to march in protest to the acts of racial hatred. While marching, the students allegedly signed papers that would terminate their residency as the university, but it was later revealed that the act was symbolic.
Taylor Dumpson, originally from Salisbury, Maryland, said that she was not too bothered by the incident, adding that she had encountered racist acts on campus before. Dumpson was once the target of multiple racist comments that were directed at her on a social media app called Yik Yak.
Many African-American students at American University allege that not nearly enough is being done by campus management to decrease the number of racial hate crimes. Current student Phil Capers says that he is disheartened that black people in 2017 are still facing the same kinds of hateful racism that his father experienced when he was enrolled at the institution decades earlier.
Nevertheless, Dumpson says she has been inundated with messages of support from friends, family, and strangers across America.
As reported by the New York Times, an incident of racial hatred involving a noose occurred in Philadelphia last Wednesday. A white man working at the United States Mint walked over to the workstation of an African-American colleague with a piece of rope in his hands.
According to Rhonda Sapp, of the Mint workers’ union, a piece of rope is routinely used at the Mint to fasten bags of coins that are full. But last Wednesday, the white man — responsible for operating coin-making machinery — looped the rope and twisted it into the shape of a hangman’s noose.
Sapp added that she was particularly disturbed by the white man’s actions as he would’ve been well aware that he was under surveillance; he was reportedly not deterred.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury Department has confirmed that the incident did indeed take place and that the Mint has an “absolutely zero tolerance” policy towards such acts of hatred and racism.
Two 19-year-olds were recently arrested in Maryland after they attached a noose to a light fixture outside a local middle school.
Police were able to identify the culprits using surveillance footage that recorded the two men — Connor Charles Prout and John Adam Haverman — making their way onto the roof of the school and affixing the noose to the light.
Meanwhile, certain advocacy groups that monitor hate crimes have alleged that the surge in hatred is fueled by the divisive rhetoric that has been dominating American politics since that start of last year’s presidential race.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has recorded 1,863 instances of hate crimes since President Trump’s inauguration.
“One of the most pervasive manifestations of these happenings is the display of nooses.”
Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League believes the uptick of noose displays is “really alarming.”
“We are in a moment right now where we certainly have not only heightened awareness but a greater frequency of hate incidents.”
In America’s recent history, the hangman’s noose was most often used by white people to carry out public lynchings as acts of racial terror. It is estimated that between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, more than 4,700 black people were strung up in nooses across the country.
[Featured Image by Gregory Fer/Thinkstock]