OCT 27, 2007
POINT DEFERENCE, WA (UNS*) — Civil rights leaders in this Seattle suburb are up in arms over what they say is the latest incident in a nation-wide trend of hate crimes involving the public display of nooses, a symbol of lynching in the Jim Crow south.
A noose was discovered hanging from a tree in a remote corner of a wooded park early Friday morning by two children, ages twelve and fourteen. Doug Beedle, head of Seattle’s NAACP chapter, said he is considering seeking damages against the city for not moving more quickly to deal with the apparent hate-crime.
“The city is engaged in a white-wash, treating this as a minor incident. If we hadn’t been notified by an alert citizen, the whole thing would’ve been swept under the rug and treated as something other than what it was.” Mr. Beedle did not rule out filing a complaint with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. “We’re opening a dialogue with the city, but if they refuse to come around to our way of thinking, we’re prepared to take it to the next level. No justice, no peace.”
The childrens’ mother, Misty Handringer, who is white, tearfully related that she initially didn’t realize the significance of the noose. “At first all I could think about was the other aspect of it. I’m not proud of this, but I was more concerned about the fact that the kids had found a dead body. I was mortified when what was gong on was explained to me. I really thought we were above that sort of thing here. I’m not very proud of my community right now. I guess nowhere is safe.”
Police say it appears the man, who is white, acted alone in stringing up the noose before using it to hang himself. Officials haven’t ruled out bringing posthumous charges.
“Allowing this to simply die with the perpetrator would be wrong. Suicide is just the sort of transgressive act that brings out the underlying racism inherent in our society.” Tanyika Balder-Dash, professor of Afro-American studies at Northwest College and author of The Myth of Merit, said, explaining why the man chose the inflammatory racial symbol for his apparent suicide. “People feel liberated to express their darkest impulses.”
The children who discovered the noose are receiving counseling. “First we have to make them aware of the trauma they’ve suffered, then we can begin to deal with it.” Professor Balder-Dash said. “Most distressing of all is that these kids have no idea about the profound image of hatred and oppression they encountered. People don’t realize that racism is in fact far worse now than it ever was, due to faltering awareness. I fear we are allowing this image of America’s racist past to slip into the past.”
A march is planned for this Monday. The man remains unidentified.
(*Untethered News Services; Additional reporting for this story was provided by Dennis Dale, who is white.)
In related news, the U.S. Army has retroactively legalized lynching.