Hate Crimes: Another Word for Terror

December 19, 2007
During a sixth period bathroom break last year, I found an ugly, black swastika living on a beige tile on the wall of the girl’s bathroom. I needed a couple of seconds to regain my composure, to try to understand why someone would put a symbol of mass murder and a reminder of the Holocaust on our school walls.
I still think of that graffiti and I don’t want to believe that someone could draw a swastika as a prank. When I read of the mass number of nooses hung around the nation by attention-seeking copycats, I was shocked when the newspapers said that nooses hung in schools, universities, statues and homes were reported as a joke.

They see this as a joke. I see this as terror.
The noose, the South’s enduring symbol of racial hatred, has returned and is hanging right in front of our eyes. The racially hued controversy and the wave of hate crimes may have originated in Jena, Lousiana. A day after a black student sat under the “white tree” at the local high school, three shriveling nooses hung from the giant oak.
Last December, as racial tension grew, six black students jumped a white student. The victim went to the hospital, but was well enough to go to a party later that night. But the six attackers, known now as the Jena Six, were charged with attempted murder.
The case grew into a cause as people across the nation questioned the stiff charges and what they believed was uneven justice delivered in the South. And the hate is still spreading.
Nooses have been looped over a tree at the University of Maryland, tied around the neck of Tupac Shakur’s statue in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and draped on the doorknob of a black Columbia University professor’s office.
In a typical year, about half a dozen noose cases are reported, according to Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project for the South Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes. This year, there are more than 50 noose cases on record.
This leads to question the validity of “justice for all” Americans. These noose cases are obviously hate crimes, but the law doesn’t even include noose-related incidents to hate-crime statues and have minimal penalties. This means that justice is not being served for the people who suffer when they see a noose hanging in front of their home.
You might say the country has changed since the time of legally sanctioned racism, and it has. The problem is, it’s changing again. We can no longer call ourselves an equal country if hanging nooses is going to pass off as “prank.”
This is a hate crime, and it needs to be recognized. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke. A sight of a noose sends shivers down the black community, just as a swastika still terrorizes Jews.
We say we’ve changed. So, America, prove it. Call these hate-crimes what they are: terror.

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