Mynd you, nøøse bites Kan be pretty nasti…

I’ve said before that I live in New Hampshire, one of the whitest states in the union. We don’t have much personal racial awareness up here; mostly we get our ideas of the “national debate” on the matter from TV and the like. But one aspect of the whole thing just sneaked right up on me seemingly out of nowhere.

Just when the hell did the noose become THE symbol of the oppression of blacks?

It has to be a fairly recent development. I always had unpleasant associations with nooses, but nothing particular to any one race. To me, it was associated with horse thieves and other Old West outlaws. Or “Star Trek” and “The Squire Of Gothos.” when a shadow of a noose falls across Kirk. Yes, it had been used in racial lynchings as well, but it was hardly invented for that.

A few months ago I was making a humorous poster for work. It was a reminder for people to do a certain procedure that takes a smidgen more effort, but saves the company a nice chunk of change. I typed “Do this… or else” in a scary font, and had a picture of a guillotine in the background. I’d briefly considered a noose, but thought beheading a bit more darkly funny and exaggerated than hanging.

For me, when I was growing up, chains were the bigger symbol of racial oppression. In the comics, Luke Cage (Power Man) wore a belt made of big chains as an “in-your-face” gesture. And I still remember a “Truly Tasteless Joke” about the body of a black man wrapped in chains being recovered from a lake. (No, I didn’t find it funny; it stuck in my memory because it was so tasteless and vile. The punch line involved a police officer pronouncing “ain’t that just like a (racial slur) –stealing more chains than he could swim with.”)

But now all of a sudden it’s the noose that is the new n-word, the new “in thing” to properly intimidate blacks, the new symbol of racists and bigots. And I find myself wondering just how this happened.

Can anyone help me out here? What did I miss? And can someone warn me what the next taboo symbol or object or word will be?

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