Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hang 'Em High

According the Saginaw news, officials at Lutz Veterans Affairs Medical Center are investigating an employee's claim that he found a noose hanging in his work locker Friday May 9. noose

Management and fellow staff at the center, 1500 Weiss in Saginaw, have apologized to the employee and condemn such behavior, a written release from the center said.

Director Gabriel Perez has met with staff to emphasize the center's zero-tolerance policy. If an employee is identified as the culprit, he or she will face discipline.

'Management, staff and I will not tolerate any discriminatory acts in our workplace,'' Perez said.

Perez is meeting with employees, management and union officials. The center employs about 500 workers.

The American Federation of Government Employees Local 2274 represents the workers. Comments from Ed Mason, president of the union chapter at the center, must go through the public affairs office, said Carrie Seward, public affairs officer.

Though he is not quoted or mentioned by name, he was part of the released statement, she said.

Michael Victorian, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based union, said he was trying to get details on the incident. He had no further response prior to deadline.

Officials declined information on the worker or the area in which he is employed. However, they said employees within that department will have mandated sessions of Equal Employment Opportunity sensitivity training.

''The work expectation is that personnel act in a professional and respectful manner toward each other and our patients,'' Perez said.

While I applaud the center for being pro-active in spite of not finding the guilty party, I seriously doubt that racial sensitivity classes will bring about a fundamental change.  lynching Consider that whoever placed the noose in the locker, acted with malice and forethought, in complete awareness of what a noose would symbolize to a black man, indeed to any African American.  To actually believe, live and think in an anti-racist fashion takes work.  Sitting through a conference learning about institutionalized racism without a desire on the part of an individual to change will achieve nothing but mockery and derision of a group (blacks) that are already marginalized.

America is on the cusp of great change, as for the first time a black man has a legitimate chance of becoming president, however it is still deeply haunted by racial divisions.  Mistrust, hatred, ignorance, and apathy rot the very core of American society.  Color remains the demarcation point of unity. Though it (read: race) is a difference that has been created through  social construction,  on the corporeal plane race ultimately can, and does function as a determiner of life chances.  Who will live, and who will die is what the noose symbolizes. Strategically placing nooses in such a fashion that they will be discovered by blacks is an obvious threat, as well as an exercise in white power and privilege.  It has historically been white people who have determined the value of blacks, and based on that value, blacks have been forced to negotiate a life from within the margins.

There are some who would say that the recent strategic noose placements are isolated incidents, I  submit, that they are not.  noosewatch As the map courtesy of  Diversity Inc illustrates, the latest incident is but one of many. Discovering a noose is no different from finding a cross burning on your front lawn.  It is an act of hatred, meant to incite fear and submission of black people.

As a WOC it has effected me on the deepest of levels.  I am the mother of two sons, a sister to two brothers, and a daughter to one father.  My life is inextricably linked to black males.  While black males endured the physical death through lynching, it is  black women who became mourning widows, daughters and sisters.  To lynch a black man is to attack an integral foundation of the black family.  It is in unity that black men and women spend their lives, and  too separate us from each other through acts of unspeakable violence is to reduce us to desperate wounded animals.  Generation, after generation the air has bared witness to the lament of black mothers upon seeing the bodies of their lynched children.  Will a diversity awareness conference ever truly be able to translate that?


SjP said...

Renee - much obliged for stopping by SjP's this morning!

This is the first time that I've heard about the "lynching" incidents. I'm with you, I'm not sure that a diversity conference or dialog would even crack a dent in this problem. I say this because such a dialog would mean that people are truly not aware that their actions are far more than discriminatory. In fact discriminatory is much to mild of a discription. Placing nooses is a threat. But, no doubt to issue a statement saying that "discriminatory acts" will not be tolerated in the minds of these and other officials is sufficient. And next they'll say that it was "just a prank" that shouldn't be taken seriously!


LynnAlexander said...

What bothers me in the "just don't get it" category are the crazy defenses people seem to throw out there about noose incidents:

1. It's free speech, and people who object are _____. (fascists, censors, overly sensitive, hysterics, making mountains out of molehills, playing the victim card, etc.)

2. It's satire. And of course if you don't think this is funny, you are____. (fascists, censors, overly sensitive, hysterical, devoid of humor, don't understand satire, and so on)

These kinds of discussions completely leave out the points you raise here, and the element of intimidation as though it is irrelevant. I kid you not, somebody told me that I was "more offended by nooses than I should be, that I was a typical liberal concerned with political correctness and black victim manipulation. And besides, I'm white. So...."

So? "White" concern must be rooted in fake disgust? Because sometimes it is, or what? Why, because we can't be disgusted by the scenario, because they don't truly think it's wrong and cannot relate to those who do? Is it so hard to imagine that people really do think this is so wrong?

I think we have to make sure that we are challenging this at every turn, particularly when it comes to the idea that somehow a sincere desire to respect dignity is belittled as "PC". This post brings up the training issue, which is not to say that diversity training is necessarily a bad thing. But it is often trivialized or mocked or seen as after-school detention. Or seen in some cases even as a way to make right what remains wrong. "I'll send him to a sensitivity training."

"We are sorry, and will go to a class." We did something, so get off our backs!

Let's start by not making lame excuses for why hate crimes are no big deal, or why all attempts to condemn them are phony. Let's make sure we actually walk the walk, as so many "allies" don't. Let's make sure they aren't phony, and that we listen to the impact.Let's not try to pretend we understand what we don't, but fully accept what is conveyed to us, without minimizing or interjecting.

How nice to live without being afraid, without worrying about the spectre of violence around each corner. it's the invalidation of that fear as real that I don't understand. If people understood it as real, they would not call it "humor".

Renee said...

Clearly when a noose is placed it is meant as threat and it cannot be interpreted any other way. Whoever placed this noose is well aware of the history of lynchings otherwise she/he would never have used a noose to symbolize their hatred. When something is that ingrained in someone psyche no 2 hour seminar is going to make a significant change. To be anti-racist is a personal commitment and no one can be coerced into becoming one. These so-called awareness campaigns are not even band aid solutions. All that happens is that people develop new codes for their behavior or patterns of speech to reflect their hatred.

Thanks both of you for stopping by. I love both of your blogs and visit regularly.