Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Where I Live Nooses are "Humorous"

Terrence Lee, an African American employee of Jefferson Parish Sewerage, complained that items in his boss's office such as a noose and whipping post had "racial overtones." Parish supervisors suspended his supervisors 4-6 weeks, but the personnel officer reduced it to 5-20 days. They let Terrence know about the reduction on MLK day, of course. The Parish official said it was a "joke" and the rope device was not a noose, but a lariat. The Hearing Officer wrote "I find as a matter of fact that these items were intended to be humorous in nature, that they were not intended to harm or harass anyone."

Yeah right, nothing says funny like a noose. Like this timeless classic: A white racist, a noose, and a confederate flag walk into a bar. And it turns out its 2009. Snap.


Sue said...

So, does he at least have to get rid of the items? Or does the 'joke' continue?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why a whipping post and lariat would be intended as racist. (And how does one confuse a lariat with a noose? Which is it really?) I certainly don't think of anything racist when I hear the song "Tied to the Whipping Post". Lariats and whipping posts are associated with abusive power in general, and I can see how someone can think that they're funny (in a certain way) without ever associating them with racial issues in any way. (Whether that's a refined sense of humor is another issue.)

Unless they had good reason to suspect that these items were intended in a racist manner, the most that should have happened is that the supervisor should have been warned that some people would view those items in that way, and that he should remove them.

As *most people* probably wouldn't associate those symbols with racism at all, it seems to me that the guy who displayed them shouldn't be presumed to have done so. Am I wrong?

Michael Homan said...

It's the historical context John. Thousands of African Americans have been lynched since abolition. I'm reminded of Billie Holiday's song Strange Fruit which captured the moment well in my opinion. That's why the noose in Jena Louisiana was so offensive. I'd be curious to hear why one would have a noose on his desk if his intentions weren't racist.

I used to have a neighbor who collected WWII memorabilia, mostly Nazi stuff. Had he put anything with a swastika on his person or desk at work, I'm sure he'd have been fired.

Michael Homan said...

Notice another noose turned up on the desk of an African American worker who is employed by the state. Link. I think we'll see more of this as an ignorant backlash against Obama. Gun sales are up and so are noose intimidations.

Anonymous said...

If it *is* a noose, then you are surely right. But if it's a lariat, then I'd say the guy may not have meant it as it was taken.

As far as I can see, no one in the story is saying that a noose is funny. The guy who said this stuff was meant to be humorous also said that it wasn't a noose.

Michael Homan said...

Ahhh, now I better understand your point John. I'm not sure how a lariat is funny though.

bullet said...

"Lariat" is inherently funny.
Lariat lariat lariat lariat lariat

I saw an article on this a few days ago with a picture that also showed a dart board with picture of a black man's face in the center. The various possibilities and connotations of lariat and whipping post notwithstanding, I'd say the dart board gives us a pretty good idea of the office's theme.