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Cure the terrorism here at home

October 07, 2007|By JOHNATHAN R. BURRS

The influx of racially motivated hate incidents that have come to the attention of mainstream America in recent weeks are only symptomatic of the root causes for why a share of our society remains mentally stagnated with regard to equality, justice and freedom. I am referring to the failure of the "powers that be" to adopt a zero-tolerance policy with regard to racism, hatred and the terrorist minorities that have been tolerated for more than 130 years.

Hangman's nooses swinging from trees in the incident that became known as the Jena 6 and more recent incident at the University of Maryland College Park, which is alleged to be in retaliation for supporters of the Jena 6, are examples of social toleration for hate.

Many years ago, when I became a high-school freshman, most or all schools adopted some form of a zero-tolerance policy against weapons in school. What this usually meant was if a student brought a weapon to school and was caught, that student was immediately expelled. Even if someone brought a gun to school that wasn't loaded or a starter pistol that couldn't fire a bullet, it didn't matter.

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So I ask this fundamental question: Is a rope hanging from a tree with a hangman's noose a weapon and could it also be considered a terrorist threat something most states consider a crime? What place does the rope hanging from a tree, with a hangman's noose tied at the end, hold in United States history?

The hangman's knot was used on ropes in Colonial America as well as England during the 16th and 18th centuries. It is still used in those U.S. states that allow hanging as method of capital punishment.

The Anti-Defamation League offers the following American history of the hangman's noose:

"The hangman's noose has come to be one of the most powerful visual symbols directed against African-Americans, comparable in the emotions that it evokes to that of the swastika for Jews.

"Its origins are connected to the history of lynching in America, particularly in the South after the Civil War, when violence or threat of violence replaced slavery as one of the main forms of social control that whites used on African-Americans. The noose quickly became associated with the first Ku Klux Klan. In the early twentieth century, when the rise of the second Ku Klux Klan coincided with the height of lynching incidents (most of the victims of which were African-American), the noose became cemented as a key hate symbol targeting African-Americans.

"The noose may appear as a drawing or rendering, but also quite common is the use of actual nooses to intimidate or harass African-Americans, for example, by leaving one at someone's home or at their workplace."

I guess now America needs to add educational institution to that list. The fact remains that the Jena 6 incident is a result of an act of hatred, intimidation and attempts to terrorize a group of African-American students solely on the basis of race and the failure of the school principal, board of education director and local prosecutor to hold the perpetrators of these acts of hate fully accountable.

This lack of accountability has two or more effects. One, it leads the perpetrator to believe he or she can say or do what they want to with impunity. Two, it leads the victim to believe that he or she is not being equally protected by the law and therefore must act on his or her own.

At what point will the rest of American society adapt a no-tolerance policy towards racism? At what point will our leaders, including President Bush, forcefully address the issue of racial hatred as Bush did with his war on terrorism as it relates to Islamic fundamentalists?

To me, it would only be logical to address the issue of hate and terrorism at home before addressing that same issue abroad, particularly considering the existence of hate and terrorism at home has claimed more lives and affected more people than Sept. 11, 2001, ever did. When American society as a whole, one country, one nation that is indivisible and under God, comes together and says unequivocally "no more racism," then and only then might we be considered the leaders of the global war on hatred and terrorism.

Until that time, we as a nation can only be considered an impostor in the war on terrorism.

Jonathan R. Burrs is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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