Let’s get real about racism, racist symbols and reporting on bigotry. It is out of bounds to even joke about lynching someone, and the sports commentator who made such a remark about Tiger Woods should have been disciplined. On the other hand, to fire an editor for allowing a picture of a noose on the front page of a sports magazine was also out of bounds.
Racism is real. Racist groups still meet, march and terrorize. To joke about lynching is out of bounds; to report on it is a reporter’s duty.
The awfulness of lynching in America is fact, a fact, which we go out of our way to ignore and water down. Many of us want to ignore it because it makes us uncomfortable to think, “this kind of thing still happens in this day and age.” Indeed, one on-line diversity magazine has been taken to task for its “tasteless” Noose Watch graphic, which tracks noose reports nationwide.
What is tasteless or tactless about a diversity magazine tracking racist attacks and noose terrorism? People are losing sight of reality. People don’t want to face reality. They’d rather all of this go away—if only in the media.
But, hiding symbols of racism does not change the fact that lynching is dangerous, vile, vicious and ugly. It is also murder, and its ugly head rises time and again in this country during economic downturns, when nativism roars from the depths, replete with racism, hatred and the potential for murder and mayhem.
Racism is real. Race-based, terroristic threatening is not only real, but has a long and deadly history, regardless of how much we’d like to whitewash it and convince ourselves that it is a historic, not current activity.
It is ironic, that we have come full circle about lynching. Decades ago, people posed to have their picture taken beside lynching victims. Klansmen were actually given attendance badges, proving they attended a lynching. Some even traded lynching postcards and, in many communities, lynching was an entertainment event—AND WAS ACTUALLY ADVERTISED AS A LEMONADE SOCIAL, REPLETE WITH FLYERS!
Hiding symbols of lynching, denying dialogue about racial violence, pretending that race-based terrorism does not exist is an affront to journalistic integrity, regardless of whether the outlet is a sports magazine or news commentary column. One of the problems with our media these days is that everybody wants to escape reality and pander to the lowest common denominator.
We want to talk about which celebrity was seen drunk at what tacky bar, or who’s shacking up with whose ex-whatever. The geek and freak, who’s sleeping with whom sleaze fest makes money hand over fist because it is pure escapism, pandering to the lowest form of entertainment—not to mention that it’s a lot cheaper than investigative journalism.
Outside a small town in Western Kentucky, a black farmer has tried in vain to get complete police incident reports about two racist incidents on his property, and one on fields that he rents. This was after an inquiry was made to a state civil rights agency, and the agency claimed no knowledge of the events.
In October of 2006, someone pulled up signs on the frontage of his property. Those signs detailed his ongoing legal battle with the Farm Service Administration over what he says is a bogus, illegal foreclosure and sale of his property. He reported the incident.
In October of 2007, a group of white supremacists were reportedly holding meetings on farmland that he rents. When he locked the gates, they came back with a tractor, cut the lock to the gates and then took a tractor and pulled the gateposts out of the ground. He reported that incident as well.
He also reported another incident, which happened shortly before the trespassing incident, where someone fired several shots from the roadway at his house. Luckily the shots went high and hit the chimney instead of coming in through the living room window.
In all three instances, the victim called the county sheriff’s department and reported the incidents. In response to a reporter’s inquiry with the state Civil Rights Commission office in Frankfort, a spokesperson said they were unaware of the incidents and asked the reporter for further information.
The sheriff’s department reportedly said it could not find the shooting incident report, which begs another question: just how accurate are the Justice Department’s hate crime statistics if the local law enforcement is not reporting all of the incidents?