NPR on Nooses

Maybe I should just stop listening to the radio entirely.

See, I can’t listen to KIIS (pop) for very long because, face it, Ryan Seacrest can be fucking annoying.* And, of course, I can’t listen to KROQ (rock) because of the rape jokes and the race jokes and that whole biglong thing I wrote about way back when. And even Latino 96.3 (hip hop and reggaeton), which I very much admire for their community work (particularly in the aftermath of the May Day stuff) and consistent talks about social justice issues, tends to be winceworthy on the asian/GLBT/sexism fronts, and drives me a little nuts with it.

(And most of the other things I might listen to here are either a) boring, b) even more offensive, or c) all of the above.)

So I’ve started listening to NPR in the morning, in between songs and snippets of useful information (like, say, the traffic reports) on other stations. And lo and behold, one day I hear the following: “Ignore the Nooses.”

Yes, that’s right. From the little summary at their webpage:

All Things Considered, October 16, 2007 · In light of the resurgence of nooses appearing in places like Jena, La., and Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, here’s a modest proposal: The next time somebody plants a noose, let’s just ignore it. Perhaps paying less attention to these acts will take away their racist power.

I heard that, verbatim, and then several minutes of different people commending the logic and telling us to man up and stop being so sensitive. Stop giving the bullies what they want.

And then I had to change the channel, because the damn mechanic knows me by name after the past two weeks, and I sure as hell don’t want to explain to him why I ripped my radio out and threw it at passers-by.

What the hell?

I know I was absent from bloglandia for most of the Jena stuff, but it was certainly dear to my heart. I wore my black, I had real-world conversations about it (even with my family!), wished my sister good luck as she want off to march there with her school, and so on and so forth. And I read the host of awesome material from everyone in my little corner of the blogosphere.

So naturally, it pained the fuck out of me to hear a station that’s come to represent enlightened liberal whateverness to so many people just shitting all over that.

“Just ignore it?” Just ignore it?!

When, pray tell, has that ever worked? It doesn’t work with aggressor nations, it doesn’t work with schoolyard bullies, it doesn’t work with domestic abusers, and it sure as hell doesn’t work with people who commit hate crimes. People just don’t work that way.

I just … I am stammering right now. I can’t even organize my thoughts.

Mostly, I want to see what other people think about this. Surely Kevin or BFP or Kai, or Vox, or XP or… damn, I’d really have to go through my entire blogroll and feed reader to find someone who wouldn’t be a good person to comment on this.

So please, if you’re at all inclined, do.

* Which is not to say he’s annoying all the time, mind… I rather like/respect him in many of his other roles. But Ryan-the-metro-but-insecure-in-his-manhood-and-perception-thereof radio host is not my favorite view of him. And the rest of their talking DJs are the usual boring-yet-somehow-offensive drivel that everyone else has.


  1. Cara said

    Wow. People are so . . . racist/stupid/fucked in the head.

  2. Kai said

    Hey Magniloquence, nice to see you! Yeah, frakkin radio…you’re not going crazy, that is some whack thinking there on NPR, which is not exactly a bastion of anti-racism. Yet it is typical of the strategic ideology of whiteness: white folks like to make positive examples of people of color who turn the other cheek and preach nonviolence in response to racism. Whereas the most adored white figures are warriors, generals, action heroes, people who achieve their goals through the successful deployment of violence. So, when a white person feels threatened by brown folks (muggers in a dark alley!), vigilante violence is justifiable and heroic, standing up for law and order! When a brown person is threatened with racist violence by white folks (noose!), just swallow it, turn the other cheek, don’t respond! Got it. Neato. Um, thanks NPR, but I think I’m gonna pass on that advice. Maybe next time they’ll recommend that people of color just ignore racism altogether, just nonviolently accept white supremacy, yeah that’s the ticket.

  3. baby221 said

    …somehow my guess is that they wouldn’t just “ignore” death threats left on their doorsteps. Sigh.

  4. nm said

    Ya know, there are those who genuinely believe that a symbol is so much just a symbol that it’s not worth getting worked up over. I get that, I really do. But to ignore the fact that some symbols are (or have been, or have become) symbols of threats of violence is more abstract than I can go.

  5. Kai said

    Well, a drawing or photo of a noose is a symbol, but an actual noose is more than a symbol. You can actually use the thing to kill somebody. It’s a lethal weapon. It’s not dual-use, like shoes; it serves one primary purpose. Nooses aren’t just symbolic, like swastikas; no additional weapon is needed, that step has already been taken care of, ya see. A noose is a concrete tool for killing. You can ignore it, I guess, just like you can also ignore it when somebody pulls any other weapon on you. But I wouldn’t, because I have this whole self-preservation thing goin on.

  6. Joan Kelly said

    And it’s also terrorism. Not I-think-I-saw-some-gun-powder-in-that-tube-of-toothpaste-so-let’s-go-to-a-national-level-of-burnt-sienna terrorism, and not we-know-water-shoots-out-of-that-camera-when-you-move-in-for-a-close-up-and-that-startles-us terrorism ( ), but actual generations-long terrorism of American citizens nationwide.

    I don’t know if this is a case of people meaning well and failing spectacularly, or willful ignorance. I do know that the urge to use the phrase “go fuck yourselves” in a sentence right now is overwhelming, and I await delivery of my Nobel Peace Prize for ignoring that urge.

  7. purtek said

    some symbols are (or have been, or have become) symbols of threats of violence is more abstract than I can go

    Except that going this abstract isn’t necessary. The noose isn’t a ‘symbol of a threat of violence’. The noose is a threat of violence. Period, full stop. As Kai says, the noose is a tool for killing, so its use is actual violence. Reminding people of its existence is a reminder of actual violence, and a reminder of the capacity for violence is a threat. “Threats” are essentially symbolic acts, in the sense that language (if you’ll forgive the oversimplification) is symbolic.

    Use of noose = violence. Presence of noose = symbol of violence, reminder of violence & willingness to use violence. Reminder of willingness to use violence = threat. Not symbol of threat. Actual threat.

    As to “ignore it and it will go away”…the whole idea is about legitimizing doing nothing by reconceptualizing it as doing something. Maintain the status quo and pay lip service to assuaging the concerns of people who are affected by telling them you know it’s hard, but ignoring it is just like acting, perhaps even better. And quieter.

  8. Sunday Blogwhoring: Gotta Have Friends

    by matttbastard
    To all the folks @ Bread & Roses (Debra, Godammitkitty, fern, skdadl, berlynn, deBeauxOs etc etc etc); to JJ, Prole and pale; to boomgate, Isabel, and sassywho (best cobloggers EVAR) : thank you. For everything.
    Love, muchly.
    (big u…

  9. […] Remember when the Jena Six outcry went out, and everyone said “oh, it’s just a joke, don’t engage them and it’ll go away”? (Yes, I’m looking at you, NPR) […]

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