Thursday, October 25, 2007

At Least There Were No Nooses

The story you’re about to read, might be true... It had been unseasonably warm this autumn. The weather had been so unpredictable, with mornings in the 30’s and afternoons in the 60’s. One never knows how to dress. Hugh glided home along Route 6, hopping off at what had become the routine exit leading to his home and family. They had lived there for about a month and a half, after Hugh had been on the new job for about six months. He had survived and passed the three month pleasantry exchange at the new job. The pleasantry exchange is that unwritten law, a gauntlet that all new employees of color must walk, as their co-workers and immediate supervisors size them up: can they cut it socially? Are they pleasant enough to be around?

Hugh knew the routine well, and followed basic rules: be pleasant, avoid excess conversation, except for the occasional coffee or after work drink, limit your socializing with co-workers, and most important; do not let them to far into your home life. Hugh waved to the cop sitting on the side of the road. In his first three weeks of living here, he’d met almost every cop on the town’s force, careful to remember their names during the ‘routine checks’. By now they all knew that he ‘belonged’ there. As he passed the police, he couldn’t help but notice a car load of young white males, in baseball caps travelling in the opposite direction. One starred at him with a smile and a nod.

He rolled through his development and onto his road, then up to his house, only to be greeted by the words N-word Go Home and Get Out N-word spray-painted across the front of his garage and all over the front of his house. Hugh’s wife and kids were in the house when this happened but didn’t hear anybody as his wife was in the kitchen and the kids were upstairs in their rooms doing their homework. The police arrived and took a report and a few pictures. They decided that it was an act of vandalism and destruction of private property, but not a hate crime because the perpetrators never used the actual word, something that local civil rights leaders celebrated as a minor victory.

A couple of weeks later, at the holiday party, Hugh received a gift from his supervisor: a red silk power tie, tied in the form of a noose. It was at that point that Hugh finally snapped at this obviously racist act, only to find out this was a common gift from this supervisor to all of the up and coming junior executives. Yeah, everybody remembers the time that Hugh over reacted at the holiday party. Can’t he take a joke?

Consider the Jena Six and know, the story just just read might not be true.

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