After a local resident posted on social media that he had found what he described as a “noose,” police searched the area in Lake Merritt and found five ropes that had been attached to trees. Some of them were knotted, and one had a piece of plastic pipe attached to it. The ropes were promptly removed by city officials.
One person posted on Twitter that the so-called noose was “These white supremacists sending a message,” but resident Victor Sengbe told local station KGO-TV that the ropes served as part of a larger swing system used by the man and his friends. He even shared video of the system in use.
Sengbe, who happens to be black, said that it looks nothing like a noose and that he is horrified by how overblown the situation has become. He told the station that thousands of people have walked past it and not one has ever told him it looked remotely like a noose; he said they were just trying to create a fun addition to the park.
He added: “It’s unfortunate that a genuine gesture of just wanting to have a good time got misinterpreted into something so heinous.”
City officials have said that they simply don’t care why the ropes were put up. Mayor Libby Schaaf actually had the audacity to say: “Intentions do not matter. We will not tolerate symbols of hate in our city. The nooses found at Lake Merritt will be investigated as hate crimes.”
The city’s parks and recreation director, Nicholas Williams, took a similar stance, saying: “The symbolism of the rope hanging in the tree is malicious regardless of intent. It’s evil, and it symbolizes hatred.”
How can they say that intentions don’t matter when the very concept of a hate crime all boils down to intention, and the intention of those who placed the ropes has already been clearly stated?
Local police issued a statement reminding the community to be “mindful” and saying that “any ropes on or attached to trees, limbs or other objects can be associated with hate crimes and racial violence.”
Even though police have said that several members of the community came forward to confirm the ropes were intended for exercise, the department still saw the need to notify the FBI.
This incident is reminiscent of one that took place at the University of Mississippi in 2017, when three black students were upset after they stumbled upon a banana peel in a tree in the woods during a retreat for Greek Life leaders.
It turned out that another student had discarded the banana peel there when he was unable to find a garbage can; the bananas had been given to attendees as part of their breakfast. Although he apologized profusely for his innocent mistake, many students said the incident was upsetting because, as one sorority president put it, “bananas have historically been used to demean black people.”
The incident prompted a day-long “camp-wide conversation" about the banana’s symbolism, and the remainder of the retreat was canceled as many students were too upset by the discarded banana peel to continue.
Since it’s hard to believe that educated adults actually think that exercise ropes in a recreational spot have some deeper meaning – especially when people, including at least one black person, have said their motivation was fitness, not racism – it would appear that those involved in this “investigation” and the community members claiming to be outraged are just looking to sow hate and stir the pot. The reaction of these officials is further proof that you cannot reason with people who are looking for any excuse to find racism where there is none.
Sources for this article include: