Friday, November 02, 2007

Confronting Historic Symbols of Hatred and Injustice Shouldn't Start with Censorship

"Free speech is not to be regulated like diseased cattle and impure butter."

- William O. "Wild Bill" Douglas,
U.S. Supreme Court Justice & American Badass,

Record-holder for Most Impeachment Attempts

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- I remember sitting in Dr. M's office, back in 2001, arguing over a grade I'd received on a quiz in his dreaded media law class. More appropriately, I remember sitting in Dr. M's office, losing an argument over a grade.

At one of toughest universities in North America, M. was, by far, the hardest instructor in the College of Liberal Arts. And the old bastard had friggin' failed me - I supposedly earned that whopping 30 percent, having aced the multiple-choice section.

He'd given me zero points on short essay questions that, I felt, were passionate defenses of the evils of government suppression of free expression. But his blood-red comments were sharper than razorblades, slashed right through my reasoning with simple NO!s in the margins of my blue book, the words SEE ME scribbled on the last page like an epitaph.

In his office that day, I argued and raged and vented; Dr. M. simply nodded and listened. When I finished my diatribe about democracy and hate speech and what should and shouldn't be protected under the First Amendment, the old prof leaned forward and put a bony Minnesota finger in my face.

He'd given me zero points on my short essays, he explained, because I rode the fence in my arguments against censorship, picked out which parts of cases like Brandenburg v. Ohio, R.A.V. v. The City of St. Paul, and Yates v. United States that I personally agreed with and disregarded what I found objectionable. He accused me of censoring the course materials to fit my worldview.

To understand the fluidity of things like the First Amendment and its freedoms, I'd have to learn to stand up and walk on that fence. If I wanted to pass his class, too, I'd have to be willing to see beyond what I wanted to see, to give up on the herd mentality that allows most folks to simply draw from two pastures when an answer is needed for comfort.

To embrace the wholeness of the Rule of Law, the organic, fluid body of jurisprudence that encompasses certain unalienable human rights, one must learn to walk atop barbed wire to bear witness to a holistic justice, free of personal bias or politics of the moment, with those beliefs serving as not a legal compass but as insight into the motives behind things like censorship.

M. took the crumpled Blue Book from my fist, tacked an extra 15 percentage points onto that grade. Even if I'd made the mistake of riding a fence that should've been beneath my feet, the just teacher heard out his lost student's reasoning before he passed final judgment.

A whopping 45 percent. The hardest failing grade I ever truly earned.

From that point on, I've tried to avoid riding the fence. Sitting on a post and waiting for mob-rule opinion to determine freedom's boundaries, I've learned, only opens the gates toward dictatorship and oppression.

To walk the fence in a democratic society, one where the free flow of ideas and art and writing is cherished, is to stand above the mob rules of political and popular correctness, to be willing to scream Freedom! without ever looking down into the fields for support.

Cowards and madmen can keep the fence posts warm, have their legs tugged at by those seeking an ally in their moral and political arguments.

I can't blame them. Walking the straight and narrow is always hardest to do when one has only a love for intellectual freedom to preserve one's sense of balance.

* * * *

A strange midnight email swept across the Local U.'s fiber-optic freeways, a hastily-written, chilling dispatch to virtually all of Oxford Fucking Ohio. With diplomacy as subtle as a hatchet to the face, the email let the Online World know about the supposed hate speech that had defiled the hallowed grounds of the Public Ivy:

"...I strongly condemn this display and deplore that in this campus community any person would believe this display is in any way acceptable. We must redouble our efforts as a community to educate every student here on the historic patterns of racism in this society..."

A group of students had - gasp! - hung nooses from the branches of a tree! And students and the public watched helplessly as the cads dangled historic symbols of hatred and injustice before their innocent eyes. The fiends even dared to plead ignorance to this fact, and - Thank Goodness! - the local police confronted them and removed the vile, hideous hangman's tools before the poor, defenseless children and something called the African-American community saw it!

"Oh Thank God! That kind of shit needs to be- "

I caught myself, mid-sentence, as I read from the comfy confines of my bed Wednesday morning. I almost choked to death on my bowl of Biblically-inspired organic cereal, the taste of guilt like blood on my tongue.

"- needs to be censored by a state-funded, public university?

"Waitagoddamnminute... even the Ku Klux Klan has the right to express itself... religious groups, campus activists, the staff union, even the pro-anorexia advocates... "

I lost my appetite. I felt sick to my stomach.

"'...Redouble our efforts to educate the students?' What the fuck does that mean?

And when did a display has to be "acceptable" to a campus community to be considered acceptable under the First Amendment? Regardless of intent, or public perception, was this, possibly protected speech? Could a marketplace of ideas sell off civil liberties like dime store junk?

Happy Halloween, folks.

One American university decided to go trick-or-treating this year, all dressed up as a Police State. And it went about toilet-papering mailboxes at midnight, wiping everyone's ass with the Bill of Rights in the name of a justice not seen in Ohio since Kent State.

* * * *

And those no-good, evil proponents of hate who'd dared to hang a noose in the era of Jena Six hype, where we're taught scream racism! at the sight of a rope?

Art students. Aspiring artists who sought nothing more than the satisfactory completion of a course requirement. The group was preparing a faculty-approved public exhibit as part of a class assignment.

The students tried to explain themselves and did remove their work the moment they realized that the project offended their peers - or, at least, the mob that confronted them.

They had a cool idea, to turn a reviled symbol into art, something beautiful and thoughtful.

But, by the time that information was made publicly available, their own university had already portrayed them as ignorant savages bent on creating racial unrest in a press release. The same mob bastardization of justice that, historically, has led to actual lynchings in this country sentenced them before the facts were presented.

Yes, there was indeed a hate crime committed in Oxford this week. The teachers took a few nooses and executed the creative rights of their students, without so much as a show trial, sentenced to censorship before any formal investigation or disciplinary hearing.

* * * *

The theme of the installation, I've learned, concerned the imagery of life and death - the final product was to include a tire swing, symbolic of the innocence of carefree youth, and the slipknots were to represent their ancient purpose - death.

The theme, along with the choice of media, is eerily reminiscent of an early installation by one of this country's hottest young artists, Los Angeles-based Kori Newkirk. But at the Local U., well, maybe a critically-acclaimed black artist wouldn't have to ask for permission before recreating his startling Swings in the Family Tree as part of his homework.

Maybe, in a climate of fear, in a land where black rap artists are called before Congress for offending the mythological, unified African-American Community, where John Denver and Twisted Sister once saved rock and roll from Tipper Gore, civil liberties are to be limited based on the color of one's skin, or by sexual orientation, or even age?

Maybe a straight woman can't create a sculpture that includes a police baton in tribute to the Stonewall Rebellion? Maybe a cowboy can't write poems based on Lakota and Apache war songs? Or maybe a German architect can't design a Holocaust museum?

Maybe we should ban nonblack hip-hop artists, or white blues musicians?

And maybe playing Billie Holiday in my office offends this campus community with strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees? Good God! I didn't fill out the paperwork first, ask for formal permission! And- gasp! - an Afro-Irish woman is singing noose lyrics written by a Jewish Communist schoolteacher! Somebody haul me down for sensitivity training!

Let us, then, ban other historic symbols of death and the artist themes they inspire. And the symbols of youthful innocence, too, for that matter.

Crosses? Have to go. Some people don't find reminders of Christ's execution acceptable in this campus community. Besides, someone might think, for instance, that a white man propping up a crucifix intends to set it ablaze - can't have that, can we?

Or how about trains? We've had two students die tragically this year along the tracks...

Or shall we ban the NROTC from marching with rifles because the majority of faculty find the Iraq situation reprehensible?

Oh hell...

Who needs free expression anyway?

We have diversity committees to tell us what to believe, curriculum committees to tell us what to teach, and government officials to tell us what is acceptable to all and deplorable to none - if we disagree, well, they'll just redouble their efforts to educate us...

* * * *

How I would've loved the chance to see probably one of the most thought - provoking art displays in this community's history. How I'd have loved the chance to watch undergraduates debate its meaning, to hear some faculty call it an affront to decency and to hear others call it genius.

How exciting it could've been. We could've used the opportunity to invite back one of the big alumnae, Rita Dove. Maybe the poet would've trashed the students' work. She may have found it inspiring, too, the innocent bravery of a few kids who turned a weapon into a statement about life. Or maybe ol' P.J. could've wrote about it, been lured back to teach a course on controversial literature?

Those opportunities are gone now. The display removed and the artists humiliated, the electronic strong-arm tactic will more than likely chill unpopular expression in this town to the artistic equivalent of absolute zero.

Why string up the artists for their deplorable rope sculpture? In the name of tolerance and diversity, it's just as easy to break spirits as it is to break necks.

After all, a noose has never been as terrifying as the lynch mobs behind them.

* * * *

Thursday afternoon, I witnessed one of the most miraculous signs that, yes, even a noose in a tree can bring about just the sort of dialogue a campus community needs.

And not the kind the writers of the official Local U. emails urged with iron fist, either.

With every fence built upon censorship, there are always wild ones in the midst of the herd, looking for new ways to cut through the wires that were put up to protect them. And college students, through some glorious academic instinct, naturally despise attempts to double up their education - especially when that education comes at a price, well, that the tuition checks don't cover.

A black woman and a white woman were standing outside of my library as I stepped out for a quick cigarette. Both students, as per the norm on a soon-to-be Smoke Free Campus, had been waiting for a fellow smoker to exit.

"Girl, please. Somebody needs to raise the roof on this."

"I dunno. I mean, I think it was wrong and all, but-"

One undergraduate was defending policy, was riding on that fence, playing the politically-correct game that often feeds herds in pastures green with mob-rule grasses.

And the other?


Do you think an educated black woman needs an email in the middle of the night to tell her the difference between hate speech and an art project? When was the last time a hate group walked up to a tree, in broad daylight, and hung up a tire swing in protest?

Or wouldn't get annoyed with the fact that in nearly every class, some well-intentioned Caucasian had asked her about how she was doing, as if those art students she walked past Tuesday had actually tried to lynch her? Or wouldn't get annoyed by the fact everybody started screaming about a tree in Jena, Louisiana, before anybody asked the group why they were hanging nooses here?

"So because I'm black, I need a white man to tell me about how offended I am? I can't think for myself?"

You see, in Oxford Fucking Ohio, there are very real hate crimes that happen every day during the school year, ones that don't get histrionic emails sent off late into the night.

Ask the young Chinese-American student who's asked to tutor somebody in math, because, well, All Asians are good at that. Ask the gay undergrad who's been terrified to go on a date with another gay undergrad, because some drunk idiot may start yelling Fuck you, faggot! from a car window. And ask the black students, yes, which offense is greater - artists hanging a noose as part of an exhibit, or the stares young black men get in this town for wearing urban clothing in certain nightclubs?

The Local U. wanted dialogue on the meaning of discrimination.

Well, now, they've got one.

* * * *

I told both women about Dr. M, about the love for the First Amendment he instilled in me when I was an undergrad, about his call to give up riding other people's fences and to walk the path of the straight and narrow back towards the Rule of Law.

I heard Dr. M.'s voice in the back of my own sometimes self-righteous, fence-straddling mind, drowning out the voices on the sides of the fence:

"Let the Law prevail. Put your faith in the ability of the People, and freedom will win, Jason."

Both women agreed that that old bastard Media Law prof sounded like one hell of an educator.

And yes, he was.

* * * *

Loving free speech is harder than it looks.

Learning to walk the fence involves learning how to get a look at the big picture, what's really at stake, learning to weigh divine individual rights against the bloodlust of a lynch mob. It's only after looking at the whole spread that one can understand the value of a ranch, free of pastures and fences, bound only by the expanse of the law.

Censorship, sometimes, is indeed justified - some fences are needed to protect things like national security, trade secrets, confidential information, and rights to privacy. Mostly, however, censors pull miles of wire blindly, carve up the fields of nurturing thought for the sake of the few who'd rather just hide in Freedom's barn anyway.

Sure, maybe I'm just insensitive, just ig'nant of historic symbols of hate and injustice and of the need to redouble our efforts to tell students how to express themselves like good little automatons, in need of sensitivity training because I just love what that deplorable, courageous art.

But if a group of art students can't include nooses in an art installation, then librarians sure as hell shouldn't have the right to write about it.

So go ahead a lynch me, too.

Climb up here, up on this fence, and try it.

* * * *
“The most important aspect of freedom of speech is freedom to learn. All education is a continuous dialogue - questions and answers that pursue every problem on the horizon. That is the essence of academic freedom.”

- Wild Bill Douglas
- # # # -

* For the aspiring writers, poets, essayists, painters, sculptors, and screenwriters; for the future political leaders, captains of industry, musicians, doctors, and other innovators at the Local U. And for David Banner, fellow Baton Rouge ex-pat and lover of the First Amendment, for telling the self-appointed leaders of "The African-American Community" to shut the fuck up about censoring art in the name of "decency," for challenging those Happy White Liberals on Capitol Hill who think Democratic suppression is better than Republican suppression, and for, yeah, doing more for Katrina victims than Public Ivy universities.


Xmichra said...

For once, i have no idea what to say. Not because i ride on a fence or walk on it, or even look at the darn ting. But because i am conflicted with that law of yours (the US not you). Freedom of speech was a tricky little minx that your country decided would make things easier.. and in every thing i have ever read it has made it so much harder.

I can understand your passion for the principle of it. But in my mind... it's a headache. It's nice to be able to say what you want. But at the end of the day someone needs to be held accountable for talking shit.

Not that i think the noose was such an evil thing. That's just taking things too far. Like calling the christmas tree a holiday tree so as not to offend other cultures. I am not religous, and it's a frickin' christmas tree. always was. always will be.

It is difficult to argue semantics though, when the choice to exclude things like KKK rantings and shows as the use of freedom of speach is something that most people want nothing to do with. Hard to say that they are within thier right when you want to lock them up in jail for racism. Even harder to beleive in a statement like freedom of speech when you are logical and have to include the bad with the good for rational.

See why i was conflicted?? Silly fence.

cooper said...

I totally disagree with you no matter that you write it so well.
I am however too full of wine to argue.
I came to solicit votes for my Weblog award nomination - info at my blog.
I also wish you'd get a full feed so on the rare days I am physically at work I could read you on my reader.;)

Liz said...

I understand what you're saying, but freedom of speech is not absolute. Based on the fact that you cited those cases I'm sure you know that. You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theatre and there is such a thing as Equal Protection.

Still, I think what you said in this post is quite sensible.

And to the person who mentioned Christmas trees in the comments, those trees have nothing to do with Xmas. They are, in fact, a part of the Yule celebration. Xians are confused.

Xmichra said...

liz - it matters not where it came from. the point is, it has been called a christmas tree for so long, that changing it makes no sense. what makes even less sense is being offended by a tree which has no christian value because it is called a christmas tree, and placating it as a holiday tree to make everyone docile. it's PC run amuck.

Anonymous said...

Freedom of speech is limited ... although the lines do blur when it comes to artistic display.

Most of the time, the point of the display is forgotten in the wake of the desperate need to adhere to an extreme form of PC by those who either (a) do not understand the issues, or (b) are not personally comfortable with the issues, which usually stems from (a) to begin with.

A display itself is neutral, it is up to the viewer to deduce their own meaning from it. That's what makes it art. Unfortunately, people these days are afraid of anything tied to troubling events of the past, which they don't understand and aren't sure how to feel about. Thus the word "controversial" gets attached.

I can't speak to US law, but I do know that in Canadian law, freedom of speech is tied to incitement. In a Canuck setting, the key question would be: "is there explicit incitement towards hateful action present within the display?"

People can make meaning out of anything. I've scratched my nose and had gangbangers think I was flashing gang symbols at them, before. The question is, and always will be, the intent ... more specifically, the expicit message given by the presentation.

For example, I can walk down the street wearing a shirt that says "Fuck the police" and have every right to do so ... I'm expressing myself without openly encouraging anyone to do anything. However, if I start yelling "fuck the police" in a crowd, that can be construed as incitement toward hateful action ... actively rallying a crowd toward a decidedly unlawful cause (remember the fuss over the NWA song in the 80s?).

See the difference?

So with this work of art, it's one of two things. Either there was an explicit message of hate (doubtful given the described nature of the display), or there was palpable fear that some people would assume a message of hate based on their own ignorance (this is very likely, we see it all the time).

People in authoritative positions have become far too reactive in the past few years, in both our countries ... they call it proactive, but no, it is reactive.

I like your suggestion, J. Why react swiftly and ignorantly, resulting in a ban in order avoid controversy, to avoid having to discuss the issue? Why not invite that controversy, and use it to educate people, so that perhaps there is just a little less ignorance in the world, afterwards?

Everything has its downside, and the downside of a democratic system (of which I am a supporter, btw) is that it becomes very easy for idiots to get put in charge of the show.

The ZenFo Pro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The ZenFo Pro said...

Actually, Canada, too, has its free expression v. common good fences.

While the Charter was, heh, written with the idea of codifying things in a less confusing, more detailed manner than the U.S. Bill of Rights, the results have been just about the same in terms of the legal wrangling, political reaction and manipulation(the Conservatives up yonder were partly unified over the same type of "the Court's stripping the power of Parliament and the premiers" as we hear down here about "activist judges" in our Supreme Ct. nominations), and, well, fence-riding.

From what I understand, Canada's Charter, specifically the conflicts between Section 1's Reasonable Limits clause (which we don't have) and Section 2's Fundamental Rights, have led to a huge increase in monumental civil rights cases heard before your Supremes. Ironically, the Lamer Court, for example, probably heard more arguments for and against expressive rights in a decade than the U.S. court heard in the same amount of time... the relative newness of the Charter, for the most part, has even caused the Canadian courts to look towards your neighbor's monumental body of judiciary record on occassion - the balance between government power and fundamental, individual rights is something we down here have spent a good portion of our history fighting over.

And, yep, at the end of the day, somebody needs to be held accountable. But that "somebody" is always going to be fluid - especially with expression. The taboo can turn into popular opinion overnight. That's how one avoids the headache - letting the "controversy" turn into conversation, debate, and reasoning. The limits of speech are learned in a civil society - not dictated.

Lol, figured you would. But that's okay - the point of this post was to demonstrate that it's okay to agree to disagree more than anything else, that no one person's viewpoint has the right to destroy another's views by jackboot or intimidation - that's just barbaric.

And I voted, too.

Wine? You?

Sure. But there is protected speech - even unpopular speech, so long as it passes the tests outlined by that very Rule of organic Law. It was, after all, the unpopular speech of those who were treated as less than free to excersise things like speech, assembly, prayer, etc., that has led to those same equal protections - which apply to all people, even controversial artists.

Hell, censorship is nothing more than a reaction to the fear of the unknown, the need to destroy what we don't know before we have a chance to even experience it.

There's a lot of irony in the fact that a university charged with educating students tore down an exhibit that hung from a tree for nine hours (they put it up in the morning, and went to class, came back afterwards), symbolic of the life and death of youthful innocence.

Holistically, the old guard seeking to silence new voices is, in a lot of ways, the driving force behind actual hate crimes. Teenager Emmit Till was executed by an older white mob in the middle of the night for whistling at a white woman. The San Francisco Vigilance Movement maintained that city's 19th c. status quo by lynching the freshest immigrants and the poor. And, of course, the Pinkertons and Mine owners conspired to lynch the first Labor organizers, men like the IWW's Frank Little in Butte, MT...

The ZenFo Pro said...

Great example there, man. An object or word or phrase alone usually does not constitute the incitement of an actual hostile or illegal action. Intent and context play vital roles in how and when speech crosses the line...

Using Liz's example above, the old "scream fire in a crowded movie theater" example, one is generally protected if that scream is an actual warning of an actual fire. And, if one is watching a disaster flick in the ol' Cineplex, and an actor on-screen shouts "My God, the theater's on fire!" as part of the script, then its reasonable to deduce that the intent and context was not to cause a riot but to further the plot.

coyotemike said...

Have you tried to get an actual debate going in a class? If I bring up religion, sexuality, politics, or anything more thought provoking than beer brands and HALO scores, everybody just clams up and starts looking at each other through lowered lids because they are so worried about disagreeing with someone else.

It might have something to do with the fact that no matter what side they take on an issue, I'll take the other.

Is that perverted of me?

Curiosity.Killer said...

Sigh, and to think Halloween was meant for little ones to ignite their monstrous imagination and sweet toothes.

xboxgirl said...

"Loving free speech is harder than it looks." Yeah, unfortunately thats true.

stephanie said...

you know its funny. they made such a stink about it in the email and i don't think anybody really noticed it except those who wanted to see something scandalous. at first i was glad they had to take it down but yea seeing the picture on the front page of the student last week made me wonder what right the president had to humiliate student artists publicly .

EsotericWombat said...

Oh fuck. I voted for that guy.

The phrase "free society" doesn't seem to be well comprehended, does it? You could almost call it doublethink.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Lol, that's actually one of the criticisms here, by instructors, of the university bitchslap - it's already hard enough to get students to actively engage in classroom debates for fear of being shot down, so... now they have to be afraid of being dressed down by administration, too???

Heh, yeah. Nothing like a fun holiday, huh?

It really is easy to love the free speech when one agrees with the speaker. The challenge is realizing that some issues are larger than the politics of the day, that principles still mean something.

Stephanie (Heh, sure are a lot of Stephanies who read this thing):
That's actually something I've heard from a lot of students - most people didn't even see the damned thing, so, well, they didn't even get a chance to judge for themselves.

I saw the same photo on the front of the student newspaper, too. Looks like a tire swing, huh?

Lol, no worries. Was wondering about that when you mentioned David Banner this morning...

Doublethink? Friggin' genius, man! Exactly.

SeizeTheNite said...

I gotta say I'm with you on this one.
"Loving free speech is harder than it looks"...but nothing worth doing is easy.
Keep saying what you want, and I'll keep listening!

I could have used a teacher like Dr. M, but then we probably all could!

pia said...

Jason this was brilliantly written. I agreed with the beginning totally

My intense passion for The First Amendment was fueled in grad school for poli sci many a moon ago by professors who did write the books and would scream and make sure we understood every aspect of all five parts

There was an exhibit in NY in 99 at the Brooklyn Museum--very famous--forget the name--feces on Christ. I worked for People for the American Way then and did work for it to be shown

But a noose is something different. There are people in this country old enough to remember lynchings

A noose, pure and simple, is a symbol of hate---it's not akin to calling a Christmas tree by another name which is just stupid or many other things

As long as there are people in this country old enough to remember lynchings or their children remember their stories's not art unless and this is big unless it's clearly marked as art as the picture at The Brooklyn Museum was

I was reading the humor blogs in the awards Cooper is being trounced in

None were funny but aside from that one woman put in a picture of a man standing on the observation deck of The Twin towers. A plane looked as if it was going to hit him

She said it was widely circulated after the attack as it was healing

Wasn't circulated here, and I had a nightmare about it. Why? I was directly affected by the attacks

I don't believe that you have to be PC--I actually believe the opposite--but there are certain things that will never be funny to many people, and that should be respected

That said there are ways of making the sickest things funny--satire, true satire can do it well

The more you know about The First Amendment and the sicker--don't mean you particularly--more me--your mind works, the harder it becomes to find that line that defines the parameters between taste and sickness

I was thinking of taking my blog private so I can truly explore subjects that fascinate me--decided to keep it public and if people have problems they don't have to read it

Steph said...

Awesome post. I'm glad you got off the fence. Splinters can hurt. ;)

Anonymous said...

how can you f all ppl defend NOOSES as art??? that's just disgusting. there is such a thing as limits to free speech you know. the president did the right thing and i think you should consider taking down this before you get into trouble.

The ZenFo Pro said...

well, I thought you were dead and gone there, hon. Put you back in the ol' Blogroll...

Yep. The value of expression is not that we are necessarily comfortable with the views of others, but that we all have the ability to express ourselves.

The painting you're talking about is Christ Ofili's The Virgin Mary, a work that utilized elephant dung (though nobody really got pissed about the vaginas from porn mags serving as cheribum). Part of the Sensations exhibit.

While the signage probably served as more of a compromise (which, when the city finally lost in court over funding - the judge did note that yep, even all-powerful NYC mayors and city council members can't shut off funding for a museum dedicated to public expression, after the fact) that a legal requirement, the painting was still, in the end, able to remain viewable.

Honestly, I can understand and empathize with folks who find every viewing of a noose as a symbol of hate. But one man's obscenity really is another man's art. There's a reason why the courts have, time and time again, ruled that the burden of proof over things like accusations of hate speech, obscenity, pornography, etc., rests on the shoulders of the accuser.

Actually, the No. 1 reason for lynchings? Sure, most documented instances in the U.S. do have to deal with black victims. But these folks were not lynched solely because they were black. They were usually lynched by groups of people who just didn't like the fact that, after the passage of the Civil War amendments (13-15), black people could express themselves, legally, freely and openly - regardless of what the white folk found to be indecent.

If the noose symbolizes anything in this country, it's suppression of the unpopular speech beyond the rule of Law.

Ah, gracias, chica!

Trouble? That's the point, actually.

And, hey, they shamed a group of students into taking down an art project that contained nooses. That's why I put a little custom PhotoShop work up - tear down one artist's noose-as-statement, I'll put up three examples to take its place.

Maybe we should send the emails to South Africa, too, demanding that they take down those obscene nooses in their Apartheid museum?

After all, those poor SAns have no idea what oppression looks like, do they? Its obscene. Disgusting, too, huh? That Nelson Mandela. How dare he allow something like that to be conceived during his presidency? Must be a racist who doesn't care about being sensitive.

Take down a post because I may get into trouble?

Like hell. Make me.

Anonymous said...

What if the same people had very realisctic drawings of naked children being brutally molested, would you still think it was unjustified censorship if the "art" was not permited at the university.

btw I don't the teachers should have forced the students to remove their work.

The ZenFo Pro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The ZenFo Pro said...

Well, rather than simply answer a question about an unrelated scenario, let's add another couple of layers to that "drawings by the no-good child-molestin' artiste" example, fuel for reason's fire:

Say you are that artist accused of producing the works you just described.

Do you feel you'd have a right to a fair trial, to be charged with the breaking of an actual, written law after a thorough investigation by law enforcement? Or to legal counsel? Or to face your accusers? Or what about the opportunity to seek judicial intervention in the case of slander or libel or wrongful prosecution?

Or do we just lynch you because some random person says they "think/feel" that you're a no-good, dirty, thievin' baby-raper, based solely on a gut feeling, a perception, or a predetermined, personal definition of what "realistic drawings of nekkid kids" means, before you have a chance to defend yourself?

Nate Blake said...

My studio mate and I were actually talking about nooses in art last night. This was stirred up by a forum on racial diversity on the campus of East Carolina University. At this forum meeting a speaker brought up the idea that nooses in public places should be seen as domestic terror and considered a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

First, I think it's really broad to see every single noose that one makes public to be an act of domestic terror. If that were the case, then next they will challenge people when they burn the American flag, have stickers from other countries on their car, or even being from a foreign place.

Next, I think it's about a person's intentions that should qualify someone's noose display as art or a domestic terror. If a person's intentions can be clearly described, but a community still has a problem with the noose display, I think it's a clear issue of the community's perspective on art rather than the issue of the artist having a mucked up vision of the community.

Finally, I think the biggest form of domestic terror is religion not a noose.