To the Editor:
I can recall several instances where a noose was found hanging in public spaces, where anti-Semitic symbols, and anti-Muslim hate speech were found scrawled on walls or houses of worship. These bias incidents were reported in print and online media and prompted immediate statements of condemnation from elected officials and community leaders of various ethnicities and faiths. It has been loudly and clearly stated that this behavior would not be tolerated and is clearly unacceptable.
On April 19, a noose was found hanging from a tree in Dennis P. Collins Park in Bayonne. As President of the Bayonne Branch NAACP, I was contacted by The Jersey Journal for a statement. Part of my response was that a noose hanging in a public place is a reference to lynching, an ugly form of intimidation and hate directed specifically towards the African-American community.
Since April 19 many print and online news outlets have picked up the story and it has been widely disseminated. What is different about this incident in Bayonne is that nothing has been said by any of our elected officials condemning this behavior. No public statement, no press release, nothing from anyone.
As a result of this lack of response, I and a member of the Bayonne NAACP Executive Committee had a meeting with city and police officials expressing our dismay and concern about this incident. We were told that the reason for the noose may be someone was training a dog or someone planned to commit suicide and changed their mind.
Why does it have to be something other than just what it is: a noose that was hung in a public place. We explained to them how we, as African-Americans, view this issue and the murderous and hateful history of a noose being hung in a public space.
Elected officials have an obligation to speak out publicly against bias incidents such as this in their community. The community must be assured that reprehensible behavior such as this will not be tolerated and is not acceptable. Who knows what symbols of hate and intimidation will appear next, and where that might be? When elected officials remain silent, their silence does not serve the greater good or the community.
In the words of Dr. Martin L. King Jr., “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” In this case our “friends” have been appallingly silent.
Clarence Hilliard, President
Bayonne Branch NAACP