How Exactly Does A Lasso Turn Into A Noose? And Other Thoughts On UC Campus Racism

By Julianne Hing Mar 02, 2010

The student who left a noose hanging in the UCSD campus library came forward last week and has since been suspended. Yesterday, she apologized in a statement published by The Guardian, UCSD’s student newspaper. In her words:

I found a small piece of rope on the ground earlier in the day. While I was hanging out with my friends a bit later, we tried jump-roping with it and making it into a lasso. My friend then took the rope and tied it into a noose. I innocently marveled at his ability to tie a noose, without thinking of any of its connotations or the current racial climate at UCSD. I left soon after with one of my friends for Geisel to study, still carrying the rope. After a bit of studying I picked up the rope to play with, and ended up hanging it by my desk. It was a mindless act and stupid mistake. When I got up to leave, a couple hours later, I simply forgot about it. This was Tuesday night.

She ends by saying:

I know what I did was offensive — regardless of my intentions — I am just trying to say I’m sorry. As a minority student who sympathizes with the students that have been affected by the recent issues on campus, I am distraught to know that I have unintentionally added to their pain.

Where to start? Should I dig into the comments that people have left beneath her statement? The ones that display incredulity at the fact that she’s still suspended when, duh, she didn’t mean any harm by her actions? Should I unleash my anger at the 524 people (I see you, Asian American students!!) who’ve joined the Facebook group "UCSD Students Outraged That People Are Outraged About The Compton Cookout"? (I am, however, heartened by the 854 students who’ve signed this one.) Would it be instructive to delve into the collective psyche of our society, and that which lives in the bubble of college life? Is it worth commenting on the particular strain of frat boy bravado that shuts down every kind of social awareness and common sense and turns everything into a joke? Would it be helpful to write an indictment of the university administration that, in its silence and complacency, gives its tacit support of the racism in its midst? The sources of my anger are many, and after reading this woman’s apology, they continue to grow. There are moments–when I am feeling charitable–that I think it’s possible this student had no idea what she was doing, that she just did not have the learned experience or personal imagination or mental capacity to make the connection between the symbolism of a noose and the events unfolding on her campus. Her apology is earnest, she writes sincerely, she is contrite. But if that’s the case, I think we have even more reason to be disturbed. Racial ignorance is in many ways so much worse than the kind deployed by people with actual malicious intent. Last Friday, the Black Cultural Center at the University of Missouri was vandalized when thousands of cotton balls were tossed all over the building. At a town hall that the university held in response to the incident, people expressed frustration that some folks simply could not make the connection between Blacks in America and cotton. What would I say to this gal if I could talk to her directly? A noose is never just a noose. And it’s not just your fault alone that you didn’t know that. The university where you go to school bears some responsibility for not funding ethnic studies, for obscuring the history of people of color in this country, for cutting funding for recruitment and retention programs that would make UCSD a vibrant, racially diverse campus. The state must be held accountable for making public education inaccessible to Blacks, Latinos, Native American, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander students. You’ve got a lot to learn, but we’ve all been let down by institutions that turn a blind eye to the inequity and racism in our world. Click here to read the 32 demands for policy change the UCSD Black Student Union has issued to the university administration.