Racists Attack Smithsonian, LeBron James’ Home

By Sameer Rao Jun 01, 2017

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and NBA star LeBron James each referenced anti-Black violence in response to separate incidents of racist imagery discovered on their properties yesterday (May 31).

The Smithsonian Institute’s namesake magazine announced yesterday that visitors found a noose hanging in one of the NMAAHC’s exhibits on segregation. U.S. Park Police officers closed the exhibit, removed the noose and reopened the space three hours later. NBC 4 notes that this discovery came just four days after a Smithsonian Office of Protection Services officer found another noose hanging from a tree outside the institute’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Park Police is investigating both incidents, and neither has been officially labeled a hate crime at press time.

According to NBC 4, the Smithsonian noose sightings followed several others in the Washington D.C. area since late-April: one at a University of Maryland, College Park fraternity house; several on American University’s campus; and one outside a Crofton, Maryland, middle school. Nooses have long been used to signify White mobs’ lynching of Black people, a common occurrence during Jim Crow.

"The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity—a symbol of extreme violence for African Americans," the museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, wrote in a statement. "Today’s incident is a painful reminder of the challenges that African Americans continue to face."

TMZ reported yesterday that the Los Angeles Police Department was investigating a spraypainted racial slur, "nigger," on the front gate of James’ Los Angles residence. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ small forward referenced the aftermath of the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till while addressing the vandalism during a press conference yesterday.

"Hate in America, especially for African Americans, is living every day," James told assembled media in Oakland, where his team will face the Golden State Warriors in the first game of the NBA Finals tonight (June 1). "I think back to Emmett Till’s mom, actually—kind of one of the first things I thought of—and the reason that she had an open casket was because she wanted to show the world what her son went through, as far as a hate crime and being Black in America. No matter how much money you have, how famous you are, how much people admire you, being Black in America is tough."

An LAPD spokeswoman told ESPN that it is investigating the graffiti "as an act of vandalism and a possible hate crime." James will also address the incident in an interview tonight on ABC’s "NBA Countdown" at 8:30 p.m. EDT.

The NMAAHC and James’ trajectories intersected long before yesterday’s desecrations. The Washington Post reported in November 2016 that he donated $2.5 million to the museum’s Muhammad Ali exhibit.