Noose display may become a hate crime in Missouri

Missouri’s 2008 legislative session will surely see many bills introduced that purport to solve “problems” which may or may not even exist in Missouri. It IS an election year. One of those bills is from Senator Yvonne Wilson, D-Kansas City.

The Senator has filed SENATE BILL NO. 763 which makes displaying a noose a hate crime in Missouri if that display causes someone to fear property damage or personal injury.

I would note that it’s already a crime in Missouri to place another person in fear of personal injury.

This is just more social legislation forcing people to be nice, even when there seems no particular trouble in Missouri over this issue. Senator Wilson seems to recognize this, but considers this measure essential because Louisiana’s Jena Six trial “raised eyebrows” all across the country.

Even if there were a report of a Missouri noose being displayed (somewhere besides at a rodeo, I mean), more laws are not always the answer. Not every wrong must have a criminal remedy. Who can dispute that a society that resolves to fix every hurt would be a nightmare to live in?

Senator Wilson should also consider that her bill (and its attendant publicity) may be both the cause of–and the remedy for–any future display of nooses. I hope not.

Another difficulty with such prohibitive legislation is that draping a noose over a tree branch is more a symbol than an actual threat. Hate speech, yes, but still more symbol than threat.

One symbol is easily substituted for another, and designating one symbol as a crime will simply generate a new symbol to carry the same bigoted message. In 2004 we outlawed cross-burning. This year, it’s nooses. Next year, perhaps the “Stars & Bars.” After that… we’ll have to see.

Finally, if we want to pass this questionable law, then lets do it right. As written, this bill does not effectively address the real harm it is trying to stop.

A person seeing a noose displayed outdoors in public would hardly feel as threatened as some poor kid who finds a noose stuffed into or hidden inside his gym bag.

Can a noose be both displayed AND hidden at the same time? I suspect not. So if Senator Wilson moves ahead with this bill, it could at least be rewritten to address the larger problem.

5 thoughts on “Noose display may become a hate crime in Missouri

  1. countryboy4life says:

    I have to wonder what kind of rodeos this writer is attending…I have been to hundreds of rodeos and have NEVER seen a noose at one. There are, however, lassos that are used for roping calves, etc. A lasso is in no way even close to similar to a noose. So, I would encourage this writer to do his or her homework before to posting a blog on this very touchy subject.

  2. Randy England says:

    While I bow to your superior rodeo knowledge (my attendance being limited to ONE rodeo), even we tenderfoots know what a “lasso” is.

    Even so, it is a matter of semantics, and if this bill became law, I would counsel you NOT to throw a rope with a large loop and a slip knot over a tree limb along Martin Luther King Blvd.

    “Why officer, that’s not a ‘noose,’ its a ‘lasso!'”

    “That’s OK, cowboy. You’re coming with me to the station.”

  3. father5 says:

    Randy & Cowboy
    This a very personal exprience for me.When it was a noose displayed on my job.When he made it he smurk about it.I have been having nitemire about it every since.I am taken medication for that stupid act,Hateful crime.I currently having this case taken care of out Columbia,Mo.If the law is not pass here in Missouri.Then you and your colleague would have meeting.Think about what will the future will bring to the quite streets in your neighborhoods.Or at our children safe place haven,such as school,e.t.c.That mean the NAACP will get involve in people civil rights movement. I am a blk man.When the guy wasn’t arrested as of yet.Contact me ASAP.

  4. Amy Tyler says:

    No doubt, as you say, much of the legislation efforts and implementation is all about show and really unnecessary. It seems much the same to me as the current “border control” “illegal immigrant” issues. There are already sufficient laws on the books to deal with things as they happen. So when the decision is made to not enforce the laws we have, it serves, hopefully, as a placebo for anxious public and as a balm for a sadly not-troubled conscience of those in power.

  5. Amy Tyler says:

    I can’t feel too much sympathy for father5 unless I’m mistaken his statement amounts to an ill-concealed threat, not to mention extortion, a plan to get compensation for an act which, if it happened, was surely wrong but why is everyone’s solution du jour a serving of “money” to sooth their tattered souls and bankrupt lives. You would go further to convince others of your rightful complaint if you dropped the threats and the implied need of funds to smooth things over.

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