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Raising awareness toward hate

Miguel A. Franco, Ph.D. | Tuesday, November 6, 2007

On Oct. 9, 2007, on the campus of Columbia University, an act of hate touched the life of a friend. Dr. Madonna Constantine, a preeminent African-American psychologist/scholar, awoke to learn that an anonymous person had hung a noose on her office door.

During the 1989-1990 academic year, Constantine was an intern at the University Counseling Center who counseled many Notre Dame students. Since then she has written extensive articles and books on the topic of celebrating diversity and cultural sensitivity. It’s hard for those of us who know her personally to learn that someone took the time and effort to tie a noose and then deliberately place it on her door.

Unfortunately, in recent months the appearance of a noose has become an all-too-frequent occurrence. For instance, in recent weeks in Chicago, a noose was left for an African-American woman at a construction work site, in Queens a woman brandished a noose to threaten a black neighbor and similar events have happened at the University of Maryland, Indiana State University, at a police department on Long Island, on a Coast Guard Cutter and in a bus maintenance garage in Pittsburgh.

Earlier this fall, the story of white students at Jena High School placing nooses in a tree to communicate antipathy toward their African-American classmates made national news. Closer to home, African-American students were singled out in an anonymous note at the St. Joseph’s High School right across the street.

We in the Counseling Center want to send a message to the Notre Dame community. Keep your eyes, ears and hearts sensitive to acts of hate and cruelty in any form. Whether or not such acts occur on or off our campus, let us become aware of how and why these acts happen. Know that even the most subtle statement, comment or remark can leave a psychological imprint that can alter a person’s life. Some acts are blatant, overt, obscene and warrant an immediate challenge. Others can go unnoticed receiving little acknowledgement (except for the people they harm). But even the most blatant acts of hate can go unacknowledged in terms of the deep impact they can have on others. In the midst of discussions on all forms of oppression sparked by these current events, let us all be aware of what the image of a noose means to members of the African-American community.

Miguel A. Franco, Ph.D.

University Counseling Center Staff