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Billie holiday rightfully lamented “strange fruit” when lynchings were a horrific American spectator sport. And although there is little doubt that those days are long past, never to be condoned nor countenanced again, a stubborn vestige of this shameful blot on our history lingers: the periodic appearance of the hangman’s noose. As the Tiger Woods imbroglio demonstrates, mere mention of the word “lynch” generates public outcries, hastily convened news conferences, even the suspension of an apologetic anchorwoman. And simply the image of this Jim Crow artifact on the cover of a recent sports magazine cost the editor his job. But it is the blatant attempt to intimidate, infuriate and humiliate by anonymously posting a noose that shatters the dream of integration and ignites public outrage. Yet other than providing an opportunity to openly vent and possibly assuage the collective’s angry psyche � a temporary satisfaction at best � public expressions of anger do little to eliminate this vexing problem. Stricter law enforcement is not the answer, because rarely do the police have sufficient evidence to establish the identity of the person responsible for these noxious acts; the perpetrators, similar to other vermin, are usually evidenced only by the droppings left behind. Is there another approach that may discourage this three-dimensional hate graffiti? Perhaps if we redirect the public’s focus from the nooses to their misguided creators, we can “out” the cowards behind the nooses and expose these psychological weaklings for what they really are. Removing their cloak of behavioral anonymity might lead to a consensus that these deplorable people are to be pitied rather than feared. The former emotion generates far less heat and lessens the feeling of victimization. Make no mistake: Nooses are the sad byproducts of truly pathetic, anger-ridden people whose emotional intelligence quotient stalled at the clench-fisted, wailing equivalent of a high-chaired 2-year-old. People bereft of the hope and wonder of youth, mired in a world replete with the mirrors of their countless failures: un- or underemployment, domestic violence, estranged familial relationships. Rewarding friendships are virtually nonexistent, and reading material rarely extends beyond the alcohol content of the next bottle. Such a life simmers with a combustible mixture of self-loathing, cowardice and blinding hatred. And in a burst of almost comic depravity, these broken individuals decide that a publicly placed noose will enable the world to share their perpetually clouded world-view. So imagine. In the dim, solitary backwater of his life someone fashions what purports to be a noose, while angrily reciting the ingrained rationalizations that have led to his unfulfilled existence. Does anything remotely approximating rational thought plod through his mind as he performs this loathsome task? Does he long for stalwart, white-sheeted companions standing by his side? His task complete, he must post his warped work at its designated resting place. He furtively stuffs it in a paper bag or knapsack, annoyed that society no longer permits the open transport of his desperate creation. He dare not fail this task, having been berated continuously for a lifetime of failings and shortcomings. He paces, anxiously awaiting nightfall, angry that he must creep in the shadows, forever toiling in the twilight of humanity. He then hurriedly skulks, positions his project just so and shuffles home in the darkness to await his sole climatic, in absentia reward: the inevitable, high-definition plasma media coverage of an enraged populace decrying his deed. To halt this behavior, society must deprive him of the attention he seeks. If this behavior is gradually greeted with a collective shrug of pity by a sophisticated populace otherwise occupied by the substantive ills of our society, the sick gratification of these criminals will be undermined and their delusions may well migrate elsewhere. We must en masse ignore these acts, which in turn will deprive their perpetrators of their anonymous yet satisfying notoriety. These shadowy outliers cannot be allowed to intimidate a robust and diverse society. Report the deed, if one must, but do no more; a society that has weathered slavery, systemic injustice and fulsome discrimination can surely summon the intestinal fortitude to yawn at these deranged acts, secure in the knowledge that only the moronic among us devote even a nanosecond to such nonsense. (Tiger Woods has resolutely refused to be drawn into this victimization conversation. We should follow his lead.) By our silence and steely refusal to even acknowledge the stench of their existence, we force the perpetrators to abandon this despicable endeavor and to return to their equally anonymous but familiar red-faced screaming on call-in talk shows, or Sharpie scrawls on bathroom walls. They are the strange fruit now. G. Michael Bellinger is a partner in the New York office of Dorsey & Whitney.

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