While my confinement in the Cooke County jail was brief, the knowledge I have accrued as an activist has grown immensely. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “Sometimes a law is just on its face, and unjust in its application.” The law surrounding jaywalking becomes unjust when it’s utilized to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful protest. The charges given to me and other organizers become even further malicious when officials were unable to deliver their initial goals of charging protesters with terroristic threats against court commissioners.
Nooses were not intended to threaten anyone. Charges against activists were intended to silence them.
Nooses symbolize the tyranny and brutality against Black humans in America. They symbolize the racial divide and violence that is still understood today. There is no similarity in white feelings regarding nooses when compared to the discomfort, trauma and ancestral murder felt by the Black population. White people in Gainesville, Texas, were outraged to see nooses, as they should be.
It brings into question, why is a Neoconfederate monument normalized while nooses are uncomfortable? This reaction is defined through understanding white guilt. White guilt is a collective guilt felt by white people due to historical racist treatment towards minorities, also known as Black kings and queens. How else do you explain why a Confederate monument stands while a noose is a hard pass? Let us link the similarities between the noose and the Neoconfederate monument that can be found alongside the Cooke County Courthouse.
In 1862, 40 men were hung due to their opposition in joining the confederacy. Gainesville residents were hung by nooses, leaving behind widows, children and broken families. Decades later, a monument was erected to celebrate these very same murderers. A Confederate monument in Gainesville clearly demonstrates the same power of the noose... except in a more glorified, yet subtle, way. I often contemplate whether court commissioners understand that the monument is a terroristic threat towards our Black community.
Although there are Lost Cause narratives to dilute white guilt surrounding Confederate monuments, it is clear to us that the intent of the Confederacy and secession from America was to continue the bondage of Black humans. The intent, to continue to generate the economy on the necks, the backs, and the evil treatment of Black humans in the name of slavery. The Cornerstone Speech tells us exactly what we need to know: “the [Black] is not equal to the white man.”
If the noose made you feel uncomfortable, then you can attempt to identify the emotions felt by the Black community in Gainesville, Texas. A community that has gathered to ask for representation and healing. We continue to pay taxes to a government that refuses to hear us.
Gainesville, let us denormalize evening strolls alongside a monument erected on broken necks. I hope the distinction of unjust laws I have shared with you today are clear. I do not condone anarchy, but I do see the power of an individual standing up to an unjust law by accepting the penalty in order to open the minds of community members to injustice, which ultimately exalts true law. Just law is allowing First Amendment rights to others who are both overtly and covertly being silenced while trying to relocate the very symbolism you felt uncomfortable towards in the image of a noose. “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to [Black Americans],” Dr. King wrote. In the same way, an unheard community will eventually require to be heard.
So hear us.
Torrey Henderson, Gainesville