A noose was found in Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on Wednesday; it's the second noose found on Smithsonian property in four days.
On Wednesday, May 31, someone found a noose in an exhibit about segregation. The exhibit was closed for three hours while police and staff investigated. Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture
is "the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture." Since its founding in 2003, the museum has collected over 36,000 artifacts.
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The National Museum of African American History and Culture, where staff found a noose in an exhibit on May 30[/caption]
A security guard found a noose hanging in a tree outside the Hirshorn Museum, also part of the Smithsonian Institution, on Saturday, May 27.
The Smithsonian Institution and the NMAAHC respond.
The secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, David Skorton, penned an institution-wide response. In the email, he condemned the anonymous incidents:
"The Smithsonian family stands together in condemning this act of hatred and intolerance, especially repugnant in a museum that affirms and celebrates the American values of inclusion and diversity... We will not be intimidated. Cowardly acts like these will not, for one moment, prevent us from the vital work we do."
The director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Lonnie Bunch III, responded similarly. In an email to the staff of the museum, and in a tweet
, Bunch spoke to the troubling symbolism of the noose and the importance of the work they do at the museum:
"The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity — a symbol of extreme violence for African Americans. Today's incident is a painful reminder of the challenges that African Americans continue to face... This was a horrible act, but it is a stark reminder of why our work is so important."
The two nooses found on Smithsonian property this week are the most recent in a string of incidents across the country.
The extremely recent context of the incident
provided a thorough summary of and links to sources about
this disturbing trend across the U.S.:
"These ominous reminders of America’s dark history with lynching have appeared around the country, from a school in Missouri to a series of four nooses hung around a construction site in Maryland. Other nooses have been found on the Duke University campus, the Port of Oakland in California, a fraternity house at the University of Maryland, a middle school in Maryland, and at a high school in Lakewood, California."
The intent and motive of such an act
CNN responded to the incident with a video about the difference between vandalism and a hate crime. The main distinction is motive vs. intent. In the video, Danny Cevallos says intent is what you mean to do, and motive is why you did it. Vandalism has a clear intention: to deface something. Hate crime, on the other hand, must have a motive based in hatred of other people.
In this case, someone intended to leave a noose in a space dedicated to the history of African Americans. The motive? The perpetrator will have to speak for themselves.
The incident was surely a reminder to all museum visitors that, despite the stunning achievement that is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, racism is still alive and well. Sometimes it lurks in cowardly anonymity
, other times it rears its ugly head in deadly acts of terror.
Needless to say, the person responsible has contributed to the museum's archives. Their noose may serve as an anonymously donated evidence of the continuing history of racism in the United States.