Presumed Racist Until Proven Innocent

by James A. Bacon

Around 11:15 p.m. last Wednesday, a White male dressed in dark clothing climbed the statue of the blind poet Homer on the grounds of the University of Virginia and hung a noose around its neck.

The next day University President Jim Ryan declared the incident to be a “hate crime” and vowed to track down the perpetrator. Ryan said he wanted to assure every member of the UVa community that he was “working to keep you safe and to make the University of Virginia a place where everyone is welcome” regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology.

“A noose is a recognizable and well-known symbol of violence, most closely associated with the racially motivated lynchings of African Americans,” Ryan said in a prepared statement. “The combination of those factors led University public safety officials to determine that this incident met the criteria of a hate crime and that a community alert was required.”

Proclaiming the incident to be a hate crime seems premature. Given the facts available, I would not call it unreasonable to suspect that noose might have been meant to intimidate African-Americans — let’s call it a working hypothesis — but one must ask, if someone is trying to send a racist message, why hang the noose around the neck of an ancient Greek poet? Why not hang the noose from a tree branch? Or vandalize the shrine to UVa’s slave laborers?

Photograph of suspect released today by the University of Virginia police.

What concerns me here is that so many in the UVa community nurture a sense of victimhood and paranoia, traced back to the Unite the Right rally in 2017. Many at UVa, to purloin a phrase from the days of the Red Scare, see racists under every bed. Indeed, they seek out evidence of racism that confirms their world view in which White supremacists and quasi-fascists represent a growing threat to the nation.

This conspiratorial world view is at odds with reality. As African-American scholar Wilfred Reilly has abundantly documented, there appears to be a far greater demand for racist incidents than the supply; therefore, hate crimes must be concocted. Does anyone recall Jussy Smollett’s disproven claim that MAGA-hat-wearing Whites assaulted him at night and hung a noose around his neck? Reilly has documented dozens of hate-crime hoaxes on college campuses, the most Woke institutions in the nation, where the craving for proof of racism is the most intense.

On the other hand, as another old saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Occasionally, campus hate crimes are real. My point is not to dismiss the possibility that the Homer noose was a hate crime but to sound a note of caution. We know nothing about the perpetrator, other than his race, much less his motive.

Was the perpetrator a student or grad student, or was he an outsider? We don’t know. Does his ideology skew to the left or to the right? We don’t know. As I recall, the White supremacists who marched through the University grounds the day before the Unite the Right rally bore tiki torches, not nooses. The noose, one can argue, plays a much greater role in contemporary leftist iconography.

Take, for example, the paint-splattered Jefferson Davis statue, toppled from its plinth on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, displayed in the Valentine Museum in downtown Richmond.

Photo credit: Virginia Public Media

The text accompanying the Virginia Public Media article says the following: “Tufts of toilet paper clump to the pink paint around his neck, where a noose placed by protestors formerly hung.”

The left has appropriated the imagery of nooses as something to be applied (symbolically) to White racists and, perhaps by extension, to any and all memorials to Western Civilization. As author of two of the oldest and most revered works in the Western canon, Homer epitomizes “Whiteness.” Was the intended message an expression of contempt for Western Civilization? Such an explanation is just as plausible as the allegation that the noose was meant to intimidate Blacks. The point can be argued back and forth endlessly without resolution. The fact is, we don’t know.

Ryan doesn’t know either. Until the perpetrator is apprehended and questioned, there is no way we possibly can know. Sadly, Ryan can conceive of no motive but racism. The suspect is presumed guilty of racism until proven innocent. As a consequence, Ryan has fed a sense of grievance and alarm among African Americans at UVa that may not prove to be justified.

I don’t know the answer. Ryan might be proven right in the end. But until he is, the UVa president should stifle his impulse to signal his virtue, keep his presumptions to himself, and let police do their job.

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23 responses to “Presumed Racist Until Proven Innocent”

  1. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Because your typical woke college student doesn’t actually know who Homer was? Maybe that’s why — hey, old European guy, what more do you need to know? Certainly a slave economy there, too. And reading the poem I came to hate the phrases “wine-dark sea” and “rosy-fingered dawn” but can’t get them out of my head.

  2. LesGabriel Avatar

    Appeals to logic and reason will probably be to little avail. Perhaps that horse has left the barn for good. I hope that is not true, but rays of hope are few and far between.

  3. f/k/a_tmtfairfax Avatar

    Sounds like an anti-Southern European attack to me. There has certainly been bias against those nationalities in the past. I don’t see a connection between a noose on a Greek and lynching of black people. Glad I’m not paying taxes to support this guy. We have similar people on the NC payroll though.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    hmm…. maybe a “_*ck UVA” thing?

  5. DJRippert Avatar

    Look for an engineering student being forced to take a humanities course.

  6. Scott McPhail Avatar
    Scott McPhail

    Maybe he prefers Virgil?

  7. Do we know where Jessie Smalllet was?
    Or this is just another of the many examples of anti-dead Greek poet violence we’ve witnessed growing around the world?

  8. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Victimhood has become a cry for both ends of the political spectrum unfortunately. Your prior articles actually prompted the “red under the bed” meme for me. I recall painfully the Commie hunt at NYC’s City College and the inanity of Tailgunner Joe McCarthy.

  9. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Because your typical woke college student doesn’t actually know who Homer was? Maybe that’s why — hey, old European guy, what more do you need to know? Certainly a slave economy there, too. And reading the poem I came to hate the phrases “wine-dark sea” and “rosy-fingered dawn” but can’t get them out of my head. Maybe the perp actually dislikes Homer!

    1. dick dyas Avatar

      Maybe it was a message to the faculty.

  10. Ruckweiler Avatar

    These kids at UVA and elsewhere are being proselytized by tenured professors who don’t live the way they advocate. Eliminate tenure which was originally about academic freedom but has changed into commissars spreading the party line. They are as doofus as millionaire John Lennon saying he was a committed socialist.

    1. f/k/a_tmtfairfax Avatar

      Any ass can pontificate on any side of any issue. But one can also be willing to pay a price for his/her beliefs. I read recently where a group of tenured Asian Americans professors filed an amicus brief supporting affirmative action (i.e., judging someone by their race or ethnic background). If they truly believed in this and recognizing that Asian Americans are likely fill more tenured college positions percentagewise than the percentage of Asian Americans in the general population. So, why not resign their position or at least publicly give up tenure so that other qualified people of different racial or ethnic background can replace them. Better balance.

      As my late father used to tell us – put your money where your mouth is.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        “Any ass can pontificate on any side of any issue. ”

        Clearly, a direct reply.

  11. You are assuming Mr. Noose knew that was Homer.

    My bet is the dumb-ass thought it was the statue of Jefferson.

    A stranger to U Va — obviously — responding to the Cavalier Daily’s editorial demanding U Va cancel the Founder of the University (speaking of dumb-ass).

    Determining whether his noose was for cancelling what he thought was Jefferson, or upraised a middle finger to those who want to cancel Jefferson, or whether he just flung a noose on the only statue he could find on the Lawn, will have to await his arrest and confession.

    Displaying a noose with intent to intimidate — if that was his intent — is indeed a crime in Virginia, a class 6 felony. Va Code § 18.2-423.2 A lesser punishment than most felonies but felony nonetheless.

    1. walter smith Avatar
      walter smith

      Grouped within the anti-Klan statutes from the so-called systemically racist Commonwealth. Interesting that the anti-masking statute is not enforced against Antifa, every bit the terrorist organization that the Klan is/was…
      Check out the Statutes for yourself…

      You see, some terrorists are good terrorists under Left-wing agit-prop

  12. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Lemme see, someone angry with ancient philosophers… egad! It’s a Conservative!

    1. No, usually Conservatives say: “oh for the good ole days– the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome.” Conservatives scoff at the Moderns. But whether you read the Ancients or the Moderns at least you’re reading. Good. For readers of either or both, perhaps it can be safely said: No noose is good news.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Or, no news is good noose.

        Sauce for the noose is sauce for the bander.

  13. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Chrysippus would have gotten the joke.

  14. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    I think your alternative explanation is a stretch… Occam’s Razor….

  15. Donald Smith Avatar
    Donald Smith

    It’s obviously easy, VERY easy, to get the modern-day UVA community to spaz out. If it’s obvious that someone can get under your skin easily, they will get under your skin easily.

  16. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    We are so vain that we care even for the opinion of those we don’t care for. — Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

  17. Ruckweiler Avatar

    Maybe, just maybe, this was to comment on UVA’s treatment of the ancient, great philosophers whose ideas were the foundation of Western civilization. Remember Jesse Jackson’s chant “Hey, hey, ho, ho. Western Civ has got to go!” This was at Stanford in 1987. I remember thinking these “protesters” were nuts at the time and still do.

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