Nooses Are Not 'Back to school necklaces'

Administrators at a New York middle school have come under fire after a photo of a classroom display that labeled nooses as “back to school necklaces” surfaced on social media. The display at Roosevelt Middle School (RMS) in Long Island – whose Black and African American students account for 45 percent of the student body – also featured stickers that read “Ha Ha” and “#YES.”

The racist display was first publicized on Facebook by local pastor Arthur L. Mackey Jr., who received the image from a concerned RMS teacher. Mackey said the display was hung in a classroom and circulated on social media by three teachers, who took down the photo when RMS administrators took notice. He and others have called for the teachers to be removed from the school.

“When the teacher was supposed to have a teaching moment, a moment of education, it instead was a teaching moment of racism. It was a teaching moment of inferiority. This was the slap in our face to our tight community,” Mackey told The North Star, calling the display a hate crime. “Like the swastika for our Jewish brothers and sisters, the noose is a symbol of hate.”

Mackey added that the nooses could be associated with suicide, harming middle school students who are already in sensitive emotional states. It’s unclear why teachers in a majority Black and brown school would use such loaded, sensitive imagery in a classroom, or how long the image was displayed. In his Facebook post, Mackey noted that “dolls with nooses around the necks were also distributed to the children of color.” Those reports have not been confirmed by the school district or The North Star.

The three teachers allegedly involved in the creation and sharing of the racist display have not been publicly named. In a statement, the Roosevelt School District said “an investigation was immediately initiated” on Feb. 7, 2019 and that there is “zero tolerance for the display of racially offensive images.”

In a statement Sunday, Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen echoed this sentiment, writing, “A clear message needs to be sent that there is simply no place in our schools and in our society for this type of racist, hateful & insensitive imagery.” “I have 100 percent confidence that our superintend of schools and our school board president will do the right thing and move in the best interest of the residents of Roosevelt,” Mackey said. "We have to speak truth to power and say any way that racism, classism, and sexism raises its ugly head, we're going to stand against it."

About the Author

Jessica Lipsky is the content editor for The North Star. Her work as an editor and reporter has appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Vice, Billboard, Remezcla, Timeline and LA Weekly, among others. She regularly pens authoritative features on subculture, broke several music industry-focused #MeToo stories and also writes on the business of music.