Recently there was an effigy of Barack Obama hung from a tree on the campus of the University of Kentucky. The perpetrators claimed it was a response to an effigy of Sarah Palin that was hung in West Hollywood and currently I am being pestered by a racist Australian blogger claiming the same thing.
I do not support the hanging of any effigy, but we have to be clear here, there is a powerful and racist connection to the Obama effigy which most people choose to ignore. The symbolic connection is to the long-term, historically documented, socially sanctioned, murdering and mutilation of black men in order to terrify, emasculate and suppress their culture. In Lexington we are a border region between the South, Midwest and East, but a majority of people still carry a Southern identification. The hanging of this effigy is a clear cultural "act of terror" and cannot be denied as such.
For those that are unaware of the symbolism that is unavoidably connected to this act of hanging an effigy of a Black man, here is an archive of sources on James Allen's exhibit and book Without Sanctuary:
James Allen's documentation of this dark, repressed side of America is an important reminder of the extent of racialized violence in our country. It was first a traveling exhibit, then a book, and later was an online site, unfortunately it has been removed from the website. I say unfortunate because it was a tool for learning and confronting this past--one cannot comprehend the racialized violence of lynching until they look into the laughing, smiling celebrating faces surrounding a horribly disfigured and slaughtered human being (even as reproductions of photographs on a website the horror of these pictures still remain with me today). We so easily typify the evil of genocides in other countries while ignoring our own crimes against humanity (if anyone is unsure why we should remember these acts, please ask and I will reply). Please be warned... these pictures document acts of extreme hatred and violence:
James Allen's Without Sanctuary website
My Original Post on Without Sanctuary
NPR: Report on Without Sanctuary Exhibit
CNN: Exhibit of Photos Displays Racial Hatred
Bad Subjects Review of the Book
Art Review When It First Toured the Nation
Village Voice Review of the Book
Facing History and Ourselves
American Lynching (Documentary)
Strange Fruit, Jazz and Civil Rights