George W. Bush is still George W. Bush, busily vetoing the ban on waterboarding and sowing cheerful malice around the world. But let us give him props now for a quite remarkable discourse on the subject of the noose and all it symbolizes.
Speaking last Wednesday at a ceremony commemorating African-American History Month, Mr. Bush said:
Our nation has come a long way toward building a more perfect union. Yet as past injustices have become distant memories, there’s a risk that our society may lose sight of the real suffering that took place. One symbol of that suffering is the noose. Recently, there have been a number of media reports about nooses being displayed. These disturbing reports have resulted in heightened racial tensions in many communities. They have revealed that some Americans do not understand why the sight of a noose causes such a visceral reaction among so many people.
For decades, the noose played a central part in a campaign of violence and fear against African Americans. Fathers were dragged from their homes in the dark of the night before the eyes of their terrified children. Summary executions were held by torchlight in front of hateful crowds. In many cases, law enforcement officers responsible for protecting the victims were complicit in their deeds [sic] and their deaths. For generations of African Americans, the noose was more than a tool of murder; it was a tool of intimidation that conveyed a sense of powerlessness to millions.
The era of rampant lynching is a shameful chapter in American history. The noose is not a symbol of prairie justice, but of gross injustice. Displaying one is not a harmless prank. And lynching is not a word to be mentioned in jest. As a civil society, we must understand that noose displays and lynching jokes are deeply offensive. They are wrong. And they have no place in America today.
You can read the full text at the White House Web site.