Secret Symbols

Maybe it’s a result of my somewhat sheltered upbringing in snow-white New Hampshire, but I keep stumbling across these “symbols of racism” that — to me — have no real racial connotation whatsoever.

The first was the noose. A few years ago, nooses became all the rage as symbols of racial oppression and reminders of lynchings past. However, when I see a noose, I’m reminded of the Old West and “frontier justice” against cattle rustlers, horse thieves, and other outlaws. I don’t recall Clint Eastwood being described as at least “part black” in “Hang ‘Em High,” and the most vivid image is from an episode of the classic “Star Trek” — “The Squire of Gothos” — when the shadow of a hangman’s noose falls across Captain Kirk in a real threat.

And more recently, the character “Hooded Justice” from “Watchmen,” who wore a noose around his own neck.

Then there’s the recent dust-up involving a PhotoShopping of Sarah Palin having her shoes shined by Barack Obama. Now even here in New Hampshire I recognized the racist implications behind that one — the black man in a subservient role — but again, it wasn’t my first thought. No, to me the most famous shoe shine boy will always be Underdog.

I don’t like pleading ignorance, but apparently there are a lot of minefields out there that I don’t know about. Could you folks please tip me off to some other racially-charged symbols or metaphors before I get myself into trouble?

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