Monday, October 23, 2017
On Lynching, Representing, and What Not to Wear on the Red Carpet
By Jasmyne A. Cannick
Published October 25, 2007

I am a reasonable person. I can laugh when it’s funny and cry when it’s not. I’m not extra sensitive about every little thing and I can take a joke.

However, after mulling over the photo of comedian Kat Williams on the red carpet at the BET Hip Hop Awards with a noose as a fashion accessory, I am compelled to get this off my chest.

There is nothing funny about a noose and especially when it’s around the neck of a Black person. Have we forgotten that countless numbers of Blacks, mostly men accused of raping White women, died by the noose? The practice of lynching destroyed many Black families and left a scar that most of will carry for the rest of our lives.

At 30, I certainly wasn’t around in the Ku Klux Klan’s heyday, but that doesn’t mean that what happened wasn’t passed down to me from my grandparents and through various history books that I read. I know that a noose is nothing to joke around with.

That’s why I’m so perplexed, upset, and disappointed in comedian Kat Williams’ decision to don a noose around his neck at the BET Hip Hop Awards. I mean c’mon, really, a noose? Is that the best you could come up with? It wasn’t funny and in my opinion, just like Blacks use of the n-word, yet again showed the world that nothing is off limits.

What was the uproar in Jena about then? If we’re so comfortable with nooses, then why did we get on the bus and travel down to Louisiana for if we were going to turn around then and make light of the whole situation?

In Kat’s defense, he very well may have thought that by him wearing the noose on the red carpet he was making a political statement, but he was wrong. Maybe, and I mean maybe, if instead of being at the BET Hip Hop Awards he was walking the red carpet of the American Music Awards or the Emmy’s, but it’s not much of a statement at a Black event. We know all too well the history of the noose. Try again.

Instead, what Kat did was make a fool of him, you, and me while making a mockery of a situation that moved an entire race of people in a way that we he hadn’t been moved since the Nation of Islam’s Million Man March when we got on the bus and went to Washington.

Note to Kat: This ain’t no re-entry into slavery. If you want to walk around and make a complete jackass of yourself, do it without dragging down the entire Black race. Too many brothers and sisters died by the noose for you to make light of it. If you want to make a statement, do it in a way that preserves the dignity of the rest of your brothers and sisters. While you may have popularity among Blacks who may or may not agree with your choice to wear a noose, outside of the community with people who don’t know you or anything about you, when they see the photo of you with the noose, the one thing that will register with them is that you’re a Black man wearing a noose.

Let me tell you a few things that I know I am likely to never see. I know that I will never see a Jewish comedian get rolled down a red carpet in an oven. It just won’t happen. Likewise, I know that I am not likely to see a with a White person dressed in blackface sporting an afro wig dressed as O.J. Simpson with blonde female by his side.

But leave it to one of us to use a noose as a fashion accessory and pose with it like it’s the thing to do.

Say what you want about Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (and at times Lord knows I have), but I know that I won’t ever see them walking down the street with a noose around their neck or with their pants hanging off their a** and a neck weighed down from gold chains and medallions with a grill to match.

Some of us could do better, but we won’t. Kat Williams’ just confirmed for me what I already knew. That’s it’s going to be up to the rest of us represent.

Jasmyne Cannick n is a social commentator and activist who is known for addressing the issues others can’t or simply won’t. Chosen as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, at 29, Jasmyne is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and writes a popular daily blog at and She resides in Los Angeles and can be reached at

Categories: Opinion

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