The hangman’s noose: Toronto’s most recent anti-Black hate crime must not be overlooked

Reports of nooses swinging at high-profile construction sites in Toronto have escalated over the last few months. Most recently, two were found at a construction site at Michael Garron Hospital. There have now been four separate occasions of this display of anti-black racism, when even one is unacceptable.  

The hangman’s noose has long been a weapon of choice for white supremacists in North America. Historically, it was used by groups like the Ku Klux Klan who gathered in mobs to torture and hang Black people – a cruel, unforgiveable act of hatred. 

“To display a noose is a serious, heinous form of anti-black racism; a dog whistle, calling like-minds to the fight,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “We will not stand for this to be displayed in our workplaces and in our communities.” 

For many years, the Black community has been fighting for the noose to be recognized as a symbol of anti-Black racism – for the terror that it stirs to be acknowledged, just as the swastika is recognized as a symbol of anti-Semitism. Instead, the outcry against these crimes is often faced with disregard or doubt. 

In 2015, three nooses were reported at the Windsor Chrysler Assembly Plant. This was acknowledged by some to be a hate crime but explained away by others as being just a knot meant to carry equipment. This past summer, a noose found in Black NASCAR racer Bubba Wallace’s garage was dismissed as simply being a pulley for a garage door. 

“Our Black hospital workers, front-line workers taking care of the public, don’t deserve to face these symbols of fear and violence when they show up for work,” said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “No Black worker should ever have to see this at their workplace. Measures need to be put in place to closely monitor these sites.” 

The culprits responsible for these acts of anti-Black racism have yet to be caught, and OPSEU’s Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW) is issuing a call to the police not to let this hate crime go unchecked. 

“If we had woken up to the news of a swastika painted on the wall of the Michael Garron Hospital, would more people be up in arms?” asked Chair of the CoRW, Peter Thompson. “The police need to treat this with the severity that it deserves and launch an investigation to uncover who is responsible.”