What happened
New York lawmakers proposed making hanging a noose in public a felony after police found two nooses in one week in New York City. Police believe a copycat craving publicity placed the second noose in front of a post office after a flood of media coverage days before when someone draped a noose on the office door of a prominent black professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

What the commentators said
The professor, Madonna Constantine, should have just thrown that noose “where it belongs, in the trash, “said Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, in Newsday. It’s “foolish” to compare the pathetic “racial antics” of today with the lynchings and other “unbridled” racial violence blacks once endured. “Symbols don't scare me. And they should not, in this day and age, frighten or intimidate any black person, much less an expert on race and racial identity.”

The country has indeed changed, said Leonard Pitts Jr. in The Miami Herald (free registration), that doesn’t mean it can’t change back. Nooses have been popping up “all over” in a “ghastly trend” spawned by the incident in Jena, La. We seem to have traveled “backward” with the backlash over “political correctness” and “diversity,” with “code words sanding down hatred’s rough edge.” If you see these nooses as just another point in the bloody “history of rope,” you’ll realize that these incidents are anything but harmless pranks.

Wait just a minute, said Stanley Crouch in the New York Daily News. “The noose incident at Columbia University could easily be something far less than a hate crime, no more than a bad joke or an attempt to manipulate.” Remember the Tawana Brawley hoax? Racism still exists—it always will—but sometimes the "hate jury" is too quick to judge. So let’s wait for all the information on the Columbia case to come out before deciding what it means.