Black Amazon Workers Keep Finding Nooses on the Job. The Company Owes them ActionRoundup
tags: racism, labor, Amazon, Ida B. Wells
Keisha N. Blain is an award-winning historian and writer. She is an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and has written extensively on race, gender and politics in national and global perspectives. Her most recent book is Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America.
In May, workers building a new Amazon facility in the town of Windsor, Connecticut, came across a noose on the property. It was the eighth noose they encountered since construction on the facility began in late 2020. The repeated occurrences forced Amazon to delay construction on several occasions and incited a great deal of tension among local residents. Close to 40 percent of the 28,733 residents in Windsor are Black, and about 9 percent of residents are Hispanic or Latino.
The appearance of these nooses has also sparked political organizing in recent months as workers in Windsor call attention to the racism they encounter on a day-to-day basis. During a news conference in May, Carlos Best, a foreman and iron worker, recounted witnessing symbols of hate on the site: “I did witness Confederate flags on people's hats, on the back of their cars. I personally heard racial remarks.”
Despite the addition of new security cameras and a $100,000 offer from the company for any tips leading to an arrest, law enforcement officials have been unable to determine the source of the hateful symbols. As the FBI now works with the Windsor Police Department to locate the culprits, many residents and activists in Windsor are demanding Amazon and local officials take these developments seriously.
Their concerns mirror those of others across the nation. Since 2015, Black workers in various states — including Iowa, New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland — have reported finding more than 50 nooses at construction sites, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
The continued appearance of nooses in these workplaces — and in other private and public spaces — reveals much about the prevalence of racism in American life and culture. In many ways, the noose is the quintessential, if deeply troubling, American symbol. Its persistence in American life and culture today attests to the fact that white supremacist ideas have always been mainstream.
Nooses, which are associated with acts of lynching in the United States, are one of the prevailing symbols of hate, violence and white supremacy. Since the end of the Civil War, white supremacists have relied on nooses as a means of terrorizing Black people. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the noose transitioned to being primarily viewed as the instrument of racial terror preferred by white supremacists, one thing is certain: Its popularity among hate groups coincided with Black Americans’ quest for expanded political rights and opportunities.
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