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Newsroom Noose Fuels Racial Tensions at Minneapolis Community and Technical College

MINNEAPOLIS — A noose hung from a newsroom ceiling has led to the firing of the news editor of the Minneapolis Community and Technical College campus newspaper.

Gabriel Keith said that when he taped it to the ceiling on Oct. 10 as a reminder for student reporters to turn in their stories on time he didn’t realize the racist implications of the noose and the memories they stir of lynchings.

 “I am definitely aware of it now,” Keith said.

Accusations have been flying, both about the incident and the college’s response. Some students find it difficult to believe Keith, 26, didn’t know what he was doing. Two student groups rallied last week to express outrage.

“We are angry,” said Lisa Dean, 31, president of Associates of Black Collegians, a student group. “If we do not nip it in the bud, it will spread and a lot of students may not want to attend this college because of racism.”

Keith, who is White, said he just meant it as a joke.

Two other students in the room, both of whom are Black, said they tried to talk Keith out of doing it.

“I said, ‘It’s not a good idea, don’t hang up the noose, why not put something else up,’” said Sita Hinds, 30, the business manager for the paper.

After a few uncomfortable minutes, in which Keith said Senah Yeboah-Sampong, 22, the online editor, told him, “If you don’t take it down, I will,” Keith took it down and threw it in the trash. When the paper’s editor, Margaret Campbell, 20, who is White, learned of the incident she fired Keith.

Keith said he was unaware at the time of recent incidents, such as the nooses White high school students hung from a tree in Jena, La., last year after Black students asked to sit there.

“I heard about something to do with a noose, but I didn’t even think of it,” he said. “I don’t watch the news.”

Nonetheless, Hinds and Yeboah-Sampong filed complaints. The college investigated and found “the incident was not intended to target an individual or group of individuals based on race,” said Laura Fedock, interim associate vice president for academic and student affairs.

Earlier this year at Macalester College in St. Paul, college officials condemned an incident at a campus house party where a student in blackface wore a noose around his neck, accompanied by a student dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member.

This fall, Hamline University in St. Paul suspended six football players from the team for wearing blackface and dressing as African tribesmen during an off-campus Halloween party.

–Associated Press

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