The News Tribune logo

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Noose in the news from Duke's Chowder House: will Duke be lynched?

Duke's Chowder House has several locations including one on Ruston Way, in Tacoma. For the past couple of years I have subscribed to receive e-mail announcements and coupon specials from Duke's.

Today I received the offer shown here featuring Duke's deer-in-the-headlights photo with a noose hanging prominently in the picture with the caption "Managers blame Duke for recession." The ad conveys that Duke faces lynching by his restaurant managers. Funny? Comical? Knee-slapping hilarity?

I wrote to Rich Carr, in Duke's marketing department, and expressed revulsion at seeing a noose in their advertising. I did not find it appetizing nor would it entice me to patronize the restaurant. I added that the noose as a symbol would also be especially offensive to African-Americans.

Rich Carr replied with the following statement:

The imagery, the verbiage, the impact of the message were all developed to cut through the clutter of your average email and/or marketing campaign. And, while we acknowledge your viewpoint, we also meant this to be ‘tongue in cheek’ as ALL Duke’s emails are. I don’t see the reference to African-Americans as you state, as the history of the hangman’s noose go back to Colonial America as well as England during the 16th and 18th centuries as a form of capital punishment. Period. Will it be used all the time, certainly not. Is it a powerful image that relates to Duke’s missive, yes. Does it spur people to read more? Certainly.

Most Duke’s Email Club members appreciate his sense of humor, use of imagery, and the text he writes himself. It’s Duke…his approach has never altered in his 30 years in business as the last thing we ever want to be is ‘another’ email, but something people talk about, buzz about, tell their friends about, and realize that humor in all its forms sometimes offends albeit that is certainly not our intention. Again, I appreciate the feedback and will forward directly to Duke should he want to weigh in. However, I feel he’ll echo my comments as these collaborations are just that.

When he wrote, "I don't see the reference to African-Americans..." and continued the defense of the noose (referring to its use in "Colonial America and England in the 16th and 18th Centuries...") underscored how out of touch and insensitive he/they were in the use of the noose as a symbol for their advertising. 400 years of the unspeakable, shameful horrors of slavery and he does not "see the reference to African-Americans?"


I wrote again and put forth a couple of outrageous, hypothetical scenarios, which I was confident (as a matter of good taste) Duke's would never even consider using in an ad, simply as a means to make the point that African-American people have a profoundly different visceral reaction to the image of a noose anytime or anywhere and that reaction is different from how white people perceive it.

Duke's would be hard-pressed to find a Brit or other white person whose reaction would be the same as an African-American's painful reaction on seeing a noose utilized in an advertising campaign flippantly as if it is or can be an object of amusement.

I challenged Duke's to show the ad to black employees and ask for their gut reaction to it. Does it make them proud to work for Duke’s? They may fear for their jobs, may fear a hostile work environment, so they may not answer truthfully, but I encouraged him to give employees an opportunity anyway to weigh in on it. I suggested that Duke's distribute a simple, anonymous survey card that would only require a check mark as a reply: “Seeing a noose in an ad for Duke’s: a) bothers me, b) doesn’t bother me.”

Rhetorically, I asked if they'd consider putting a "Whites Only" sign at the entrance or if the next ad campaign would feature Duke being "tarred and feathered." Of course not! It would be outrageous. I pointed out those scenarios in an effort to help them 'connect the dots' and see that a noose is every bit as offensive.

Rich Carr replied that:

This is not a racial email, nor will we entertain attempts to take it that direction. Your ideas of ... have obvious racial undertones and in no way reflect anything we’d ever produce or distribute.

That's great news! I appreciate the affirmation.

It's unfortunate that Duke's didn't think through the implications of using lynching and a noose in their current ad before it was distributed.


tuddo said...

I think both of you should read and pay close attention to Obama's speech today. He has important messages for both of you. Listen to what each other is saying, try to understand the different points of view. Then move forward.

I am white and grew up in West Texas. The noose always conjured up the wild west for me, with outlaws and bad guys getting strung up. A lynching party often went out for some n'eer do well when the sheriff wouldn't. It wasn't a racist thing at all.

I know better now because of the reaction of Black people, but cut me some slack for my own experiences, which are valid, too. Give each other the benefit of the doubt and move on, will ya'?

JosephMcG said...

Good for you tuddo... let us now continue the conversation about nooses and lynching... I am more than willing to get on with building relationship... as long as you know that the noose and lynching hurts, hurts, hurts... it hurts because too many Black people were either lynched or threatened with the noose if they chose to stand up for themselves... as human beings...

It also hurts because it was used by people in our country to kill other people and I do not believe we have some right given because we are human beings who have the right to judge and kill other people...

So I encourage us all to start studying American history seriously and choose to live life together that is thoughtful and compassionate

It is talk to talk about race without expecting others to tolerate us...

Honesty, understanding, and acceptance are now essential to our survival and growth

Joseph McG

Porgie said...

Posted without added personal comments:

(found here: )

Capital Punishment in Washington State

The Law

Washington’s capital punishment law requires that capital punishment imposed by the state’s courts be carried out at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Procedures for conducting executions are supervised by the Penitentiary Superintendent.

Methods of Execution

Washington utilizes two methods of execution: lethal injection and hanging. Lethal injection is used unless the inmate under sentence of death chooses hanging as the preferred execution method.

After an Offender is Sentenced

Within 10 days of a trial court entering a judgment and sentence imposing the death penalty, male defendants under sentence of death are transferred to the Penitentiary, where they remain in a segregation unit pending appeals and until a death warrant is issued setting the date for the execution. Female defendants under sentence of death are housed at the Washington Corrections Center for Women before being transferred to the Penitentiary no later than 72 hours prior to a scheduled execution.

Executions in Washington State

Since 1904, 77 persons have been executed in Washington, none of whom were women.

Executions by Ethnicity

* Caucasian - 65
* Black - 7
* Asian - 2
* Hispanic - 2
* Eskimo - 1

Lorraine Hart said...

I believe those numbers just reflect the twentieth century population percentages in Washington State. What are the percentages nationally?

Pain has to be acknowledged before "moving on"...and it doesn't have to be a grandiose act...just the honest acknowledgement.

Thinking of wild west movies and childhood games with 'goodies' and 'baddies' ...not thinking for a moment about the deep trauma just the phrase "lynching party" brings to the consciousness, before one decides to say it, doesn't move the conversation forward. If someone has never had to fear for their lives, or their loved ones lives just because of the colour of their skin, they cannot understand how necessary this acknowledgement is.

VW said...

It was, at best, a poor attempt at humor. At worst, it was just plain tacky. I think common sense needs to prevail. I think most of us understand that the marketing people had no other ulterior motive. It was juvenile humor.

The noose is a fairly morbid object by itself. One wonders why they would choose to use it at all.

Frankly, aside from that, it was fairly innocuous. There should be no way anyone should interpret more into this than what there really is.


JosephMcG said...

Poor attempts at humor... right, does it hurt, right, is the death penalty an appropriate way to punish people... MY COMMENT...NO...
Should we just let this one pass by... no...
Am I finished with my comments... Yes
(for the moment)
Joseph McG

JosephMcG said...

I just sent an email to saying get rid of the ad and apologize to every person on your mailing list...

I had started to do a post on the noose... read an article from the Boston Globe that said the noose was replacing the burning cross as a new KKK sign...

then decided to just keep supporting all of us to get on with frank, hard nosed conversation, and let those folks who think they are just being funny hear from me..

2008 is going to be a great year for telling the truth

Joseph McG

JosephMcG said...

Sorry... I got the email address wrong... it is

Aura Mae said...

I got the email today and did not even notice the noose. (And we went to Duke's for lunch.)

Lorraine Hart said...

...and therein lie the tiny drips that erode into a canyon between us.

tuddo said...

If I let everything that offends me turn into a canyon separating me from the rest of society, then I have dome myself no good.

Lorraine Hart said...

...and, if we let ourselves offend without taking responsibility to acknowledge we have offended, we have also done ourselves no good.

JosephMcG said...

SOCIETY IS DIVIDED... we have never talked things out... this is a good time to look at history honestly... name things for what they are... no patronizing... no minimizing... no personalizing...
stick with things like--- Americans were lynched by other Americans; we are still using and hurting one another because we put profits ahead of each other--- NOW we can make a difference by choosing not to participate in conversations, actions, or inactions that divide us...


Joseph McG

Lorraine Hart said...

It would be very worthwhile for folks to read Leonard Pitts' column today, Monday, March 21st. about moving forward with this conversation, in the TNT. I thought it was an excellent piece.