An investigation may have determined no crime was committed by the hanging of a noose inside a post office in Worcester’s Denholm Building last June, but passions are still running high over the incident, particularly among the minority community. U.S Postal Service (USPS) officials, meanwhile, are trying to get past what one postal official called “an embarrassing situation.”
In a meeting held at the YWCA Wednesday night, Nov. 12, and coordinated by the local chapter of the NAACP and the City Manager’s Coalition Against Bias and Hate, Mike Powers, district manager for the Greater Boston District of the USPS said the noose was actually meant as a joke. He said the noose, which was seen this year by an African-American customer at the post office branch, was hung by an employee poking fun at his own Italian heritage. The employee, Powers said, held the noose a few inches above the ground and called it his “suicide device.” The noose was presumed forgotten after it was made and placed out of sight, according to Powers, who said it only became visible to the public after the rope it was tied to was raised by flags displayed as part of Independence Day decorations.
“It was an embarrassing situation for us,” Powers said. “It was an embarrassing situation for the [Denholm Building postal] employees … We take great pride in the fact that we are an inclusive organization. We take great pride in that our employees do things that support every person in this country each and every day.”
Powers’ explanation may not have reassured all of those who were disturbed by the incident.
“I’d be amazed that unless this person lived up in the mountains and never came down and saw black people before, that he could feel comfortable putting up a noose with a black person [as a higher-level associate] working with him,” NAACP Economic Development Chairman Larry Cooper said.
As for any disciplinary action taken as a result of the noose incident, Powers did not reveal specifics, but said the employees that were involved were disciplined and “now recognize the error of their ways.”
He also pointed out that the Post Office is committed to becoming a more diverse office, in part by starting to hire based on affirmative action.
“Quite frankly,” Powers said of the 600 jobs the Post Office is trying to fill in Worcester, “I’m frustrated by the fact that we can’t get the help that we want.”
While the investigation into the incident may have concluded, the NAACP believes there is more work to be done between the organization and the USPS.
“Some of the things we’re going to talk to the Post Office about [are] communications with the community and the newspaper, diversity training, the frequency of diversity training and the [enforcement of] policies and procedures,” said Pat Yancey, president of the Worcester NAACP chapter. “We will be following up and making sure that they make good on their promises.”
Yancey said the NAACP hopes to use the incident as a teachable moment in the city’s history and not place blame on the Post Office or anyone involved.
“We look at the Post Office as a partner,” she said. “We look at every community and organization as a partner. Our job is to try to help the former get to the point where we’re all on the same page.”