Noose Displayed at Fort Worth Home Prompts Community Outcry
FORT WORTH, Texas – Michael and Shirlee Wilkinson won’t win Yard of the Month Awards. A sign on the pewter fence surrounding the Eastside Fort Worth property reads, “Hint: Open shooting range.” Just above this warning is a cross that reads, “Jesus is Lord.” Seven or eight more signs displayed the corner lot in Meadowbrook warn of intruders, promote the neighborhood watch, support the police and – apart from the two colorful “welcome” posters hanging near the front door – all communicate the same basic idea: Get away.
What you need to know
- Noose was recently exhibited at the Eastside Fort Worth home
- The display asked the affected neighbors to call the police
- Homeowner Says Noose Was Only Displayed To “deter crime”
- Neighbors don’t buy arguments believing the homeowner was aware of the racist implications
Several surveillance cameras are strategically positioned around the Wilkinsons property. There is no way to go to the front door without entering a code on a keypad that opens a gate.
A sign that reads “Warning – Rifle Range Open” will appear inside a house in Eastside Forth Worth, Texas starting June 2020. (Eric Griffey / Spectrum News)
Despite the Wilkinsons’ apparent dislike of visitors, the elderly couple drew unwanted attention and shocked activists in the area when a noose hung on a building at the back of their property. After a concerned neighbor posted a picture of the dangling noose to the Facebook group, enough is enough Fort Worth! – a community of protesters, activists and allies of the Black Lives Matter movement – one of the members called the police. The noose, which was fully illuminated by a safety light at night, was dismantled that afternoon.
A relative who is monitoring the house after the couple said they were out of town. The house sitter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was her husband who removed the offending rope.
“You never want to see that, but not right now,” she said of the current racist tensions across the country. “I think he just hung it there to let people know to stay away from his stuff.”
“It’s bad,” she continued.
After Spectrum News left her number with the house sitter, we wrote to Michael Wilkinson on Facebook. While he hasn’t replied to any of our attempts to reach him, he did reply to a Facebook message written by one of the indignant members of Enough is Enough Fort Worth!
“Ma’am, I am in no way racist,” he wrote on Friday. “Never was, never will be. The only reason a hangman’s noose is on my property is to deter crime. It’s been up there for three years. If I had known it would piss people off, I would have gotten rid of it. I’m sorry I upset you. “
Most of the community members weren’t convinced by Wilkinson’s apology. Gordon Sims, who lived in or near the neighborhood for most of his life, took photos of the noose that were posted on social media. He was also one of the people who called the police.
“There is no need to hang this noose other than intimidating people with paint,” he said. “It almost seems like bait. It is a predominantly black and minority neighborhood. Of course, it would lead you to believe that there was bad intent behind this. “
Daniel Segura, a spokesman for the Fort Worth Police Department, said the noose was not legally intimidated because no one was directly threatened. He also confirmed that Shirlee Wilkinson, whose Facebook profile the police department lists as her job, does not work for the city.
Some states have laws on their books specifically dealing with snares as a symbol of intimidation, but Texas does not. The Anti-Defamation League, a national anti-hate organization, lists nooses among their symbols of hatred, adding, “The hangman’s noose has become one of the most powerful visual symbols against African Americans, comparable in the emotions it has evoked the swastika for Jews. “
Although the area is now an eclectic mix of all races, a local resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the neighborhood used to be predominantly white and middle-class. The Wilkinsons, the neighbor speculated, could not get used to living around people of color.
A wooden cross marked “Jesus is Lord” will appear in this image from June 2020 in a house in Eastside Forth Worth, Texas. (Eric Griffey / Spectrum News)
“There weren’t many people from across the track,” said the neighbor.
Patti Kirkey, communications director for the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association, said no one had brought the noose’s attention to the association.
“Obviously, it’s not reflecting positively at all,” she said. “As a property owner, you have the right to do what you want on your property – we are not a HOA or anything like that – but I would hope that people are respectful. If they are hateful … I would hope these types of views are not shown publicly in order to intimidate, distress, or hurt people. “
She added that she was concerned about the negative attention that some type of external aggression could bring to the neighborhood.
“Having something like this when people are hurt and there is so much tension and need for change is not a good idea to put something like this out there,” she said. “I think they invite trouble.”
Last week Sims created a petition on Change.org urging city officials to make displaying a hangman’s noose illegal. At the time of publication, the petition had 155 signatures.