Every few days a silhouette of a tree and the invitation to play Hangman appear on my iPad. It’s a real tree with limbs and branches with a kind of Halloween orange sky behind the black silhouette and the noose.
In America there are TWO hangman histories. One seems harmless enough: Hangman, the English word game of British origin some of us played as children. The other is deadly.
As one who’d never heard of the game until it appeared on my iPad, the image is grotesque. It called up America’s long history of the lynching tree when the people who played hangman hid their identity with white hoods over their heads, walking in the dark with torches ablaze, erecting and setting afire crosses on the properties of blacks and whites who hadn’t shown proper respect for their doctrine of white supremacy.
Advertisers are experts in cultural anthropology. They prey on a people’s cultural history and belief systems. Commercials like the one for Hangman are created as a result of research into the fears and hungers of a people. Their ads hold out the bait to attract the quick click to the ap. I didn’t click, but, if I were a gambler, I’d wager that many who did weren’t thinking about an innocuous word game when they clicked. They may have been seeing what the advertisers meant them to see: a symbol of “the good old days” when white men were in control. In 2015 America the old racist hanging tree and its hangman are still soliciting successfully, especially when we choose not to remember.
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 29, 2015.