Noose self-portraits question how equal black Americans really are

picturewithnoose Image copyright Stefan Trotman (@mrcheyl) / Moise Morancy

The pictures were designed to get a reaction - and they certainly did.

New York-based artist, actor and musician Moise Morancy posted five nearly identical portraits online. In each he's dressed as a different character - a graduate, a professional, a prisoner, and two gang members. In each he looks distraught. And in each, he's got a noose and an American flag wound around his neck.

Not only were the pictures liked thousands of times on Instagram, but they started a wave of tweets. The hashtag #ItDoesntMatter has been used more than 23,000 times this week.

"Oooo I love this #ItDoesntMatter campaign. Your degree & employment cannot mask your skin & the hate it may inspire," one student tweeted. Another commented: "If you're Black, whether you are a Harvard Grad or a Gangster, you still get treated the same by cops."

Morancy didn't say much about the photographs on his social media accounts. But in an interview with BBC Trending he said that he was inspired by watching a news item about an African-American father who gave his children a strict dress code.

"He forbid them from wearing dressing sneakers, hoodies or anything that could be seen as 'hood' or 'ghetto'," Morancy says. "I've given many speeches to youth groups, and sometimes misguided young people tell me that the way you dress will give you validation and respect in society. I disagree."

"Martin Luther King was killed in a suit," he says, "Trevyon Martin -" the Florida teenager who was shot by a neighbourhood watch volunteer in 2012 "- was killed in street clothes and a hoodie."

Image copyright Stefan Trotman (@mrcheyl) / Moise Morancy

But is the message that all black Americans will be treated the same - and potentially face violence - no matter what their occupation or situation, really a fair one?

Morancy says his meaning is more subtle, and that the photographs are metaphorical.

"I'm not saying I think the president would be treated the same as a gang member," he says. "And I'm not saying everyone is going to get a noose around their necks. They don't hang people any more - most of the time."

"But there are different ways of 'getting hanged'. Your financial situation might ruin you. You might not get a job because of the colour of your skin. So it's about more than being killed physically - you can get 'killed' by racism in many other ways."

Image copyright Stefan Trotman (@mrcheyl) / Moise Morancy

The pictures were retweeted by a mostly African-American audience, and the comments were overwhelmingly positive. Morancy says they were designed to be provocative, but that he also intended to start a conversation.

"I thought that I had something special, and I wanted it to go viral - but I didn't think it would get this much attention," he says. "Hopefully it will get people talking."

Blog by Mike Wendling

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