Minnesota hate crime or Minnesota prank?

The cake served at the 2005 dedication of the new
University of Minnesota-Crookston student center.
At first, authorities thought it was a hate crime.

A 3-foot tall painted carved wooden statue of a black man with a rope tied around its waist was hanging outside the student center at the University of Minnesota-Crookston campus.

The local police chief said he had to assume the action was racially motivated, but they needed to know the person's motivation:
“Was it somebody’s idea of a joke that was a very poor choice? Was it an ill-conceived prank? Or was it truly meant to be offensive, somebody trying to make a statement about race? It’s unclear.”
The FBI was contacted.

The school's chancellor sent out a message deploring the reprehensible incident.

Soon, another message was sent, saying a student had come forward and took responsibility.

The student said that hanging the statue was meant as a prank. The statue, carved and painted as a person of color, came from the Caribbean and was owned by a different student.

The student who confessed to the prank said he hung it above the student center as a joke on the other student.

Authorities said the student did not consider the implications of his actions.

Authorities said the campus saw it as anything but funny, and there will be appropriate disciplinary measures taken.

The Chancellor of the University of Michigan - Crookston, Chuck Casey, said:
“We work to create an environment on campus where everyone can feel comfortable no matter where they are from or what their cultural background is. Appreciation for diversity and respect for others are among our core values, and we make it a priority to nurture such attributes in our students. It’s a great disappointment to hear of something like this on campus, no matter how it was intended, but we can use the incident as a teachable moment to continue discussions on sensitivity and respect.”
Why did this create such a firestorm?

Didn't everyone overreact?

I don't know the inner mind of the pranking student, but he may have been thinking his prank was similar to other pranks where something is hung to be funny, such as when a group of engineering students hung a VW Beetle off the Golden Gate Bridge in 1991. Canadian college students have a tradition of suspending VW Bugs from bridges. A "hanging a car prank" might be annoying to the authorities, but its meaning is clear - hanging a car up in the air is a ridiculous stunt.

The VW Beetle hung off a bridge,
in California, in 1991.

To some people, however, a different image is conjured up when they see an African-American statue dangling from a rope. To those who know history, hanging equals lynching, and it's not a prank or a joke. Lynching was terrorism, meant to keep black people frightened and enslaved.

The lynching murder of Michael Donald,
in Alabama, 1981.
The lynching murder of George Meadows,
in Alabama, in 1889.
Jamestown Sun>>
Crookstone Times>>
Michael McDonald, Wikipedia>>
Executed Today>>

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