Should This WNY Halloween Display Be Removed Because It’s Offensive?
A listener left a voicemail for us and expressed his concern over the Halloween display in question. In his opinion, it's racist and inappropriate. To be fair and not be judge, jury and executioner, I wanted to bring the photo to light and see how the rest of Western New York feels about it. Honestly, I don't know if the choice of black trash bags was intentional, but I can definitely see how it might be a microaggression, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as,
A comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)
The gentleman who sent me the picture is an African-American dad, who lives in the Town of Tonawanda. I won't release his name, to protect his identity and job, but he served 20-years in the Marine Corps and is currently employed as an Erie County Sheriff. Here's part of the message he sent with the photo below,
I live in the Town of Tonawanda. This is what’s placed outside of a house on the block I live on. I’m a African American male with teenager young men and a 7 year old daughter. We shouldn’t have to see this. Not only am I afraid for my children and I. I’m afraid for the community I live in. What example are these people setting.
I'm not exactly sure why the homeowner decided to use a hanging figure in their Halloween display, but with the history of the hangings of Black people in the United States, I understand how this can be perceived as offensive. When people see nooses or hangings, many times, it provokes thoughts of lynchings in America. While not all lynchings involved hangings, many did. The National Advancement for the Association of Colored People's website states that,
From 1882 to 1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the U.S., according to records maintained by NAACP. Other accounts, including the Equal Justice Initiative's extensive report on lynching, count slightly different numbers, but it's impossible to know for certain how many lynchings occurred because there was no formal tracking. Many historians believe the true number is underreported.
In order to protect the privacy of the homeowner, I have taken steps to remove most identifying or recognizable marks in the photo.
Thank you to the listener who sent me this photo, who is concerned about hate and racism in our community!