The Saint Louis Zoo had what they thought was a ghostly decoration for Halloween; however, many residents felt that it was borderline racist and eventually the Zoo officials removed the decoration. The decorations displayed 10 ghostly figures with black faces hanging from trees which many felt resembled lynchings. To be honest, when I first looked at the photo, it reminded me of some of the CGI ghostly figures from the Harry Potter movies but now that I think about it, I completely agree that the arrangements were done in bad taste. Perhaps, if they were posted along stands in the grass, or nailed on the side of buildings or inside a haunted house exhibit it would be one thing, but when displayed hanging from trees, then yes; it does give the appearance of black people being hanged by ropes.
Actually, the more that I look at the pictures, the more I feel sick to my stomach because another horrible perspective is that they are wearing white sheets similar to that of the KKK with black faces, as if it were a KKK demonstration. While this was probably not what the zoo had in mind at the time, it could be associated with the phenomenon of eye-matrixing. Basically, two people can see two different things when looking at the same object but when one of them tells the other what they are seeing, then the second person will begin to see what the first person saw. Likewise, several people can see several different things or the same thing when discussed by others.
On Tuesday, 30-October 2012, News 4 received a letter about the decoration and what they believed to be a lynching. News 4 investigated the claims and talked with the Zoo officials
“It was like a complete outrage to me, it was very hurtful. The picture appeared to be African-American people hanging from a rope.”
— Chris Burchett, zoo patron
According to Zoo officials, “An outside vendor who made and installed the zoo’s Halloween decorations created these to look like faceless ghosts, with a light in the head, so at night, that’s all that shows up. Without the cloak of darkness, the effect of the display is lost and looks like ghosts with black faces hanging from a tree and may give the wrong impression.”
“ We’ve looked at what we’ve seen in terms of photographs, we’ve discussed and we’ve made the decision that we’ll take them down,”
— Wyndel Hill, Vice President of Internal Relations.
“I definitely do appreciate them taking it down because it is very offensive to a lot of different people especially the African-American community.”
— Chris Burchett
I agree with Burchett’s opinions, however; I feel that it is offensive to all races, as it should be these days. The best defense against racism is educational awareness for everyone, equally. Whether the vendor’s intentions were in fact racially motivated or purely an innocent mistake, someone should have taken the time to approve it before moving on to the next decoration.