Before the figure was removed yesterday, Madison Mayor Ellwood "Woody" Kerkeslager said "the appearance and the suggestion (of racism) is there, and it's inappropriate."...Millie Hazlewood is one of the local residents who called the police. The police went out to the house 3 times before the Maines decided to take the display down (saying they feared for their safety).
[F]or two days, homeowners Cheryl and David Maines, the borough's superintendent of public works, refused to budge. They said they had done nothing wrong.
Meanwhile, the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People denounced the display as offensive, racist and insensitive.
"I think there are many people who understand the significance of a noose as it relates to the history of African-Americans," said James Harris, president of the NAACP's state chapter. "We thought we lived beyond the era when people felt it was okay to have that type of display."
Last night, the Maines family said they would be replacing their Halloween display and erecting a sign reading: "Thanks to the assistance of Millie Hazlewood and her friends, Halloween and Christmas decorations will no longer be celebrated here."
Why does it come to this?
A while back, more than 10 years ago, my son Chris was interested into doing an elaborate Halloween display for our front yard. One element in his design was a dummy hanging from the tree in a noose. I told him you can't do that because it would make some people think of lynching. He hadn't thought of it that way, of course, and he argued that you're supposed to have scary things in a Halloween display, but there was no point arguing. I didn't want anything in my yard that anybody would associate with racism.
But what if somehow I didn't have the sense to notice it was a bad idea, and my son had done it, and some neighbor did associate it with lynching and think it was offensive. I'd have been shocked if she'd called the police on me. A neighbor ought to speak to you... tactfully.
Here's a suggested dialogue:
I love the way you put up Halloween decorations, but you know, I was a little worried that someone might take it the wrong way and think about lynching.No police involved. No alienation of the poor woman who thought she was making the community better by putting up decorations.
Oh, no! I didn't mean anything like that. I'm really sorry.
I know you weren't thinking of it that way, but I'd hate for someone who didn't know you to feel bad about it.
I'm so sorry.
Want me to help you take it down?
Why don't people know how to talk to each other?