October 17, 2007

About that hanged man Halloween decoration.

A family in New Jersey was pressured into taking down a hanged dummy, which was part of a Halloween display in their yard.
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."...

[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."
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).

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.

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?

Thanks.
No police involved. No alienation of the poor woman who thought she was making the community better by putting up decorations.

Why don't people know how to talk to each other?

57 comments:

The Drill SGT said...

I grew up out West and I bet the vast majority of the hangings in my state and the ones nearby had to do with Cattle, Horses, cards, liqueur, or women, rather than race. Bet the racial breakdown was White, Asian, Indian, other, black.

this noose phobia thing is a byproduct of the MSM and the victim industry.

Roger said...

If the big flap over the nooses and subsequent arrests and prosecutions in Jena had not been in the news lately, would this incident even happened?

I blame Bush.

Roger said...

Its a good think Clint Eastwood did his "hanging movies" 30 years ago--couldnt have done them now, apparently.

P. D. "Bo" Steele said...

Because they don't talk to each other any more. That's why.

John said...

Everyone knows Halloween is supposed to be about dumb pop culture jokes and females dressing like sluts, not scary stuff. Scary stuff can offend, and that is not funny.

Put some effigies of Paris and Lindsey puking in the bushes with some empty prescription bottles at their feet. Hilarious!

The Drill SGT said...

Roger, I suspect that the "Nifong" exception applies. If you make it clear that you want to hang a white man, then there is capital punishment by hanging is not only justified, it is required.


Clint was clearly a white man in most of his movies. Though I think he had a couple of Tex-mex roles.

michaele said...

I absolutely wouldn't have made a connection between a halloween hanging decoration and a message of racism. I suspect the only reason that Althouse was so advanced in her perception so many years ago was because of living in a politically correct sensitve college town.

Michele said...

I got the impression that Hazelwood asked her to take the hanged man down and the homeowner said no, it has nothing to do with race.

The story of about your son reminds of my youth -- the teacher asked for suggestions for a state animal (Illinois). Being about 9-10 years old, I suggested the raccoon. At the time, my thinking was cute, furry, little hands, mask, what a nice creature. The teacher smirked a little and said, no some people might not like that idea. I had no idea what he was talking about. Somebody had to explain it to me.

I really hope that if I have to explain such a thing to my child, I do it the right way. I wish we didn't have to explain these things anymore.

Uncle Jimbo said...

Just because some people go out of their way to make these associations why do we have to mollify them?

If the intent is innocent then the poor oppressed minority ought to stop creating beefs. There is no requirement that we make the world outrage-safe for the weak souls who take offense at everything.

I dressed up as Bob Marley for Halloween and when some folks saw the pictures online I was called racist for dressing "BLACKFACE"

I don't know if these idiots know it, Bob Marley is black and so that was my freaking costume. I caught boatloads of grief and consequently will be doing it again this year.

People like to get outraged, but we sure don't have to coddle them. They need to thicken their skin.

Cordially,

Uncle J

LutherM said...

"It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay."


Ann, perhaps you could distinguish Halloween Decorations from symbolic speech, such as flag burning.

Eli Blake said...

Maybe neighbors should talk, but keep in mind it's New Jersey. Go up and knock on your neighbor's door it might cause them to panic and they might open it a crack so they can get you with the taser while simultaneously spraying mace in your face, and then call the police themselves.

Drill Sgt:

I grew up out west also and agree that people in the west are less racist on the whole than other parts of the country (plus probably more likely to know their neighbors), but I've also been to other places where it feels like race is still a stifling straightjacket on social relations. Keep in mind too that the power of the klan was not broken until the 1960's, so there are plenty of people alive today who can still remember their friends or relatives being lynched. So for them a noose isn't just scary, it's personally painful.

Trooper York said...

I suggest that you put an effigy of either Milton Berle or Forrest Tucker in the front yard and you will be covered and still politically correct.

AlphaLiberal said...

Agreed with Ms Althouse entirely on this post. Talking to people one-on-one, tactfully should be the first resort in many cases.

Drill Sgt, you seem to have a very poor grasp of the continuing problems of racism.

joe said...

I have had a small Bart Simpson figurine hanging from a noose in my office for close to 20 years. Guess I better take it down now. Don't want Sharpton picketing in the hallway.

rhhardin said...

So now they fear for their safety from Blacks where they didn't before.

rhhardin said...

Nooses Found Hanging From Forklift On Long Island; One Said To Be Hanging Around Doll Painted Black... (Drudge)

It's just a matter of time before an airplane returns to the airport because a noose was found in the lavatory.

Roger said...

I suppose this means than the doodling game hangman is now verboten as well. I had no idea of the extent of instiutional racism!

Paul Snively said...

I would certainly agree that a black figure being hung in a Halloween display would be a bad thing. But a generic figure, or white figure? That's just scary because hanging is scary. Is Clive Barker's computer game "Undying" racist because one of the first things you see in it is the image of a man hung from a lamppost?

I'm afraid I have to agree with those who say that unless you can demonstrate racist intent, taking down the display sets (well, reinforces; it's too late for setting) the wrong precedent. It is neither feasible nor even desirable to attempt to make the world safe for everyone's sensibilities.

Paul Snively said...

I would certainly agree that a black figure being hung in a Halloween display would be a bad thing. But a generic figure, or white figure? That's just scary because hanging is scary. Is Clive Barker's computer game "Undying" racist because one of the first things you see in it is the image of a man hung from a lamppost?

I'm afraid I have to agree with those who say that unless you can demonstrate racist intent, taking down the display sets (well, reinforces; it's too late for setting) the wrong precedent. It is neither feasible nor even desirable to attempt to make the world safe for everyone's sensibilities.

LawGiver said...

Drill Sgt, you seem to have a very poor grasp of the continuing problems of racism.

I guess I do too. I never, ever thought of a noose as a symbol of racism. Is it a symbol of racism only to African Americans or all minorities? When an American is hung in effigy in the middle east is that racist?

New Hampshire and Washington still allow hanging as an alternative to lethal injection. Are they racist states?

JohnAnnArbor said...

We need a comprehensive list of what is or isn't allowed, and in what contexts, from our PC overlords.

Roger said...

Not until the furor over Jena have I associated nooses as racist. Guess I need some refresher work. Cross burnings, the use of the term "boy," and white sheets come to mind, but not nooses. (no offense meant to the president pro tempore of the senate AKA the conscience of the senate and third in line to the presidency).

Peter Palladas said...

We need a comprehensive list of what is or isn't allowed, and in what contexts, from our PC overlords...

OK, we do for sure need some serious guidance.

Here's one for starters:

No pencils. Absolutely no way. Pencils are right out.

Why?

Because:

1. They're longer than they're wide, so therefore clearly a symbol of masculocentric phallic oppression.

2. Blackadder shoved two pencils up his nose to try and pretend he was insane and therefore couldn't join the Great Suicidal Push, aka the Somme. Hence the pencil is now symbolic of society's dismissive stereotyping of people who are loopy.

3. My mate Dave was once bullied by a boy at school who kept three pencils in the breastpocket of his blazer. Dave has never been able to look a pencil in the eye since.

All right, so that's pencils out the window.

Next?

paul a'barge said...

At this point, I'm not interested in being talked to about anything politically correct by anyone if it regards my Constitutional rights, and that includes my right to hang a blue jean clad dummy from a noose on my chimney.

A noose-hung dummy on a chimney never would have crossed my mind because it's not something I, in my mind associate with Halloween.

However, if it had crossed my mind to put up that display, and if that display had no overt or obvious racial overtones, and someone approached me to complain, I would have ordered them off my property. And, I would be perfectly happy to press charges for trespassing if they did not leave promptly.

There is a culture war going on, and surrender and defeat are not options.

Bring it on, Liberals.

Bob said...

If I put a head on a wooden stump with an axe beside it for my Halloween display does this mean I'm racist because I'm celebrating that English Kings like to behead the serfs?

The English celebrate Guy Faulks Day by hanging bodies in trees. Now you tell me I can't celebrate my heritage. Isn't this denying me my freedom of expression? And where is that book of Prohibited symbols?

ricpic said...

Go stuff yourselves, outraged sensitivos!

(If I were capable of restrained civilized debate on this topic I would have put it as Uncle Jimbo has. But since I'm not I refer you to his suberb comment at 3:38.)

SGT Ted said...

It is PC nonsence that the usual race hustlers, aka Sharpton, Jackson, the NAACP, aka "the Klan with a Tan" and their enablers are using to push others around because of the Jena garbage. When I was growing up, many houses had dummies hung from trees and it had nothing to do with racism. It had everything to do with the horror of a dead body hanging from a tree. Y'know, HOLLOWEEN!?

Uncle Jimbo is spot on.

Smilin' Jack said...

Here's another 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.

F U.


Some of us do know how to talk to each other.

Cedarford said...

We live in a time when flat out-stupid idiots, not all black by any means, play victim identity politics by pretending they are spiritually destroyed hunks of quivering protoplasm whenever they hear a word or see a symbol that "offends and hurts them."

A Native American friend of mine who is an engineer but goes back to the Rez (Navaho) a few times a year told me some tourist had a royal hissy fit over swastikas on pottery and in rug designs. He said if the NAs had any "sensitivity" they would eradicate the symbol. They told the tourist to fuck off, Jew or not, the swastika was an ancient symbol of SW tribes going back 1500 years.

As for nooses, the hysteria seems to be spreading to any looped slip knot used in fishing, sailing, camping, sports using safety ropes and knots. Can you make a noose out of a taunt line hitch, a bowline knot loop? Yes. And evil fiends have tied up rape victims and done their unspeakables with the aid of square knots and granny knots. Ban them for rape victim sensitivity?
Indeed, the "hangman's noose" is one of the most commonly used fishing knots and the snell knot used on hooks is a reverse hangman's noose. The Quirrick knot was the one affixed to cat o' 9 tails. Ban it, too? Along with half the monofilament knots based on using the frictional coefficient of multiple loops for overcoming the inherent slipperyness of plastic rope?

Dumb. Really dumb. Along with all the h,b,n,c,g,d-words. That Shall Not Be Named.....

A lot of this is also coming from the "victim perp syndrome". People that wish to be victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-semitism...yet can't seem to find a real bigot to "victimize them" - so they do the hoax themselves. In hopes of attention, sympathy, money, satisfaction of workplace demands, advancing politics, advancing their careers.

One government worker complained he was targeted by racist co-workers sending him racist emails, and demanded everyone who wasn't black undergo sensitivity training and that he be promoted to supervisor since racism likely blocked his promotion before. Investigators found the "hate mail" was coming from ISPs outside the gov't email system, they called the police to investigate the "hate crime and 'die nigger' threats". The cops tracked it all to the ISP of the man's girlfriend, who was typing and sending them out during the workday following the "hate mail" script the guy himself wrote....

I think this will be a fad that lasts a while because it supports the "correct" media narrative they are supposed to follow that it is still 1920, the KKK are running rampant, all blacks are oppressed victims, and gays are freely bashed since they are not legitimized and protected from homophobia by gay marriage.

Same media crap about following the correct narrative and ignoring the facts played out in the National Guard-CBS scandal, Operation Tailwind, the Duke Lacrosse case.

Odds are the Columbia noose will be tracked down to the black teacher or one of her students seeking the liberal sacrament of "Victimhood".

storkdoc said...

Bob,

Only the nobles were beheaded....

well for the commoners, they got to be hanged, drawn and quartered....

The Drill SGT said...

Storkdoc,

Or more precisely,

beheading was mercy killing.

If the kng was pissed at you, you got the full package regardless of rank... ask Braveheart.

however, it was more likely that high rank folks got the "painless" method.

Eli Blake said...

I'm sick of hearing conservatives rail about 'free speech' when we talk about nooses or whatever.

No one is arguing that being a bigot is unconstitutional.

What is being pointed out is that some kinds of speech, while legal, are very insensitive and there is no good reason to engage in them, other than to be deliberately provocative.

Just because you can do (or say, or hint at) something doesn't mean that you should.

Peter Palladas said...

The English celebrate Guy Faulks Day by hanging bodies in trees.

Well kind of, but no.

We set fire to stuffed dummies, rather than stringing up actual corpses - though who knows that may soon happen.

Also we used to have the rather quaint tradition of groups of cute children gathering rags and cast-off clothing to make their symbolic traitor, painting a masked face; then parading their 'guy' in the highways and byways, stopping passing strangers politely asking "A penny for the guy, mister."

Sadly, as with so much of modern feral living, this has morphed into roaming gangs of young thugs demanding money with menace. "Give us yer wallet c*nt, or I'll tell my da' yer tried to touch me yer perv."

Palladian said...

"Cross burnings, the use of the term "boy," and white sheets come to mind, but not nooses."

White sheets? There goes cheap ghost costumes...

Kirk said...

Smilin' Jack,

Whoa, that's way too agressive-agressive! I prefer the subtly agressive approach:

"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."

"Nah, nobody around here could possibly be that crazy, don't you think?"

Mortimer Brezny said...

Why don't people know how to talk to each other?

The main reason I have problems talking to women is they won't promise up front to do me.

Revenant said...

"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."

I wouldn't respond with an "F.U.", but I would definitely say something along the lines of "... and?".

Synova said...

The lady didn't complain because of racism!

She complained because she's a witch. She complained on religious grounds.

But hey, go with the racism argument. More people care who would think that a wiccan shouldn't take a comic book witch in a pointed black hat seriously and ruin everyone's fun.

I don't allow the scary gross stuff but I know that lots of people like it and just LOVE Halloween. I also do not associate hangings with racism before all else. I associate hangings with the West and frontier justice, mostly. I know that blacks were hanged but I see the noose as a color blind item. This was not a context free noose to imagine a black person in it.

Synova said...

The big sign saying why they took it down is FABULOUS however.

Revenant said...

What is being pointed out is that some kinds of speech, while legal, are very insensitive and there is no good reason to engage in them, other than to be deliberately provocative.

Nobody denies that, Eli. But a noose hanging from a tree isn't insensitive or provocative, except to the hypersensitive and easily provoked -- and those people need to grow up and learn to act like mature adults anyway.

Lynching isn't a problem in America. It hasn't happened in over a quarter century, and was rarer than being mauled to death by a pet dog during the forty years prior to that. Would you take me seriously if I threw a fit at the sight of a kid in a dog costume? Hell, I even KNEW a woman who was killed by a dog and I'm not going to do that.

You know the kind of parents who completely freak out at the notion of kids playing with toy guns? This is a thousand times sillier than that.

Eli Blake said...

revenant:

As far as I know, dog maulings were never done intentionally for the purpose of intimidating entire communities. So your comment is inapplicable.

Synova said...

The woman did not complain because of racist overtones.

She complained on religious grounds.

I think this matters, even if it was the racism heavy hitters that got it taken down for her.

Also... is the title of the blog entry that follows this one (next higher on the page) a comment on this subject as well?

Revenant said...

As far as I know, dog maulings were never done intentionally for the purpose of intimidating entire communities.

I'm sure you've seen the footage of Bull Connor deliberately setting the dogs on civil rights marchers, Eli. While I don't have statistics on racial dog maulings, lynchings have been so incredibly rare this past fifty years that I'd have to guess far more civil rights protesters were mauled by dogs than were lynched.

Besides, all manner of things -- such as dressing up in scary costumes, for example -- were once done for purposes of intimidation and are now innocuous. So even if I accepted your claim that a noose was once a symbol of racial intimidation (and I don't), assuming that any given noose is intended in that manner today is ignorant and silly. And frankly I've got better things to worry about that whether or not ignorant people are choosing to take offense where none was meant. The house just up the street from me has a hanging man as part of its Halloween decorations, and anyone who interprets it as a symbol of racial intimidation is an effing moron.

Kev said...

It is neither feasible nor even desirable to attempt to make the world safe for everyone's sensibilities.

Well said, Paul. I think that goes with the idea that there is no Constiutional right to not have one's feelings hurt.

Back when I was a kid, if other kids teased me and I complained to Mom, she would reply with the well-worn "momily" of "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." But political correctness turns that all on its head, so that now, it's more like "If you hurt me with words, I'll break your bones with sticks and stones." Pretty sad, really...

Ralph said...

are very insensitive
So the police came three times. Now who's using police power to intimidate others? I am outraged that the police didn't tell the complainer to find another lawful solution, or live with it.

therapydoc said...

They don't talk to each other because if they start, they might have to continue.

They don't want to continue, either because they think they have no time for such a thing, yet another relationship (work), or because they fear intimacy. Or both.

Ralph said...

Or they fear rejection or rudeness.

Darkbloom said...

These two parts of the article intrigued me:

1. Police went to the property at least three times

2. Madison police checked with the Morris County Prosecutor's Office to determine whether the noose display was illegal or could be ordered down, according to police records. Two assistant prosecutors and a detective reviewed the matter and answered no to both questions.

Why did the police visit this family at least three times? Why did they visit the family even once? Once it's clear there is no crime, there's no reason for the police to be involved (and they didn't need to visit the house to ascertain that).

It may or may not be bad behavior to put up and keep up an arguably insensitive Halloween decoration, but it is definitely wrong to have the police repeatedly show up at your house about it.

Hector Owen said...

Synova, I think we have two different stories. The case of the Wiccan protesting the hanging figure of a witch is in Chicopee, Mass. Here is the local TV news story, with link to video.

SGT Ted said...

Eli,

This isn't a speech issue. It's a tolerance issue. And it's a reverse bigotry issue as well. Someone puts a fake hanged man in a tree on their own property for holloween; supposed to be scary. A neighbor *feels* it's about lynching and, ignoring what the actual owner says and wishes, try to intimidate them by using the police to harrass them into removing the decoration. And they succeeded.

The perpetually offended, in the form of the NAACP(Klan with a Tan)have covened a court of outrage and have judged the offender guilty of the mindcrime of "offending the perpetually offended", and of crypto racism, absent any real evidence.

These people also reveal an extraordinary narcissism in that they think that a Halloween decoration is all about their pet grievance, rather than being able to take it at face value.

Trooper York said...

YES I WAS! YOU GUYS ARE THE WORST NEIGHBORS EVER! YOU DONT EVEN DESERVE TO WHERE THOSE FESSES!

NO YOUR NOT! YOU GUYS ARE THE WORSE NEIGHBORS -big breath- AND STOP CALLING ME PRESIDENT!
(Sqidward, SpongeBob Squarepants)

former law student said...

When I was a kid we watched Westerns. And the people who were strung up were HOSS THIEVES and CATTLE RUSTLERS. I refuse to be drawn into to this lynching caca. These are the same people who object to my ancient Indian religious symbols, the pinwheel cross.

Jeremy said...

Actually, Eli, it is a free speech issue. When the police come a knockin', that makes it a free speech issue.

dick said...

What cracks me up about this is that out in the Berkeley/San Francisco area the homeowner of a rental property put up a dummy dressed as a soldier and had them hanging from a noose on the front of the house and when the neighbors complained about it the liberals got all incensed because it was infringing on their right of speech. Now someone puts up a Halloween dummy and the liberals get all incensed because it is racism and hate.

Michael E. Lopez said...

I heard someone once threw a tomato at a Black man during Reconstruction.

We better ban pizza.

M. Simon said...

My neighbor, right here in good old Rockford, Illinois has a hanged man in a tree. A white man. Dressed like a cowboy. It has been there for about a week now.

M. Simon said...

Lynchings in America:

From 1882 to 1968

Whites: 1,297 about 15 a year
Blacks: 3,446 about 40 a year

The Lynching Project