Please Consider the Racial Impact of Your Halloween Decor
Oh, it’s that time of year again! So here is a PSA to remind you that when your Halloween decorations include hanging fake bodies from trees, please consider the extent to which they look like the scene of a lynching and how that might impact Black and brown families in your neighborhood. I see some of these “hanging figures” every year. Some I’d call benign — like what is clearly a little ghost or bat or monster.
But some are downright disturbing. These disturbing ones are often lifelike in size and detail, hung by an actual noose or rope, and with the look of bloody dismemberment and decay about them. I suppose they are meant to simply look ghoulish and spooky; but they strongly mirror the aftermath of a lynching, in which the victim’s body was often mutilated, left hanging and exposed to the elements, in public, for days or weeks.
For many Black and brown people, that image of a mauled body/half-body hanging from a rope on a tree is instantly recognizable and deeply, deeply disturbing. I’ve never witnessed a lynching, but I am the direct descendant of lynched people, and I have Black elders in my family who, as children, either witnessed or were constantly living under the threat and specter of lynchings. (If a history lesson is helpful, consider, as I have written elsewhere, that the thousands of known lynchings in this country “were so thoroughly conceived as public spectacle that many were advertised in newspapers, and many culminated with photographs of the crowd below the corpse, crowds of dozens, hundreds, and up tens of thousands of people. Entrepreneurial spectators turned lynching photographs into postcards or prints, and the postcards were mailed to friends and family who could not make the live event. From beginning to end, lynchings functioned as powerful visual aids, teaching people of all races how the racial hierarchy worked, and showing them the cost of transgressing — or merely being suspected of transgressing — the color line.” You can read the entirety of that article here, and learn far more about lynching in an extraordinary report here.)
So: If you’ve got one of these body-hanging-from-a-tree decorations up in your yard, please consider swapping it out for something that doesn’t rhyme with images of racialized terrorism, death and suffering.