Monday, November 5, 2007

Halloween: A Time For Tricks, Treats, And Racism?

Last week, Americans celebrated Halloween by dressing up, trick-or-treating, and participating in festivities. These are the activities most commonly associated with the holiday. Why then, was Halloween this year, a year for goblins, witches and racism? The words “Halloween” and “racism” seem entirely unrelated, but when I navigated through the blogosphere, I discovered that the two ideas are somewhat linked. The first post I looked at is from The Washington Post’s section titled, “On Faith”. Contributor Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite wrote the post titled, “Why Halloween Is No Fun Anymore.” After receiving her Ph.D. from Duke University, Thistlethwaite became the president of the Chicago Theological Seminary. She has also been a professor at the Seminary for twenty years, teaching about civil rights issues and violations. In her post, she claims that everyday is Halloween; people do not need to dress up like ghouls once a year because the ghosts of their racist past are present everywhere. The second post I commented on is titled, “It’s All Just a Noose-ance” from the conservative blog “Publius Forum”. The author of the post, Warner Todd Huston is a featured writer for the News Media Journal and an editor for the NMJ Radio Headline News Roundtable. His blog post discusses the over-reaction the local Muncie government has had in response to the hanging of Halloween nooses on a rearview mirror (an image of a Halloween decoration using a noose is provided on the right). My comments to their blog posts are below:

"Why Halloween is No Fun Anymore"
Thank you for writing an intriguing post about how Halloween is an obsolete holiday due to the presence of “demons” or “ignorance” in our society. You make a compelling argument, that “devils [are] walking among us today in our failure to confront the ghosts of our past in the real horror of lynching.” These “devils” and “ghosts” of our past are scary enough; forget using costumes to ward spirits away, we have photos and memories of police battery, burning crosses and hate crimes. I wonder then, if you have read anything about the Muncie incident in which a sanitation worker was suspended from work for hanging Halloween decorations, nooses to be more precise, from his rearview mirror. In your post, you wrote, ““White America in particular is afraid to look at this history”—a history of black oppression—“ and in shunning it continues to be gripped by it.” How do you explain the swift actions of the local authorities in the Muncie case? This example appears to counteract your claim that White America is scared to look into the mirror and confront its discriminatory past because the people in Muncie acted with justice to reprimand a seemingly racist action. Does not using legal action to protect minorities display efforts to right a wrongful past? Also, if you consider these actions to be the wrong way to confront and deal with a racist history, how else do you propose we remedy the issue?

"It's All Just a Noose-ance"
First off, I’d like to thank you for writing such an interesting blog post. I agree with a few of your points, one being the fact that the sanitation worker was treated too harshly for his Halloween display. I do feel, as you said, the authorities “[took] a simple misunderstanding and [turned] it into a miscarriage of justice.” The sanitation worker, supported by his black co-workers, had no racist intent when he hung up the ropes on his mirror; regardless of his demeanor, he was suspended from work without pay for a month. However, I disagree with your comment that “the era in America when a noose was a clear and present threat to a black person in America has gone.” Take, for instance, the Jena-6 incident in which 3 nooses were hung below a tree to intimidate African-Americans from sitting beneath the “white tree.” This event resulted in a series of violent acts between white and black students at the school. Another example is from earlier this month; a noose was wrapped around a black Columbia professor’s office door. Nooses continue to be potent symbol of hate, and the usage of noose imagery has been recently resurfacing. You also wrote, “while a noose may not be the first thing one thinks of when Halloween decor is discussed, it certainly isn’t altogether an uncommon vestige of the holiday.” Surely nooses are intended to be merely decorative around Halloween, but post-Civil War, the noose has taken on a new meaning, becoming a symbol of intimidation towards black people. Take into consideration another potent symbol of oppression, the swastika. How would a Jewish person feel if they saw a swastika scribbled on a public wall? The swastika has the same chilling effect on a Jewish person that a noose would have on an African-American person. To mitigate the use of discriminatory images and avoid “miscarriages of justice”, there needs to be more cultural sensitivity and awareness.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.