Tuesday, October 23, 2007

10-23-07: Hanging Man Taken Down

I heard a news story on the way into work this morning on WPLR about a strange and unfortunate incident in Stratford regarding an offensive Halloween decoration. What apparently happened is that members of the black community felt that a certain decoration on a house on East Main Street, not far from my company’s headquarters, was offensive. The decoration was a blow-up hanging man, noose and all. It was one of several decorations in the front of the house. To the right is a picture from the Connecticut Post.

The owner of the house was on the radio this morning telling her story. I have to say, she seemed to have a great attitude about it. She wasn’t happy about having to take it down, but she respected the views of those who found it offensive, who also thought that the dark face of the “decaying corpse” decoration was to signify that it was a black man being hanged. A reverend of a local church (I’m assuming it is local, and I do not know if he was asked to come on the air) said that if it was not taken down, they would picket the house. That’s right: they would picket a private home because of an allegedly offensive decoration. The family did the right thing and took it down, because it’s just too much of a headache to deal with.

This brings up a few issues, most of which were brought up by the guys on the radio. First, the family meant absolutely no offense, and it wasn’t something they made themselves. It was bought from a Halloween store, as is. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the NAACP to go after the store for selling it? They’re making the profit. Second, apparently that particular decoration, which is one of several in the front of the house, is not particularly easy to see from the road. It is a main road in Stratford, where cars normally go by at 40 MPH. Trust me, I’ve driven on the road several times, and I can’t remember ever wanting to look at the houses. But, with Halloween and all the decorations out, it is more likely that people are looking. I’ll give them that. But still, this is not something that was brought out to be advertised as that house’s only decoration, and it’s something that is done at thousands of houses around the country. If you are looking for something to be racist, it will be racist. I could see a black guy eating crackers and shout out injustice, but that’s just ridiculous… right?

Another issue is that it belittles the real racial issues in the community. This is a small issue that likely stems from recent scandals involving nooses being left by bigots in schools and offices. But, I really doubt it meant anything in this situation. It’s Halloween, for Christ’s sake. If it were just some house with a hanging man decoration in the middle of July, that’d be something different. This whole situation is just a series of people taking things out of context and making a big deal out of nothing. They use political correctness and cries of racism just to get people to pay attention, and it’s sad.

I have nothing against the NAACP or their mission. I believe they have every right to fight against bigotry in America. That’s a just and difficult cause. But this is a joke, and it makes them look bad. I know it wasn’t the national NAACP behind this, but from what I gather, they weren’t exactly disagreeing with the reverend. Going after a family for a store-bought decoration and threatening to picket their house is just ridiculous, and they should be ashamed. And of all people, a Christian preacher is at the front. What sort of message does that send? Tolerance? Love for all mankind? Nope. It says “Anything that is remotely offensive cannot stand. If you don’t comply, you will be attacked and protested and we will make your life hell.” You could say “Well, they didn’t know those facts at the time. Hindsight is 20/20.” True, but they didn’t listen to the owner’s story, which isn’t right. They had their mind set before hearing it, and THEY (the church and NAACP) brought it to the attention of the public, no one else. None of the neighbors said anything about it. Oh, by the way, the decoration had been up for over two weeks, so it couldn’t exactly be glaringly obvious to the everyday passerby.

This sort of thing violates the civil liberties and freedoms of other fine citizens. Isn’t that what the NAACP and black leaders are trying to PREVENT? The sad part is, if I were to say this to them, I would get any one of the following responses, none of which have anything to do with what I said:

“Do you have any ancestors who were lynched?”

“Do you know what its like to see a noose and feel hatred?”

“You don’t have the right to disagree because you are privileged.”

It’s sheer intolerance, and it’s never going to get them anywhere. It’s sad, but true. You can’t constantly protest everything, because sooner or later, EVERYHING will be offensive, and people will just see you as an over-anxious organization out to hurt other people to ensure their own mission. I’d expect better out of a preacher. This isn’t the first time in recent history this has happened. Just look at Al Sharpton and the Duke Lacrosse Team. Has he apologized yet? I doubt it. He’s far too proud to do that. Besides, it would hurt his ratings! Forgiveness doesn’t sell.

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