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Ghost Display at Zoo: Offensive or Awesome?

What do you see when you look at this display?

Children love the zoo and children love Halloween so decorating for the holiday seemed like a no brainer for the St. Louis Zoo.

But now the zoo is under fire for getting into the Halloween spirit after some people say it should have put a lot more thought into its Halloween display.

In fact, the zoo took so much heat over Halloween decorations that, as  local news affiliate KMOV reports, it changed the display because of the controversy.

The display in question consisted of about ten ghosts hanging from trees in the zoo. Now, I’ve got to tell you that if I saw this display I wouldn’t have thought twice about it and, in fact, would probably have applauded the zoo for pulling out all the stops to get into the spirit of the holiday.

However, I can’t speak for African Americans who have a long history of being persecuted and who are obviously and justifiably a whole lot more sensitive to what many say the display depicts, albeit unintentionally.

Chris Burchett was immediately offended.

“It was like a complete outrage to me, it was very hurtful,” Burchett tells KMOV. “The picture appeared to be African-American people hanging from a rope.”

Burchett is equally offended by the fact that nobody realized the connotation before the display went up.

“That’s a no brainer,” he continues. “It’s impossible that you could not see that that’s racist you know, there’s no way.”

I disagree. It’s Halloween. They’re ghosts. If I was putting a ghost in my yard, even hanging it from a tree, it would never occur to me that it might resemble a lynched slave. But that’s because being black and slavery is not a central theme of my life. However, I can see why it might be the first thing that comes to somebody else with very different life experiences.

Zoo officials say they never meant to offend anyone. They hired someone to create the display for all the kids and parents visiting the zoo during the Halloween season to enjoy. The vendor who made the display says they created the ghosts to look faceless but they have a light in the head so at night it’s extra spooky. However, as KMOV reports, “without the cloak of darkness, the effect of the display is lost and looks like ghosts with black faces hanging from a tree and may give the wrong impression.”

My question is this: with the spirit of Halloween in mind, is this another example of overly sensitive people taking political correctness too far? Or do you agree that the zoo should’ve immediately taken down the display even if just one person perceived it as racist? Can something be accidentally racist ? What I mean is, is something racist if racism wasn’t the intention? Or, what with the debates over Easter and Christmas, is this just another example of adults taking all the fun out of a children’s holiday for their own argumentative purposes?

Photo Credit: KMOV

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