Halloween displays featuring lynchings have unnerved neighbors throughout the Austin area

Austin

CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — Putting out Halloween decorations is supposed to be a source of spooky fun, but several people in the Austin area said their neighbors took their displays too far this year by depicting lynchings.

People who live near Henry Middle School in Cedar Park hung a skeleton from a rope outside their house. On Sunday, they received a note written anonymously from a neighbor.

The woman’s letter to that family stated:

Dear neighbors,

I like what you’ve done with your pirate ship decor in your yard. I’m wondering how it might feel to be black in our neighborhood and see a lynched skeleton in your tree. Please consider removing your lynching victim so that all of our friends can enjoy your decor.

Sincerely,

Concerned neighbor

The neighbor agreed to speak to KXAN if her name would not be shared because she fears for her family’s safety by speaking out publicly.

“If these are not well-intentioned people that think that lynching is funny or not a big deal,” she said, “I don’t want them to know who I am, and I don’t want them to know where I live.”

KXAN tried several times to reach the family in question by phone and in person to talk about the decoration, but received no response so far. On Thursday, the skeleton had been removed.

(KXAN/Will DuPree)

“Halloween is supposed to be about scary things, but they’re imaginary scary things. Not historical trauma,” she said. “I’m sure my neighbors’ intentions were great, but we can’t measure their intentions. We can only go on the impact this image is bringing to our community.”

Several people in this neighborhood reached out Wednesday evening to defend the family’s Halloween decorations. They said the skeleton fits into the broader pirate theme, and it’s now being misinterpreted. They added that the spirit of the display is to bring the neighbors and their children together for a fun, family-oriented event.

Earlier this week viewers contacted KXAN to share their concerns about much more graphic displays in two south Austin neighborhoods.

At one home, what look like bloody body bags are hanging from a tree alongside a scarecrow with a rope dangling from its neck. Another house also has bloody body bags swinging in the trees and lying in the yard with the word “Help” written in red on the garage.

The people unnerved by these graphic displays told KXAN they’d like to push back against anyone who might argue they’re being politically correct or overly sensitive about these depictions.

“Lynchings certainly send a message. They did historically. They do today,” the woman in Cedar Park said. “Lynchings and letting those mutilated black bodies swing from a tree is a way to terrify black people living in our community, and that’s unacceptable.”

Complaints about nooses in Halloween displays are not limited to Texas, or even the South. Stories recently have included complaints in New York and New Jersey.

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