BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — What’s being called a Halloween display in Bastrop is sparking controversy.
KXAN heard at least four separate complaints from people who say what it represents is racially insensitive.
The display near a Bastrop ISD school is a scarecrow, human-looking figure with a black bag over what appears to be a head hanging from a vehicle in front of a business.
Michele Anderson and her friend confronted the business owner, Chris Sievert.
“I was appalled,” Anderson said. “We went down there and tried to figure out what the deal was and tried to figure out what exactly it represented.”
Sievert has since added to the display with a sign saying “Don’t be a Karen.”
“We wanted it down, and he refused,” Anderson said.
KXAN was able to speak with Sievert too, who said he had no intentions of offending anyone. Reporter Jala Washington asked if he understood why some were offended by the hanging figure.
“Yeah, because they’re living in the past, that s–t’s over with,” Sievert said. “It’s Halloween.”
KXAN noted some feel the hanging figure represents someone being lynched. Sievert responded, “Yeah, like I’m going to hang that out in front of my business of 12 years out here. It doesn’t make any sense.”
According to Sievert, the dangling object is not a person. He said he put it up, hoping to give people a laugh.
“I didn’t mean to do anything to hurt anybody’s feelings,” Sievert said. “I figured if someone drove by, saw something hanging off of a piece of equipment, they could have fun with it and think, ‘Hey that guy might be alright.’ Get some work out of it.”
Dr. Jacqueline Woolley, a University of Texas at Austin professor of psychology, said speaking up about Halloween decorations that offend you could be a teachable moment.
“I think a lot of people just don’t really know what they’re doing,” Woolley said.
Woolley said addressing it doesn’t have to be confrontational, adding you could leave a note.
“I feel like it could have a much bigger upside than a downside,” she said. “And chances are they take it down, or they do don’t do it again, and maybe even what they learned goes beyond just what they put up for Halloween.”
Anderson understands free speech but says she’d speak out about it again. Though, she’s now being harassed by other people for doing so.
“It’s incumbent upon me to speak out, and it’s incumbent upon other people to speak out as well, especially if you’re not of color,” Anderson said. “We owe our community that. At least that.”
Sievert said he doesn’t plan on taking down the display until Halloween is over.
“I can’t take it down now,” Sievert said. “If I take it down, it’s like ‘he was guilty,’ and I’m not.”
He did add he would have thought twice about the display if he’d known it would be offensive, saying, “I would trade it all back if it would’ve not offended anybody.”