The Halloween (October 31) and Dia de los Muertos (November 2) season can bring anger and turmoil, particularly Halloween, offering up extra ways to offend under the guise of fun.
On college campuses in particular, someone typically hangs a noose on a tree or elsewhere, even putting a realistic figure or scarecrow in the noose. I once saw a replica of the bottom half of a human hanging out of a dorm window (I work on a campus)—that kind of depiction can be a trigger for people who have experienced real violence.
In September 2018, after a Halloween incident in Lansing, I said to co-workers, “How does someone living in America not know that a replica of a human being hanging from a tree is offensive? Or what the symbolism of a noose means?” I realize some schools do not have a curriculum that includes African-American history and that the American or U.S. history classes will only go so far in how the Civil War is covered. If you are in upper middle school or high school reading this, look up the history of lynching and internment camps in America. America is great and will continue to be, but there is also an ugly history in this country’s shadow.
So my well-intended suggestions for Halloween—and all year round—would be to first think, “Is this going to be offensive in any way?”
And ask yourself, “How much do I trust the people I party with?” There is always a cell phone camera present. Would you want pictures or videos to come back to bite you 20 years from now? Your dream job comes along, and your infamous photo or selfie surfaces—kiss dream job good-bye. Individuals and companies will not want the association. Even if they agree with you privately, in public it will be you in your sheet flapping in the wind…alone.
Someday you may be friends or colleagues with people of color. If you tell them your youthful, offensive behavior was a joke, they will not think it’s funny. Even if those individuals are still cordial, they will think of you in a different way. Is it worth that risk? No matter your beliefs, think about the people around you.
For the most part, decorations throughout Lansing neighborhoods have been creative and fun this year. I want everyone to be safe, carry flashlights, and wear reflective clothing. I hope all our costumed little people get lots of good candy, and please check all treats before eating them. I hope those celebrating Dia de los Muertos will use lots of pretty colors commonly applied to skeletons and skulls as they remember lost family and friends. Motorists, drive extra careful through your neighborhoods—some pedestrians will be harder to spot crossing streets and possibly darting out between parked cars.
Whenever I see news trucks headed south on the Bishop Ford expressway, I hope they’re going to cover a good story. My fellow Lansing citizens, let’s not be “that” town this year.
Be sensible, be safe, have fun.
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