Can There Be Forgiveness for Racially Insensitive Halloween Display?

Can There Be Forgiveness for Racially Insensitive Halloween Display?
Clinton Hill Halloween by Love Jones via Facebook

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT – Once again, longtime black residents of a gentrifying Central Brooklyn neighborhood were asked to accept the apology of a new resident over racial insensitivity. The woman at the center of the controversy claimed ignorance about how black folks would react to her offense. However, there’s a concern that granting forgiveness opens the door to allow others to do racist acts and hide behind a plea of ignorance.

Dany Rose, a co-founder of the nonprofit ceramic studio ArtShack in Bedford-Stuyvesant, posted her mea culpa to Facebook on Tuesday. Rose, who is white, apologized on social media for displaying Halloween decorations in the window of her Clinton Hill home that depicted what appeared to be black children hanging from nooses.

Making matters worse, she lives near P.S. 11. Angry black parents posted images of the decorations that went viral on social media, which ignited widespread outrage.

“No one should have had to point out this obvious fact to me, and I immediately removed the figures when I was contacted by a parent from P.S.11, across the street from my home,” Rose stated about the paper dolls made from brown kraft paper that she said were based on the horror movie Annabelle.

She continued: “I understand that ignorance is no excuse and apologies are not enough, but nonetheless I want to apologize sincerely to my neighbors and community.”

Her apologies largely fell on deaf ears.

“Pretty disturbing and almost sick,” a response on Facebook from Kimberly Smith said. “No way during crafting these brown paper dolls did she not have a moment of clarity that this was just sick? So the only color kraft paper to be found just happened to be brown? Also no matter what color the dolls, its depraved.”

This adds to the racial tension from gentrification that exists in Central Brooklyn. Some black residents view the newcomers as invaders who disrespect them and their culture. Crown Heights received widespread media attention in July 2017 when dozens of protesters demonstrated outside Summerhill restaurant. The owner used fake bullet holes and 40-ounce bottles of wine in paper bags to promote her restaurant. That stereotype offended many in the community.

Summerhill owner Becca Brennan apologized, saying that she didn’t intend to offend anyone, adding that her “intention was misinterpreted,” according to the New York Daily News. The restaurant attempted to rebrand and ultimately shuttered in March, after two years in business.

With the pace of gentrification increasing, should black residents expect more of these clear acts of racial insensitivity? Granting forgiveness without demanding meaningful amends is a sure-fire way to encourage racists to hide behind claims of ignorance.

Rose has vowed to make this right by meeting with community leaders and school officials “to identify the best way forward to promote racial justice.”

Those are positive steps. However, it leaves one to wonder how much of her apology is sincere and how much of it is about saving the ArtShack from protesters.