St. Louis Zoo takes down decorations after some say display was offensive

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by KMOV.com Staff

KMOV.com

Posted on October 16, 2012 at 4:37 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 7 at 2:12 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- St. Louis Zoo officials say it changed a Halloween display of about 10 ghosts with black faces hanging from trees after complaints that it resembled lynchings.

On Tuesday, a viewer wrote to News 4 saying the exhibit looks more like lynchings. News 4 went to the zoo to get an explanation and now zoo leaders are making changes.

According to zoo officials, they recently heard concerns over the perception of the decorations.

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

Burchett saw the photo on the St. Louis Zoo Facebook page. Burchett took his concerns to zoo officials.

The display consists of 10 or so ghostly characters with black faces swaying in the breeze. Burchett says it is no less offensive in person and someone should have realized it before the display went up.

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

Zoo officials say an outside vendor who made and installed the zoo’s Halloween decorations created these to look like faceless ghosts, with a light in the head, so at night, that’s all that shows up.

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.

Zoo officials say the comments have not all been negative though. Officials stressed that their intention was never to offend anyone.

“We’ve looked at what we’ve seen in terms of photographs, we’ve discussed and we’ve made the decision that we’ll take them down,” said Wyndel Hill, Vice President of Internal Relations.

Burchett says he’s glad the zoo understood his perspective.

“I definitely do appreciate them taking it down because it is very offensive to a lot of different people especially the African-American community.”

Zoo officials said the creative team that made and installed the black face ghosts included African-American workers, but will be replacing the decorations soon to make sure no one is offended when they come to the zoo.

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