One of the primary symbols of Halloween – -the Jack-O-Lantern — is under fire, thanks to over-the-top sensitivity and outrage by some shoppers.
Retailer Bed Bath and Beyond, like every other big box store in the nation, is showcasing Halloween decorations this year, and the classic colors abound — black, orange and white are pretty much the standard when it comes to Halloween decor. To some, though, those pumpkins are not part of an innocent celebration or a whimsical finishing touch to holiday decor — they are actually racist symbols, at least some of them.
The outrage began when a local law firm used pumpkins purchased from Bed Bath & Beyond as a holiday display. According to WDPE, the New York-based firm created a festive holiday display outside of their offices, complete with Jack-O-Lanterns from the retailer. Some of the pumpkins were black, with the firm’s names carved into the foam. Some residents complained about the display, claiming the pumpkins were in fact racist.
While the white and orange pumpkins were acceptable, the black ones were not merely foam decorations — to these viewers they are actually representative of blackface and a racist statement. Once notified about their blackface pumpkins and the offense they caused, the law firm was swift to remove them.
“We understand that someone complained about them, and so once we got word of that we immediately took them down,” Mary Marzolla, a partner at the law firm, told News 12. “We represent people of all colors and faiths, and we would never do anything to exclude anyone from any community.”
The swift removal of the offending gourds, along with the immediate capitulation and apology by the firm was not enough. The offended parties next demanded to know where the pumpkin were purchased — and complained to the retailer itself. Bed Bath & Beyond responded by removing the pumpkins from their shelves. While this quick action suited the local area, there are thousands of stores carrying pumpkins in all shades.
In addition to the now-ourtrageous black, pumpkins in craft stores, big box stores and home decorating stores come in orange, white, silver, gold, aqua and blue. So far, no one has complained about the other colors, so they seem to be safe for a while. A recent article by Martha Stewart features about a dozen black painted pumpkins among the 30 ideas for Halloween decor it recommends this year.
After apologizing, Bed Bath & Beyond removed the pumpkins from shelves, but kept pumpkins in other shades on display and available for sale. No other retailers have yet followed suit, but both magazines and catalogs prominently feature pumpkins in all shades, including black, in their October and Halloween issues. It’s too late to recall all those racist pumpkins this year, but retailers and manufacturers may need to adjust even this simple holiday symbol in displays in the future.