University gift shop displayed black leader dolls by hanging them from a model tree

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“They’re black people hanging from trees,” she said. “I mean, lynching? It was just not registering with them.”

Narrator: It was registering with them.


Upset by this extreme insensitivity, grad student Krystal Rose Davis-Dunn says she asked the staff if they noticed anything wrong with the display but they apparently did not.



It’s just not possible that anyone could be that dumb.

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It really is possible.

Think about it… typical white college student, privileged, doesn’t know or care too much about black history hangs Christmas ornaments on a model tree. The concept that it looked like a lynching because the ornaments were all black people probably didn’t even register with them. Because nothing like that ever happened to them or their ancestors.

Insensitive? Yes. Ignorant? Yes. Malicious? No. Racist? Not intentionally.


Yeah, if the purpose of selling these dolls is to show just how woke the school is, then mission accomplished.


If the dolls were packed by the manufacturer with the strings attached, the store was merely moderately stupid – you’d be thinking they should be suspended from some sort of hook for display.

If the store added the strings – and that’s what it looks like, since they’re around the necks, and that’s not how I’d package any type of doll – then there’s likely malice they’re not admitting to.


right. I’m pretty sure these were Christmas ornaments. The tree is a cardboard stylized Christmas tree. As an artist I see this all the time, people don’t actually look at stuff with their eyes. they almost read symbols. Whoever set up the display probably thought, these are Christmas ornaments. hang them on this Christmas tree. not thinking of what it actually LOOKED like. I’m pretty certain this was incompetence and thoughtlessness and not anything malicious. I mean, for the love of humanity I hope I’m right. In any case of course it’s good they took it down. A quick google search pulled up a very imilar ornament. It didnt help that the one in the article looked more like rope than ribbon…


But, crucially, still racist.


I had the same initial reaction when I saw the picture, but further review doesn’t hold up. It appears the woman in black dress has a necklace on that LOOKS like it is the string, but I do believe it is supposed to be a piece of jewelry. None of the others has that appearance and, if they are supposed to be Xmas tree ornaments, the string makes a degree of sense. Not that ANYTHING about how they were presented makes a lick of sense. Nor does the complete lack of comprehension by the store staff…though I blame a combo of white privilege and sheer ignorance of history, which often go hand-in-glove.

ETA: And still f’n racist.


“Tree-like rack” Pssh. It’s a tree you double-speaking goon. I own that tree. It came with three matching reindeer in a holiday decoration set from Target. It’s wrapped in bubble wrap in a box on my dining table because I haven’t put my decorations away. It’s a damn tree.


It’s possible but not very plausible; shit like this is often subconsciously intentional.


Billie’s most haunting song:


I’m glad to see a rational explanation. But it still begs the question on the appropriateness of this.

I mean, people have all kinds of ornaments… but maybe a ball ornament vs a person shaped one?

I dunno. Lynching is one of America’s darkest stains on our history and we should be more aware of the potential harm of that imagery.


The other element of this is scale and distribution. When an ornament of MLK is on a full sized tree, I suspect no one would bat an eye. Also, I would guess that the black leaders were among other ornaments during the holidays. At some point, they sold or removed all the Xmas-related ornaments, but left the rest up for Black History month. Besides the felt versions, I recognize one near the top as a string doll which makes me think that there were other ornaments on the tree. Although that one is a poorly-rendered Rosa Parks.

That all said, it is fortunate that someone pointed out the merchandising blunder before the MLK concert mid-month:



and an excellent example of how “intent” is not all that important in “is this racist or not?” Hanging black people from a tree may, in fact, not have been meant has a racist threat or racist statement of any sort, but that does not alter the fact that it is, in fact, racist. Also ignorant of history, which in an institution of higher learning is pretty damning as well.


Kind of reminds me of a discussion with my 13 year old son. I told him he was the pot calling the kettle black in a case where he was denigrating his younger brother for offending him by doing something which he himself frequently does. He said I was a racist because I said ‘black’.

Mens rea is the legal concept of ‘intent’ and is typically a requirement for a finding of guilt in a criminal case. Crimes that do not require mens rea are strict liability offences.

I guess the conclusion here is that anything that can be construed as racist is racist regardless of intent.

Since racism is a strict liability offence be careful what you hang on your xmas tree.

I would really like to know how many of these ornaments (or effigies) the store sold and the race of the buyers.

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Yes! It might have been unintentional, but that doesn’t make it less racist… this isn’t rocket surgery.