What's your take on these Halloween decorations?
October 4, 2017 10:30 AM   Subscribe

These Halloween decorations are paper cut-outs based on vintage designs, available now through Amazon.com and other retailers. What would you think if you saw these on display (in the context of other Halloween decorations) at someone's house?
posted by Mothlight to Society & Culture (21 answers total)
Racist-ass minstrel cats. I’m sorry!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:32 AM on October 4 [44 favorites]

My most generous assessment would be that the person was completely clueless. They seem obviously racist to me though.
posted by FencingGal at 10:36 AM on October 4 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I don't feel good about those. I can see that a few minor changes would make them (especially the ones on the far right and left) into "cute retro cats playing musical instruments" but as they are, no go. If I saw these at someone's house a couple of years ago, I would have thought, "that was a naively poor choice but probably they just wanted to buy cute Halloween cats, how embarassing"; if I saw them now I would think, "Is that person alt-right".
posted by Frowner at 10:37 AM on October 4 [8 favorites]

Black cats on Halloween: perfectly ok.
Black cats playing banjos and wearing baggy striped pants: nothing at all to do with Halloween besides the fact that there are orange accents. So, yeah. I would not use these.
posted by the webmistress at 10:38 AM on October 4 [12 favorites]

unfiltered and immediate reaction: 'yiiiiikes'
posted by halation at 10:41 AM on October 4 [5 favorites]

I would fall somewhere between "this person is clueless" and "this person is actively sending a racist message," depending on the context of what else I knew about the person...for example, elderly lady who clearly had saved these from years gone by would probably be in the clueless category, young white man known to make racist comments on Facebook at the other end of the spectrum.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:42 AM on October 4 [1 favorite]

They look like black-face minstrel cats.
posted by colfax at 10:44 AM on October 4

I don't think everyone would pick up on the racist connotations. Depending on your community and social circle, maybe very few people would, but certainly anyone who has learned anything about minstrel imagery would.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:48 AM on October 4 [1 favorite]

I immediately thought blackface + minstrels. I would assume cluelessness on the part of the person displaying them but would nonetheless give them an extremely wide berth going forward.
posted by anderjen at 10:54 AM on October 4 [3 favorites]

Not an american so Halloween decorations are not my strong suit, but my first though on looking at them was what the heck do they have to do with Halloween. They look like they're from one of those racist 1950's cartoons.
posted by wwax at 11:23 AM on October 4 [2 favorites]

Hey, yeah, so. These racist minstrel cats are reproduction of vintage Beistle brand decorations. Beistle sill makes and sells a selection of their vintage holiday catalog and you can find a ton of actual vintage ones on Etsy. If you like the general style, but not the racist cats themselves, there are plenty of options. This group even has a black cat who doesn't have the same issues those cats have.
posted by anastasiav at 11:31 AM on October 4 [3 favorites]

My first reaction: "Noooooooooo. Do Not Do!" (for reasons above).
posted by Edna Million at 11:32 AM on October 4

These specific cats are a reproduction of a design by Beistle from 1941. 1941 is not know for racial sensitivity. I would cringe and call out how uncomfortable they make me feel if I saw someone hanging those.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 11:34 AM on October 4 [2 favorites]

Have you alerted Amazon or these other retailers? I would let them know.
posted by brookeb at 11:38 AM on October 4 [2 favorites]

I am not going to thread-sit, but thank you all so much for so quickly and decisively double-checking my reaction.
posted by Mothlight at 11:46 AM on October 4 [2 favorites]

Just to add one more vote: as a set, I too had an immediate visceral reaction: 'blackface minstrels!'

If I'd seen just the one on the right all by itself (the guitar player), my reaction would have been that it's merely some version of ugly/tacky, not cute or even Halloween-y. Any combination that includes any of the other three, or one of the other three by itself, stays with 'blackface minstrels!'
posted by easily confused at 1:14 PM on October 4

I clicked your link and immediately made that "oooohhhhhhh" noise and then sucked air in through my teeth.

So . . . no. Sorry.
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:21 PM on October 4

I'm going to go against the crowd -- I saw a picture of these a friend of mine posted online, and didn't think they were being racist or expressing some sort of alt-right affiliation.

However, my friend is known for collecting vintage Halloween decorations and is also a visible minority.

So, it's possible to display them without giving such an impression. Whether that's possible for YOU, I can't say...
posted by yohko at 4:00 PM on October 4

+1 for it looks like a minstrel show.
posted by Knowyournuts at 7:40 PM on October 4

It’s the gloves, I think, that somehow push the whole thing over the line.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:12 AM on October 5

As a Hallowe'en enthusiast (year round) I have seen plenty of these Beistle cats, but only their faces. I have never seen them with bodies before (and again, ENTHUSIAST) and it immediately struck me as racist while just the faces never ever did. I've never seen them with the clothes, shoes and guitars. Weird and while I would still use the face, I would never use the whole weird anthropomorphized body like this.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:34 AM on October 5

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