It seems that the product first came to the retailer’s attention after a Nyack, New York, law firm purchased some online and displayed them on their front steps. Mary Marzolla, a partner with the law firm of Feerick, Nugent, MacCartney, said that the firm painted the black pumpkins with the names of each of the partners and displayed them, in an anodyne move that was never meant to be offensive.
However, the decorations didn’t sit well with some neighbors, who complained to the law firm, calling the black pumpkins racially insensitive. Marzolla said the firm immediately took them down.
“We understand that someone complained about them, and so once we got word of that we immediately took them down. We represent people of all colors and faiths, and we would never do anything to exclude anyone from any community,” she said.
Wilbur Aldridge, the Westchester, New York, region director for the NAACP, said that the artificial pumpkins, painted black, but decorated with white eyes and mouths, calls to mind blackface. Blackface, for those not familiar, refers to the practice, widespread at the turn of the century, of white performers painting themselves black in order to portray comically-exaggerated stereotypes of blacks.
except these are the ones they pulled. And yes, they do remind of blackface. pic.twitter.com/9kmlSqAc9g— Ruth Amrich (@Amberly744) October 24, 2019
“It wasn’t about the pumpkin itself, but what was done to the pumpkin. When you proceed to put the white eyes and the white mouth, now you have crossed the line because it then goes into having blackface,” he said.
Bed, Bath & Beyond seems to have taken the message to heart; the retailer pulled the product, which had only been available online, from its website. The retailer will still continue to sell artificial black pumpkins, but they will not be decorated, instead allowing the users themselves to decorate them.
Every year at about this time, it seems that stories make the news of retailers failing to think things through and winding up pulling from sale Halloween costumes or decorations that caused offense. Just this week, as Yahoo Lifestyle Australia reported, Kmart has pulled a “child bride” Halloween costume. Though lots of little girls like to play-act that they’re getting married, critics said that the retailer is making light of the very real issue of girls as young as 10 or 11 being married off to older men in some countries.