Woman behind allegedly racist display: 'I had no idea'

FORT COLLINS - The family behind what was supposed to be a scary Halloween display that several people in Fort Collins said was racist say it was all a misunderstanding.

The renter who lives in the home across from the Colorado State University campus spoke to 9NEWS Tuesday morning. We first ran a story about the display on Monday.

“It was supposed to be a ghost … we just used stuff around the house,” the woman said of the display. She asked that 9NEWS not use her name.

Several 9NEWS viewers alerted us of the decorations. A photo posted on Facebook appears to show a mannequin that looks like an African American woman hanging from a noose off of the woman’s porch.

Kaya Rudolph and Sunnique Cortez, who are both juniors at CSU, say the display was offensive, racist and the timing was poor. They say it was sending the wrong message to people visiting CSU and Fort Collins.

"It almost, I got like a horrible feeling in my stomach that someone would put a hanging black woman across the street from our campus," says Cortez. "I thought about what message that was sending to black families to come up here with their black child."

PREVIOUS STORY: CSU students call 'scary' Halloween display racist

Rudolph was concerned about the timing of it all, because the display was up this past weekend during homecoming.  She says the house is directly in front of a dorm and doesn't represent CSU, and it shouldn't represent anyone in Fort Collins either.

“I mean, it was not represented to be an African American on the noose,” the woman who put up the display said. “That, of course, would be horrible.”

“There was no intent of making some sort of political display or anything like that,” she added. “It was honestly … we were just making decorations and trying to be creative. That was it.”

Kaya and Sunnique say they first saw the display in late September, and were unsure of what to do about it.  Instead of approaching the homeowner themselves over safety concerns, they posted about the display and how offensive they felt it was on their Facebook pages, which then got shared several times.

"It was just like, it hurt to see it and it made us like upset and it was just something we didn't want to happen.  We didn't want it to happen. We didn't want people to see that. We didn't want them to get caught off guard like we were," Rudolph said.

They then called Fort Collins Police, and so did several other people. At first, Fort Collins Police say officers told people that because the decorations weren't illegal, it wasn't a police matter. However, after taking several calls, officers went to the home and explained to the owner that the display was being perceived as racist. 

Police say the homeowner was surprised it was being seen as offensive and ended up taking it down. Kaya and Sunnique ended up removing the post after the woman took down the display.

"I just think it's important to have a conversation about why it's offensive to African Americans or minorities around Fort Collins because, you know, we're not the majority here," Cortez said.

The woman who put up the display says she wished she thought about the sensitivities before putting it up. She says she was concerned about her safety in wake of the Facebook posts, which showed her home’s location.

“I’m kind of frustrated with the fact that people can just point fingers,” she said. “… that could have turned out poorly for me. I have a child in the house. Think about things. I think other people need to think about their actions as well. It's not just a one-way street here.”

The woman behind the display says police officers did extra surveillance on their home because they were worried about retaliation after the Facebook posts.

“I don’t watch TV, so I didn’t really know until the cops came and then my landlord is a rabbi and he works with the university and he called me,” she said. “I mean, this could have gotten me evicted. I mean, this is ridiculous.”

Nevertheless, she says she’s glad she was told to take the decorations down – and that there was no ill-intent.

“I appreciate that,” she said. “I had no idea. Really.” 

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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