Fraternity’s Halloween decoration prompts outcry

A haunted house held by UC Berkeley fraternity Theta Delta Chi featured a hanging zombie decoration which many have said resembled a lynching.
Warren Laufer/Courtesy
A haunted house held by UC Berkeley fraternity Theta Delta Chi featured a hanging zombie decoration which many have said resembled a lynching.

A haunted house held by a UC Berkeley fraternity has met with controversy for a decoration critics say resembles a lynching.

Theta Delta Chi’s placement of a hanging zombie from the house’s third-story window has created a stir with some who liken its appearance to racially charged public hangings.

The zombie body, which has since been taken down, had a dark gray head and was dressed in jeans and a white shirt that had been stuffed with straw.

“This is another incident that convinces me and my community that this campus and society is not post-racial, and racist is alive and well,” former Black Student Union chair Salih Muhammad told Onyx Express Magazine.

After a photo of the zombie was posted on Facebook, commenters reacted with disgust.

“(I) don’t know who in your fraternity EVER thought this was okay but it’s not,” reads a comment by UC Berkeley junior Kirk Coleman.

The haunted house is one of the frat’s larger charity events, and proceeds are donated to philanthropist projects Autism Speaks and Green Stampede.

“There was no intention whatsoever as to present it as a black person, and it was a poor choice of head to use because it was a dark grey color,” said Devin Shoop, the fraternity’s philanthropy chair and organizer of the haunted house. “We understand that this has offended people, and we’re sorry for any turmoil this might have caused.”

According to Shoop, the decision to use the zombie head, which was a decoration from an event last year, was the frat’s way of conserving costs so that more money could be donated to the charities that the event benefits.

UPDATE Wednesday 3:36 p.m.:
Chair of the Black Student Union Erma Sinclair emphasized that this is not an issue of racial connotations but instead an issue that holds historical significance.

“It does not matter if the body that was hung was black, blue, green or yellow. The fact of the matter is the action itself has a direct connotation to a period in American history,” she said. “It is not a black-and-white issue – it’s an issue of ignorance. Individuals need to think before they act.”

Contact Ally Rondoni at [email protected].