Police in Mississippi are investigating a possible hate crime after a mother says her daughter was handed a doll with a string of beads fashioned into a noose around its neck during a Gulf Coast Mardis Gras parade.
Nicole Fairconeture posted about the “disturbing” incident on Facebook this week.
“I need someone to share the Saints float that was in the [Krewe of] Nereids parade. NOW!!!” she wrote in a post shared alongside a photo of the plush black doll hanging from what appears to be a beaded necklace.
Fairconeture and her family were standing just out front of her uncle’s car detailing business on Sunday as the annual Krewe of Nereids Mardi Gras parade rolled through U.S. 90 in Bay St. Louis, according to the Sun Herald. That’s when she claims a Caucasian man on a New Orleans Saints-themed float called her 12-year-old daughter over to hand her a throw.
“She grabbed the item, put it to her chest, and was coming back [from U.S. 90 to the business] and he called her back,” said Fairconeture, who’s Black. “When she turned around, he said, ‘That’s you.’”
The mother said she was shocked when she saw what her daughter had returned with. It was a black doll “dressed like a slave,” she said.
Fairconeture flagged down the first officer she could find and filed a police report, she told the newspaper.
Mayor of nearby Waveland Mike Smith decried the incident as a “heinous” and “deplorable” act that should be treated as a hate crime until proven otherwise.
“We’re trying to find out who it is to see what intent that person had,” Smith told local station WWL TV. “Because, if it was ill intent, then, I hate to say it, he’ll be charged with a hate crime. We can’t tolerate this in our community.”
The mayor said he also heard reports of two similar dolls being handed to kids in Waveland. Bay St. Louis police are reportedly now investigating the incident involving Fairconeture’s daughter.
The outraged mother said the rider’s actions left her 12-year-old visibly upset.
“She’s just very disturbed by it, that he pointed her out in the crowd to give her what to her was an insult,” she added. “Her peers had to see it, [and] my family had to deal with that. … It’s really disturbing.”
This isn’t the first time Mardi Gras festivities have been marred by acts of racism. Last year, a New Orleans resident said someone handed her 4-year-old child a pair of blackface “mammy” figurines at the Krewe of Endymion parade. Others at the event reportedly received the offensive dolls, too.
The recent Krewe of Nereids incident also drew a response from the head of the Hancock County NAACP, who said he wasn’t all that surprised by what happened.
“I wouldn’t say it was shocking,” said chapter president Gregory Barabino. “I just thought it was blatant and my first concern was the emotional well-being of the young lady the incident happened to.”
In a statement, the Krewe of Nereids said it was “shocked” by the incident of “a racially offensive item thrown from one of the truck floats” following the Nereids’ parade on Sunday. The group reiterated that it does not condone or agree with such offensive conduct.
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