Op/Ed By Wallace Mabry
A black poet once called for the integration of black people with Negroes. That call goes out today because black people are so busy integrating with white people, and absorbing white culture, that it is darn difficult to ascertain who the heck the real white people are from the absorbing Negroes.
What motivates my concern is the recent and ongoing discussion surrounding the Ontario Beach carousel, depicting panels of two black children rendered in a crude (pickaninny), exaggerated style that has been part of the carousel since its installation at the waterfront park 110 years ago.
It is apparent, to this writer, why the Monroe County government, in the personage of outgoing county executive, Maggie Brooks, and her cohorts, want to “add to (in a scholarly fashion, of course)” and not “remove” the offending panels. Maggie Brooks and her cohorts are not black, and are not offended by the panels.
On the other hand, the city of Rochester, under the leadership of Mayor Lovely Warren, a black woman or a Negro, actually owns the carousel. The city, however, prior to Mayor Warren’s election to office, made a 100-year managerial agreement with the county to operate the carousel. The fact of renting, leasing out, or in any way giving over managerial responsibility to another does not, quid pro quo, surrender the owner’s primary authority or responsibility.
Needless to say, then, Mayor Warren’s contribution to the problem, as it were, will, indeed, contribute greatly to a teaching or teachable moment for us all. Well, here it is:
“We have to recognize,” Mayor Warren said, “that these images represent a time in our community that we shouldn’t forget about and an American culture that we shouldn’t forget about. I think this is a teachable moment.”
Frankly, this writer is hard pressed to understand exactly what Mayor Warren’s teachable moment intends to address, and whether she is for, or against, the retention of the panels.
Mayor Warren’s contribution sounds a lot like that of the late Anthony Hervey of Jackson, Mississippi. Mr. Hervey, a black man, or Negro, often dressed in Confederate regalia to support the state rebel flag. “This is not racism,” Mr. Hervey said. “This is my heritage.”
In this writer’s humble opinion, if black people are to be subjected to teachable moments like those of Mayor Warren, or the late Mr. Hervey, let us be reminded about the nuances of racism, and how, psychologically, we can be enticed to embrace ideals and concepts whose only design it is to engender confusion and a warped sense of tolerance.
The panels should be removed. We do not need their presence to remind us of racism. We live with and struggle against it every day.