The latest installment in “Reality is Getting Crazier Than the Onion” involves coal miners and Mary Poppins. Word is, they are both racists.
A man named Rashaad Thomas has an editorial over at azcentral.com about being traumatically triggered while out for an evening at a Phoenix restaurant. The problem? This picture which hung on the wall at this establishment.
The problem? Well let me have Mr.Thomas tell you himself.
For me, the coal miners disappeared and a film honored for its artistic merit, despite being the most racist propaganda films ever, D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” (1915) surfaces, in which white actors appeared in blackface. The white owner saw coal miners in the photograph. Therefore, it was not offensive.
Fact: The photograph shows coal miners’ faces covered in soot. The context of the photograph is not the issue.
Note this line: The white owner saw coal miners in the photograph. Therefore, it was not offensive. Is blackface offensive? Of course, it is worse than offensive. Are miners offensive? They were victims too, let us not forget. They worked long hours for pennies in the unsafest of conditions. That soot on their faces also lined their in their lungs, killing many at far too young an age, leaving their family destitute. But never mind all that. Thomas wants us to know that context is not at issue. How dismissive. Thomas continues.
At the downtown Phoenix restaurant, my concern that the photograph of men in blackface was a threat to me and my face and voice were ignored.
A business’ photograph of men with blackened faces culturally says to me, “Whites Only.” It says people like me are not welcome.
The operators of that downtown restaurant can choose to take the photograph down, leave it up or create a title card with an intention statement. No matter their decision, I think the photograph should be taken down — sacrificing one image for the greater good.
Get that. The photo of the miners said to him that this restaurant was the equivalent of “Whites Only” establishments from the genuinely evil days of segregation. That picture said he was not welcome there.
Think about that a moment. How did he see the picture? He was there. In the restaurant. The (White!) manager even spoke to him. Mr. Thomas was not tossed out, asked never to return. Apparently he was welcome there. His recommendation as a compromise is to have the owner of the restaurant put a notation on the picture explaining that these are not a group of White men antagonizing and shaming Black people, but coal miners whose faces got dirty because … well, they’re coal miners. That will let everyone know to rest easy, the picture is not a nasty group of Al Jolsons.
But only if this was just a ridiculous one-off. The New York Times noted this week that Mary Poppins might well be a racist as well. Trigger warning: Here is the picture they used as evidence.
No, those smudges of soot on her face are not just innocent residue from her dancing with the chimney sweeps. Poppins is a racist staring back at a racist.
Now, two main points here. One minor, the other massive. First, these are seemingly serious writers making these accusations. Serious journalists and their editors thought these were serious stories, worthy of their valuable print real-estate. Which leads us to the massive issue at play here. If such things can be called racist, worthy of moral outrage, then the nastiness of actual racism loses its very important meaning and moral offense. That is the real crime here.
Mr. Thomas and the New York Times might do well to remember the moral of a story about a young boy and a wolf.