August 27, 2016
“Like a house of cards”
The weight of the world
Is balanced on our shoulder
Divide we fall
This is what a friend wrote today, as Lee is removed from his place on our city streets, the last of the 4 main monuments defiling our public streets that were placed to strengthen the white supremacy movement in the decades after the Civil War. (There are, however, 3 more Confederate statues of much less prominence that still need removal. Still, as my pal says beautifully here: we are beginning to approach the truth.)
…Black children can expect and, by every measure, will receive, substantially worse treatment than their white peers within the educational system, the healthcare system, the policing and justice systems, the housing and financial markets, in terms of their prospective employment and earnings. Hell, they will have a harder time on Tinder and Grinder.
Parents of black children already get to explain why this is and try their best to prepare their children to navigate these evidence-based realities.
One less white supremacist being honored in the street is actually the smallest possible gesture available that we can bestow on these children.
One less statue doesn’t change these realities. But it begins to approach the truth. There has never been truth and reconciliation in this country, so we keep recycling white supremacy into different iterations, instead of dismantling it (Jim Crow! Mass Incarceration!).
We can’t begin to face white supremacy without truth telling. And most Americans (of all backgrounds) are not taught the fullness of the truth about the founding of this country or how it prospered. Most aren’t taught what slavery entailed, or how it persists in different forms today. Taking down Lee is simply acknowledging these truths.
Note the comment her husband makes that is listed on this post. That is the source of the brouhaha, not the Zulu mask and costume.
Tales of the Cocktail Co-Founder, Paul Tuennerman resigns from Tales over his comment during his wife’s Zulu ride saying this in his letter to the community:
My comment to Ann about blackface prior to the Zulu parade was meant to be a husband’s innocent teasing of his camera-shy wife, not a belittlement of others. In retrospect, the words were insensitive, hurtful and just plain dumb and I feel horrible for the pain they have caused. I take full responsibility and it is with a very heavy heart that, effective immediately, I am resigning from Tales of the Cocktail.
Paul Tuennerman’s Resignation and Apology to the Community | Tales of the Cocktail
I appreciate the Tuennermans quick response to his insensitive and poorly chosen comment and wish Ann well in her work, including what I am sure is her hoped for continued participation in the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club which hosts many wonderful community events across New Orleans and does much to highlight African-American leadership across every sector in our city. It is up to those in the African-American community to decide if more is needed to be done for the Tuennermans to feel the effect of his words. People are already attempting to pooh-pooh this and to make the wrong argument here: The issue is not the costume, as everyone knows has been the traditional wear since the early days with characters playing roles like the mayor, the Big Shot and the Witch Doctor.
This is the answer given to the local paper a few years back by one of the members:
What’s up with the blackface, wigs and skirts? Why does a mostly African-American organization present that image during its most public moment?
It’s all make believe and a part of masking. The blackface, bush wig and grass skirt are parts of the Official Parade Dress for the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, Inc. and date back to the early 1900’s and the initial parades of the organization. Early costumes were put together with the materials available to the members at that time and are meant for fun. Our costumes are not meant to be offensive to anyone.
Writers Resist New Orleans is being held in collaboration with PEN America, as part of a international day of readings championing freedom of speech, and the power of expression to change the world.
Representatives from New Orleans’ diverse writer’s community will be reading selections from great political, activist, and literary works of our past including words from:
Martin Luther King, Jr
and many more to come.
We hope to provide a space for the New Orleans community to come together during this time of national anxiety. We view this as an opportunity to connect, seek solace, and rebuild. We welcome ALL.
A note from the national organizers:
Writers Resist is not affiliated with a political party. We wish to bypass direct political discourse in favor of an inspired focus on the future, and how we, as writers, can be a unifying force for the protection of Democracy. In order for us to heal and move forward, individually and as a nation, we believe people need something to be for in this anxious moment. The only thing we “resist” is that which attacks or seeks to undermine those most basic principles of freedom and justice for all.
I found this one of the best things I’ve read. Part of that is because it reminds me of the truth in the fractured, violent and yet sweet place that I call home. It reminds me that we can all show up for the Saints games, but not all of us get to hang out in the fancy bars afterward without sidelong glances being thrown. That Mardi Gras is a street thing, but some of those krewes are locked up tight. Or, that job we disdain or the apartment we moan about is not open to anyone and everyone. And the other part of it is that Ruffin writes simply and poignantly and with fire in his veins.
We would have laughed in the face of your naïveté if we didn’t like you so much. It was sweet the way your eyes widened as your understanding of what we saw in our everyday lives played across your face. You were dismayed that your own blood didn’t care about the lofty constitutional precepts of justice and the pursuit of happiness for all. Your recognition of our separateness saddened us. It was like watching a child learn the truth about Santa Claus.
Maurice Ruffin’s piece