January 11, 2016

Whitesboro votes to keep seal

Whitesboro residents vote to keep controversial 'racist' village seal

By Elizabeth DoranWhitesboro residents voted Monday night to keep the village's controversial seal, rather than replace it with a new image.

Of 212 votes cast, 157 of them were in favor of retaining the current seal.

It was an informal vote, and village officials say they will discuss the results Tuesday night.

Whitesboro Mayor Patrick O'Connor said he wasn't entirely surprised by the vote results as numerous residents had been calling the village offices asking why the village was holding a vote in the first place.

The controversial village seal, which dates back to 1883, shows a white settler with his hands apparently choking a Native American man. Although village officials said the seal depicts a friendly wrestling match between Hugh White, the town's founder, and a member of the local Oneida tribe; it's caused controversy for years. Many called it racist and offensive.
Why Natives object

Manning: Open Letter to the Village of Whitesboro, New York

By Sarah Sunshine ManningTo be clear, as an educator of the social sciences and history, I do acknowledge the possible validity of not only the historical accounts that this image does in fact highlight a friendly wrestling match that may have occurred, but also, I do acknowledge the cultural practice among the Oneida who did traditionally engage in friendly wrestling matches. I get it. There is a historical context. But that’s beside the point. There is also a history of slavery in America, but glorifying that on a town seal would never be deemed appropriate, no matter how historically accurate.

Yet all context aside, and without a thorough explanation, that seal, well, it looks racist. At first glance, this is what Whitesboro, New York, looks like: a white supremacist town. For one, your name is, Whitesboro, after all. And secondly, a white man is subduing an Indian, the original occupant of this land that was ultimately, near annihilated.

I know, I know. White is the last name of founder. But the combination of all of the different elements on the seal, together, evoke a soup of emotions among outsiders looking in, conjuring up discomfort, defensiveness, and even pain. Images matter, and your image is harmful.

Considering that Native Americans went from being 100-percent of the population pre-contact, to roughly 1-percent of the U.S. population today, your historical seal of a white man subduing an Indian highlights the reality of indigenous genocide, while twisting the knife of domination and colonization into the fresh wounds of the indigenous population still living today.
Whitesboro Residents Vote to Keep Racist Seal: Here's What People Are Saying About the Decision

Comment:  For more on government seals, see Massachusetts Sued Over State Seal and "Ralph Cherokee" on Roanoke County Seal.

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