Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Racism Courtesy Of The Sheriff's Office
(The title of this post is pointed in order to counter the grave ignorance of this community and its leaders.)
The photo above appeared in the Laredo Times last week. It was apparently taken, and shared, by staff of the Webb County Sheriff's Office. The image appeared on social media a day before I saw it in the newspaper. The topic of controversy is the person who chose to wear blackface for the costume party.
As of this writing, there seems to be a small group of Laredoans who see this as a major lapse in judgement. Going through the countless comments posted on Facebook feeds, I get the feeling that people in this town aren't that smart. Many don't see this as a racist act. Instead it's viewed as a harmless portrayal of an iconic black character, and to make more out of it is to be foolish.
Sheriff Cuellar, who hosted the costume party, replied to the brouhaha by defending the woman's appearance and dismissing any ill will toward others. But he insinuated that the lady had an intellectual disability. He stood firm against the supposed attacks on the defenseless party participant, ignoring the fact that he put his name, and that of Webb County, on an image that is racist. He didn't take any responsibility for the moment. And why should he, when nobody else has a clue about this. (The sheriff's comments appeared in Sunday's paper.)
Luckily there was an editorial entry on the same page that countered the sheriff's idiocy, COURTESY OF Marco Guajardo.
We are the least ethnically diverse large city in the country. As a result of this segregation, many are simply blind to the offensive and racist implications that come from not being exposed to people that do not look or talk like us. A person wearing blackface for a costume contest would command high levels of scrutiny and attention in a city like Austin, Los Angeles, Detroit, or New York City.
Bravo! to Mr. Guajardo! His thoughts on the matter are more lucid than those of Sheriff Martin.
On the KGNS morning show recently, I saw Elizabeth Millner speak out against the use of blackface. She was assertive and direct as the camera stayed on her for the commentary. I applauded her for lending her voice to this issue, and to KGNS for giving her the air time to do so. Millner is black. And she's a transplant. And her input was vital for a community that is majority Hispanic.
But today's feature by KGNS was less heroic. And to top it off, it was voiced by Millner herself. What made the story less savory was the inclusion of Facebook comments by those who don't have a problem with blackface. It's obvious that KGNS didn't want to take sides in this matter, unfortunately.
I want to think that this is being used as a teaching moment by some of us. There may be many Marco Guajardos among us that are passing on some sense to our friends and family. Let's educate ourselves on things that have a bigger impact beyond our borders.
We should decry racist acts. I hope you're listening, elected officials, the media, and the public at large.