On Wednesday, when at least two Mummers decided to don blackface during the annual New Year’s Day parade, African American tax dollars helped to pay for that racist slap at our community.
According to mayoral spokesperson Lauren Cox, the City of Philadelphia paid $670,000 for the parade last year and expects to pay around the same amount this year. Much of that money comes from taxpayer dollars. In a city that’s about 45% black, a hefty portion of that will be paid by African Americans.
But this is not just about money. This is about human dignity. Black people are tired of being mocked by those who would engage in the age-old minstrelsy that is blackface. We are tired of those who hate us hiding behind paint, behind hoods, behind excuses, and ultimately, behind a government that would dare to fund open bigotry with our tax dollars.
That’s why, even as I write this, black Philadelphians and their allies are planning to protest, just like black Philadelphians protested the decades of racism that led to a court-ordered blackface ban at the 1964 Mummers Parade. Mummers fought the ban back then, and 22 buses filled with police were stationed along the 1964 parade route to stem any violence that might erupt. That year, after the official parade, a group of Mummers donned blackface and marched on Second Street.
This year, in a similar act of defiance, Kinkel and Tomaszewski, donned blackface during the parade. When the parade ended, Kinkel was approached by a reporter.
“I talk to black people,” Kinkel told NBC 10 Philadelphia. “They told me, ‘What are you talking about? You can wear whatever you want. That ain’t discriminating me. That ain’t racist to me.’ That’s what they tell me.”
I’d be interested to talk to the black people who supposedly gave Kinkel their blessing to wear blackface. More importantly, I’d like to talk to the other Mummers who stood by and allowed Kinkel and Tomaszewski to wear blackface, knowing it was banned. In my view, every Mummer who saw them is accountable, as is every organization involved.
Which brings me to the Philadelphia Flyers, the hockey team whose mascot the Froggy Carr brigade claimed they were honoring. Members of Froggy Carr wore Flyers team colors and had Flyers logos on their umbrellas, even as members of their brigade wore blackface. On Thursday evening, a spokesperson responded by email to say that the Flyers had no knowledge or involvement with Froggy Carr’s skit. “We stand united with the entire Philadelphia community in condemning the brigade’s offensive racial symbolism,” said Tim Buckman, who works for Comcast Spectacor, the Flyers’ parent company.
They join the Philadelphian in charge in condemning the Mummers racist tomfoolery.
“The use of blackface by someone affiliated with Froggy Carr today was abhorrent and unacceptable,” Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted after the parade. “This selfish, hateful behavior has no place in the Mummers, or the city itself. We must be better than this. The group was disqualified and we will be exploring additional penalties.”
In an emailed statement, mayoral spokesperson Cox went further. “The people who do this do not care about the future of the parade, only bringing attention to their own hate.”
I agree with that sentiment, and that’s why I’m calling for the City to immediately remove all taxpayer funding from the Mummers Parade. But we shouldn’t stop there.
If the Mummers Parade goes forward as a privately funded event, the City should make the Mummers reimburse taxpayers for any City services that are rendered for the event, and require the Mummers to make charitable contributions to agencies that service the community. Philadelphia has a similar arrangement with Jay-Z’s organization for Made In America, a private, ticketed concert series which reimburses the City for about 50% of the cost of City services attached to the event.
I hope black Philadelphians — and everyone who supports us — will stand with me on this. We are no longer content to sit still while the government supports racism with our tax dollars.