Another complaint about 2016 floats

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Another complaint about 2016 floats

Unread postby layne » Feb 08 2016, 02:44 pm

This was not written by me, but it touched me profoundly. Heads up, y'all.

Dear Editor,
Let me begin by saying that I am a proud native of Baton Rouge. Lived here all of my (almost) 36 years. Educated in its public school system. Participated in roughly all facets of culture the city has to offer. I am a son of the Red Stick that has seen the city grow exponentially by way of infrastructure, offerings and to some extent acceptance along social/political lines.

I am also a Black man that has dealt with much of the city’s passive-aggressive racist tendencies with muted resistance and rallied against the city's overt racist/classist tendencies by teaching young people that they don't have to accept the status quo given. So it is with much dismay that I once again had to bear witness to a festive occasion such as the Spanish Town parade, be littered with floats that highlighted racist and sexist ideals. I am appalled by the approval of some of these floats by whatever selection board gives the ok to them. And I would like to know who thinks that some of these messages are ok and why.

Of the most egregious floats I laid eyes on were two that had the message of “Pink Lives Matter”, an obvious mock of the national Black Lives Matter movement denouncing police violence against people of color. One of the floats featured an image of a pink flamingo being hit with a billy club upside its head with a sign around its neck reading “I Can't Breathe”. The other featured an image of a pink flamingo being chased by a gun-pointing police officer. What may seem like hyperbolic “satire” to the krewe on the float, is real life fears and anxieties to many people of color in Baton Rouge and beyond. We just recently saw where there would be no criminal charges brought up in the death of Victor White III right in New Iberia. This information was given at the beginning of this weekend. To live in a nation and state where you can be told that a man whose hands were cuffed behind his back was able to kill himself by way of a gunshot wound to the chest, is a mortifying reality. This is what a privileged class of people are choosing to mock when paying an exorbitant amount of money to put a float in a parade. This is the message given to Black kids with their hands outstretched for beads. That their livelihood is to be parodied and trivialized in the name of “satire”.

And in the very moment that I am pointing out these horrendous floats to a white female friend of mine she asks “but did you see the one that said rape is just surprise sex?” And I missed that float but was equally appalled at how anyone can trivialize something like sexual violence while living in a state notorious for its high numbers of violent crimes against women. The fact that my friend and I were deeply offended by two different floats for two different reasons, underscores just how ingrained the culture of racism and sexism is in our area. Which is not to say that any of the floats did not have Black people or women on them. But it is to say that marginalized people are so accustomed to systems of oppression that we don't always recognize how vile that oppression is even when it's painted in front of us in vibrant colors.

My point is, the occupants of these floats can be more creative in their attempt at satire. Can be better people. In many cases people don't recognize how problematic their presentation can be until it's pointed out. So this is me pointing it out. I know that there will be some or many that will dismiss this as me being hyper-sensitive. Or playing the race card. Or simply not “letting the good times roll”. At its core, most of south Louisiana’s festive seasons bring out the best in our collective community. Barriers of race and class and gender often are temporarily dismissed over good food and line dance. This is my plea for future participants of the Spanish Town parade and other community-wide events to be more cognizant of the imagery and messaging of what they're presenting. Or keep their toxicity away from the quality citizens of south Louisiana that support inclusion over marginalization.

Peace & Love BR,
Donney Rose
Poet, Youth Worker, Son of the City
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