What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Rosenthal image

Underlying what’s wrong with this picture is where it resides. Not in a museum of racist caricatures. No, it’s on the popular Dentzel Carousel at Ontario Beach Park in my city: Rochester, New York.

The carousel is a special treasure. Built in 1905, it’s now one of only fourteen operating antique menagerie carousels in the United States; it’s also one of only a few that remain in their original location.

Dentzel Carousels, created by the Philadelphia firm G.A. Dentzel, were famed for their delightful range of animals to ride. Our city’s carousel offers not only the usual horses, but also cats, ostriches, pigs, rabbits, plus a deer, a giraffe, a goat, a lion, and a tiger.

When my granddaughters were young, I took them to ride the carousel. They had fun choosing which animal to climb upon. Did they notice the cartoon-style pickaninnies painted on one of a circle of panels topping the carousel?

Maybe not. Maybe so. Who knows what images a child absorbs unconsciously? And if that child is African-American?

So, what’s wrong with this picture? [Read more…]

Charlie Hebdo and the Inner Soul of Humor

16246547072_48798fd8a5_m (1)My friend Justin Smith recently wrote a piece for Harper’s Magazine. Justin is a brilliant guy, a philosopher and historian of ideas who also happens to write well and think clearly. Those things do not come together all that often. He’s been teaching for the last couple of years in Paris, at Université Paris Diderot-Paris VII.

This put him at Ground Zero, more or less, on January seventh of this year when the Kouachi brothers entered the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and opened fire. [Read more…]

Never Again: Netanyahu’s Holocaust Cliché

16072485443_38e6ec0e06_oIn the air, on the air, tunneling through cables, conquering newsrooms, occupying the mouths of pundits, settling in the vacuous chambers of the minds of senators and congressmen, securing and challenging the border of church and state, opening the addled heart and vault of Las Vegas: Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

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I could tell you how uncomfortable—appalled, sickened—I was as I watched the short man enter the once hallowed halls of Congress and inch his way, from handshake to handshake, down the aisle to take his stand where democracy should stand, where truth should stand. But I won’t.

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As I write this, it’s been two weeks since the speech, which, in the temporal context of news, is an eternity. As I write this, it’s election day in Israel. You already know, if you follow Israeli politics, the outcome. [Read more…]

The Birmingham Project

I was looking into the eyes of a black girl around thirteen years old. She looked back, her eyes pensive and a bit sullen. Then I shifted my gaze to the black woman seated as if next to her, about fifty years her senior. The woman’s eyes were those of a survivor, the eyes of someone who has lived through and somehow managed to transcend unimaginable pain.

What this woman from Birmingham, Alabama had survived was the racial violence that overtook her city in the early 1960s. The federal government had ordered Alabama’s public schools to de-segregate; Governor George Wallace was determined to resist.

[Read more…]

It’s Time to Derail the Gravy Train

gravy trainEarlier this week we saw yet again what happens when thousands of the unemployed, living off subsidies from taxpayers, decide to take their grievances to the streets. This latest assault on decency and order happened in Columbus, Ohio, but the list of cities victimized in this way is long and growing. It’s often peaceful towns that are targeted—communities filled with law-abiding people who work for a living, who follow the rules, and who deserve better protection from law enforcement.

The thugs who prey on these neighborhoods wreak havoc, often with impunity. Responsible for neither jobs nor children, living off the earnings of others, these welfare kings and queens strut the streets at night, swilling alcohol, fornicating with abandon, and all too often, inciting violence against property and persons.

[Read more…]


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