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…]