A white-only portrait of Philadelphians enjoying ice skating raises eyebrows in black community.
It was nearly two weeks ago on a live Sunday evening episode of The Dr. Vibe Show that I joined a group of black male thought leaders from around the world and discussed, among many things, racism in America.
That portion of the conversation was triggered by an article in The Guardian that argued racism is so insidious that even black people underestimate it. I think that the author’s point is true for many who can’t see subtle exclusionary tactics and offensive assumptions for what they are: prejudices, mis-perceptions based on stereotypes and just flat out racism.
But for a large group of black people, the smallest hint of racial bias – even if not intentional – sets off raw emotions that range from depressed and angry to frustrated and cynical. The latter is what seems to be in play as it relates to a picture of The Rothman Institute Ice Skating Rink at Dilworth Park in Center City Philadelphia.
The rendering was included in an article on Philly.com promoting a ribbon cutting ceremony and free ice skating. It didn’t take long for people to begin to notice that the picture doesn’t reflect Philadelphia, unless, of course, black and brown people in the City don’t ice skate.
Though the picture is as white as snow, what seems to really grind the gears of some is the underlying message that the portrait seems to promote: A city that intentionally caters to its mainstream, while ignoring its working poor.
Her comments aren’t merely a metaphor when you consider that in some neighborhoods in Philadelphia the uprising of luxury housing for empty nesters and millennials are literally being built over top of murals and community art work.
The entire renovation of Dilworth Park has been criticized by a handful of people in the black community – even elected officials – who believed the money – though it wasn’t taxpayer’s dollars that erected the new site – could’ve been used for more important, pressing issues like school funding and homelessness.
But regardless of their thoughts, Dilworth Park and The Rothman Institute Ice Skating Rink are here to stay. So now the issue will become, for some at least, whether or not all Philadelphians – those who wear their pants below their butt and those whose pants are worn and torn from sleeping on the streets – can enjoy the space as freely as those Philadelphians whose paints are tailor-made.
This issue of race and the feeling that some black people in Philadelphia have of being left out may not be an important issue to the majority, but it’s a real issue nonetheless – and one that an all-white portrait of Philadelphians enjoying Philadelphia only exacerbates.
Was the portrait racist? I don’t think so, though some may say it is. Now, was it racially insensitive? In my opinion, yes, without a doubt.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™