Anger and Ugly Faces of Bigotry

Millions of Americans feel disenfranchised by the political establishment — numbers reflected in the populist candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — but this sense of betrayal often pours out in ugly expressions of bigotry, as Michael Winship observed.

By Michael Winship

Philadelphia, Cradle of Liberty and City of Brotherly Love, was anything but on New Year’s Day. Visiting with family, we’d all decided to meet up at the annual Mummers’ Parade.

Now, it is well established that I am an unabashed lover of parades both as spectator and participant, having marched in protests, fireman’s carnivals, sugar beet festivals, and many other events. In high school, I was even in a freelance marching band, sort of a mobile garage band with a drum major and a couple of trombones.

An historical photo of "black-face" participants in a Mummers Parade.

An historical photo of “black-face” participants in a Mummers Parade.

So I’m a fan, and I remember watching the Mummers Parade on TV when I was a kid. Seeing it live and in person, the pageantry’s even more impressive. Reminiscent of New Orleans’ fabled Mardi Gras krewes, the various “brigades” in the line of march feature elaborate costumes, floats and superb musicianship. But unlike New Orleans, the marchers are overwhelmingly white. And their comedy skills leave a lot to be desired.

The 116-year-old Philadelphia event, perhaps the oldest of its kind in the United States, is troubled — “dogged by controversy,” as Angela Bronner Helm writes at The Root. “Minstrelsy has always [been] a part of the Mummer DNA, including blackface. But in 1964, under pressure from the NAACP, blackface was officially banned, yet it seems to find its way into the parade each year. This year, ‘brownface’ was the insult du jour, with Sammar Strutters’ ‘Siesta Fiesta’ revelers dressed as tacos with brown face paint, including children…”

But that wasn’t all, not by a long shot (for one thing, Helm forgot to mention the sombreros and serapes). In addition to the overall public drunkenness of the rowdy young crowd on the streets (I’m no prude but this was out of control), one of the other brigades in the parade crudely mocked Caitlyn Jenner, and one member was…

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