Every year for the last three years we’ve gotten hundreds of visitors to our Vineyards of Château Hough, and with the opening of our BioCellar we’re expecting even more. And every year I have to ask one or two people to leave their Chief Wahoo cap or T-shirt in their vehicle, since I refuse to allow anyone on our property while they are wearing the disrespectful image.
Last year one visitor — a big, corn-fed son of the sod — took exception to my ban; when I politely requested that he not wear his offensive baseball cap he, in turn, got offended. “This is a free country, last time I checked,” he said, “and I can wear anything I want.”
“Yeah, you’re absolutely right,” I responded, “you certainly are free to wear any symbol of bigotry you care to … just not on our property.” He didn’t like my response any more than I liked his baseball gear, but in the end he realized that we were playing in my ballpark and that I wasn’t about to back down. Pissed, he took off the cap and jammed it in his back pocket.
But the visitors wearing the racist Chief Wahoo image I get most upset with are not the white guys — who have the temerity to seriously think they have the right to determine what should or should not be offensive to another race of people — but those that are black. When someone black shows up in such gear I have serious trouble restraining myself from bitch-slapping him or her silly.
As frequently as our race has been depicted with negative, stereotypical and buffoonish images over the centuries in this country over the last few hundred years how can any person of color dare to wear something offensive to another group of humans? Are they that dense, that stupid, that much out of touch with the world we live in that they simply don’t realize what they are doing?
In these cases — while attempting to not come off didactic — I gently take the offending brother or sister aside and “school” them. I remind them of the Black Sambo images that were designed and disseminated with one sole purpose: To make black folks cringe, to be ashamed of themselves. Sometimes the light still doesn’t go on … they remain as stupid after my little attempt at education as they were before … in other words, they’re hopeless.
On Opening Day I’m supposed to host a group of bike riding baseball fans that are going to stop past our operation after visiting League Park, the fabled baseball field a block away where Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run.
However, in the next day or so I’m going to call the gentleman who contacted me to arrange the visit and inform him that I forgot to mention the Chief Wahoo ban. I don’t want to embarrass any of his riders by asking them to stay off the property … but in good conscience I simply cannot talk to anyone wearing a symbol of our city’s intransigence; our refusal to retire an image that mocks another race of people. I just can’t.
[Photo: Sarah Deer]
From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available again in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author by visiting http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.com.