Scrooge of Color – 10 of 40 – book research

This morning social media brought distressing statements made locally. The first one was not about race, but I’ll record it here because I see it illustrating the coarsening of culture that I predicted as Trump ascended. As he questions science and champions liberty without responsibility during the pandemic, others feel more free to follow suit. This Facebook post is from the same Italian restaurant that flouted state orders managing resumption of business and opened early. I’m not sure whether to read this as thoughtless or squarely catering to right-wing extremists.

Bella Italia Pizza
June 11 at 10:21 pm

Hello Altoona, we would like to thank all and everyone that have supported us during these difficult times, I still see some of you wearing a mask, if you have a medical condition then we understand but, if you are and feel healthy? Please don’t come in with that mask ok? Just enjoy the food and the liberty that God gave us! Thank and God Bless.

So now wearing a mask is a political statement. Depending on your perspective, it contradicts the ideal of freedom, or it illustrates the ideal of solidarity.

The other statement came during a public meeting described in this article. I put all of the text below to capture the full context. I will highlight this exchange:

The tensest moment during the hour-long meeting came as Dana Richardson, a black woman and an attorney with the law firm Tibbott & Richardson in Ebensburg, was at the microphone.

“Chuck and Patti don’t seem to realize why it’s so important for us to be here, but maybe it’s simply because they don’t understand,” said Richardson, who spoke after both Bagleys.

“I would invite Chuck and Patti to stand on their feet, knowing the history of how black people have been treated in America, historically, if they would gladly trade places with me today and take on my skin color and walk in my shoes.”

From his seat nearby, Bagley replied, “Well, no, because you people are killing each other every weekend.” The remark drew several gasps from members of the crowd.

Archie Bunker could not have said it better. This is stereotyping, discrimination and voicing white supremacy. I would have gasped as well. It brings home that racism is here. Diametrically-opposed views are here.

And yet the Christian ideal is to listen with love and without judgment. How hard that is. It inspires me to ask: How can I have the biggest positive impact in today’s world, which contains so much violence, fear, enmity and pain that I have not perceived, including in myself?

*

‘We have much work to do’: Ebensburg Borough to make changes after Confederate flag’s appearance in parade
By Mark Pesto
mpesto@tribdem.com

EBENSBURG – Future parades in Ebensburg Borough will be organized by private groups, not by the borough itself, a change made in response to the appearance of the Confederate battle flag in the borough’s 2020 Memorial Day parade.

Doug Tusing, president of Ebensburg Borough Council, announced the move during a town hall meeting held Wednesday night at the Young Peoples Community Center.

The meeting was organized by the borough in response to community criticism of the flag’s appearance in the May 25 parade.

The meeting drew a crowd of about 60 members of the public, 12 of whom spoke. Of the speakers, 10 criticized the flag’s appearance in the parade and two warned that restricting its appearance could lead to a “slippery slope.”

Tusing said that the display of the flag in the borough-organized parade was “completely legal and constitutionally protected,” but expressed his personal disapproval of the display, apologized that it occurred and explained how the flag got into the parade in the first place.

Planning for the borough’s traditional Memorial Day parade was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tusing said. It was initially thought that the parade would have to be canceled entirely, but instead a “roving parade” around the streets of the borough was organized. Members of the public were invited to participate.

On the morning of the parade, a man described by Tusing as “an individual from outside the borough” showed up driving a tractor from which a Confederate flag and an American flag were flown.

“Its appearance was completely unexpected,” Tusing said.

“That said, we completely understand that the image of the Confederate flag, especially with a borough police car directly behind it, could give the impression that the display was somehow pre-planned or organized by the borough. I am 100% confident in stating for the record that it was not.”

At the time, police officers at the scene were concerned that they would violate the man’s First Amendment right to free speech if they tried to bar him from participating in the parade or order him to remove the Confederate flag, Tusing said. They were right, the borough’s solicitor, Blair Pawlowski, later confirmed, according to Tusing.

“From a purely legal perspective,” Tusing said, “the bottom line is this. As a governmental body, the borough does not have the constitutional authority to limit speech, including the display of flags or other symbols on public property. Period. … But, as we all know, just because something is legal does not necessarily make it right.”

As of Wednesday night, about 2,700 people had signed an online petition calling on borough officials to ban the Confederate flag from borough-sanctioned events. Tusing said that the borough legally could not do so, but explained a planned workaround – the borough will require future parades and other events to be organized by private groups that can legally impose content restrictions at their discretion.

Most popular borough events, such as the Ebensburg PotatoFest and the Ebensburg Turkey Trot, are already coordinated by the 501(c)3 nonprofit Ebensburg Main Street Partnership or another private group; the new move will add the annual Memorial Day parade to that category.

Tusing also asked the borough’s manager to draft an ordinance “to regulate future parades, events and other demonstrations for future council consideration.”

The council president condemned the fear he said the flag’s appearance caused for some members of the Ebensburg community.

“Should an Ebensburg family – or any family, for that matter – ever feel the need to quickly rush their children into the house as the Confederate flag is paraded by their front lawn?” he asked rhetorically. “Imagine the horror as their sense of elation in watching the parade, their uplifting spirit of American patriotism and their feelings of gratitude toward our departed military were suddenly shattered by the passing image of the Confederate flag. That thought disturbs me deeply.

“Clearly, as a country, we have much work to do to address racism and intolerance at all levels – interpersonal, structural and institutional. As a borough, I believe we have an obligation to our community members to do this as well, and I for one take this responsibility very seriously. For these reasons, I respectfully invite the mayor, my fellow councilors, and all borough staff to join me in the formal denunciation of this hurtful and offensive display.”

Chris Miller, one of several members of a new group called Inclusive Ebensburg who spoke at the meeting, said afterward that he thought the meeting “went very well.”

“I’m very pleased by the comments from Mr. Tusing,” he said. “The one thing that I wanted to hear was an apology from the borough for what happened, and I’m happy with their statement tonight, and I think a lot of other families here are, too.”

Noting that Cambria County soldiers fought for the Union and against the Confederacy during the Civil War, Tusing said that the presence of the Confederate flag in the Memorial Day parade “dishonored what was otherwise intended to be a meaningful and solemn tribute to those who paid the ultimate price in defending our country and our freedoms.”

That sentiment was echoed by Ebensburg resident Ryan Costanzo.

“This display was an affront to the soldiers from this county, whose names we’ve memorialized in a park just a few blocks from here, who fought against the Confederacy,” he said. “It is an enemy flag, and its display, much like the display of any other enemy flag, is distasteful and troubling at a Memorial Day event.”

Costanzo and several other speakers also noted that the Confederate flag has been used since the Civil War, including during the struggle for civil rights in the southern United States, in order to intimidate black Americans.

“The issue of the Confederate flag isn’t just about a piece of cloth,” said Ebensburg resident Dan Kane. “The people that want to honor that flag – you have to consider what it represents. The Confederate flag was used in this country during the Jim Crow era to promote voter suppression, racial prejudice, segregation, and it’s still used for that purpose to this day. … For those of you who embrace that flag and everything it represents, that tells us something about you. You need to rethink your values.

“About 50 years ago, when I joined the United Mine Workers, I took an oath that said I would never discriminate against a brother or a sister on the basis of race, color, creed or national origin, and I have kept that oath, and I intend to keep it until the day I die.”

The two speakers who opposed keeping the Confederate flag from being displayed, Ebensburg-area residents Chuck Bagley and Patti Bagley, both suggested that the ban could lead to a “slippery slope.” Chuck Bagley said that some opponents of the Confederate flag present at Wednesday’s meeting probably drive Hondas and Mercedes-Benzes, even though the countries where those car companies are based were once enemies of the United States.

“There are still men walking around Ebensburg Borough today, although it be very few, that lived through the atrocities that the Germans and the Japanese bestowed upon our troops in World War II,” he said. “I want you to notice, you never see those men standing anywhere, trying to impose their will upon the rest of us because they don’t like something. Those men stormed the beaches of Normandy, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and yet there’s people in this room right now driving Hondas and Mercedes-Benzes down the street. I don’t hear any outrage about that.

“Yes, the flag of the Confederacy may be offensive to some people. I get it. But the reality is, it’s not offensive to a lot of other people, so before we start down the slippery slope, I want people to consider that there’s a million things that are more important than standing here tonight, worrying about a flag that’s being flown.”

Patti Bagley suggested that keeping the Confederate flag from being displayed could open the door to public criticism of other Ebensburg Borough events, such as its annual Dickens of a Christmas celebration, themed around Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol.”

“I am not racist,” she said. “I have many lifelong friends that are black. My son – he dates a girl who, you know, has black heritage. I have no issue with that. What my issue is, is that I think that we are starting to go down a very slippery slope.

“I believe that, because people are offended by a certain thing, they think that it should be erased. The fact of the matter is, the Confederate flag is part of history, although it’s not a good part of history.

“What is the next thing that a petition is going to be signed about? … Maybe during Dickens for a Christmas – during that time period, women were not allowed to vote, so as a woman I would find that offensive. You’ve got to ask yourself, like, when does this end?”

In response to history-based arguments for displaying the Confederate flag, Ebensburg resident Justin Ruggles drew an analogy to symbols of other enemies of the United States, such as the Nazi swastika.

“I’m not for erasing history,” he said, “but I remember who Hitler was, and he doesn’t have a statue. I don’t fly his flag at my house.”

The tensest moment during the hour-long meeting came as Dana Richardson, a black woman and an attorney with the law firm Tibbott & Richardson in Ebensburg, was at the microphone.

“Chuck and Patti don’t seem to realize why it’s so important for us to be here, but maybe it’s simply because they don’t understand,” said Richardson, who spoke after both Bagleys.

“I would invite Chuck and Patti to stand on their feet, knowing the history of how black people have been treated in America, historically, if they would gladly trade places with me today and take on my skin color and walk in my shoes.”

From his seat nearby, Bagley replied, “Well, no, because you people are killing each other every weekend.” The remark drew several gasps from members of the crowd.

As the meeting wrapped up, Tusing said that it represented “the beginning of a journey,” not “the end of the road.”

“Ebensburg is a wonderful town full of good and well-meaning people,” he said.

“Yet, we must all strive to do better with regard to tolerance and inclusion, not just with regard to race, but in other areas of diversity as well.

“The only real way to move any of this forward is not through ordinances or through rules or through regulations – it’s really through open dialogue, education and discussion.

“Let’s join together as a community and build a model to set an example of how this can all work – peacefully, intelligently and respectfully. In the end, we just cannot allow this incident to define Ebensburg, and we must not allow this incident to divide us.”

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