Above is the town seal, which dates back to the 19th century, of Whitesboro, New York. It depicts a white man throwing an American Indian man to the ground and looks like something that would be found in Parks and Recreation’s satirically insensitive town of Pawnee. The image has been the subject of national discussion in relation to debates about the Confederate flag, and the Village Voice spoke to Whitesboro’s mayor, Patrick O’Connor, about the issue for an article published Tuesday:
“I am aware that people are upset about it … Some have reached out directly to me through my village email. And if they looked at the seal and went with an opinion based solely on what they’re looking at, I could understand why people would have concern about it. But, [as with] everything else, I think you have to take all the facts into consideration. And if people take the time to do that and they reach out to us, or they do the research themselves, it’s actually a very accurate depiction of friendly wrestling matches that took place back in those days.”
Hmm. A friendly wrestling match? The Whitesboro website elaborates, telling the story of Hugh White, the town’s founder, who moved to the area in the 18th century and was apparently known for his delicate interpersonal touch:
Judge White, as a frontier settler along the Sauquoit Creek, was required to exercise much diplomacy in dealing with his red neighbors.
On one occasion one of these neighbors is said to have challenged White to a wrestling match. It was an offer he couldn’t pass up:
White dared not risk being brow beaten by an Indian nor did he want to be called a coward.
As you can see on the seal, White won the match:
When the Indian finally rose, he shrugged his shoulders and was said to have muttered “UGH”, you good fellow too much”.
See? It’s not racist—it’s just the depiction of of a man whose name was literally “white” throwing one of his monosyllabic “red neighbors” to the ground so as to avoid the shame of “being brow beaten by an Indian.”