In which everybody behaves in sadly predictable ways.
The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival poster story has developed in sadly predictable ways. The Ponchatoula Kiwanis Club apologized and tried to sidestep the controversy by downgrading the poster’s status. It’s no longer the festival’s poster, but it is still for sale as a fundraiser.
“We also won't sell it that weekend or display it, but we're not recalling the poster by any means,” said Strawberry Festival Chairman Donald Lanier said. According to a story Thursday in The New Orleans Advocate, that choice has been financially rewarding. The poster has newfound demand, likely as artifact of resistance against PC oppression.
The artist—Kalle Seikkinen—handles the situation in a similarly clichéd way by saying he’s misunderstood. He told Nola.com’s Doug MacCash, “It's really not about race; it's about a feeling that the paintings exude.”
He also asserts that he’s the real victim here. Steve Hardy from The New Orleans Advocate quotes him as saying
I think that is just heinous and slanderous …I don’t believe in any way I’ve done anything offensive, and I don’t apologize for my artwork.
Essentially, the Kiwanis are saying We’re sorry you’re offended, not We’re sorry we offended you. Seikkinen is contending—as so many people who stumble in this area have in the past—that offending is a sin of intent. If you didn’t mean to offend anyone, you didn’t. Mean well and you are well.
Just as predictably, many of the poster’s supporters on social media have responded by throwing their hands in the air, as if the problem is African Americans. They’re too sensitive. You can’t make them happy. The underlying attitude once again is We’re doing fine; what’s wrong with them?
The impulse I look forward to is for someone to one day make a genuine effort to understand and appreciate African-American feelings instead of looking for ways to dismiss them. Look at the comment stream to a Jarvis DeBerry comment and you can estimate how far we are from that day.