HITHER AND YON: Lots Of Whining About The Spanish Town Parade

At some point it was inevitable that the politically-correct crowd would clash with Louisiana’s most politically-incorrect Mardi Gras institution, that being the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade which rolled through downtown Baton Rouge on Saturday.

Spanish Town is, it must be said at the outset, a poor approximation of a Mardi Gras parade. For some reason Baton Rouge has simply never managed to do Mardi Gras well, and it’s strange for this to be the case. The St. Patrick’s Day parade which rolls down Perkins Road is as good or better than anything you’ll find in New Orleans, so it’s possible to throw a parade in Baton Rouge and have people show up to catch beads from floats. But for some reason Spanish Town just misses the mark.

Maybe it’s that the parade’s mission is snarky and rambunctious humor of a political stripe, maybe it’s the long-running tradition of a pink flamingo as the parade’s mascot, maybe it’s the fact that none of the groups riding on the Spanish Town floats bother to put any money into decorating their vehicles. One float this year was actually decorated with what looked like peeled-off labels from beer bottles and empty cloth baggies that Crown Royal bottles come in.

But that’s just the parade. It’s low-brow, it’s trailer park-y, it’s more or less a drunk-fest. Everybody knows this. And nobody takes time out of the pre-Mardi Gras weekend in New Orleans to come up for Spanish Town, because generally speaking Spanish Town is like a truck parade in Slidell but with a smaller ratio of teeth to parade-goer.

Baton Rouge ought to have a better parade to call its own, but it doesn’t seem like anybody really cares to put one on, so this is it.

And naturally, because this is it we’re now going to have screaming and bitching about how awful it was that the Spanish Town krewe decided to make fun of the #BlackLivesMatter phenomenon by changing out the black part with the color pink and to cast pink flamingos in the roles of Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown or Eric Garner or Freddie Gray.

And because we’re supposed to revere these not-quite-upstanding citizens as civil rights heroes, it’s unacceptable to mock the #BlackLivesMatter crowd.

Gary Chambers, the semi-literate boob with a blog aimed at Baton Rouge’s black community who we have dealt with before here at the Hayride, weighs in…

The Spanish Town parade in downtown Baton Rouge is known to be one of the most offensive parade’s in the state. It seems they pride themselves on going too far. This year is no exception, but enough is enough. Eric Garner and Freddie Gray, two black men killed by police, were used as satire in the parade this year. The truth is, nothing AT ALL is funny about unarmed men being killed by police.

Now before I go any deeper, to all those who want to defend this garbage, you are a part of the problem. We are not whining victims of racism, we are fed up CITIZENS of this city, state, and country. This isn’t playing the race card, it’s stating the truth of how black people feel when blatant racism is on display in the streets of our city. A city where even the poorest citizen pays into the tax system, when they make purchases around this parish.

See how that works? You’re not allowed to disagree with anything he says because to do so would make you racist. And you’re especially not allowed to comment on whether it’s appropriate for decent citizens, black or white, to lionize a pair of career criminals like Mike Brown and Freddie Gray as the avatars of how the black community is victimized by the police. Because to do so also makes you a racist.

This from somebody who responded to the idea of instituting a misdemeanor jail to get people to pay traffic and parking fines (an idea we hate, by the way) by demanding that Baton Rouge have a black district attorney. And when confronted with the unremarkable notion that such a sentiment would be racist, retorted that because he’s black he by definition cannot be a racist.

So you’re excused if you dismiss Gary Chambers’ bitching as not worthy of your time. He isn’t. But he’s not alone.

Chambers referenced a blog post by another offended spectator, Shelley Moore, who had a slightly more literate complaint along the same lines…

Imagine the gut punch of watch the first float come down the street, only to see it decorated in confederate flags. Was the rainbow coloring, instead of the normal red, white and blue supposed to make it more friendly? More PC? More easily digestible? It didn’t. “That’s just one float,” I thought to myself, trying my best to enjoy the atmosphere and beautiful weather. My wishful thinking didn’t last long. What actually happened was a parade of hate adorned in pink flamingos making its way down Convention St. Of course, as with all things, some of the floats were the sassy, snarky, slightly off color humor, I’ve come to expect from the Spanish Town Parade over the years. However, more floats than I cared to count were joking about things that simply are never funny, like murder and rape. They were mockingly antagonistic towards the Black Lives Matter movement and blatantly disrespectful to victims of police brutality. One float depicted a flamingo with a sign around his neck with the words “I Can’t Breathe” emblazoned across it. Another mocked police brutality victim Freddie Gray by including him in a list as “Freddie Grey Goose.” What is funny about a man being choked to death by the police? Where is the humor in a man being placed in the back of a police vehicle and thrown around so violently that his spine was almost severed? I am not amused.

No one involved in the making of these floats thought, “Maybe this is a bad idea”? No one aboard those floats thought, “This isn’t funny”? No one realized that some issues just aren’t jokes? Not to speak up is to be complicit. To accept what I witnessed as the Spanish Town Parade today is to accept outright racism and I will not stand for it.

Parades are public events, for public enjoyment. The ENTIRE public. If Spanish Town was for “whites only”, someone should have posted a sign. I’m sure some residents still have a sign or two stored, just in case. But since there was no sign, and no notice that my blackness would be under attack, it shouldn’t have been. I shouldn’t have had to look at the black children around me and wonder if they recognized what they were seeing. I shouldn’t have had to feel like an outsider in my hometown.

Mardi Gras and the whole carnival season has been regarded as a time when parade goers could just have fun, breathe and get a little crazy. Today was not a fun experience. What I saw today was a far cry from the good, moderately clean fun I have come to love and expect from Spanish Town. My heart broke on the parade route today. I was disgusted by many of the krewes and the contempt parade organizers allowed to be shown in general, but to the black community, specifically. My boyfriend and I left early. I was over it. I was tired of the disrespect and the ridicule. I didn’t know it when I woke up this morning, but today was likely my last Spanish Town Parade.

One might notice how all black people in Baton Rouge are being drafted into the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the above; apparently by the nature of your skin color you are forced to identify with street criminals. Even if you are, or have relatives who are, a law enforcement official. The lead defendant in the Freddie Gray case, and three of the six defendants, are, after all, African-American.

And then there is the fact that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is bankrolled by a white man, George Soros, for his own purposes. And at least until December, one of the most prominent “leaders” within that movement, Shaun King, is white – though he pretends otherwise.

And finally, another gripe about Spanish Town making the rounds on social media from someone named Donney Rose…

So it is with much dismay that I once again had to bear witness to a festive occasion such as the Spanish Town parade, be littered with floats that highlighted racist and sexist ideals. I am appalled by the approval of some of these floats by whatever selection board gives the ok to them. And I would like to know who thinks that some of these messages are ok and why.

Of the most egregious floats I laid eyes on were two that had the message of “Pink Lives Matter”, an obvious mock of the national Black Lives Matter movement denouncing police violence against people of color. One of the floats featured an image of a pink flamingo being hit with a billy club upside its head with a sign around its neck reading “I Can’t Breathe”. The other featured an image of a pink flamingo being chased by a gun-pointing police officer. What may seem like hyperbolic “satire” to the krewe on the float, is real life fears and anxieties to many people of color in Baton Rouge and beyond.

My point is, the occupants of these floats can be more creative in their attempt at satire. Can be better people. In many cases people don’t recognize how problematic their presentation can be until it’s pointed out. So this is me pointing it out. I know that there will be some or many that will dismiss this as me being hyper-sensitive. Or playing the race card. Or simply not “letting the good times roll”. At its core, most of south Louisiana’s festive seasons bring out the best in our collective community. Barriers of race and class and gender often are temporarily dismissed over good food and line dance. This is my plea for future participants of the Spanish Town parade and other community-wide events to be more cognizant of the imagery and messaging of what they’re presenting. Or keep their toxicity away from the quality citizens of south Louisiana that support inclusion over marginalization.

What to make from all this? Well, there are a lot of people who have been educated to believe that they are victims and that as such they’re entitled to dictate to others what they may or may not say. And to those people, a charge of racism is a magic talisman capable of transforming any human behavior on the spot.

This isn’t reality, of course, and it’s time some of these people grew up.

The Spanish Town parade has always been off-color and it’s always been offensive. The shots those floats have taken at Christianity, Republicans, Democrats, illegal aliens, rich people, David Vitter, Bobby Jindal, Edwin Edwards, Cajuns, rednecks, New Orleans, yankees and virtually every other group or individual are legion. So no, hypersensitive Social Justice Warriors don’t get to be immune.

If you think Spanish Town is racist, then don’t go. The guess is nobody there will miss you. And there will be lots of black people there having a good time who don’t take themselves as seriously as you do.

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Besides, if the Spanish Town parade is an affront to civil society, then what about Beyonce’ and her new song that was forced on the American public at halftime of the Super Bowl last night? Turns out “Formation,” which is being cast as an anthem for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, is set in New Orleans and dredges up all the Katrina crap. It starts off with her on top of a sinking New Orleans Police Department cruiser, and goes from there.

Frankly, I’m not offended by the political messaging in the song, and the people howling about it aren’t a whole lot more credible than the Spanish Town whiners.

What bothers me about this song is how low-class it is and how it’s targeted to uneducated people. The lyrics to this thing are barely even English and the video is so overtly sexual that it’s hard to take it seriously as anything other than another attempt to debase pop culture.

And coming from Beyonce’ that’s tough to take, because she clearly can do better. She’s not uneducated, and she’s not incapable of a more uplifting presentation of herself.

Maybe the lowest common denominator is where the money is, but at this point she has the freedom to create great art for its own sake. What’s offensive about this song isn’t the black militancy some see in it. It’s the refusal to reach for something higher.

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Finally, a little bit of politics. We might have more on this later today, but Jeff Landry’s serving of notice last week that he’s going to be a very different Attorney General than his predecessors in terms of the independence from the governor with which he’ll operate is now generating a reaction. Gov. John Bel Edwards sent Landry a brushback letter Friday indicating that we’re about to have a war on our hands.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards tried to seize control of a simmering feud with Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry by sending Landry a letter telling him to butt out of the administration’s legal business.

In the letter, which was sent Friday, Edwards also said he intends to ask for a report on all contracts for legal services with the state.

The governor’s response follows his decision Thursday to drop the appeal of a Bobby Jindal-era federal lawsuit seeking to block Common Core. Edwards said he opposes Common Core, but the lawsuit was rendered moot following new federal legislation and a Common Core compromise reached by the Louisiana Legislature last year.

“I read with interest your comments about my decision to dismiss the Common Core litigation pending in the 5th Circuit,” Edwards wrote to Landry. “… As in any case the client, not the attorney, should ultimately make the decisions on the course of action, and I have decided this case will not proceed.

“I fully expect that we will be able to work well together and that my administration will agree to have your office handle much of the work for the state,” the letter continued. “However, my administration can and will defend itself in court whenever I deem appropriate.”

Edwards said he won’t continue to “waste any state resources on cases brought for political purposes” or “meritless cases meant to advance a political agenda.”

The letter addressed Landry as “Dear Jeff,” rather than using his title as is customary.

This is going to turn into a major feud, and it’s another example of how Edwards is picking fights he’s going to have a lot of trouble winning. For one thing, Jeff Landry doesn’t back down from anybody. For another thing, Landry has the upper hand in this fight because of the state constitution’s definition of the Attorney General’s role in litigation involving the state. And for a third thing, Landry’s isn’t the guy trying to force tax increases down the throats of Louisiana’s people; who do you think the public is going to side with as this fight goes along?

We’ll just make the popcorn and watch this develop. It should be interesting.

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