Is the Mummers Parade Racist?

Philebrity seems to think so. The controversy stems from the fact that (as noted in an excellent City Paper cover story) Space 1026, a hip artsy commune, decided to put together a Mummers troupe this year. Excellent, fun idea, right? Most people thought so. But local hipster king Joey Sweeney was a little disappointed that hip youngsters were joining in what he sees as a racist, homophobic black eye on the city. Then after a number of people stood up for the 1026 kids and the Parade in general, he went back out and really decided to rail against the Mummers Parade. This is where it gets fun: Lord forgive us, but it’s always been plain as day to us that the culture of Mummery is just another one of those places where Philly’s ugly ghosts hang out. After all, a parade that began in blackface can only ever get so far from its roots. (Don’t believe that people haven’t forgotten this? Go ask some black people what they think of the Mummers Parade — a black troupe has not marched since 1929.

For JGT’s take on the matter, click below (Warning. This is the part where Johnny gets self righteous.)

I don’t think that the lines I highlighted above represent a very good argument.

“Go ask some black people what they think of the Mummers Parade.”
I could be wrong (it happened once before) but I highly suspect that if you asked most black people in the city about the Mummer’s Parade, they would answer with either indifference or bewildered amusement, not with an angry diatribe about stuff that happened in 1963.

“a parade that began in blackface can only ever get so far from its roots.”

Hogwash. Just like pretty much everything else with a history of more than 50 years in America, the Mummers Parade has a checkered (at best) past when it comes to racism. But judging it only on its past is extremely unfair. It’s the equivalent of saying, “Major League Baseball is currently racist because they didn’t let blacks play until 1947.”

“a black troupe has not marched since 1929.”
So? When was the last time a white fraternity won a Step show? When was the last time an all white band played at the Odunde festival? I hardly think that either of these institions are racist. I really don’t think that if a black group wanted to enter the Mummers Parade, they would be harassed or told to get lost.

I understand where Sweeney is coming from, and he’s railing against plenty of the same people I blast when I get on my high horse about Geno’s and Eagles fans. Maybe it makes me a hypocrite, but once a year, I tend to look past all of that and simply enjoy the absurd fact that there is a large man in sequins, cigarette dangling from his lips and Budweiser in hand, wishing me Happy New Year.

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