The Phinney Neighborhood Association in Seattle reports:
Anti-racism work updates: Eliminating racist symbolism
July 27, 2020
Dear PhinneyWood Community,
We have a few updates to share with you about our on-going commitment to anti-racism and equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) at the PNA.
You are probably familiar with the neighborhood tradition of the winter holiday monkeys. For the last five years, these LED-lit metal monkeys hung in the windows of businesses and organizations along the Phinney-Greenwood corridor. The monkey project was initially spearheaded by the PNA Business Group with the intent to bring a spirit and tradition unique to the PhinneyWood neighborhood. They chose monkeys as a complement to Woodland Park Zoo WildLights, perhaps as “escaped” animals from that display. …
In December 2019, the PNA hired Dar’Nesha Weary as the new executive director, who is Black. Soon after she was hired, she expressed concern regarding the monkeys, given that monkeys are routinely used as a racist slur against Black people. She felt uncomfortable “selling” the monkeys as part of her job representing the organization given that historic context. Soon after she expressed this opinion, she and another member of our staff who is a person of color received a racist email that invoked exactly this racist imagery, with a derogatory caption that referenced her objection to the monkey lights as a symbol for the neighborhood. The email claimed to be from “Friends of the PNA.” The PNA reported the incident to local police and tried to trace the origin of the email, but to no avail.
Dar’Nesha resigned from PNA in early June 2020. She has vocally stated that much of her decision to leave involved structural racism that she endured while working at PNA, and she specifically has mentioned the monkeys, along with other examples, in her public statements. The Board listened to her concerns, and determined that, at this critical moment in time, removing the monkeys as a visible symbol (and fundraiser) of PNA – a largely white organization who has been made more made aware of structural racism in our community – is the right thing to do. .
But, wait, there’s more!
In addition to the monkey symbolism, it came to our attention that a water fountain in the Phinney Center presented to some community members as a legacy or symbol of segregation and caused discomfort and pain.
As background, our Blue Building was built in 1904 as a Seattle Public School and remained in operation as a school until 1981. The small water fountain in the lobby was the only fountain on that level until 2012, when PNA installed a modern ADA accessible water fountain and bottle filler as part of a larger accessibility and conservation project that included an elevator and other building improvements.
When the new fountain was installed, PNA decided to keep the old fountain as part of the building’s historic character, and for easier use by smaller children. We did not realize at the time that the presence of the two separate fountains could bring up imagery of racial segregation.
Facilities staff first heard about the second water fountain making some community members uncomfortable on July 8, 2020. After brief consultation with PNA leadership, maintenance staff removed the fountain on July 10, 2020.
Too bad about the thirsty small children, but I’m sure you will agree with us that wounded amour propre of the Dar’Neshas of this world is a far more pressing concern.
iSteve commenter Moral Stone adds:
I mean, I almost admire the hustle. You get hired as the diversity consultant in a lily white PC area, and they expect to get racially flogged at least a little bit. That’s what they’re paying you for, sorta like a dominatrix.
So you have to come up with something. Two water fountains in some random building in town, one shorter than the other? Segregation! Jim Crow!
Is it a symptom of a crumbling nation? Probably. But by God that diversicrat made something out of nothing in impressive fashion.