Still a man hears what he wants to hear and he disregards the rest.
-- Simon & Garfunkel
Back in the 1980s, when he was singing about doing unprintable things to the police rather than playing one on television, rapper Ice-T said something that stuck with me.
In an interview, the man born Tracy Marrow said any person who emerses himself in only one culture, who reads only one style of literature, who listens to only one genre of music is a fool. That person, he surmised, is guilty of placing limitations on himself.
During a recent conversation about the poor public support of the second FlintFest gathering at Riverfront Park, I thought about Ice-T's comments. What sparked the memory was a racist Facebook rant made by a disgruntled citizen who didn't like the fact that event organizers tried to book a variety of musical acts to perform during the combination music/international festival rather than signing only what he called "ethnic talent." And while his words reached only a small handful of people, they're indicative of the issues that confront local leaders anytime they try and plan events that will impact the entire community.
Following are comments taken directly off Facebook:
-- "So shall we call this the 'Music Gentrification Weekend?' I'm just MF saying. If you have a Black Expo, the questions rain in 'why's it got to be black?' Child mutha (expletive) please! And to term it Albany Music Weekend ..."
-- "Let's see. Line Oakridge and the Oglethorpe Bridge with signs about the obvious looking over of the local ethnic talent."
-- "It's not gonna rain this weekend during Redneck Music Fest ..."
-- "Taxpayers are essentially paying twice to use the riverfront area this weekend. Help me understand? Somebody! Our tax dollars and the funding you never hear about is spent on building, maintaining and upgrading these community spaces then when a non-culturally balanced event pops up they can charge you to enjoy a space you paid for ... double taxation."
-- "Tax dollars don't count this weekend. Master say he gonna have his fessible this here weekend, and he knows y'all's coloreds a just show up fa some free stuff so he put a lil tax on the free property. Keep y'all 'way during 'White Music Weekend.'"
Then there was this post about Albany founder Nelson Tift:
-- (Seeing a bust of Tift) "made me curious so I looked the ole fellow up. O my (expletive) God. Tift helped to found Albany, Georgia in 1836 ... His pro-slavery attitude before the war and his support for segregation afterward made him compatible with Georgia's white elite. He also helped institute the good ole now Thornateeska (sic) museum that still had the brackets in the ground where our ancestors were attached to as they arrived by train or exited to northern colony plantations. The ole pretty white River house we have in Turtle Park commemorates that same gloomy past. How about the mule barn behind the Hilton housed the mules and your uncle with his slave (expletive)?
"Read people, these people are honoring murderers and pillagers."
And, ladies and gentlemen, those words of wisdom were laid on the world of social media by the person who is president of Albany's Downtown Merchants Association, a man who obviously was upset that FlintFest did not meet his musical tastes and standards. Rather than work with officials to try and push for a lineup that was more in line with his obviously more important personal choices -- the merchants association did, after all, help sponsor FlintFest -- this person chose to denigrate the family event and turn it into a racial cause.
I gleaned a couple of things from this online rant: One, there are still plenty of people who don't have the capacity to see beyond the issue of race; so much so, they let even the simplest of things turn into a diatribe that somehow ends up with them being victims.
And, two, if I were a member of the Downtown Merchants Association, I'd seriously be considering impeachment today.
Email Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.