In your 06-06-12 article “‘Mama Jama’ chosen as grand marshal of Fourth of July parade,” you reported that Debbie Burdette is not sure if she will be appearing in the parade as herself or her character “Mama Jama.” I would like to suggest that the choice should be easy.
Debbie Burdette is a respected community leader who has devoted countless volunteer hours to promoting literacy.
“Mama Jama,” on the other hand, is a racist character that offends people by reducing African culture to a silly caricature and undermining equality in our community. Jelani Cobb, former professor of African Studies at Rutgers University, explains, “The more we look at people as caricatures, the harder it is to operate as a democracy. What underlies this kind of costuming is the belief that these people aren’t quite equal to what we are, or aren’t as American as we are, or that you as a person who’s not a member of that group should be able to dictate how painful the stereotype should be.”
If Burdette shows up to the Fourth of July parade wearing a costume of traditional African clothing, the lesson she’ll be teaching our children is that she can do no wrong because of her white privilege. I hope that Burdette will decide to do the right thing and respect everyone in our community as she serves in the honorable position of grand marshal.
Further, because I do not want my tax dollars to support everyday racism, I have started a petition to ask the City of LaGrange to remove the “Mama Jama” show from our government TV channel. You can sign the petition at the following URL:
Youngs Mill Rd.