Wrestling with History in Whitesboro, NY

January 21, 2016 - Marlon Wayans 01/21/2016 Views: 92,149

Jessica Williams learns about the history of the Whitesboro, NY, town seal, which depicts a white man wrestling a Native American. (6:47)

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The Daily Show isusually the first to a story

when it comes to crazy.

But there was one storylast week we didn't report,

and that's becausewe sort of partially...

kind of caused it?

Jessica Williams has more.

WILLIAMS: We live in terrifying times.

But there's one danger that's threatening

to devastate the lives of everyday Americans.

Political correctnesswill destroy us.

Bizarro Obama is right--

America is under attack!

Take this small town, for example.

They have an official seal

that's represented their village for over 100 years.

Now American Indian activist Ben Miller

wants it taken down just because it...

(like a baby): huwts his feewings.

MILLER: Look at the seal.

It makes us feelreally uncomfortable,

when all we want to dois progress and move forward.

Haven't you guys done enough?

I mean, you already madethe Redskins change their logo.

No, we haven't made the Redskinschange their logo.

They ain't even thinkingabout it.

-So you didn't make themchange their logo? -No.

Y'all needto get to work on that,

-because that is so (bleep) up.-We're working on it.

I mean, come on, there's no way this seal

could be more offensive than this.

Let's just see it.

WILLIAMS:Is that pioneer

choking thatNative American dude to death,

or do I have something crazyin my eye?

This is the official sealof Whitesboro, New York.

Hold up.This town is called Whitesboro?

That's right, Whitesboro.

I guess if you're going to have a racist seal,

why not have it here in the Deep South...

of Upstate New York?

Whitesboro's white mayor, Whitey Whiterson.

I mean, Patrick O'Connor.

The seal isabsolutely not racist.

Oh, okay.Well, thank God,

because it lookslike that white man

was totally choking thisAmerican Indian man to death.

The seal depictsour founder, Hugh White...

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

-The guy in the seal's nameis Hugh White? -Yes.

Hugh White was invited to engagein a friendly wrestling match.

-And that's when he choked him?-Um, no. He did not choke him.

-He attacked him?-So, the goal of the match

was to push your opponentoff balance.

And then murder him?

The seal is basedon historical events

that fostereda good relationship

between our founderand the American Indians.

Yeah. I'm super positive

that's what Native Americans would say.

Yeah, history showsthat they were allies

during the Revolutionary War.

I'm sorry, wait.Hold the (bleep) up.

-They were actually friends?-Yes, they were friends.

Oh, so it's just the picture

that's completely (bleep) horrible.

To find out how they arrived at this seal,

I met with village clerk, Dana Nimey-Olney.

NIMEY-OLNEY: In 1977,

the seal was changedto move the hands away

from the neck areadown to the shoulders.

So there's an even more offensive version of this seal?

Yeah, this one's definitely chokier.

Look, Dana,I'm gonna be real with you.

I actually kind of likethe older seal better

because, look, this onelooks like a sensual embrace

between two powerful men,

whereas this one definitelylooks like attempted murder.

Okay, so they've already changed the image

of the wrestling a bunch of times.

Why not make a brand-new one?

In 1999, the village boardwanted to have a vote

to potentially change it,

but no alternative submissionsfor another seal

-were presented at the time.-The only reason why

you didn't have the voteis because you didn't have

-any ideas?-Correct.

I got, like, a million ideasall the time!

So the village board decided to have a vote to change the seal.

I decided to submit some historically accurate seals

that these white people might legitimately like.

And I also threw in some more, like pro wrestling

and these two dudes choking a British guy to death.

Then-- funny story-- the mayor sends out a postcard

announcing the vote, which got the attention

of some people outside Whitesboro,

and kind of stirred up an international news story.

Some sayit's racist and offensive.

NEWSWOMAN: ...a white man choking a Native American.

...called racist and offensive.

WILLIAMS: Woops. With the eyes of the world watching,

change seemed inevitable. Right?

That's good.I'm happy with it.

Doesn't look likehe strangled him.

-It's the history.-This is history.

There's no needto change history.

WILLIAMS: Things were off to a rough start.

But try as they might, they couldn't choke out

the voice of dissent.

So, how do you feelabout the current seal?

-I don't like it.-Why not?

It does look likethe Indian's being choked.

Thank the Lord that you're here!

Then I realized-- these weren't awful, bigoted people.

Some of them just honestly had no idea that the current seal

and maybe some of their words

were a little offensive.

White versus red, whiteversus red, white versus red,

white versus red...

You just referenced the word"red" a lot of times just now.

-Yeah. -I mean, like,

literally no idea what's offensive.

I've workedwith Native Americans.

-Okay.-So...

I know there's issues.

-Uh-huh.-Big issues.

-Humongous.-Just... just like...

-Monumental issues.-just like with your race.

-My race?-Yeah.

-What race is that?-African-American,

black, Negro,whichever one you want to use.

You say Negro?

Well, at one pointthat was part of your history.

Being a Negro, right?

I'm beginning to understand

why they chose that seal in the first place.

But I still had hope that the people of Whitesboro

would make the right choice.

-Okay, so, the votes are in.-(snaps fingers)

Show me the new seal!

Are you (bleep) kidding me?

Our residents came out and voted

to keep the history of the sealthe way it was.

This is...

blowing up my brain right now.

Do you guys just hateAmerican Indians?

-Absolutely not.-But if there are

millions of peopleoutside of the town

telling youthat the seal is racist...

wouldn't it do you a serviceto listen to them?

The people of our village know

that this is justa friendly wrestling match.

This is just not even...

You know... this... I don't...

I...

Can I do to youwhat that white man is doing

to that American Indian manin that seal?

If it's gonna fostera better relationship, then yes.

Yeah. I think it would.

(applause, whooping)

Wow. Wow, Jessica.

It was intense.

I mean, unfortunately,it seems as though

some people will never change.

Actually, this morning,

I spoke with the mayorof Whitesboro, and guess what?

They are changing the seal!

-(cheering)-Wow! Wow! Are you...

-Is this for real?-Yeah. Yeah. Really for real.

For really for real.The village officials

and the descendantsof Hugh White

are getting togetherwith the Oneida Indian Nation

to make a new sealthat makes everybody happy!

-(cheering, applause)-We did it!

We did it!

-We solved racism!-We fixed it!