Photographic Memories – Pasadena Now

I imagine some people will have a lot to say about the removal of portraits at City Hall, and plaques for that matter, of former mayors and others who have engaged in racist behavior in the past.

I’m not really sure where I’m coming from on this one.

So here is the story.

AI Stewart, who sat in the big chair for a few years in the early 1940s, wanted to stop black people, and others, from owning homes in Pasadena.

The Pasadena Improvement Association ran a real estate covenants campaign that pretty much called on white people to sell their homes only to other white people.

Pitiful to say the least.

On Tuesday, a city commission discussed sending a recommendation to city council supporting the removal of anyone who had ever engaged in a racist campaign.

I can dig that.

But to be honest, I don’t care what AI Stewart thought.

My parents bought a nice house in Altadena in 1969 when many of these alliances were active.

Our accomplishments outweigh the past.

Yes, the redlining and those handshake deals may have stopped some people, but that didn’t stop Altadena and Pasadena from getting on board.

But if you want to take his picture down, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

But the question is, how far does it go.

Based on the nation’s attitudes at that time, I’m sure we could find a reason to remove the picture of everyone who served as mayors before Stewart.

And probably some of those who came later.

Atheists?

Tax cheats?

Philanderers?

Cool, I didn’t describe the Village People this time.

You get the point. They all did something society disapproved of. Yes, society changes, yesterday’s sin is tomorrow’s cause.

Well, not all mayors. I was looking at the picture of a cat on this wall and I’m sure it was black and passed for white.

Then again, I guess some would say that’s a reason his photo needs to go too.

I’m not even sure a picture of you would last too long on the wall. Again, I know that would not be the case.

Remind me to tell you about a weekend I spent in Atlanta.

Wait, did I say Atlanta? Uh, yeah I’ve never been there.

Umm let’s get back to the point and forget about ALABAMA.

What do we have after removing the photo?

An empty wall and an endless history of heinous acts that will be forgotten.

Maybe we shouldn’t forget.

Maybe we need to remember what has been done in the past to learn from history and make sure it never happens again.

But let’s not kiss it. The rush to create moments for flawed men leads to trouble, even if it’s a hall of mayors.

The local schools were named after Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt and others who supported eugenics with FDR making deals to pass his landmark New Deal legislation that ensured he would look the other way while Jim Crow continued south.

Yes, I graduated from John Muir High School and his words have been well documented, but again, I don’t care. I am a Mustang despite racism, not because of it.

Yes, we have already talked about it.

It’s not the photo that’s the problem.

It’s the moment he captures, and it’s what we must remember and swear never to repeat or celebrate.

Keep it up, take it off, but practice brotherhood.

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Michael E. Marquez