Whitesboro Town Seal Debate Reaches Utica College

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Amanda Paladino, Features Editor

Symbols are deeply embedded in the history of every culture found on Earth.

This becomes increasingly significant when considering the idea of
perception. What some view one way, others may view with an
entirely different outlook- for better or for worse. What’s crucial
for the betterment of any society is for its members to maintain an
open frame of mind to the potential of perception to differ between
individuals.

This issue came to light in recent months as Whitesboro faced
nation-wide backlash towards their town seal, which features a Native
American chief and Hugh White, the town’s founder, wrestling. The seal
is depicted on the town’s official stationary, police cars, sides of
buildings, etc.

Consequently, two sides of an intensely heated argument have risen-
one which argues for the town to keep the seal as is, and another
which is offended and wants it changed. A majority of Whitesboro
natives argue for the seal to be maintained, claiming it represents
history and is a display of a “friendly wrestling match.” Such
individuals find the burden of ideas surrounding “political
correctness” to be notorious, arguing that any remorse towards the
seal is a result of people searching for things to complain about
with no merit.

Meanwhile, many are arguing that ideas of what is culturally
acceptable have blended with the notoriety of “political correctness”,
and as a result, our nation is developing a population that lacks the
ability to understand perception. Dr. Cash, a professor of history at
UC, compared the symbol to the confederate flag, another hot-button
issue that displays the immense differences of perception amongst
American society.

“Just as a certain symbol might be meaningful to them, it’s also
meaningful to others,” Cash said. There’s a history to it, a context to it. It
doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s connected to a history that we should
not be proud of.”

Even the New York Times displayed disapproval, stating that White seems to be “throttling” the
Native American chief, “who appears to be on the verge of defeat.”
Stephen Colbert discussed the debate on “The Late Show”, arguing the
nation has no say in judging a town’s history. Colbert’s argument
defends the view of many Whitesboro residents, who argue that changing
the seal is a means of attempting to change history.

But the idea that the “friendly history” in which the seal depicts is
inaccurate throws the town’s residents for a loop.

“To argue that the town’s seal is tied to some sense of ‘mutual
respect’ between Hugh White, the town’s residents, and the Oneidas is
not historically accurate, because it ignores a much broader history
that led to the dispossession of tribal lands,” said Professor Fobare,
a history professor at UC.

Originally, village residents voted 157:55 to keep the seal as
opposed to searching for alternatives. However, Whitesboro’s mayor,
Patrick O’Connor, recently announced that the town plans to develop a
new seal.

In the aftermath, tension still lingers. Many disagree with the town’s
ultimate decision, while others are left unsatisfied knowing that
there was so much resistant to make a change in the first place. This
provokes the question: In the midst of varying perceptions, where has the
notion of human compassion gone?

 


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