The leaders of the village of Whitesboro, New York have changed their mind about keeping the village’s controversial seal that appears to represent a white man choking a Native American as he falls backward to the ground.
Media coverage and online debate about the Whitesboro seal have been intensive for several months, particularly after the seal was called into question on The Daily Show. Despite the attention and public outcry, the citizens opted to keep the seal with a vote two weeks ago of 74% to 26%, an overwhelming margin of almost 48% in favor of the seal. The voters of the village of 3,700 had spoken, and it was a landslide. The seal would remain.
However, in a reversal following on the heels of immense public pressure — within Whitesboro and across the nation — Mayor Patrick O’Connor released a statement on Friday saying that the vote was non-binding, and more of an opinion poll, and that the village would work with the local Oneida Indian Nation to discuss the creation of a new emblem.
“In speaking with a lot of the residents that voted to keep the seal, I think they were surprised at the negative attention that Whitesboro was receiving as a result of the vote,” O’Connor told the New York Times, concluding that, despite the vote in favor of keeping the seal, residents of the village wanted to “preserve history” while at the same time making sure that it was “seen as the inclusive place it is.”
From the Mayor’s statement:
We are in the process of forming a committee to look at options for modifying the current seal to create a more modern, professional, and culturally acceptable option that will reflect the historic relationship between our founder Hugh White and the Oneida American Indian he befriended.
Ray Halbritter, a representative of the Oneida Nation, delivered his own statement in response to the Mayor’s:
As we’ve always said, we are happy to work with anyone who wants to make sure the symbols they are promoting are honoring and respecting all people. We applaud the Village leaders’ willingness to evaluate their own symbols and how to make sure they accurately reflect their community’s core values. This is but one of many important examples of communities taking welcome steps to be inclusive and promote our region’s commitment to civility. This is what makes America so exceptional – we are an increasingly diverse county that is always working to make sure the messages being promoted by our political, cultural and government institutions reflect a respect for all heritages.