ALBANY, N.Y. » Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” had a hand in an upstate village’s vote on whether to change its longtime logo, which has been called racist because it appears to show a white man choking a Native American.
The official seal of Whitesboro has drawn media attention periodically over the years, most recently in July, when someone posted an online petition saying it’s offensive and should be removed from village trucks, police cars and signs.
Whitesboro’s website says the cartoonish drawing dates to the early 1900s and depicts a friendly wrestling match between village founder Hugh White and an Oneida Indian. Legend has it White won the match and the lasting respect and goodwill of the Oneidas.
In Monday’s non-binding balloting, residents voted 157-55 to keep the seal.
Village Mayor Patrick O’Connor said today a committee is being formed to modify the current seal “to create a more modern, professional and culturally acceptable option” that may depict the historic wrestling match in a way “that appears less offensive.”
At Monday night’s vote, one alternative seal was created by a local artist and showed a placid river scene. Others were created by “The Daily Show” and ranged from the bland — a brown hand clasping a white one — to the bizarre. There was a white settler and an Indian beating up a British soldier; a white man and an Indian apparently dancing; and one with pictures of former NHL player and Whitesboro resident Robert Esche.
“While some of the seals were clearly created for comedic relief, there were several exceptional and viable choices for the residents to choose from,” O’Connor said.
Multiple videographers and producers from “The Daily Show” were on hand to capture residents’ reactions to the alternative seals.
Village resident Sally Creaser was taken aback when she arrived at the village hall to cast her vote, thinking it was just a yes-or-no vote on whether to keep the seal or seek an alternative that would be designed after further discussion.
“I thought a lot of the choices looked like a big joke,” she said Tuesday by phone. “Then I realized ‘The Daily Show’ was there.”
Creaser voted for the Mohawk River motif. She said the outcome of the vote surprised her because she’s heard a lot of people say it’s time to get rid of the seal.
“But I guess they’ve grown up with it and they understand the history and meaning,” she said.
O’Connor said the village board was contacted months ago by both “The Daily Show” and “The Nightly Show” regarding the seal. He said the board felt it would be better to participate in the show’s process than to subject the village to “a one-sided comedic barrage.”
A Comedy Central spokeswoman said no air date has been scheduled for the segment.