My god. What century are we in? From Kevin Myles, the president of the Wichita Branch of the NAACP, we learn that Mell Kuhn, the mayor of Arkansas City Kansas, appeared in blackface drag at a Court Appointed Special Advocates annual fundraiser called Men in Tights. Kuhn’s obviously an aspiring Shirley Q. Liquor (with just as much class).

Yesterday morning, when I learned about the Mayor’s weekend performance I placed a call to City Hall in Ark City and requested a meeting with Mayor Kuhn. Mayor Kuhn returned my call a little after noon and offered to come to Wichita to meet that evening.

I was joined in the meeting by branch members Dr. Maaskela Thomas and Paulette Goines who added some clear and critical perspective.

Now to be clear, our intent was not to offer absolution; we would not be “Al Sharpton” to his “Don Imus”. Rather, I requested the meeting with the modest goals of making accessible to the Mayor the level of offense and outrage his performance had engendered, and to impress upon the Mayor our perspective that this performance, when viewed with other key indicators, appears to be emblematic of a larger problem and perspective gap.

These issues were highlighted by an interview that appeared in the online version of the Ark City Traveler newspaper in which the Mayor reportedly said, “I don’t give a damn what people think. It’s a bunch of bullshit” and later remarked, “All this PC is bullshit“.

Kevin Myles met with Kuhn, and pointed out the obvious problems with this award-winning performance.

*We discussed the fact that the town of Ark City has never had African American department head in its 130 history. We also discussed the fact that the town’s Human Relations Committee was recently downsized from a 20 member board to 5 members, shifted from monthly meetings to quarterly meetings, and was completely de-funded. And yes, we discussed the fact that he could appear in blackface at a banquet before a cheering crowd, and actually win a trophy for his performance…

…We directly challenged the notions and arguments of equivalency, and Mayor Kuhn seemed to understand and accept the fact that he had done something that truly warranted a public apology. In response, Mayor Kuhn offered this statement:

“It has been brought to my attention how offensive this was and I absolutely agree that it was shortsighted of me not to see that in the first place. I am sincerely sorry and I sincerely apologize for the offensive nature of my actions. This was not CASA, this was of my own volition, and I take full responsibility for my actions. The buck absolutely stops here”. – Mayor Mell H. Kuhn

Kevin also noted that working through the issue of race in Arkansas City will be, to put it mildly, a “work in progress.” Something tells me trans or gender ID issues aren’t even on the radar.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding