Every year the city of Chicago has a contest for kids to design the new $85 ‘city sticker’ every Chicago resident must buy for their registered vehicle.
The 2012-2013 winner was Herbert Pulgar. His design was to don the windshield of every vehicle registered in Chicago for 12 months starting June 2012. He also received a $1,000 savings bond. This was his design.
A blog, popular with Chicago police officers, called Detective Shaved Long Cock did an online investigation of the design and Herbert Puglar (Chicagoist). DSLC pulled photos from the 15 year-old’s facebook page showing Pulgar wearing a red bandana and throwing up gang signs. The gang symbols were of the Disciple gang and could have been from any of the Disciple sub groups including the Maniac Latin Disciples, a gang that police superintendent Garry McCarthy made public enemy #1. DSLC presents and connects these dots throughout the post.
The hands in Pulgar’s design we called into question because they resemble the MLD gang sign. DSLC also stated that red is a common color for the MLD gang.
Meanwhile, City Clerk Susana Mendoza was investigating the design to ensure it did not have any gang affiliated imagery.
With my personal experience growing up in Chicago during the height of it’s gang problems in the 1990’s, back when knowing gang signs, symbols, and colors were part survival in city life, I can say with certainty that Disciples wear blue not red. Reading through some of the comments on the DSLC site I am dismayed by the number of hateful comments made about the 15 year-old boy and Latinos. I am also embarrassed for our news outlets for quoting the blog directly as a news source.
Some journalists asked honest questions about the winning design, starting with the weird unauthoritative way the news outlets were presenting the story. Even questioning the blogger’s quoted comments on red bandanas and their association with the Maniac Latin Disciples. A short prudent journalistic step of cross referencing the claim with known information reveals the truth about MLD’s and their colors. Even asking if Philippe de Champaigne might have been an MLD.
This story was presented to me the afternoon it broke as a potential conversation piece for my own talk radio show. I refused to talk about it as a ‘secret gang message’ hidden in the city sticker until there was at least one more piece of evidence corroborating the allegation.
To me, the hands in the design were borderline. Show me the same hands with the last two fingers down and I might call it a gang sign. The horned heart? Meh. It’s a heart, what do you want from the kid? A heart is a heart to me, it means love. The kid throwing gang signs on facebook, his face was blurred and I’ve seen other people do stupid things like that with regret. I can look past it without too much effort. Not enough to run with so we dropped it.
After seeing the video of Herbert Puglar and his mom speaking out, along with his art teacher showing the side by side image of the hands drew with the hands he used to as a guide from a ‘reaching for the stars’ flyer, I’m convinced the hands are not gang signs.
Ultimately the design was scrapped.
There are two things about this story that upset me.
First, the way the media carried the story. I am embarrassed for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, ABC7, and everyone else that carried the story quoting the ‘popular blogger’. Let me reiterate. The name of his blog is Detective Shaved Long Cock. Again. Detective. Shaved. Long. Cock. Why would you quote this blog? I’m going to ask you again, and I expect an answer. Why? To give this blogger a voice deserving to be heard is absurd, insulting, and shameful.
Second, the racial overtones in the comments of both DSLC’s blog and Second City Cop are disturbing. These loud obnoxious voices are as detrimental to our city as corruption and gang violence. Every commenter that took it upon themselves to attack this kid based on assumptions and racial stereotypes should be ashamed of themselves. A truly engaged citizen is both informed and opinionated, not just one.
An important side note. When City Clerk Mendoza decided to scrap Herbert’s design she went with the runner-up. I want to carefully note a few things that I’ve noticed about the runner-up and her design without attacking the girl or her artwork. First here is the new winning image.
The runner up is white. She goes to an all girls Catholic school. Her design could be interpreted as three Caucasian super heroes rescuing the day. Some have even gone as far as to question the positioning of the fireman’s hose and water droplets (see comments).
I don’t want to tell this girl what to do, she won fair and square as Herbert did, but if I was the runner-up, and I saw Herbert’s reaction to the scrutiny and criticism his design has received, I would not want my art to be the image on the 2012-2013 city sticker.
Here’s a good question, if the white girl from the Cathoic school made the MLD signed, horned heart, Chicago flag emblazoned, yellow background winning design, instead of the Latino kid, would there have been a question about the symbolism in the design?
Herbert goes to an alternative school. He was likely a kid that got into trouble in the past. Winning this contest could have been a turning point for him. If it was, what has happened to that opportunity? About the decision to scrap his design, it was said that ‘it’s not about the student, its about the perception that was created.’ Who created that perception? Its seems like a loud obnoxious person started it with help from other loud supposedly objective voices. If it’s not about the kids, then why have a contest?
I am going to talk to a printer and have them make me a city sticker with Herbert Pulgar’s design on it and I am going to stick it right next to my 2012-2013 city sticker. Your winning design will get the shine it deserves on my vehicle Herbert. I’m disappointed in my fellow Chicagoans and their insensitivity, I’ll even go as far as to say I’m ashamed. Shame on us and our assumptions, our knee jerk reactions, our hateful prejudices, our gullible nature, and ‘accusations first-facts later’ mentality.
One more thing. That’s a pretty suspicious hand gesture in that artwork on City Clerk Susana Mendoza’s website isn’t it? Almost like it’s throwing up the MLD fork. Just saying.
Update: Mendoza said she is paying for Pulgar’s $1,000 savings bond personally