Fly on the Wall 1536 

Dammit, Errbody

Ryan Poe, the Gannett-owned Commercial Appeal reporter-turned-columnist, began a recent installment of his daily 9:01 with a hearty, "good morning from Memphis, where we're waiting with bated breath for West Memphis to open a proposed waterpark," which, not to exaggerate, may be the fiercest act of podunkification ever committed in an opening sentence, in history.

Thankfully, if not at all fortunately, Poe followed that with, "But first ..." and plowed headfirst into a column about Shelby County Mayoral hopeful David Lenoir, whose campaign sent out a color-shifted mailer featuring a darkened image of the candidate's African-American opponent, Lee Harris, juggling a great big wad of cartoon cash.

With this column, Poe joined a growing number of public critics, including Memphis Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden and MLK50 organizer Wendi Thomas, when he described the altered image as "race baiting at worst," while generously suggesting that a "mea culpa" might be the right thing to do. Rather than owning the whoopsie, Lenoir answered his various critics by describing the complaint as being, "all cooked up by Wendi Thomas," the lone African-American journalist who's been giving him the business on social media.

"You know how divisive she can be," he told a bunch of dudes sitting around the Local24 news table.

Memphians who agree with his assessment of Thomas' often provocative approach may also want to note Lenoir's selectivity, and hegemony's predictable resistance to criticism — particularly in areas of vulnerability.

But so much emphasis has been placed on the alleged darkening, I fear we're running the risk of not realizing how juvenile the image is, also. Juggling cartoon $$$? Why not go ahead and black out a tooth? A "Memphis AF" T-shirt, even?

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