Some things aren’t worth saving, particularly relics of racism. Historical preservationists have worked long and hard to keep a bit of history alive in Los Angeles, which is commendable. Yet what is the purpose of saving something that is linked to individuals who aren’t worth remembering?
An old Adohr Milk sign was discovered in Pasadena on the new residence of Johnny Ray Zone’s restaurant “Howlin Rays.” When Zone took possession of the property, preservationists caught wind of the sign, which had been covered for years and sought to protect it from being trashed. Adohr, which is Rhoda spelled backwards, was owned by a woman named Rhoda Rindge Adamson and her husband. Adamson’s racist past has come to light regarding her opposition of the “Unforgettable” crooner Nat King Cole moving into her neighborhood. The prestigious Hancock Park was all-white in the late 1940’s and Cole, along with his wife Maria, were met with appalling opposition for buying their dream home next to a bunch of vintage NIMBY’s.
When we think of pesky invasive HOA’s, we usually think of keeping your front lawn up to the community’s boring standards or maintaining the basic stucco paint job as your neighbors. In the case of Nat King Cole and his wife Maria, The Hancock Park Homeowners Association tried very hard to keep their perfectly pampered lawns and sidewalks for the entitled white residents that already resided within its boundaries. At the forefront of this abuse was Rhoda Rindge Adamson, the famed owner of the Adamson house in Malibu. The sordid legacy of Adamson includes her kook of a mother ordering guards who patrolled their ridiculously large Malibu estate with guns advising them “to shoot people on sight,” if intruders crossed into their boundaries, stated Adamson biographer David K. Randall. Adamson and her family’s white privilege is a token that should be retold for what it was, a bunch of elitist racists.
Advocates for preserving the Adohr Milk Farms sign argue that the article from the Sentinel, which chronicled the abuse the Coles experienced, could be an exaggeration regarding Adamson’s involvement. They even go so far as to minimize the hate crimes that the Cole’s experienced. “…It is possible that Rhoda Rindge Adamson was shocked to see a Black family moving onto her block in the summer of 1948, and she may have talked about it with her neighbors,” blogger Kim Cooper said. “But the Sentinel article that describes her as a ringleader in a racist attack doesn’t make its case.”
Yet the Cole’s did indeed experience push back from their white neighbors just for moving into the community. The Hancock Park HomeOwners Association were the perpetrators of this racism and Adamson was a member of that association. Should we go ahead and deny this as well?
Cooper attempts to discredit the African American run news publication, The Los Angeles Sentinel, by saying that the story was “unattributed rumors denied by a spokesman, printed in a newspaper rife with misspellings.” Speaking of attribution, who is the spokesman Cooper is referring to? If this is going to be used to discredit a story, why not make a firm case of it then? Another thing to consider, which may be why the spokesman isn’t named, is who they represent. If they are representing the Adamson estate, then a racial bias should be assumed as well.
It is clear how the individuals who are on the side of the Cole’s feel about maintaining a legacy that isn’t worth saving. Sure the sign is old and the craftsmanship was probably pretty impressive but the symbolism goes beyond our own white fragility. It’s worth us taking a step back and considering how relics linked to racism may harm others outside of our racial group. Sometimes the best thing to do is let vintage things go, including thought patterns that hold our white world view at the top of the historical chain of events.
Lets call a spade a spade—the Cole’s experienced aggression from their white neighbors. Denying that this happened is pathetic and maintains a status quo of white supremacy. To elaborate, there was an instance where a sign was placed in the yard of the Cole’s with racist expletives, on a different date someone shot through their window, which Maria Cole herself detailed in an interview. So are we going to discredit her and her experience as well, just because we are too fragile to say goodbye to an artifact that is a symbol of hate to a group outside of our own? I’m sure the Cole’s neighbors hardly, if ever, had to deal with such frightful happenings while residing within the boundaries of Hancock Park and most assuredly if they did, it wouldn’t have been because they were white.
Honestly, the Adamsons were known for their attempts to keep people out of areas that they occupied, case in point, Malibu. They worked for decades to keep people off of that land. It doesn’t take much imagination to believe that Adamson was a bigot. If the argument to preserve the Adohr Milk Farms sign is that the history is ambiguous, I ask the question, what about the history that is certain? Adamson was a part of the Homeowners Association that worked very hard to keep black people out, she also worked very hard to keep people out of Malibu. This family isn’t worth commemorating. Why exalt a racist family who hoarded land? Zone stated he wants to paint a mural of Cole on the building while also asking his instagram followers if they knew why. We know why. To the folks unaffected by the disturbing history of Adamson, it’s time to face the music and take out the trash.