I hate parades. I have always hated the bright exuberance, the cheering and the flag waving. Every New Year’s Day, millions of people around the U.S. and the world tune in or gather in person to watch the Tournament of Roses Parade, also known as the Rose Parade. I live in Pasadena, home of the Rose Parade, and every year I watch thousands of families camped out on the streets of the city to secure a coveted spot from which to view the spectacle up close. Meanwhile, the moneyed classes pay for premium seating on bleachers set up for the occasion. But beneath the facade of festive glamour is an institution rife with sexism, racism, militarism and corporatism.
The Rose Parade has its origins in exclusivity and elitism. In 1890, when Pasadena was a magnet for wealthy East Coast Americans looking for temperate climates to vacation in during the winters, the Valley Hunt Club organized the first parade to show off the city. The hunting and fishing club, which continues to be featured in the parade for historical reasons, has had a problematic history of not admitting people of color.
Today the Rose Parade continues to remain ensconced within Pasadena’s well-to-do neighborhoods in the south of the city. Its annual route avoids by a wide berth poor and working-class communities of color, whose homes are concentrated in northwest Pasadena.