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The Casual Racism of a Philadelphia Neighborhood’s Manhole Covers

Philadelphia’s East Passyunk Avenue teems with visitors to trendy shops and restaurants. Nobody can say when or why a stereotypical Native American image came to represent it.
Philadelphia's East Passyunk Avenue uses this image on its manhole covers and as a logo for the street.
Philadelphia's East Passyunk Avenue uses this image on its manhole covers and as a logo for the street.Imran Siddiquee

Walking down East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia, it’s difficult not to notice the face on the ground. It reappears every few feet along the sidewalk. You step over it, on top of it. There are spilled drinks and occasional pieces of food laying all across its surface.

What’s harder to locate is any official explanation as to why the image—of a person in a Native headdress—is on the ground in the first place, or how it came to represent the area.