A kind reader pointed out a bizarre story to me that is becoming the talk of the blogosphere for the sheer idiocy of the issue: A mural on a school in Arizona is under attack because it features a brown skinned child as its centerpiece.
UPDATE: I appreciate the update below from Prescott, Arizona, resident and astrologer Moses Siregar III who posted video this afternoon of a rally today in which the principal called the request to lighten the portrait — which was based on actual students at the school — a mistake.
Nice to see the residents of the town speak up and resolve this issue quickly and peacefully and seemingly with a stronger connection to the school.
Moses is ahead of the news on this latest development, but here is an the Arizona Republic that can provide background. (Please go to the Republic to look at the mural although you can also see it in the video.)
A group of artists has been asked to lighten the faces of children depicted in a giant public mural at a Prescott school.
The project’s leader says he was ordered to lighten the skin tone after complaints about the children’s ethnicity. But the school’s principal says the request was only to fix shading and had nothing to do with political pressure.
The “Go on Green” mural, which covers two walls outside Miller Valley Elementary School, was designed to advertise a campaign for environmentally friendly transportation. It features portraits of four children, with a Hispanic boy as the dominant figure.
R.E. Wall, director of Prescott’s Downtown Mural Project, said he and other artists were subjected to slurs from motorists as they worked on the painting at one of the town’s most prominent intersections.
“We consistently, for two months, had people shouting racial slander from their cars,” Wall said. “We had children painting with us, and here come these yells of (epithet for Blacks) and (epithet for Hispanics).”
I know this story is going to rattle the posters here who believe that many of us see racism everywhere. I can tell you that at least three times in my career as a newspaper reporter and editor I have fielded calls from readers who felt we featured too many blacks in photos. Once at a paper in Florida I took a call from a grandfatherly sounding type who began the call with a statement about how long he had subscribed to the paper. I was brand new there and was not prepared for the next statement: He didn’t like a photo on the front page showing kids running through a sprinkler to illustrate a story on the end of the school year and the start of summer.
Honest, I thought the guy was kidding as a former colleague from my paper in New Jersey — who thought my moving to Florida was stepping back in time by a decade — had called me a few days earlier pretending to be a reader who wanted a story on his giant cucumber. The “caller” went on and on about New Jersey liberals taking over his hometown paper and not appreciating the culture, which included a celebration of big cukes.
But this time, the caller was authentic and dead serious.
I also recently heard a researcher who is looking at how charter schools market themselves. One interesting fact is that the materials often show themselves to be whiter than they are — they tend to have more white faces in their brochures and literature than they do in their student bodies. (One thought was that schools market to the audience they want to grow rather than the one they already have.)
Take a look at the video and let me know what you think.