Children in school mural are too “dark” for principal and for some community members

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.

84 comments Add your comment

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJC , LC (@lizacardona), Shamir D. Yates, Jordan Roe, Brandon Williams and others. Brandon Williams said: RT @ajc: RT @AJCGetSchooled: Children in school mural are too “dark” for principal. http://bit.ly/bjw2Ls [...]

Angela

June 5th, 2010
4:10 pm

Can we at least see the full picture. I don’t think that anyone can make a honest comment without it.

Angela

June 5th, 2010
4:11 pm

I tried to cut and paste the picture but, it will not paste.

catlady

June 5th, 2010
4:22 pm

Seems pretty stupid to me. How many times a day does this guy fill up his car? ‘Cause his “reason” seems about as bogus. That kid looks pretty danged happy to me! What does he want, blonde hair, blue eyes, and a possum eatin grin on the face? Geeze!

Re the observation about charter schools’ advertising being “whitewashed”, it isn’t just charter schools who do this. Look at the “selective placement” in many ads–one black, one Hispanic or Asian, and a couple of “regular” white folks, unless it is something being marketed specifically to the black, Hispanic, or Asian community, that is. Of course, women’s “feminine needs” ads don’t usually have a lot of guys parading around in them, either.

tobias frent

June 5th, 2010
4:38 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiX5p8NL040

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPIRKnaCKzo

Some nice audio from Steve Blair’s radio show including the now famous:

“I am not a racist but………,” line as well as a conversation with fellow councilman John Hanna’s wife Sherry.

Moses Siregar III

June 5th, 2010
4:40 pm

I just came back from the protest at the school today, which was an incredible event with a great turnout.

Jeff Lane, the school principal, said that he made a mistake and that the mural will go back to how it was originally painted. The school superintendent. Kevin Kapp, also admitted the school district made a mistake and said they were sorry.

I talked to Jeff Lane, who said he had a total of three complaints about the mural along racial lines, and 94% of the locals who called the school were in support of the mural. R.E. Wall, the main painter of the mural, said that he was getting half a dozen people a day yelling at him at the intersection (where thousands of cars drive past every day), calling him a hippy, or something else.

I hope the poster of the original blog will update it to reflect today’s news.

I am going to be posting videos from the protest throughout the day to a brand new YouTube channel:

http://youtube.com/PrescottDiversity

The first one (which I am uploading to youtube right now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnO6DJ8RqIE) is the footage of Lane and Kapp admitting they made a mistake and apologizing to the crowd. Please help spread the word, because honestly this town has been unfairly portrayed and I want people to see all of the protesters carrying signs, and coverage of the positive people that actually represent my town.

James

June 5th, 2010
4:52 pm

What’s wrong with wanting a mural in a city to reflect the people who live there? I looked up Prescott and it is 92% white and 8% hispanic with a .05% african-american population. Why paint a mural featuring a black kid in a neighborhood full of whites and hispanic kids? Before the touch up it was reported that the main kid being painted looked more black than hispanic, the city councilman said so and the principal asked for the kid to be “lightened” from black to hispanic – NOT to white.

The artist said nobody thought about the color of the kids, but obviously at some point someone must have made a decision to paint the kid as a black person, or very dark hispanic, and someone obviously made the decision NOT to paint a white kid, even though the population in the city is overwhelmingly white. In fact, if you look at the other murals most of the people in them are overwhelmingly minorities. It seems someone is racist, but it’s not the city councilman or the principal.

bootney farnsworth

June 5th, 2010
5:12 pm

of all the issues we face, the stupid ones we choose to fight…
and folks wonder why our educational system is broken.

HStchr

June 5th, 2010
6:23 pm

James: the numbers don’t matter. If content of character, not color of skin, is truly what we judge by, then why was there an issue with the mural at all? My skin is “white” to look at (I’m actually trying to avoid skin cancer), but I am one-third Cherokee indian. I have a friend who is almost my same hue whose grandfather is a dark-skinned African-American. Of the 92% you mention, how many of those have just as diverse a heritage as mine, or more so? What I see in the mirror means nothing, and I simply cannot understand why educated people in this country seem to have become more conscious of skin color than ever. How ridiculous and embarrassing.

Lee

June 5th, 2010
6:53 pm

The only reason this story is newsworthy is that the principal complained about the mural being “too dark.” Reverse the scenario and nobody would give it a second thought.

mike

June 5th, 2010
7:03 pm

Well I see Arizona is staying true to its course. Maybe they should just make Arizona just for white folks. Obviously there is not much to this state if all they seem to complain about is darker complected people. They are really looking like buffoons to the rest of the country.

Kristin. MN.

June 5th, 2010
7:13 pm

Looks like the people are finally geting a little tired of diversity propaganda being shoved down their throats. It is about time

Angela

June 5th, 2010
7:53 pm

This topic is most interesting. Racism is alive and well. This partially seen picture is on a school and it is already not about education. (Oh, forgive me it is about education – HATE).

mike

June 5th, 2010
8:03 pm

bill

June 5th, 2010
8:45 pm

Loving all the comments defending the councilman. More white faces on murals!, Whites are second-class citizens!, etc. Racist Arizonans find sympathy in Georgia. No one surprised.

Real American

June 5th, 2010
8:46 pm

Those “real murikans” complained. These tea-bagging twits really are deranged.

Real American

June 5th, 2010
8:48 pm

Totally agree bill…dont cha just love these insecure twits? Completely beside themselves because OH MY! I have to see a happy child’s face and its not WHITE!! EEEK!!!!!

majii

June 5th, 2010
9:20 pm

James,
I am a retired teacher and an African American. When I was in the classroom, my main goal was to educate my students. I didn’t focus on their race, but on what they needed to learn. This helped me to form bonds with all of my students that have lasted until today (three of them have emailed me within the past week.) This would not have been possible had I made “differences” among them based on their race. Many people place too much emphasis on race as a measure of a person’s ability, competency, morals, worth to society, etc. Every race in our country has contributed to making this nation great. When we value one race of people over another, we are the losers because one of those persons from that “other” race just might be able to make a valuable contribution to this country that makes all of our lives better in some way. Who knows, maybe the Vietnamese student I taught who loves math will end up creating a computer OS that is cheaper and better than those we use today. I’d certainly like to see this society give her that opportunity by focusing on her brains instead of her race. She’s a really great kid.

tobias frent

June 5th, 2010
10:06 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiX5p8NL040

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPIRKnaCKzo

Some nice audio from Steve Blair’s radio show including the now famous:

“I am not a racist but………,” line as well as a conversation with fellow councilman John Hanna’s wife Sherry.

Not a racist

June 5th, 2010
10:19 pm

I don’t know why Angela needs to see the whole picture. Why does it matter? I think she has it right that “racism is alive and well” in the US – she seems to practice it. Of course, she isn’t the only one. All those who support this decision to “lighten up” are the same ones who complain about the affirmative action and say we should look at the content, not the color of the skin. Who is looking at the color of our skin???

Moses Siregar III

June 5th, 2010
10:43 pm

The kids painted in the mural were actual kids who attend the school, including a Hispanic kid and an African Amercian kid.

It was an elementary school mural.

diversity means down with whitey

June 5th, 2010
10:45 pm

the diversity crowd has won again. instead of seeing a celebration of culture, i see the usual “in your face” glee.

WideAwake

June 5th, 2010
11:32 pm

Just a thought, the babies of this world will not see color but the content of character. Remind me of a time “three first graders of different race, ethnicity, economic background” all three were working together to help one student who had a bowel problem–each one pitch in to help the student and each other–none complained or dismissed the student in need. They were one unit working towards a goal. It was the best thing I have witness in a long time. The babies will show us the way….

Moses Siregar III

June 5th, 2010
11:36 pm

Another fact that should be mentioned is that the mural was not actually a diversity mural per se, it was a “Green” mural that just happened to have a hispanic kid and a black kid on it. And again, both of those kids actually go to the school. An elementary school. Oh, and the students themselves chose the mural design out of six options.

Yankee Prof

June 5th, 2010
11:38 pm

Pardon me for posting off topic to the current discussion, but I’ve been following this blog for just about six months now, and I think it might have inadvertantly helped me to understand the nature of the problem with education in Georgia during the course of the past week.

When Maureen posts about budget cuts in the $100s of millions to the university system, it generates a maximum of approximately 200 comments. When Maureen posts about budget cuts to public education at the primary and secondary level in Georgia, it generates a maximum of 200 comments. When Maureen highlights the dishonest and cynical budget-related layoffs of public school teachers disguised as performance-related non-renewals, it generates less than 200 comments. And half of all of the above comments tend to berate teachers and professors of their privileged status.

And yet. Someone writes a letter about baseball players ignoring a bunch of 11 year-olds at a birthday party in the priciest seats at the Ted, and it generates 500+ comments.

If that’s not a statement on priorities, I don’t know what is.

Reader

June 6th, 2010
12:19 am

**Yankee Prof**, you make a lot of sense. Which is what a lot of the above comments don’t have. People have their priorities so far wrong, if they see something that’s correct and make sense coming at them, they would run the other direction.
@ Tobias Frent, that was not some “nice” audio. I hope you were being sarcastic.
@ Lee, reverse the scenario about Natalee Holloway, if she was black, nobody but her family would give a rats ass about her. So don’t give us that stupid argument about reversing the scenario. This mural was to reflect the community that it is in. You guys ever been to Mays High School in Atlanta? They’re the Raiders and they have a Black Male Raider on their logo. You ever been to Alpharetta High School or Walton High School they’re the Raiders as well but they have White Male Raider in their logo. You ever seen Redan High School Raiders? They used to be a predominately White school, with a White Raider, now it’s predominately black school, with a Black Male Raider. Hmmmm what does that tell you? The colors on their logo match the school and community. So the mural with the black, white, Hispanic and Asian kids, it REFLECTED the community. Now with a bunch of white kids, the other kids in that school will feel left out.

Truest statement of 2010

June 6th, 2010
12:48 am

If you want a brief synopsis of what’s wrong with education in Georgia, read the quote below.

It’s the priorities, Stupid!

“When Maureen highlights the dishonest and cynical budget-related layoffs of public school teachers disguised as performance-related non-renewals, it generates less than 200 comments…And yet. Someone writes a letter about baseball players ignoring a bunch of 11 year-olds at a birthday party in the priciest seats at the Ted, and it generates 500+ comments.

If that’s not a statement on priorities, I don’t know what is.”

A CONSERVATIVE

June 6th, 2010
6:45 am

Ms. D……….Sure is concerned about RACE…She has RACE on the brain..

Shannon, M.Div.

June 6th, 2010
6:52 am

Interesting about the “whitewashing” in charter school brochures. I know that in some colleges, brochures are edited to look disproportionately multicultural; even if the student body is more than 80 percent white, the pictures in the brochure often show people of all races in roughly the same percentage.

A CONSERVATIVE

June 6th, 2010
7:07 am

AJCs obcession with race has cost the paper its prominence in Georgia…..Conservative white Georgia just got tired of seeing black faces on the front page….yes…yes…yes

A CONSERVATIVE

June 6th, 2010
7:32 am

JUST LIKE THE ARTIST who painted a portrait of …the VIRGIN MARY…holding a weapon….the Arizona artists did this to spark comments…they themselves…..wanted to get notice…..& THE Atlanta-Urnal-Constipation gave these idiots the attention they sought.

A CONSERVATIVE

June 6th, 2010
7:32 am

JUST LIKE THE ARTIST who painted a portrait of …the VIRGIN MARY…holding a weapon….the Arizona artists did this to spark comments…they themselves…..wanted to get notice…..& THE Atlanta-Urnal-Constipation gave these idiots the attention they sought.

A CONSERVATIVE

June 6th, 2010
7:32 am

JUST LIKE THE ARTIST who painted a portrait of …the VIRGIN MARY…holding a weapon….the Arizona artists did this to spark comments…they themselves…..wanted to get notice…..& THE Atlanta-Urnal-Constipation gave these idiots the attention they sought.

Road Scholar

June 6th, 2010
7:49 am

Conservatives have been in denial for years. So why, in Georgia, are we surprised?

A CONSERVATIVE

June 6th, 2010
8:05 am

WE HAVE DOZENS OF SERIOUS LIFE..& DEATH ISSUES TO DEAL WITH & THE AJC starts a racial debate on a mural in far away ARIZONA…OF NO CONSEQUENCE TO THE FOLKS IN GEORGIA…Reason the paper has become irrelevant…irrelevant…irrelevant..

A CONSERVATIVE

June 6th, 2010
8:06 am

Road Scholar…..Step down from your PIOUS PEDISTAL..YOU ARE Toooo race conscious in 2010..

A CONSERVATIVE

June 6th, 2010
8:06 am

Road Scholar…..Step down from your PIOUS PEDISTAL..YOU ARE Toooo race conscious in 2010..

Teaching in FL is worse

June 6th, 2010
9:16 am

Before my current stint in elementary I taught middle school. I did a great mini unit of media literacy after seeing a phenominal speaker on the subject. I trained my students to look at ads, tv shows, and news with a critical eye. The amount of manipulation is amazing and eye-opening.

I won’t use the liberal media line because it is worn out and not really true. I recommend people look at the website:

http://www.medialit.org/default.html

To my knowledge, they do not have a slanted view. They are more about using critical thinking to parse what you see in media.

Lee

June 6th, 2010
10:23 am

@Reader, then by your own explanation, if the mural is supposed to reflect the makeup of the community, then it should be predominately white as the community is almost 90% white.

Like I said, why is it okay for a majority black or hispanic community to depict their ethnicity, but the moment a white community tries to do the same, the politically correct pathogens scream foul?

Yes, it is the same old politically correct diversity double standard and it is getting tiresome.

Jim in Ga

June 6th, 2010
10:59 am

Racism goes in all directions. There are some in every race that hate a different color. Lets not act like it’s a one way street.

Jeny

June 6th, 2010
11:13 am

@Teaching in FL is worse: “Phenomenal” is NOT spelled “phenominal”. As a teacher, you FAIL if you can’t spell this simple word. Go back to school. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. AND…quit bellyaching about how bad teaching is–ANYWHERE. YOU are NOT a top notch teacher, you’ve no right to be complaining.

Aquagirl

June 6th, 2010
11:14 am

Thank you, Arizona, for making Georgia look progressive. After reading some of the comments here, I’m sure we’ll find a way to move back down the scale.

Jeny

June 6th, 2010
11:16 am

@Jim in Ga: Exactly right. Whites don’t have a lock on racism. Racism and descrimination occurs in every race, ethnicty and nationality. Some of the most openly racist people I have ever encountered were not white. They were, in fact, black. And they made/make no bones about their absolute hatred of whites, further, they discriminate against lighter complexioned blacks–making fun of them and calling them names I can’t say here.

Indeed racism goes in all directions. And God’s sure not happy about it! He’s tired of seeing His children fighting over differences. I don’t blame Him.

Jeny

June 6th, 2010
11:17 am

oops…that should be “discrimination”, not “descrimination”. Sorry.

@jeny

June 6th, 2010
11:44 am

Pot, meet kettle.

Maureen, handle your bizness at home!

June 6th, 2010
11:50 am

Can we all agree that the following, from Maureen’s own paper, is much more important for Maureen to tackle that a painting across the country?

“Officials with the Atlanta Public Schools took 14 days to respond to written questions from the Journal-Constitution about the wireless contract. In a statement late Friday, officials offered explanations that at times contradicted their own records of how the bids were evaluated, particularly regarding the role that price played in the award. For instance, they claimed that the lowest bidder’s price quote was not considered because the firm failed to submit the correct form. However, district records show the firm did submit the same form as other bidders, and actually received the highest possible score for its price.”

Where is SACS?

June 6th, 2010
11:54 am

If the quote below were about Clayton, you know Elgart and SACS would be on it like a fly on horsesh-t, but does Elgart have the courage to take on Atlanta?

School district officials awarded the work to a company with the fifth-lowest bid and the third-highest overall ranking among seven competitors, records reviewed by the AJC show

Angela

June 6th, 2010
12:02 pm

@Truest statement of 2010,

You are soooooooooooooooooooo right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Editorial Board: Lapdogs or Watchdogs?

June 6th, 2010
2:16 pm

Is Andre Jackson still afraid of Beverly Hall?

Will Maureen tackle this?

June 6th, 2010
3:12 pm

Another E-Rate scandal at APS. But can Beverly Hall hide behind the last excuse she used, that what happened before was part of the culture she inherited, or by 2010 can people rightly conclude she is the culture of corruption at APS?

Maureen will you ask Andre Jackson if his editorial board is willing to call for a criminal investigation into what clearly looks like criminal activities at APS?