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June 4, 2010 7:12 PM   Subscribe

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. (via Wonkette)
posted by EarBucket (112 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Texas! Florida! Alabama! Arizona is kicking the crap out of you! Get crazy!
posted by Mister_A at 7:17 PM on June 4, 2010 [22 favorites]


Oh, Arizona. It's a good thing you are just a recurring joke on The Colbert Report and not a real state of the Union. Wait, what?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:19 PM on June 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


But the school's principal says the request was only to fix shading and had nothing to do with political pressure."

Hmm... now that "ethnic cleansing" has sort of run its course as a term, may I suggest "shade fixing" to take its place? It has a vaguely friendly, kind of Arizona feel to it, doesn't it?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:22 PM on June 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


But the school's principal says the request was only to fix shading

I wish people around here cared about public art that much.
posted by niles at 7:22 PM on June 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


Arizona is like that distant relative that seems quirky-cool at first but is actually an angry drunk you can't invite to nice things.
posted by availablelight at 7:23 PM on June 4, 2010 [30 favorites]


These sorts of stories kinda make me wish I believed in God so I could go to a church to say a prayer and light a candle for our crazy, racist, ignorant, doomed, doomed clusterfuck of a nation.
posted by Avenger at 7:24 PM on June 4, 2010 [15 favorites]


City Councilman Steve Blair spearheaded a public campaign on his talk show at Prescott radio station KYCA-AM (1490) to remove the mural.

In a broadcast last month, according to the Daily Courier in Prescott, Blair mistakenly complained that the most prominent child in the painting is African-American, saying: "To depict the biggest picture on the building as a Black person, I would have to ask the question: Why?"
Because he's a kid that goes to the school and an Arizonan and we're all Arizonans?
Blair could not be reached for comment Thursday. In audio archives of his radio show, Blair discusses the mural. He insists the controversy isn't about racism but says the mural is intended to create racial controversy where none existed before.

"Personally, I think it's pathetic," he says. "You have changed the ambience of that building to excite some kind of diversity power struggle that doesn't exist in Prescott, Arizona. And I'm ashamed of that."
Actually, that would be you exciting some kind of diversity power struggle, Councilman dude.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:25 PM on June 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


Faces in the mural were drawn from photographs of children enrolled at Miller Valley

and, more seriously, this is where it really REALLY stops being funny, as real life kids are being told they're too brown.
posted by availablelight at 7:26 PM on June 4, 2010 [70 favorites]


Fuck this stupid world
posted by Damn That Television at 7:27 PM on June 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


They could just paint Klan hoods over the kid's heads, that would lighten them right up.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:28 PM on June 4, 2010 [24 favorites]


I think the principal's response to all this is the worst part. It's terrible that there are racist adults acting like children, but the proper response is not to appease the racists. The proper response is to say, "I'm sorry that you're racist. That's your problem," and leave the mural as it is.
posted by lexicakes at 7:28 PM on June 4, 2010 [25 favorites]


Snarky remarks about Arizona seem a bit like belittling a pimple on the body when in fact most of the body has them too. A recent poll suggests that a number of states--I forget how many but well over ten--want laws similar or even tougher than what Arizona has, and that nationwide a substantial number of Americans favor what Arizona is doing.
Arizona goes, so goes the nation.
posted by Postroad at 7:29 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


"You have changed the ambience of that building to excite some kind of diversity power struggle that doesn't exist in Prescott, Arizona."

Of course there's no power struggle, you won't even let the minorities appear on murals.
posted by oddman at 7:31 PM on June 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


In a broadcast last month, according to the Daily Courier in Prescott, Blair mistakenly complained that the most prominent child in the painting is African-American, saying: "To depict the biggest picture on the building as a Black person, I would have to ask the question: Why?"

Blair could not be reached for comment Thursday. In audio archives of his radio show, Blair discusses the mural. He insists the controversy isn't about racism but says the mural is intended to create racial controversy where none existed before.
Wow. If it were a kid with brown hair, no one would ask "To depict the picture on the building as a brunette, I have to ask: why"

The idea is that white is "normal" and anything not white is out of place, or there for a "reason".

--

Also, the kid is Hispanic, and aren't most of the kids in Arizona Hispanic? Arizona has one of the highest divergence between the ethnicity of old people and the ethnicity of young people.
posted by delmoi at 7:31 PM on June 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


Snarky remarks about Arizona seem a bit like belittling a pimple on the body...

Or covering it up with some sort of Caucasian flesh tone pimple remover.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:32 PM on June 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also, shouldn't the artists just turn down the request?
posted by oddman at 7:33 PM on June 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, this controversy will make headlines on CNN come Monday. Wolf Blitzer will lay down the facts of the case and bring in two guests to get "both sides" of the story. Maybe the artist who painted the mural and opposite him the spokesman for Real Americans Against Islam, Immigration and Women's Sufferage, Inc. or some stupid shit like that.

Fair and balanced!
posted by Avenger at 7:33 PM on June 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Do you suppose that anyone picking up a paint sprayer or a brush will realize they're in the midst of a defining moral test?
posted by tyllwin at 7:35 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, this controversy will make headlines on CNN come Monday.

We should totally invent a transcript for this and then take bets on how closely we can match the actual broadcast.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:36 PM on June 4, 2010 [15 favorites]


It's just too WTF for words.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's one ugly mural. They should whitewash that wall. Oh, wait, now I get it.
posted by w0mbat at 7:38 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd realize it because I'd be doing it late at night and painting a Klan hood over the kid's face.

And I owe Dr. Negative a beer.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:38 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Councilman Steve Blair is the unabashed racist. The principal Jeff Lane looks bad either way: either he is also racist or he is a coward. The fact that he talks about 'the controversy' suggests he's a coward. He'll go whatever way the wind blows, not standing up to anything or anyone. The kids deserve a better principal--they'd would certainly learn some valuable lessons from one.

If the school district cares about its students (and the moral lessons they are learning) they should can the principal and fix the mural.
posted by eye of newt at 7:40 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought hard about posting this myself, because at first I bought Wonkette's summary, but then I actually took the time to read the linked article closely. The claims of racism seem to rest primarily with one source: the painter himself. An additional data point is a local councilman, who appears to be racist as hell, calling for the mural to be removed.

On the other side, the principal claims that he's only gotten three complaints, and that he's asking for it be lightened up a bit, not that he's asking that the students' ethnicities be changed.

I don't think we have enough data yet to be sure. Neither article actually bothered to run a full picture. There's one snapshot in the original source, but it's a funny angle and with very good lighting, and given how strongly the painter feels this is racism, I'm thinking that it's not a good source. I'd rather see a full-mural snapshot with some building context to get the overall lighting levels, preferably several at different times of the day.

So far, everyone seems to be totally swallowing Wonkette's (and the painter's) framing. Outrage is very easy, but I think getting outraged with this little data is foolish.
posted by Malor at 7:40 PM on June 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


These artists are weak. "..lightened because of the controversy.." Excuse me? Why aren't they standing by their original work of art? Their willingness to change it to appease some sensitive white people disgusts me.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:41 PM on June 4, 2010


I don't think we have enough data yet to be sure. Neither article actually bothered to run a full picture.

The second link in the post goes to a gallery of pictures of the mural, if you feel that seeing it will help you decide whether it's appropriate to paint over pictures of actual students at the school to make them look white.
posted by EarBucket at 7:44 PM on June 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


The kid seems to be waving a white flag. You'd think they'd be happy.
posted by delmoi at 7:47 PM on June 4, 2010


he's asking for it be lightened up a bit,

Yes, the simplest explanation is that the principal cares about color theory and Pantone charts.
posted by zippy at 7:51 PM on June 4, 2010 [15 favorites]


"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)."

First, if you aren't going to use the words, don't use the quote. We're adults. We understand context. I don't like the words either and would rather not read them as well. So spare us both. Ask another question. Get a quote you can use without having to resort to fucking (epithet for weak sauce).

Second, azcentral.com, I am leaving your annoying tynt/taint/taunt code intact so you can rush right over here and read everything that's being said about your article. Someone on your staff needs to let someone else on your staff know it's (epithet for fucking annoying).

This all said, are those photos the "after" photos? Because he get much lighter than that and he'd be white. Oh, wait....
posted by cjorgensen at 7:52 PM on June 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, think carefully about the subtext of Councilman Blair's comment: that liberal artists are trying to "create controversy" by painting pictures of dark-skinned children.

It suggests that Arizona has become a place where painting a picture of a brown child has become a radical, subversive act.
posted by Avenger at 7:55 PM on June 4, 2010 [16 favorites]


Someone on your staff needs to let someone else on your staff know it's (epithet for fucking annoying).

Their censorship did lead to this funny comment on their message board, from "ConservativeVoice":
Keep in mind, there are a lot of us (inappropriate term) in Prescott. We are not comfortable around non-white people or their images. People need to be more sensitive to our ideology.
posted by delmoi at 7:55 PM on June 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Texas! Florida! Alabama! Arizona is kicking the crap out of you! Get crazy!

OK, I'll try.

I am offended by BP's efforts to paint our pure white beaches black. I demand that they lighten them.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:56 PM on June 4, 2010 [32 favorites]


Their willingness to change it to appease some sensitive white people disgusts me.

Maybe they haven't been paid yet.

In a perfect world, the artist would come back and paint giant dicks on all the animals in the mural, then leave town triumphantly while waving from a parade float.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:57 PM on June 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


C'mon people. Clearly the council was worried that the mural was going to be asked to show its papers.
posted by three blind mice at 7:57 PM on June 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


Here's another comment from the comment section:
Prescott is a town full of racist back woods idiots who complain non stop about any people who want to drag that sorry town into today's world. Long before this debacle was the harassment of day laborers, any Latino who drives a vehicle the police suspect they can't afford, etc, etc. If you are Latino, you can't stand on any street, nor can you drive a car out of your suspected price range...and it has been this way for years. Prescott wants and expects tourism dollars to pay for everything, but they are also anti tourist. Their latest brainstorm is to install parking meters all over downtown so that people have to park in the empty city owned garage which is well off the beaten path. The place is a dump and should be avoided at all costs.
posted by delmoi at 7:59 PM on June 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ah, okay, I didn't have that second link when I was considering it; there is indeed a good full-size snapshot.

Honestly, I can see it as a judgment call; that is maybe a bit on the dark side, considering that it's full Arizona sun. (it's BRIGHT down there.) Even the white kid (at least, I think that's what it is, on the far right) looks a bit dark, and not in an ethnic way, just too gray.

Does anyone know if just the dark people were targeted for lightening? If he asked for everyone, I don't think it's racist. If it was aimed just as the non-whites, then I'd buy the racist framing.

Also note that, indeed, the small picture in the first link was a bit deceptive; it's MUCH better-lit than the big picture with the band in front of it.

Note also: that first link claims that the principal asked for 'brightening', not 'whitening', which are very different things.

It's a nice painting. SHAME on that councilman for wanting it taken down. Hope they vote that bastard out of office.
posted by Malor at 7:59 PM on June 4, 2010


will help you decide whether it's appropriate to paint over pictures of actual students at the school to make them look white.

Note that nobody but Wonkette is claiming that, as far as I can see. The only concrete claim I've seen is brightening existing faces.

But don't let me get in the way of all the spittle. Try not to get it on the inside of my monitor, though. It's damnably hard to clean.
posted by Malor at 8:02 PM on June 4, 2010


When she was a teenager, my friend's sister once won a contest to have a children's book that she wrote and illustrated professionally published. But the publishers made her change the race of the main character -- she had been brown, because that looked better with the illustration technique; they wanted her white.
posted by jb at 8:11 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Glad I got my visit to the Grand Canyon years ago, I never have another reason to want to visit increasingly sad, racist Arizona.
posted by maxwelton at 8:19 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a resident of Massachusetts, I was tempted to point and laugh at those Arizonans for complaining that a representative school mural featured too many dark-skinned kids. But then I remembered that I also think our representation has too much Brown in it.
posted by uosuaq at 8:23 PM on June 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm countin' down to the day deservin'
Fittin' for a king
I'm waitin' for the time when I can
Get to Arizona
'Cause my money's spent on
The goddamn rent
Neither party is mine not the
Jackass or the elephant
20.000 nig niggy nigas in the corner
Of the cell block but they come
From California
Population none in the desert and sun
Wit' a gun cracker
Runnin' things under his thumb
Starin' hard at the postcards
Isn't it odd and unique?
Seein' people smile wild in the heat
120 degree
'Cause I wanna be free
What's a smilin' fact
When the whole state's racist
Why want a holiday F--k it 'cause I wanna
So what if I celebrate it standin' on a corner
I ain't drinkin' no 40
I B thinkin' time wit' a nine
Until we get some land
Call me the trigger man
Looki lookin' for the governor
Huh he ain't lovin' ya
But here to trouble ya
He's rubbin' ya wrong
Get the point come along

posted by boo_radley at 8:38 PM on June 4, 2010


Also:

R.E. Wall, director of Prescott’s Downtown Mural Project

Eponymural.
posted by uosuaq at 8:43 PM on June 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


The thing about that PE song is that it's one of those songs you'd hope would stop being relevant after around 20 years. But no!
posted by furiousthought at 8:50 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


perhaps they could ship the mural back across the board for failure to show proof of citizenship?
posted by edgeways at 8:52 PM on June 4, 2010


boarder
posted by edgeways at 8:52 PM on June 4, 2010


I am willing to "wait and see" before judging whether they are actually toning down the mural for aesthetic reasons or political reasons (since Wonkette does seem to be the primary source) but with I have already judged City Councilman Steve Blair to be a racist douche and will stand by that conviction.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:55 PM on June 4, 2010


with
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:56 PM on June 4, 2010


OK, the following are in the Arizona Republic article itself, not the Wonkette story about it --

* the painting depicts actual kids at the school of varying skin colors.

* a City Councilman started a public campaign to remove the mural, complaining explicitly about the presence of minorities, on a radio show.

* according to the artists, people drove by shouting racist slurs while they painted it

* in an indirect quote attributed to the artists, we hear "The project's leader says he was ordered to lighten the skin tone after complaints about the children's ethnicity."

* later on in a more direct quote we hear "It is being lightened because of the controversy," Wall said, adding that "they want it to look like the children are coming into light."

* the principal denies both that there were a lot of complaints about it and that the lightening had anything to do with race.

I don't need Wonkette to tell me shit. The story's right there in the Arizona Republic.

Unless you think it's just a coincidence that after a politician railed against the terribly controversial and rabble-rousing act of putting pictures of actual black or hispanic children on the school they go to, the artists chose to make up stories about having racist slurs yelled at them constantly, and by sheer bad luck all of this happened at the exact moment that the principal decided for reasons that have nothing to do with any of this, to ask for the faces to be lightened...

I guess that could be how that shit went down. Let's not all jump to craaaazy conclusions here like Wonkette did, and think these events are somehow CONNECTED IN ANY WAY. Who would think that if they weren't led to by that far left wacko blog?
posted by edheil at 8:57 PM on June 4, 2010 [28 favorites]


From another angle: consider that this school is claimed to be highly integrated, with many, many non-white students. These teachers work with black and Hispanic students every day. And the principal probably knows the actual kids on the mural personally.

I guess I just think better of educators than that, and I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. If he actually asked for the faces to be replaced, or for the dark kids to be made "less ethnic", that's indefensible. But, so far, only Wonkette is claiming anything of the sort. But if he asked for all the faces to be highlighted better, I don't see it as a problem.

The fact that there's a councilman who's racist as hell, or that there's a lot of racism in that community, has no bearing on the principal himself. Remember, he chose to work in an integrated school to begin with.

I have trouble imagining any principal hating kids under his supervision that much, so I'll stick with the 'misunderstanding' explanation, barring further evidence. Anyone who spends his or her working life teaching kids deserves that much, I think.

In exchange, the reaction if we do find actual evidence of racism should be savage.
posted by Malor at 9:05 PM on June 4, 2010


Man, electing Obama was like turning over the slimy, stinking rocks of racism in America. People have lost their tiny racist fucking minds. My friend here in Texas works in car repair; he says every day, some customer responds to his "How's it goin?" with "It'd be better if we could get rid or this President," or even the other day "It'd be a lot better if this President would let me have a job again!" And you know that just before they got out of their car, they were nodding along to some radio asshole blaming Obama for every sin of humanity from the Garden of Eden onward.

And now we're heading into summer, when the crazy always comes to its fullest boil. Maybe that's why AZ is out there in front, because it's so fucking hot everyone's brains are already pre-cooked.
posted by emjaybee at 9:10 PM on June 4, 2010 [20 favorites]


I'd be willing to consider that the principal has a genuine artistic point, and is just being clueless in jumping into the middle of the controversy. It'd be nice to hear a better explanation of what he thinks is off about the picture, and if there's any precedent for requesting tweaks to public artworks in Prescott for artistic reasons. But almost any criticism is going to be awwn as a rationale for caving to the racist critics, which is reason enough to leave it be, flawed or no. The only sufficient justification I can see is if the shading isn't a decent match for the schoolkids they used as models. Since as availablelight points out, you can't deny the reality of who your student body is.

Though if they were to change anything, how about giving that one kid some eyes? Those empty sockets are kind of creeping me out
posted by serathen at 9:19 PM on June 4, 2010


Is this boy holding a paint brush in his left hand, and is that a white line he just panted in the painting? Also, description of the artists, The Mural Mice (Google cache of prescottmurals.com which is down due to bandwith exceedment).
posted by christopherious at 9:26 PM on June 4, 2010


Kind of ironic how much Americans are bitching about foreigners coming across the borders uninvited.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:29 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Steve Blair no longer has a radio show Fired!
posted by atomicmedia at 9:30 PM on June 4, 2010


We've reached the point where they are afraid of pictures of children.

I mean, what, are you afraid the mural is reaching for a hidden gun or something?
posted by yeloson at 9:42 PM on June 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Daily Courier editorial quotes Blair: "I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever people start talking about diversity, it's a word I can't stand."

Yeah, "diversity" this, "diversity" that, "diversity" everyfuckingwhere. Oh, the horror. Every utterance must rip the bleeding scabs right off his tender eardrums and leave raw wounds gaping afresh.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:55 PM on June 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


Racist people act racist. Mural at 11 (on a brightness scale of 1 to 10.)
posted by davejay at 10:00 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever people start talking about diversity, it's a word I can't stand."

"I'm not racist, I just wish there wasn't so much diversity."
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:01 PM on June 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


"I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever people start talking about diversity, it's a word I can't stand."

I can only assume this means that, to some people, "racist" is an entirely vacuous term of abuse and recrimination, not referring to anything in real life; it's just a nasty name we liberals throw around to make them feel bad. What a strange world these people live in.
posted by clockzero at 10:24 PM on June 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


Racism... right here in Arizona. I just can't believe it.

I wish I had a better joke to make about this, but I see all the good ones have been copy&pasted over here from 4chan/Fark/SA already; and looks like the "lol Wonkette" skepticism has already run its 6-comment course so welp.

(Seriously though, this is messed up even for Arizona)
posted by hamida2242 at 10:59 PM on June 4, 2010


"I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever people start talking about diversity, it's a word I can't stand."

sounds like one of those folks who wonders "why is there no white history month"
posted by hamida2242 at 11:01 PM on June 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I hear that the Black Plague significantly increased the standard of living, thought the magic of inheritance. When nineteen out of twenty of your kin die, and you're left holding everything, life is sweet. We will all be much further ahead, financially and socially, when these old racist bastards die. It simply can not happen soon enough.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:14 PM on June 4, 2010


We will all be much further ahead, financially and socially, when these old racist bastards die. It simply can not happen soon enough.

I have come to the conclusion that generations have been saying this for decades, if not centuries. The problem is, these fuckers have children. And they raise them the same way. And you end up with new racists to take their place.

But maybe, with any luck, I'll be proven wrong.
posted by CommonSense at 11:19 PM on June 4, 2010


I wrote the Wonkette post being questioned here, and I've been editing Wonkette for four years now. It's not often I write a dead serious post on Wonkette because our readers and commenters want some comedy with the grim news.

I couldn't make this story funny and I said so in the lede. Can't even imagine what it's like for those little kids at a K-5 school, seeing their own faces literally whitewashed on a mural that was created by local artists and funded by parents and people in the neighborhood. I've got little kids of my own, and I live in a small Southwestern town, and this is the kind of shit that gives me nightmares.

As for Arizona, I know it pretty well. Went to middle school there, my dad grew up there, his dad moved there in the 1940s. The first national magazine story I ever did was on the Ev Mecham recall, and the Southwestern deserts are my favorite place on the planet, and where I still live today. And the cruel, dumb white trash who ended up out here, they just make me nauseous. (And yeah, I'm well aware that this isn't just happening in Arizona, it's throughout the country, wherever angry nervous people who can't find a new job or fear losing their hold on the American Dream need a scapegoat. It's bad and getting worse.)

A school principal at the most diverse K-5 in town ordered the faces of his own students pictured on a mural on the exterior walls lightened, after a city councilman and talk-radio asshole encouraged the rabble to demand the destruction of the mural -- paid for with donations by the kids' parents, and people in the neighborhood -- because it featured a black kid who went to the school. (And, it turns out, the black kid was not the biggest face on the mural. It was a Latino kid. But same difference, right, when you're demanding that non-white people in your town be kept out of sight, lest they cause racial controversy.)
posted by kenlayne at 11:58 PM on June 4, 2010 [57 favorites]


This councildouches words echo anyone from my (northeastern) home region to a T (including, yes, most of my beloved family members). If you don't see this shit as a pretty mainstream viewpoint in white America, you either don't know many white people, or you live a blessedly sheltered life.

This is why I don't put much stock in the gay attitudes survey linked above. People know what they "should" say on a survey, which I suppose is progress in some sense. The proof is in the 0-for-double-digits when it comes to gay marriage referrenda.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:41 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sing it with me, "They're not all bigots, just 50%..."
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:07 AM on June 5, 2010


I recently saw a scene in a movie about high school where the principal admonishes a student for standing up for himself, saying (more of less) that the way to handle bullies is to stop doing whatever was pissing them off in the hopes that they'll go away."

That, of course, was satire.
posted by bpm140 at 1:47 AM on June 5, 2010


From a recent audio interview with Steve Blair, the city councilman:
Some guy called me and says, "Doesn't that look like a big ol' black guy in the middle of that picture?"

And I said, "It does... maybe it has something to do with the guy that's in the White House?"

Whether you like it or not, he's our president, and he is black. There's nothing racism about what I just said. It's a statement, and it's a fact. But everybody wants to paint you as being some kind of crook.
At least the fuckery seems largely isolated to him (and that equivocating wimp of a principal). For instance, the city's promotional Twitter account is firing on all cylinders to denounce the guy and dissociate him from the town.

Also, Ken Layne? You are one classy dude, and it's awesome to learn that you're a longtime member. I can't believe I hadn't noticed until now! Keep up the fine work.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:23 AM on June 5, 2010


Press 1 for caucasian, press 2 for tan, press 3 for bronze, press 4 for copper, press 5 for brown, press 6 for black, press 7 for You're sick of labels and ignorance

Press 1 for me, press 2 for my family, press 3 for my tribe, press 4 for my village, press 5 for my state, press 6 for my race, press 7 for Who cares we're all human beings
posted by loosemouth at 4:13 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


loosemouth: "Press 1 for caucasian, press 2 for tan, press 3 for bronze, press 4 for copper, press 5 for brown, press 6 for black, press 7 for You're sick of labels and ignorance

Press 1 for me, press 2 for my family, press 3 for my tribe, press 4 for my village, press 5 for my state, press 6 for my race, press 7 for Who cares we're all human beings
"

Who cares? People of color who have to live in the real world, here and now. In the United States, attempting to affirm the humanity of people of color by pretending they have no color is not a sign that you've moved beyond race.

Seriously. I am white. I have never had anyone who was not white say to me, "When I look at you, Shawn, I don't see a white person. I just see a person."
posted by ShawnStruck at 5:37 AM on June 5, 2010 [17 favorites]


As an aside, I like the mural. It's kind of a retro art nouveau style. I'd like to make fun of Arizona at this point in the post, but really, AZ has been doing enough of that lately on its own without the need of further help.
posted by Atreides at 6:20 AM on June 5, 2010


Steve Blair's been fired from his local talk radio show.
posted by EarBucket at 7:40 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


hamida2242:
"sounds like one of those folks who wonders "why is there no white history month""

My wife's history teacher in high school fielded that question thusly:
"There's an organization here in the USA that's been looking out for the interests of white people for the last 200 years. It's called the United States Congress."
posted by notsnot at 7:40 AM on June 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Note that nobody but Wonkette is claiming that, as far as I can see.

The city's official Twitter feed links to the Facebook page for an anti-racism rally in front of the mural today. That suggests to me that the city of Prescott, at least, feels there's a racist motive behind lightening the faces.

(Also, see this editorial in Prescott's Daily Courier.)
posted by EarBucket at 7:46 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


> "I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever people start talking about diversity, it's a word I can't stand."

"When I hear the word culture, I release the safety on my Browning!"

/Godwin
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:15 AM on June 5, 2010



I can see where the Principal is coming from. He's basically powerless in the face of any serious controversy, and if the stink gets big enough it could cost him his career.

Look, back in 2001 the Madison, WI school board voted to allow schools to begin their day with either the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem, as allowed for by state law (the principal would decide which). Further they provided that any child who did not want to participate could not be compelled to.

What was Fox News's take on this : Madison schools ban the Pledge of Allegiance.

It wasn't accurate or true - I know because my son was attending Lapham elementary school at the time. But it created huge tempest in a teapot.

So yeah, I feel bad for Mr. Principal man, because he's gonna be caught in the middle of a shitstorm and he will be held to account no matter what he chooses to do or what the outcome is.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:31 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


It won't be long before Fark adds an ARIZONA tag to compete with its FLORIDA one.
posted by ericb at 8:56 AM on June 5, 2010


Racist Madlib #212:

"I'm not racist, but (things that racists do/say/feel)"

Let's play!

"I'm not racist, but I can't stand the word diversity!"
"I'm not racist, but why are THOSE people taking OUR jobs?"
"I'm not racist, but I wouldn't want to date one of them."
"I'm not racist, but I think the only proper way to deal with one when they're uppity is to get the neighborhood together, string'em up, make an example, and give their fingers to your children to remember it by."

Clearly, never has a racist existed, nor will one ever exist. It's a false theory, like aether, bodily humors and evolution.
posted by yeloson at 9:42 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Steve Blair:
"I am not a racist individual, but I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who’s president of the United States today and based upon the history of this community when I grew up, we had four black families — who I have been very good friends with for years — to depict the biggest picture on that building as a black person, I would have to ask the question, 'Why?'... The focus doesn’t need to be on what’s different; the focus doesn’t need to be on the minority all the time. ... What these people don’t like is somebody forcing diversity down their throats. ... Art is in the eye of the beholder, but I say (the Miller Valley mural) looks like graffiti in L.A. ... I don’t see anything that ties the community into that mural"
Jesus Fucking Christ...what a asshole!
posted by ericb at 9:54 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pogo_fuzzybut, if you are in a position in which you are "damned if you do and damned if you don't," why not choose to be damned because you opposed the racists instead of enabling them?
posted by oddman at 9:56 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


What these people don’t like is somebody forcing diversity down their throats.

Republicans sure do love talking about people forcing things down their throats.
posted by EarBucket at 9:58 AM on June 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


What these people don’t like is somebody forcing diversity down their throats

What bothers me about this right wing radio meme of anything they don't like being "forced down their throats" is that no one is forcing him to do anything but accept that it exists. No one is telling Steve Blair he must look at this mural, or take pictures of it, or salute it, or pay for it. That it merely exists isn't forcing it down his throat.

What really bothers him is that non-whites exist in the community and are represented in a piece of public art, and that's why he's a racist, whether he's nice to one of the four black families in town when he grew up or not.
posted by MegoSteve at 11:24 AM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd say "Stay classy, Arizona", but it's far too late for that.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2010


Some additional context:
Until recently, downtown Prescott, AZ had two large banners encouraging people to participate in the 2010 Census—one in English and the other in Spanish. However, the Spanish-language banner has been taken down “after at least four dozen citizens and two city council members questioned its appropriateness”:
City of Prescott Executive Assistant Patty Crouse said she also fielded five or 10 calls from people angry about seeing a banner in Spanish near the entrance to the city.

[Council member John] Hanna said he personally didn’t like the sign, either.

“If you’re here in the U.S. and can’t speak English, you need to go home,” Hanna said, especially people who are here illegally. “If you’re counting them…you’re saying you’ll do whatever you can to cater to their needs.” [...]

When The Daily Courier asked about why he was concerned about visitors seeing a sign in Spanish, [Council member Steve] Blair explained, “It would seem like we’re a Spanish community rather than an English community,” and most visitors are not Hispanic.
posted by kipmanley at 11:42 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's separate the ordinary people of Prescott from their municipal and state poobahs, and see what happens. Boiling it down to getting along with the neighbours of all unlightened colours is what a democracy is about in the end. Prescotters will survive while, one hopes, their local Tsars will develop severe constipation owing to chronic rage, and resign to run for congress, senate, water-meter reader...?
posted by drogien at 12:12 PM on June 5, 2010



Pogo_fuzzybut, if you are in a position in which you are "damned if you do and damned if you don't," why not choose to be damned because you opposed the racists instead of enabling them?


Dude's gotta put food on the table. It's all well and good to be all "fight the man" and shit, but at the end of the day he has a family and a career to look after.

What I'm trying to say is that this guy probably didn't go into being an educator so he could mediate between right-wing racist jackholes and the rest of the community. Sure, to a certain extent it comes with the job. But this ?

This is Global Thermonuclear War for Principals. The only winning move is not to play.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:18 PM on June 5, 2010


Steve Blair was fired from this radio station:
"KYCA began the transition to full-time news-talk radio with the premiere of The Rush Limbaugh Show in 1988 (KYCA was one of the original affiliates of Rush's show) and The Dr. Dean Edell Show a few years later. Both programs remain on KYCA to this day, along with a talk lineup which includes many of today's top rated talent, including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Jerry Doyle, Michael Savage and more."

That's the way the free market works, sometimes.
posted by iviken at 12:42 PM on June 5, 2010


Perhaps I'm being naive about US law, but how is it possible for people to be regularly driving past a school shouting racist slurs at children without the police getting involved?

I really don't mean to start a limits on free speech derail or anything - that detail just struck me as particularly vile, and, while shouting racist crap wouldn't necessarily get you arrested for incitement of racial hatred/public order offences in the UK, if I were on the receiving end of it I'd be taking license plate numbers and dialing 999.
posted by a little headband I put around my throat at 1:19 PM on June 5, 2010


I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination

People, people! He's not saying he isn't a racist; he's saying he isn't an imaginary racist.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:48 PM on June 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


But if he asked for all the faces to be highlighted better, I don't see it as a problem.

I've never heard of such a thing. What is he doing getting involved in public art to that degree anyway, if that is the case?
posted by krinklyfig at 2:20 PM on June 5, 2010


Perhaps I'm being naive about US law, but how is it possible for people to be regularly driving past a school shouting racist slurs at children without the police getting involved?

What would you have them do? I don't like it at all, but I'm not sure it's illegal.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:22 PM on June 5, 2010


arrested for incitement of racial hatred/public order offences in the UK

We do have hate crime laws, but nothing like that here. I honestly can't see anyone getting arrested over it, particularly since it's Arizona. Here in NM, we've known they're a bit off for some time now. Only problem is, the other side of us is Texas.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:25 PM on June 5, 2010


Man, I shouldn't necessarily feel embarrassed about this, I haven't lived in Prescott for like 20 years now, but I did kinda grow up there.

And then I got the hell out, more or less, more or less as soon as I could, just like all the half-way intelligent or cool people I knew, pretty much. Because as lovely as it is, and as much as the majority of people there are probably decent sorts, it's always had a disproportionate amount of backwards-ass redneck fucks.

I guess it doesn't surprise me that people would *think* this shit, but that they'd say so out loud, on the radio or shouted from their cars. At least it's resulted in some shaming on a national scale. I guess I can live with being half-proud an half-chagrined to be from there, if any of this results in said redneck fucks improving- well, maybe not their nasty little minds, but at least their behavior.

For fuck's sake.
posted by hap_hazard at 2:37 PM on June 5, 2010


When anyone says "I'm not a racist, but..." that's a signal flare right there.

Unfortunately, this nonsense always bubbles to the surface when things are tough economically and scary stuff is happening that's outside of our control. People are afraid, and that fear eventually manifests itself as rage against whoever they perceive as the "other". Heck, the entire conservative movement in this country is predicated on the very concept of fearing change, fearing the future. They promote this ideology that says everything is a zero-sum game, and if that person who doesn't look like you, doesn't speak like you and doesn't think like you is accepted and advances in society, then it will be to your own detriment. And when the social grenades they lob (through talk radio, blogs, whatever) eventually explode in a demonstration of abject stupidity like this, they protest that they're really just misunderstood. "I'm not a racist, but..."
posted by mstefan at 3:11 PM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


That is a beautiful mural and I'm VERY GLAD that it's at the center of this little controversy.

Now let me back this bus up a little bit. This form of mural painting goes way back to the history of the "Chicano Movement" here in the Southwest. Originally inspired by Mexican artists like Diego Rivera and Jose Orozco local artists would would paint such things in their neighborhoods to unite and inspire their neighbors. Inspire them to be proud of and remember their culture and inspire them to participate, run for various offices and VOTE LATINO!

Here are some examples done by some hometown heroes here in San Diego/Barrio Logan.

So hopefully, this mural in Prescott will do what it's supposed to. Inspire, unite and get folks to go vote!
posted by snsranch at 3:12 PM on June 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


“If you’re here in the U.S. and can’t speak English, you need to go home,” Hanna said, especially people who are here illegally. “If you’re counting them…you’re saying you’ll do whatever you can to cater to their needs.” [...]

This is just heartbreakingly offensive. Can we kick Arizona out of the US?
posted by swerve at 4:33 PM on June 5, 2010


I'm not a racist, but some of my relatives are.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:49 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, that Wonkette thread turned into a trainwreck.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:50 PM on June 5, 2010


Following this story on Googlenews led me to these Philadelphia murals that would probably give Blair heart palpitations.
posted by carping demon at 5:11 PM on June 5, 2010


On June 5th, 2010 in Prescott, AZ, Miller Valley Elementary School principal Jeff Lane and Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Kapp admit they made a mistake and apologize for their decision to lighten children's faces on the "Go Green" mural painted on the side of the school. Good on them.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:46 PM on June 5, 2010


You know what? There are racists where you live too. That doesn't mean your city, state or country is racist; it just means you have some assholes where you live.
posted by JV at 8:10 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lane said that he received only three complaints about the mural and that his request for a touch-up had nothing to do with political pressure.

Three complaints and you cave to political pressure, Mr.Principal? That isn't being a leader. That is being a limp dick in a suit.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:28 PM on June 5, 2010


I'd rather see a full-mural snapshot with some building context to get the overall lighting levels, preferably several at different times of the day.

Here are some good photos. Nos. 2 and 9 are shots of the full mural looking straight on.
posted by zippy at 11:05 PM on June 5, 2010


I read through the comments on the most recent article, and one of them was denouncing the mural as "leftist" because the organization promotes bike riding.

Arizona... you got problems.
posted by shii at 6:56 AM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Roger Ebert uses the mural to springboard his own reflections on race and race relations.
posted by hippybear at 10:59 AM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a citizen of Arizona, it gets a little tiring hearing people go on and on about "Arizona".

I do realize how fucking retarded all of this is. I don't support a lick of it. But I do live here. Am I proud of my state/local government(s) at the moment? No.

But please, blame them and don't blanket Arizona. Tucson has some happy, well-adjusted, very liberal people, for reference.
posted by Precision at 9:00 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is important that instead of rolling our eyes and groaning "Oh, fucking Arizona again," we instead groan about each specific household, to ensure that we are blaming exactly those specific people who voted for the knobs that are doing these things.

That way, those people who aren't racist douchebags in Arizona don't have to feel tired.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:20 AM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Texas: Texans are bombarding the governor's office with calls and letters to try to stop tax dollars from subsidizing a satirical film about a vengeful illegal immigrant. The coming film, a bloody action movie with a star-studded cast titled "Machete," could be eligible for more than $1.5 million of taxpayer subsidies under a program designed to encourage directors to shoot in Texas.

Texas just messed with the wrong Mexican.
posted by homunculus at 1:01 PM on June 8, 2010


I saw a headline the other day that claims oil companies get something on the order of 500 billion in tax breaks. Which is kinda boggling, given that they post massive profits every year. Not really seeing why they should get financial assistance...
posted by five fresh fish at 5:12 PM on June 8, 2010


I saw a headline the other day that claims oil companies get something on the order of 500 billion in tax breaks. Which is kinda boggling, given that they post massive profits every year. Not really seeing why they should get financial assistance...

They're not getting assistance, AFAIK; the "tax breaks" come from the fact that the corporations are based in other countries and therefore don't pay taxes in the US, despite making fucktons of money there.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:22 PM on June 8, 2010


Councilman loses job over mural gripe

A Prescott city councilman who publicly ridiculed a mural depicting minority students at a local elementary school has been fired from his radio talk-show job and now faces a recall campaign.

And the mural artists, who last week were ordered to lighten the features of the minority students, have been told to restore the original tone of the children's faces.

...

Blair admitted making a mistake by failing to investigate the purpose or meaning of the mural before speaking out. He complained that neither artists nor school officials took the initiative to educate him. "That might have helped clue me," he said. "They assumed because I asked the question (about the painting) that I was a racist and a bigot."

Lou Silverstein, owner of KYCA radio, confirmed Tuesday that he fired Blair from a six-year position because the talk-show host's words "could be interpreted as racist."

posted by Comrade_robot at 1:08 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm afraid I don't understand the "could" in that last sentence. "Must" seems more to me to be a much more appropriate word.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:09 PM on June 9, 2010


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