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'Gross Violation of Logic and Sense': Open Letter From Nearly 140 Scholars Implores SF School Board Not to Destroy Historic Mural

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/07/05/gross-violation-logic-and-sense-open-letter-nearly-140-scholars-implores-sf-school

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Here in the U.S., we don’t teach high school students how to balance a checking account; so, why should we expect to teach them to understand the historical significance of an old wall mural, depicting a few, clearly out of date, ill-dressed individuals?

So too, in pursuit of our government’s (permanent state’s) hegemonic aspirations, perpetuating the myth of American “exceptionalism” is far more important.

So, please, immediately whitewash at least the right hand portion of that section of wall; and, replace it with an overhead drone shot of one or more of the airports which Trump mentioned in his July 4th speech as having been captured, from the British, by our Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. That should place good old George W, with his finger pointing, in a proper context; since, of course, George obviously should be credited with such a victory. - Thanks so much.

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I agree with the signatories, but I think this has to be dealt with in the spirit of understanding the very real pain such depictions, shorn of context, can evoke in the descendants of the victims portrayed, and not as a confrontation between the “ignorant” and the “enlightened”.

“Educate, don’t eradicate” should be taken to include that sensitivity and respect.

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This is getting ridiculous.

Are the liberals going to next declare that Marxist Diego Rivera’s famous Detroit mural depicting the conditions in the automobile factories to actually be a celebration of capitalist worker enslavement??? (Actually not in this case - becasue liberal urban “professionals” are clueless as to the conditions of wage-earners - but whatever)

The racism erasure-ism of the liberals can be a bad as the overt racism and racism-denialism of the neofascist right.

Let a mural depicting the brutal racist genocidal past, and present, of the USA stand! Add a sign explaining the meaning of the mural if necessary…

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Your last two sentences says it all for me. Is removal a whitewash of reality? In another context people would protest its removal as such. I can understand that this is a high school and not a college so it must be hard for a younger person to deal with some of this.How would a Jewish kid feel walking by a mural depicting Hitler etc. everyday at school? I look at the mural and am embarrassed to be white but I still thinks its meaning needs to be understood (your last sentences)

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Government murder of civilians and minorities isn’t new

Get rid of that mural only if you replace it with the modern version:
US drones bombing and killing school children and hospitals in Yemen, Iraq, Libya, etc
Or police murdering unarmed Blacks in California, Illinois Georgia or pick your state

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You will still have destroyed a work of art.

Paint another mural on another wall.

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When does the book burning start?

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As I wrote in the first CD revelation of this myopic destructive idiot nonsense: -

We cannot destroy art to repair or change the past - likewise book-burning does not eradicate an idea. Ideas we oppose from history can be used by people of wisdom and conscience to teach about what the past has done and its reverberations in the present. Destroy art, or a statue, and make it, and the thoughts we oppose, a martyr, Instead use it to expose hatred, tyranny, oligarchy or slavery, and contrast history with love and empathy and we make progress, not martyrs, or elevate racists and /or neo-nazis!

We must elevate and educate the people!

The words of Tony Mckay, of Exuma fame, a gifted and profound songwriter and musical legend in the Junkanoo spirit speak about such history and how it helps shape a nation or people - and how we may smash its destructive influence. Tony’s Fire in the Hole , tells the truth of such influence…learning about the past, not hiding or repressing it is sorely needed. Fire should be one of our revolutions anthems!

"Yesterday I saw God
Walking and talking with the milkman
Last week I saw the devil
Walking hand in hand with the president"

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Oops! - on edit…

agree actually. I think we shouldn’t hide or “White Out” our racist history. They should leave it right where it is and use it as a teaching tool

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Exactly. Since when did high school students become so immature that this level of art is above their heads?

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any excuse to rewrite history

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To be closer to being analogous, it would have to be a mural on a high school wall in Germany, with some soldiers and a dead Jew or mass grave added to the painting.

But, then, it still would not be analogous; because, Hitler to Germans is not quite the same as George Washington to Americans.

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I believe you are correct.

They teach the kids in Germany about Nazis and the Holocaust in an attempt to never let it happen again.

on edit: …but we don’t teach it here any ore

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As far as I can see, this mural offers zero depiction of the actual history of resistance or how Indigenous peoples actually survived–those who did–the California Mission genocide and Gold Rush genocide (I know it is only the latter genocide whose time period is referenced in the mural). These parts of the story–the many stories of resistance and survival–are critical, and when they are left out, the story being told on the walls is not simply “truth,” period, but a particular slice of the whole picture. What is being left out may be essential for an adolescent not to be blinded to; what is being shown may be–and in fact is, if we are to actually listen to what some educators and students are telling us–quite hurtful to walk past day in day out, not in the context of a lesson given for a time and then let go so it is not constantly imposed into one’s mental-emotional environment.

A high school is not the same as a museum. A high school environment must be a place that does not feel oppressive or depressing or disrespectful to students. Progressives should understand that making an adolescent Native American see a dead Indigenous corpse, perpetually not properly buried, possibly not even attired in any way that would be realistic for an Indigenous Californian at the time, perpetually depicted only in the moment following murder, right above their locker for four years could very well be asking too much of this kid. These are children, let us remember, and they are by law compelled to go to school (or homeschool, if they have the wherewithal and desire to do that). We shouldn’t make it compulsory for them also to find themselves in an unnecessarily stressful environment so as to hold reverence for a historic mural (even a counter-nationalist one) above all other educational values and imperatives.

From what I know at this point, I support covering or removing the mural, not destroying it. As a teacher of psychiatric hospitalized adolescents, I know a little about how adolescents who have experienced trauma can be triggered by images, sounds, words, and gestures; these adolescents are in all our schools. In the classroom, in the context of learning among peers and with professional educators, there are powerful ways to help these adolescents yet thrive in school–and without shying away from addressing critical questions about violence, imperialism, and even genocide–as well as resistance, survival, and thriving in this world despite all its injustice and suffering. But some things can cross a line, and not be appropriate to subject all students to, day in and day out, as something they must encounter again and again, in the same static form, in order to just attend their school.

Even adolescents who have not been traumatized do deserve a voice about their educational environment. What do they have to say about this? If they are smart enough to understand the value of artistic freedom (they are), don’t you think they are also smart enough to face all the difficult ramifications of this this difficult question of the anti-nationalist-yet-problematic historic mural confronting them every day on their way to class?

Who knows, maybe the whole school and community has already engaged in a whole lot of deep discussion about this issue… but we’re not hearing about that here. I intend to find out more.

But I wanted to share my first take here, as this discussion has become nearly 100% about how horrible and crazy is this decision by the SF school board (democratically elected and accountable, so acting not with zero sense of the community’s wishes, I presume).

“Who knows, maybe the whole school and community has already engaged in a whole lot of deep discussion about this issue… but we’re not hearing about that here. I intend to find out more.”

Yes, finding out more is wise, imo.

Otherwise, presumptions about the mural’s impact on students - and resulting calls to cover or destroy it - are simply ignorant.

Unless you take the view that “what some educators and students are telling us” self-evidently speaks for the experience of the student community. Vs. spokespersons’ paternalistic agenda.

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Is it Liberals who are creating the problem, or is that just your take?

Okay, as a native american I find this really disturbing. First, the mural depicts an accurate account of history.
So people just want to pretend it never happened? My grandfather taught me to never forget. What’s next? Shall we become a nation like Stalin’s and Hitler’s where the government desides what we read or see? Do we start burning all the artwork and books as well ? There was a movie called equalibrium… I suggest you all watch it… it’s a good example of where this country’s headed. Shame on all you calling for this mural to be destroyed.

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When the Klan runs the show, they are entitle to re-write history.
White lies never hurt anyone