Last week Jen linked to the story about a mural that had been painted on a school building in Prescott, Arizona, that featured portraits of some of the white, black, and hispanic students who attend the racially diverse school. After local bigots conducted a campaign of racist harassment directed at the school, the artist, and the children depicted in the mural, the school's principal ordered the artists to come back and paint over the faces of the black and hispanic students, to "lighten" them, to appease the racist mob. Wonkette found the incident so distressing that they dropped the snark:
The children depicted on the mural, as we mentioned before but feel compelled to repeat, are little kids who go to the school—“a K-5 school with 380 students and the highest ethnic mix of any school in Prescott. Wall said thousands of town residents volunteered or donated to the project.” And these children, for the past several months as this happy mural encouraging “green transportation” was being painted by local artists, have been treated to the city of Prescott’s finest citizens driving by and yelling “Nigger” and “Spic” at this school wall painted with pictures of the children who attend the school. And this has been encouraged by a city councilman, Steve Blair, who uses his local radio talk show to rile up these people and demand the mural be destroyed.
And now the faces are being painted white, “because of the controversy.”
Remember where you were, when you could still laugh about teabaggers and racists and Arizonans, because funny time is almost over. If the unemployment keeps up—one in five adult white males has no job and will never have a job again—and people keep walking away from their stucco heaps they can’t afford and the states and cities and counties and towns keep passing their aggressive racist laws to rile up the trash even more, shit’s going to very soon become very bad, and whether it’s the National Guard having wars in the Sunbelt Exurbs against armies of crazy old white people who are finally using their hundreds of millions of guns, or whole Latino neighborhoods burned to the ground the way the Klan used to burn down black neighborhoods a century ago, we are in for a long dark night and no light-colored paint is going to fix that.
After the controversy became national news the school asked the artists to come back and re-re-paint the faces on the mural, to darken them. Now Roger Ebert has weighed in with an absolutely beautiful essay that begins with him imagining himself in the shoes of the black and hispanic kids at the school:
How would I feel if I were a brown student at Miller Valley Elementary School in Prescott, Arizona? A mural was created to depict some of the actual students in the school. Let's say I was one of the lucky ones. The mural took shape, and as my face became recognizable, I took some kidding from my classmates and a smile from a pretty girl I liked. My parents even came over one day to have a look and take some photos to e-mail to the family. The mural was shown on TV, and everybody could see that it was me.
Then a City Councilman named Steve Blair went on his local radio talk show and made some comments about the mural. I didn't hear him, but I can guess what he said. My dad says it's open season on brown people in this state. Anyway, for two months white people drove past in their cars and screamed angry words out the window before hurrying away. And the artists got back up on their scaffold and started making my face whiter.
We went over to my grandparent's house, and my grandmother cried and told me, "I prayed that was ending in my lifetime." Then there was more news: The City Councilman was fired from his radio show, the Superintendent of Schools climbed up on the scaffold with a bullhorn and apologized for the bad decision, and I guess the artists went back up and started making my skin darker again, but I didn't go to see, because I never wanted to go near that bullshit mural again.
Ebert ends the essay by imagining—actually, just go read it.