Friday, June 04, 2010

Public Depiction Of Negro A Little Too Edgy For Prescott, Arizona

(Matt Hinshaw/The [Prescott] Daily Courier)

This is a depressing story, and its resolution is even more so. A group of artists in Prescott, AZ, likes to put murals on every available surface, which is cute, and they recently unveiled a new one at an elementary school. In the center of one part of the artwork is an African American child. Uh oh:

[Mural project director R.E. Wall] attributes the start of the racial controversy to recent comments that Prescott City Councilman Steve Blair made on his KYCA radio talk show about the mural.

On his May 21 show, for instance, Blair said, "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?'"

On Wednesday, Blair again emphasized that "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."

Blair questions whether the mural is representative of Prescott, noting, "The focus doesn't need to be on what's different; the focus doesn't need to be on the minority all the time."

Blair said he has received a number of calls from long-time Prescott residents who ask, "Who authorized that graffiti on the wall?" He added: "What these people don't like is somebody forcing diversity down their throats."

Yes, well, clearly this is not a racist person. He just dislikes the concept of "diversity."

What came next is astonishing: school officials asked for changes to the mural, coming up with a... whitewashed... reason for why the children's faces should be lightened, not so that they looked less "ethnic," but so that they looked more "radiant and happy."

And then the muralists went ahead and did it! Now, as you can see above, the child basically looks like an Italian with a buzz-cut. Diversity!

There's a lot more in the must-read article linked above which will sadden and  infuriate you. Even more depressing are some of the comments left about the paper's earlier article about the mural's unveiling (note that they are just as offended by "environmentalism" as they are by "diversity"):

  • The subject matter "green bikes" is virtually the most NON-REPRESENTATIVE, UN-PRESCOTT theme anyone could possibly choose. It is a minority agenda bent on shoving this bike thing "in our face".
  • I went to Miller Valley School back in the '50s and this, IMHO, is a disgrace. In San Diego there is an area called Chicano Park and it looks just like this. Welcome to Calizona. Ugh!
  • Welcome to the ghetto intersection of Prescott, Az.
  • Now that "Mother Earth" has once again been shoved down children's throats how about it being time for someone to paint the Ten Commandments on some of these brick walls? Bring our Creator back to class in the form of art so our kids can have a choice as to what/ whom they desire to worship -the creation or the Creator?!?
  • How's you and me searching out a school building and paint the 10 Commandments? Showing kids the story of creation. They can decide what's truth and what belongs in a zoo.


**Remember when I recently wrote about comments which begin with "I don't mean this in a racist way, but..."?

UPDATE: There's a very nice follow-up/resolution here


John said...

Reading this article, just after reading about wildlife destruction from the oil spill, makes me wonder if human extinction might be a good thing.

Madduane said...

One of my favorite things about the movie Orgasmo is how Matt Stone's character starts just about every sentence with "I'm not gay or anything, but..." This strikes me as a bit less hilarious.

cranberryzero said...

This is sad, but reminds me of some similar bullshit I had to deal with years ago when I worked for the sinclair institute, a stuffier branch of adam & eve (the dildo and porn people).

anyway, on our main product site, we rotated headers every week and every week had a different, happy smiling couple. about a couple months into working there, i asked around as to where the photos of the non-white people were. i ended up having to pull them from a disc deep in the basement.. took probably an hour of sleuthing to find it.

Anyway, so i finally find where they've hidden the few photos of non-white faces and i put up a header that week of a beautiful black couple and within minutes of it going live, my boss runs downstairs to tell me-- with his face all red and trying to search for the right words, the diplomatic way to say it-- "Um, I think it's... interesting... what you've done with the site header this week. But uh... it looks a little... dark."

"Like the color scheme?" I had purposely used a light and bright color scheme that week both for summer and to offset the darker skin tones.

"Er, well, I can't quite put my finger on it... but I just don't think that we want it to look so... dark."

After about 15 minutes of trying to force him to say it, and realizing that he was doing everything in his power not to say it, he finally just yelled at me to "just change it". And I knew what he meant-- I put the white people back up and he sent me an IM.. "perfect!"

I even tried about a month or two later to but another black couple up, one with lighter skin just to test him... same thing again. Sort of shocking in this day and age.

Anonymous said...


j in Prescott

Anonymous said...

I just love that “so our kids can have a choice” comment. They really are deluding themselves, aren’t they?

Professor Chaos said...

No one has ever started a sentence "I'm not a racist. . ." who was not, in fact, a racist.
And I'm not a racist, I just hate diversity? That's like saying "I'm not a vegetarian, I just don't eat meat." Or "I'm not an actor, I just play one on TV."

Jason Zenobia said...

I'm not a moron but...

They love to preface their bigotry with such a tepid asterisk.

I'm not racist* but I'm afraid that dark-skinned man over there is going to steal my wallet and rape my wife.

*...thank God I'm not a racist though!

I just can't figure out who the asterisk is for?

desertwind said...

Now he looks Indonesian!

Or, at least. his facial structure reminds me a bit of that statue commemorating childhood Obama put up in that park in Jakharta.

Coincidence? I hope not.

Sarah said...

This story is spreading all over the place. For instance, note this entry on "White Reference" -

Arizona is a pit.

Matty Boy said...

I'm not gay and neither are the good people of Prescott, but don't you love the constant right-wing use of the interchangeable phrases "shoving [whatever thing] in our faces" or "forcing [the item in question] down our throats"?

I'm sure there's nothing intentional, because that would be gay, and as I said before, obviously not gay. This is obviously about the colored and the tree huggers. I shouldn't have even brought up the hairdressers, since they aren't part of this discussion at all.


Bartman said...

Did Michael Jackson ever spend too much time in Prescott? What about Sammy Sosa?

Peteykins said...

I'm pleased that, after a slow start, just about every major blog has picked up this story. I don't, however, recommend visiting the "white power" site posted by Sarah above.

Anonymous said...


Steve Blair was 'removed' from his radio station for good today.

Lots of sad callers worried that "....a man can't speak his piece anymore in Obama's America".

Saturday I'm looking forward to the protest/counter-protest in front of the mural.

Council meeting is this Tuesday.

Once again, thanks.-j in prescott

Aunt Snow said...

I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who's president of the United States depict the biggest picture on that building as a black person, I would have to ask the question, 'Why?'"

What exactly does he mean by invoking the president, do you think? It's offensive enough to have someone asking why put a black person in a picture (why? oh, I don't know, because there may happen to be black students in the school?) but I'm interested in hearing the logical train of thought involving the president. Is he saying that it's offensive to have an image that might remind people of the President of the United States?

This whole story is disgusting and sad.

Anonymous said...

Jon said...

What's with these "I am not a racist" people? I am not a panda bear. Not only that, I never have to bring up that subject. It goes without saying that I am not a panda bear. The "I am not a" racists are constantly bringing up the fact that they are "not" something that they look and act exactly like.

Anonymous said...

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.