Friday, June 11, 2010

We have nothing to fear... well, except maybe fear.

Roger Ebert wrote a great post on the mural controversy down in AZ...   
(Photo courtesy of AP Photo/The Daily Courier, Matt Hinshaw)

The back story is that basically this mural (right) got painted on the side of a school.  It was a nice mural... the theme was "Go Green" and the goal was to promote "environmentally friendly transportation".  Four kids from the school were used as models for the figures depicted on the building.
Then, some City Councilman, a real winner of a human being named Steve Blair, complained that the brown looking kids in the mural didn't represent the community. Did I mention that four kids from the school were used as models for the figures depicted on the building? Yep. I did. But it's important enough to mention twice.

He had some things to say... like:

"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." Daily Courier 
"I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who's President of the United States today ..." Daily Courier

"To depict the biggest picture on the building as a Black person, I would have to ask the question: Why?"

"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." -

This councilman wasn't just a councilman, he had a day job as a DJ at KYCA (he's been fired over this...).  During his time on air he riled people up.  Did it work?

Well, the kids and the artists, painting it together, got to know if it worked...  "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)." (From the AZ Central story quoted above in the first line)

So, as I mentioned, Roger Ebert wrote a great piece... but it wasn't on the controversy per say. He wrote:

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.

(Take the time to read his whole post here...)

What Roger is writing about isn't the mural or the controversy itself, but the people driving by in the cars yelling stuff...

What I cannot imagine is what it would be like to be one of those people driving past in their cars day after day and screaming hateful things out of the window. How do you get to that place in your life? Were you raised as a racist, or become one on your own? ...  But what about the people in those cars? ... They don't think of the feelings of the kids on the mural. They don't like those kids in the school. It's not as if they have reasons. They simply hate. Why would they do that? What have they shut down inside? Why do they resent the rights of others? Our rights must come first before our fears. And our rights are their rights, whoever "they" are. 

(I really encourage you to read is whole piece.... it's great.)

So who are they? I suspect they are the same sort of people as these:

These fine folks just took part in a rally to support the AZ law SB 1070 (which I wrote about here).

What strikes me is their fear.
What I don't understand is, well... their fear.

Yes, there is crazy mixed in there as well, and crazy and fear can be deadly.   I recently spoke with a family member who tends to the right politically. I asked him if all the language about government take over, and socialists, and blatant racial undertones bothered him.  He said "No, it's all just talk."

Later I'll post something on language being more than "just talk."

In the meantime, I encourage you to try to do both, put yourself in the shoes of the kids at that elementary school and imagine what it is like to have very angry grown-ups yelling very ugly stuff at you.  And then try to put yourself in the shoes of the very angry adults.

Now - which side are you on?

(As an aside: I have to wonder how many of them are Christian?  And by that I mean, people who believe that we are all brothers and sisters...I'm sure there is a caveat in the bible for not having to love people who aren't like you... isn't there?)

No comments: