Another issue a bit out of the normal Blogging Blue world…but this is a little bit disturbing to me as an artist and a political activist.

Here’s the full article and here’s a bit of background:

The 1,600-square-foot mural series titled “Life of Washington” was painted on San Francisco’s George Washington High School in 1936 by a Russian-American artist and Stanford University art professor Victor Arnautoff.

The 1,600-square-foot mural series titled “Life of Washington” was painted on San Francisco’s George Washington High School in 1936 by a Russian-American artist and Stanford University art professor Victor Arnautoff.

T he San Francisco Board of Education unanimously voted last month in favor of painting over a George Washington mural series on a school wall depicting Washington standing over a Native American’s corpse and another in the company of slaves on his Mount Vernon estate.

School district spokeswoman Laura Dudnick confirmed that although only two mural pieces stand out as offensive to members of the community, the board’s decision would apply to all 13 panels of the mural. 

First…I generally have an issue with destroying the murals and paintings created as part of the WPA (Works Progress Administration). They are often significant works by significant artists and have a historic as well as esthetic value in the American cultural landscape. I’d lean toward preserving them whenever and wherever possible.

But San Francisco has an issue with them…if you read the quote above…George Washington is shown with a dead Native American and in the company of slaves. These would be historically accurate depictions of Washington’s life…since he presided over the portions of the American genocide of our Native Peoples and he was a slave owner.

School board members had to decide whether to cover and preserve the painting using panels or textile, or completely erase it by painting over it. Buckling under pressure from those who find the images offensive to certain members of the school community, the board decided to paint over it. 

During a public comment portion of the June 25 meeting, Paloma Flores, program coordinator for the district’s Indian Education Program, said, per KQED, “It’s not a matter of offense, it’s a matter of the right to learn without a hostile environment.”


“Intent does not negate lived experience,” she added.

According to KQED, mural critics in the community “believe the artist’s intentions are irrelevant in light of the harm to young people of color daily confronted by images of their ancestors debased.”

Being an old white man, I can never fully appreciate the hurt this may cause people of color who view this on a continuing basis. But these paintings depict true events from George Washington’s life. And it can’t possibly compare to the hurt and harassment that they certainly face on a daily basis in their lives. Just look to the current vitriol and racism coming out of the White House.

One of my concerns is the erasure of history. This little bit of political correctness will remove one in your face proof that our Founder Fathers weren’t the great humanitarians we currently pretend they are. We will simply be whitewashing American History…and distorting our depiction of the Founding Fathers…again!

Jarrett Stepman of The Daily Signal wrote about the removal of the mural, citing a historian’s account of Arnautoff, “a man of the left in his own time,” and his intention of making Washington “less glamorized” by painting images of the slaves he owned or the price paid with Native Americans’ blood during westward expansion.

Do you know who will actually feel better when this mural is destroyed? All those white folks who day after day have to face the complicity of their ancestors in murdering millions of indigenous peoples and enslaving millions of others. And subjecting them to the role of second class citizens to this very day. We need to remember that America was built by white people on the backs of black people at the expense of the very lives of native peoples. White people need to accept this.

Keep the murals…white people need to see them.

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