The San Francisco school board voted this week to cover a George Washington mural at a local high school that depicts images of slavery and the death of a Native American.
The 13-panel mural is called “Life of Washington” and though it will be preserved, it will be covered by panels that show “the heroism of people of color in America, how we have fought against, and continue to battle discrimination, racism, hatred, and poverty.”
The school board voted 4-3 on the issue and the board president suggested the new panels.
The board previously voted in June to paint over the mural.
“I brought it back so if you’re upset with somebody, you can be upset with me,” school board president Steve Cooke said of the new plan.
“I think we all agree that the murals depicts a history of the country that is hard to see and everyone agrees that that history is racist,” Cook said to KPIX. “I think where we disagree is if it’s appropriate for a school site.”
“Lethal Weapon” actor and political activist Danny Glover, who is a San Francisco native, had previously spoken to the press about the issue and he actually wanted the mural to remain up, saying art is meant to make people “uncomfortable” sometimes.
“You have to feel uncomfortable to sense what the past is and how the past is connected to the future, the present and the future,” the actor said.
Actor Danny Glover talking about the positive aspects of “feeling uncomfortable”
Glover is a George Washington High grad who believes the 1936 murals need to be preserved even if they make some students uncomfortable. pic.twitter.com/IfR6yljHBR
— Mark Matthews (@MarkMatthewsNBC) August 13, 2019
In a public statement, the actor compared covering up or removing the mural to “book burning.”
“To destroy them or block them from view would be akin to book burning,” he said. “We would be missing the opportunity for enhanced historic introspection this moment has provided us.”
“It is a racist mural,” Virginia Marshall, who’s with the Alliance of Black School Educators, told KTVU about the mural. “My history should not be racist but it is. I came from slaves.”
The mural itself is a complicated matter. It was painted in 1935 and 1936 by Russian immigrant Victor Arnautoff and the whole point of the 1,600-square work was to criticize Washington’s legacy.
Critics of the mural have blasted it as racist and said it is inappropriate for students to see.
“The murals never bothered me,” one student said about the mural, according to SF Chronicle. “In fact, I bet that half of the kids who go to the school never even look up at them when they walk by.”
Many have taken to social media to criticize the covering of the mural.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham called it “the end of history” in a tweet.
The End of History: George Washington mural should be covered but preserved, SF school board decideshttps://t.co/DjJMXm6UbS
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) August 14, 2019
“Soo… San Francisco is number one in art censorship now?? I can’t believe this is what we’re teaching our high school students now. pathetic,” another Twitter user wrote on the matter.
“It’s a shame we are destroying our history and our heritage. Our founders were honorable men who laid the foundation for the greatest country on earth and in recorded history. All Americans are the true losers for these actions,” another added.
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