I know we’ve become inured to expressions of racism over the last decade. If we looked we could find examples of such behavior every day in the news. Indeed, many conservative bloggers and TV and radio “personalities” often claim that progressives and liberals and minorities are too quick to play the “race card” to take away their free speech rights or for some other nefarious purpose.

However, sometimes an incident occurs, such as this one in Prescott, Arizona (via the Arizona Republic) which involves a claim that artists were asked to “lighten” the skin tone of minority children depicted in a mural at the most multi-ethnic, multi-racial elementary school in Prescott, that cannot so easily be swept under the rug.

So to the citizens of Arizona, and I’m sure there are many of you who are good and decent people, please explain to me why elementary school children were subjected to this:

A group of artists has been asked to lighten the faces of children depicted in a giant public mural at a Prescott school.

The project’s leader says he was ordered to lighten the skin tone after complaints about the children’s ethnicity. But the school’s principal says the request was only to fix shading and had nothing to do with political pressure.

Okay, I’m intentionally delaying the worst part of the story for a while, but I have good reasons.

I want to provide you as a reader with some context to this story before jumping straight to what really bothers me. So far we have a controversy which may or may not involve race depending on whether you believe the artists or the School’s Principal.

However, there’s also a part of the story involving a city councilman and local radio talk show host who declared his own fatwa against the mural, demanding that it be taken down:

City Councilman Steve Blair spearheaded a public campaign on his talk show at Prescott radio station KYCA-AM (1490) to remove the mural.

In a broadcast last month, according to the Daily Courier in Prescott, Blair mistakenly complained that the most prominent child in the painting is African-American, saying: “To depict the biggest picture on the building as a Black person, I would have to ask the question: Why?”

Why indeed? Why is a local city council member with a radio show complaining about a mural because it has a picture of a black kid in it? Why would he care? Are black children not full American citizens (the 14th amendment to the US Constitution was passed to insure their citizenship rights were respected under the law)? The school made this decision to include minority children in the mural based on the composition of their racially diverse school. Why should that bother a city council member?

Also, I know the principal is claiming that all this had nothing to do with his decision to tell the artists to lighten the skin tone of minority children depicted in the mural. However Blair’s actions and his prominent position in the community raises legitimate doubts about the principal’s assertion that politics had nothing to do with his decision to lighten the skin tones. It certainly adds a further layer to the claims by the artist in charge of the mural that the principal of the school gave into political pressure.

Here’s another piece of the story to provide you even more context:

Faces in the mural were drawn from photographs of children enrolled at Miller Valley, 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 …

The public art … was selected by school students and faculty.

The mural was based on actual photographs of kids who attended the school. The art was approved by the students and their teachers. So why did Mr. Blair, a powerful local politician in Prescott and a man who hosts his own radio program, make such a fuss about it? Why is he bitching that a black kid was portrayed too prominently in the mural? If the kids decided this was what they wanted why should he get involved at all?

As for Blair himself, he wouldn’t talk to the Arizona Republic reporter about this controversy, but on his radio show he blamed the school and the mural artists for dragging racism into this matter. Really. He made statements that alleged the purpose of the mural was to create a racial diversity issue in Prescott where none existed before. Really. Here’s a direct quote from his broadcast:

“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.”

If by “You” he is referring to himself in the second person, I have to agree it was pathetic and shameful of him to stir the racist pot and inject his own moronic opinions into the painting of a mural at an elementary school (though yes, he has the first amendment right to express those ugly opinions and I do not deny that, only his common sense in making such remarks).

Nonetheless his actions in speaking out against the mural served no legitimate civic purpose. This is especially the case since the mural was chosen by the kids and the parents of the children at the school allegedly “loved it” according School Principal.

But now we come to the part of the story that is far more pathetic, and far more outrageous than anything I’ve previously described and for which Mr. Blair should at a minimum bear some responsibility, though not all. No not all.

You see some of the “not so good” citizens, perhaps citizens of Prescott who listened to Mr. Blair’s radio show, decided to spend their time harassing the artists and school children as they worked on the mural in a particularly shameful and ugly manner:

R.E. Wall, director of Prescott’s Downtown Mural Project, said he and other artists were subjected to slurs from motorists as they worked on the painting at one of the town’s most prominent intersections.

“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).”

Are you as disgusted by this, good people of Prescott as I am? I would hope you are.

Because some of your fellow townspeople felt it was a valid use of their time to yell at young black kids that they were n*****s or jungle bunnies or “Black Sambos” or whatever, and to also yell at little Hispanic kids that they were — well, I’m not sure — since as a former resident of Colorado I know there is a wide variety of racial slurs to choose from: wetbacks, beaners, spics, “Latrinos” (combines Latino with latrine), and so on and so forth. That is about as low as one can go: using racial slurs against small kids to scare and intimidate them.

My questions really are for all the good people of Arizona living in Prescott and elsewhere in the state. I doubt the people who support this sort of behavior can be reached by anything I have to say.

Arizona is a beautiful state filled with many natural wonders and many good and honorable people. Do all of you really want to be known as the new hotbed of racial bigotry and as a haven for white supremacists and Neo-nazis?

Do you really want little children painting a mural which they all agreed upon, which included portraits of actual kids attending that school, to be exposed to these vile and ugly comments because some idiot at a radio station decided to make a stink about non-white kids being pictured in that mural?

I sure hope not, but I have to say, it might be time for you to stand up and let the rest of the country know that you find this behavior intolerable and unacceptable. Otherwise it will only get worse. For as the famous saying goes:

The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.

Please don’t do nothing. Please.

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