A mural of George Washington could possibly be removed from a school in Northern California because it “traumatizes students and community members.”
The San Francisco Unified School District is aiming to erase the mural from George Washington High School after they received complaints that it was allegedly offensive and demeaning to African Americans and Native Americans.
As The College Fix reports:
“In 1936, Victor Arnautoff painted the 13 panels that make up the “Life of Washington” mural at the San Francisco Unified School District campus. Arnautoff was a prominent Russian-American painter who created the murals as part of a Works Progress Administration project undertaken during the New Deal.”
One of the panels of the mural depicts Washington in the company of slaves who are involved in different duties, such as picking cotton and shucking corn. Another shows a dead Native man in the presence of colonizers.
A group of students and teachers came together to call for the removal of all 13 panels, saying they believed the images glorified “white supremacy.”
The group sent the following statement to the SFUSD, according to the Richmond District Blog:
“We come to these recommendations due to the continued historical and current trauma of Native Americans and African Americans with these depictions in the mural that glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, manifest destiny, white supremacy, oppression, etc. This mural doesn’t represent SFUSD values of social justice, diversity, united, student-centered. It’s not student-centered if it’s focused on the legacy of artists, rather than the experience of the students. If we consider the SFUSD equity definition, the “low” mural glorifies oppression instead of eliminating it. It also perpetuates bias through stereotypes rather than ending bias. It has nothing to do with equity or inclusion at all. The impact of this mural is greater than its intent ever was. It’s not a counter-narrative if [the mural] traumatizes students and community members.”
An alumni group from the school countered the current students’ and teachers’ objections to the mural. They started a petition to “save the murals,” saying, the murals are meant to start a conversation about our country’s past, sins included.
“I ask the San Francisco Board of Education Superintendent and Commissioners to reject the proposal to paint out or dismantle the Victor Arnautoff “Life of Washington” murals in George Washington High School, a priceless example of WPA art painted by a left-wing artist and unusually progressive for their time,” the petition states. “The murals include forthright depictions of the injustices experienced by Native Americans and African-Americans during Washington’s lifetime. With implementation of one or more of the solutions proposed by the Alumni Association to sensitively address the concerns raised, the murals can be a catalyst for discussing the sins committed as our country was founded.”
The battle for the mural is still ongoing.