The San Francisco United School District could wind up spending up to $875,000 just to cover up an 84-year-old mural of George Washington that a few activists have deemed “traumatizing.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the school district is currently mulling over three pricey options to obscure the mural currently gracing the wall of George Washington High School that depicts America’s first president: covering it with a curtain (for $300,000), painting over it ($600,000), or hiding it behind panels ($875,000).
Not kidding even a little.
The fresco in question is a 1936 painting of Washington surrounded by black slaves picking cotton. Painted by Russian-American artist Victor Arnautoff, The Life of Washington mural is actually supposed to represent the Founding Father while also shining a light on the atrocities of slavery, critiquing the reality of America's early days rather than hiding it as though it never happened.
“He put those ghastly gray pioneers literally walking over the dead body of an Indian to demonstrate that the settlement of the west was an act of conquest that involved the slaughter of Native Americans," Robert Cherny, a San Francisco State University professor, told the school district's board of education in 2018. "That was a very bold effort on his part to counter the kinds of textbooks that students were seeing."
But instead of seeing the long-standing mural as an attempt to accurately depict history rather than whitewash it by ignoring the gritty parts, a handful of naysayers with nothing better to do with their time say the mural "glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, manifest destiny, white supremacy, oppression," and "doesn't represent SFUSD values of social justice, diversity, united, student-centered,” adding that it’s “traumatizing” to some students and "not appropriate for children."
According to the National Review’s James Sutton, who lives in the community, “the majority of students were against its removal or just apathetic” at a recent school board meeting. Even still, the board was pressured into voting to cover up the mural by a handful of protesters claiming to be triggered at having to look at an accurate depiction of history.
Sutton adds that “in a school district facing a severe shortage of teachers, those funds could pay the salaries of around 14 first-year teachers.”
In 2017, records showed a stunningly low 19 percent of black students passed the state’s reading test, the lowest scoring district in California. But instead of addressing actual, real-time problems faced by black students in their county, it looks like San Francisco will spend upwards of a million dollars to overwrite history.