Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 08 2010

Racial Slurs and Murals

Oh man, Arizona, it’s getting to the point where it’s hard to defend you anymore.

A school in Prescott painted a mural depicting four current students, and faced enough angry-protesting and racist-slur-yelling and talk-show-radio-complaining that the principal asked the artists to lighten the children’s skin. He claims that the change was only intended for artistic purposes, so it would “look like the children were coming into light”, but I didn’t realize that principals gave so much artistic advice to artists. There has been an enormous outcry over the racism, as well there should be. Children who embrace diversity will grow into adults who embrace diversity, and that means that a tolerant society starts with schools (and parents). As such, I think that schools have an enormous responsibility to foster, promote, and protect diversity and respect in a way that no other institution truly does. This never, ever should have happened.

Luckily, the principal and superintendent are still good people, with the guts to stand up in front of an angry crowd to take back the instructions and admit that the skin-lightening was completely wrong. That had to be hard to do, and they could have just plowed forward and insisted on their original decision. Instead, the superintendent told the crowd, “Shame on us if we can’t say we made a mistake and we’re sorry.” He’s right. That, at least, is a good message for the kids.

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