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San Francisco Will Spend $600,000 to Erase History
by repost
Saturday Jun 29th, 2019 3:15 PM
San Francisco Will Spend $600,000 to Erase History
The school board has voted to destroy public murals by a New Deal-era Communist.
San Francisco Will Spend $600,000 to Erase History
The school board has voted to destroy public murals by a New Deal-era Communist.

By Bari Weiss
Ms. Weiss is a writer and editor for the Opinion section.
June 28, 2019

A section of the mural at George Washington High School in San Francisco, painted by the Russian-American artist Victor Arnautoff, shows a dead Native American.
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

A section of the mural at George Washington High School in San Francisco, painted by the Russian-American artist Victor Arnautoff, shows a dead Native American.

A section of the mural at George Washington High School in San Francisco, painted by the Russian-American artist Victor Arnautoff, shows a dead Native
American.CreditCreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — More than $8,000. That was the amount John Ashcroft’s Justice Department spent on blue curtains to cover up the busty Spirit of Justice statue and her bare-chested male equivalent, the Majesty of Law, in the department’s Great Hall in 2002. The Victorian move against the Art Deco sculptures spurred a thousand lampoons. “A blue burqa for justice,” my colleague Maureen Dowd memorably called it. In The Harvard Crimson, a young Pete Buttigieg wrote, “It seems odd that an infant is supposed to feed on them, and a grown man is expected at some point to behold them, but for a period in between we feel the need to see to it that no child ever sees a breast.”

I wonder, then, what Mr. Buttigieg, now on the presidential campaign trail, would make of the San Francisco school board’s unanimous decision on Tuesday night to spend at least $600,000 of taxpayer money not just to shroud a historic work of art but to destroy it.
By now stories of progressive Puritanism (or perhaps the better word is Philistinism) are so commonplace — snowflakes seek safe space! — that it can feel tedious to track the details of the latest outrage. But this case is so absurd that it’s worth reviewing the specifics.

Victor Arnautoff, the Russian immigrant who made the paintings in question, was perhaps the most important muralist in the Bay Area during the Depression. Thanks to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, he had the opportunity to make some enduring public artworks. Among them is “City Life” in Coit Tower, in which the artist painted himself standing in front of a newspaper rack conspicuously missing the mainstream San Francisco Chronicle and packed with publications like The Daily Worker.

Arnautoff, who had assisted Diego Rivera in Mexico, was a committed Communist. “‘Art for art’s sake’ or art as perfume have never appealed to me,” he said in 1935. “The artist is a critic of society.”
This is why his freshly banned work, “Life of Washington,” does not show the clichéd image of our first president kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge. Instead, the 13-panel, 1,600-square-foot mural, which was painted in 1936 in the just-built George Washington High School, depicts his slaves picking cotton in the fields of Mount Vernon and a group of colonizers walking past the corpse of a Native American.
“At the time, high school history classes typically ignored the incongruity that Washington and others among the nation’s founders subscribed to the declaration that ‘all men are created equal’ and yet owned other human beings as chattel,” Robert W. Cherny writes in “Victor Arnautoff and the Politics of Art.”

In other words, Arnautoff’s purpose was to unsettle the viewer, to provoke young people into looking at American history from a different, darker perspective. Over the past months, art historians, New Deal scholars and even a group called the Congress of Russian Americans have tried to make exactly that point.
“This is a radical and critical work of art,” the school’s alumni association argued. “There are many New Deal murals depicting the founding of our country; very few even acknowledge slavery or the Native genocide. The Arnautoff murals should be preserved for their artistic, historical and educational value. Whitewashing them will simply result in another ‘whitewash’ of the full truth about American history.”

Such appeals to reason and history failed to sway the school board. On Tuesday, it dismissed the option to pull an Ashcroft and simply cover the murals, instead voting unanimously to paint them over.
One of the commissioners, Faauuga Moliga, said before the vote on Tuesday that his chief concern was that “kids are mentally and emotionally feeling safe at their schools.” Thus he wanted “the murals to be painted down.”

Mark Sanchez, the school board’s vice president, later told me that simply concealing the murals wasn’t an option because it would “allow for the possibility of them being uncovered in the future.” Destroying them was worth it regardless of the cost, he argued at the hearing, saying, “This is reparations.”

These and other explanations from the board’s members reflected the logic of the Reflection and Action Working Group, a committee of activists, students, artists and others put together last year by the district. Arnautoff’s work, the group concluded in February, “glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, Manifest Destiny, white supremacy, oppression, etc.” The art does not reflect “social justice,” the group said, and it “is not student-centered if it’s focused on the legacy of artists, rather than the experience of the students.”

And yet many of the school’s actual students seemed to disagree. Of 49 freshmen asked to write about the murals, according to The Times, only four supported their removal. John M. Strain, an English teacher, told The Times’s Carol Pogash that his students “feel bad about offending people but they almost universally don’t think the answer is to erase it.”

Which makes one wonder who these bureaucrats actually seek to protect. Is it the students? Or could it also be their reputations, given that those in favor of preserving the murals are being smeared as racists?

“In my entire life, no one has ever, ever accused me of being a ‘white supremacist,’” Lope Yap Jr., a filmmaker and the vice president of the alumni association, told me. But if you buy into the expansive notion of “white supremacy” put forward by Alison Collins, one of the board commissioners, that is exactly what Mr. Yap, who is Filipino, is. “One of the earmarks of white supremacy culture is valuing (white) property over (Black & Brown) ppl,” Ms. Collins recently wrote on Twitter. “I think about this when I read comments from folks arguing to ‘protect’ the ‘Life of Washington’ murals.”

Mr. Sanchez, the board vice president, told me: “A grave mistake was made 80 years ago to paint a mural at a school without Native American or African-American input. For impressionable young people who attend school to have any representation that diminishes people, specifically students from communities that have already been diminished, it’s an aggressive thing. It’s hurtful and I don’t think our students need to bear that burden.”

The implications of this logic are chilling. What happens when a student suggests that looking at photographs of the My Lai massacre in history class is too traumatic? Should newspapers avoid printing upsetting images that illuminate the crisis at the border, like the unforgettable one of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, facedown, drowned in the Rio Grande?

All are fair game for censorship in a worldview that insists that words and images are to be judged based on how “safe” they make people feel.

“If K-12 schools start to provide top-down total protection from the emotional pain of confronting uncomfortable ideas — like what actually happened in real American history — we should not be at all surprised when these people go on to college campuses and then, into the work force, and demand the same sort of comforts: safe spaces, trigger warnings, microaggression prevention, and so on,” said Robby Soave, the author of “Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump.” He added: “That’s not on them. That’s on us.”

The notion of erasing art has an American pedigree. Arnautoff was intimately familiar with it, having been interrogated in 1956 by the House Un-American Activities Committee for drawing a caricature of Vice President Richard Nixon. But I suspect he would have been surprised to learn that more than 60 years later, progressives in charge of educating San Francisco’s children are merrily followingthis un-American playbook.
Bari Weiss (@bariweiss), a staff writer and editor for the Opinion section, is the author of the forthcoming “How to Fight Anti-Semitism.”

Bari Weiss is a staff editor and writer for the Opinion section.

Destroying Arnautoff Murals As Payment For "Reparations"? SFUSD Bd Votes To Paint Over Historic Murals
The San Francisco Unified Schood District Board on June 25 voted unaimously to paint over and destroy the famed Victor Arnautoff murals on the the life of George Washington. United Public For Workers UPWA had a press conference before the vote about how this was attacking an artist actually exposed the role of George Washington in supporting slavery and the US's expansion which meant genocide against Native Americans.
The Superintendent Matthews had set up a hand picked committee that ended up only recommending the destruction or covering of the murals.
The same Superintendent and Board of Education have supported a racist union busting reactionary program called PAR Peer Assisted Review which has been used to bully and coerce African American, Latino and senior teachers to quit the district. Board Vice Chair and SFUSD school principal Mark Sanchez supports the PAR discipline program which is also supported by the UESF union leadership and he made an amendment motion to destroy the murals. He also said that the cost of destroying the murals was part of the cost of "reparations" to Native American people for the genocide against them.

For additional media:
SF Debates Removal Of Victor Arnautoff Murals At GWH

"Erasing History" SF Washington High & The Victor Arnautoff Murals

Victor Arnautoff: San Francisco's Master Muralist of the 1930's

When conservatives went to war over SF post office murals
These High School Murals Depict an Ugly History. Should They Go?
Murals at Washington High School Stoke Debate: Board to Decide Their Fate

Murals at Washington High School Stoke Debate: Board to Decide Their Fate

Production of Labor Video Project
§White Washing History Of George Washington & Slavery
by repost Saturday Jun 29th, 2019 3:15 PM
The destruction of the Victor Arnautoff murals at GWH will remove the only art pieces in a public place in the United States that show that George Washington was a slave owner.
§Victor Arnautoff's Painting On SF General Strike
by repost Saturday Jun 29th, 2019 3:15 PM
Victor Arnaugtoff used his artistic talents to show the struggle of the 1934 general strike in support of the workers. Now the SFUSD Superintendent and School Board want to spend $600,000 or more to destroy his WPA murals at George Washington High.
Before the school board vote Professor George Wright spoke at a press conference to defend the murals. The press conference was sponsored by
by repost
Sunday Jun 30th, 2019 10:08 PM
Just one point: These Democrats, and they all are, sitting on the Board of Education, are not the Left. The Left by definition are socialists. The Democrats are simply the loyal opposition of the Republicans, and both are pro-war, capitalist parties and equally anti-Communist. Remember, Bobby Kennedy, Pres. John Kennedy's brother, was counsel to the notorious anti-Communist witchhunter, Joe McCarthy. Both Kennedys were staunch anti-Communists. The below article does have good criticisms of the San Francisco Board of Education and has excellent color photos of the murals with the panels that are the pretext for destroying a mural by a Communist teaching class struggle ideas. As Johnstone states below: "It took Identity Politics to call for their destruction."

From: The San Francisco Murals and the “Suicide of the Left” by Diana Johnstone, 6/30/19 at
"The decision of the San Francisco school board to obliterate the historic murals in George Washington High School is not just another instance of Identity Politics foolishness. It is also a terrifying illustration of the drastic mental decline of what is called “the Left”."

Back in the 1930s there was a Left that had brains. You could agree or disagree with it, you could love it or hate it, but it had ideas, purpose, talent, and a sense of common humanity. It was working for a just society that would end exploitation and benefit humanity as a whole.

"As an example, there were the artistic projects of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the principal New Deal program to combat the Depression, which extended from creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority to artistic enhancement of public buildings. A beneficiary of this enhancement was George Washington High School in San Francisco, which was blessed with a striking set of murals by a leading artist, Victor Arnautoff, a Russian immigrant who had worked with the Mexican master of socially conscience mural art, Diego Rivera. One would expect that the presence of these powerful murals would be a lasting cause of pride in their school for staff and students".

"The WPA, not least in its art projects, was animated by leftists, and even downright Communists, like Arnautoff, who chose to depart from the sterilized “I cannot tell a lie” cherry tree myth and the crossing of the Delaware glorification of George Washington to introduce reminders of the forgotten victims of the foundation of the United States – the exploitation of African slaves and the violent expropriation of Native American lands. The murals were clearly part of the leftwing WPA intellectuals’ endeavor to raise social consciousness, a step toward the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s."

"In the age of the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joe McCarthy’s drunken rampage, such red-tinged WPA projects exposing the less glorious side of the birth of the republic aroused hostile suspicion. And yet, the Arnautoff murals survived Nixon, HUAC and McCarthy witch hunts. It took Identity Politics to call for their destruction."

"Everything is wrong with such a position. Education should include teaching people to analyze what they see rather than simply “be triggered”. The contemporary world is crammed with images that are deeply offensive. When a student can have an historic mural torn down because she or he is “triggered” by it, what sort of preparation is this for the future? School should not be a “safe place” for emotions but a preparation for using reason to master those emotions as one goes through life. The protesters have chosen the worst possible way of interpreting the murals instead of using their reason to understand them and place them in their context. Yes, slavery happened and yes, American Indians were slaughtered, and their descendants can think of the strength they needed to resist and survive, and draw from their tragic history a sense of compassion for all who suffer from comparable injustice today. The attack on the mural is a gesture of impotent spite."

"What are the hurt feelings of a San Francisco high school student compared to the pain and hunger of a Yemeni child living under U.S.-supported bombing? George Washington is dead, but in the city named after him, American leaders are sponsoring the massacre of innocent civilians all around the world. Why don’t these super-sensitive American students use their sensitivity to oppose such ongoing crimes and develop their intelligence to figure out how to join with others in fighting to end the Permanent War State in Washington?"

"But the snowflake trend has no use for real strength, the strength of courage to overcome obstacles, and draws an artificial moral strength from perpetual emotional weakness. Instead of gaining strength from increased knowledge, a certain tendency of young persons who have NOT suffered as their forebears did cling to their victimhood as the key to their own privileges. This may bring a few momentary advantages but is disastrous in the long run."

"A healthy society is based on a balance between respect for the individual, regardless of identity or origins, and awareness of belonging to humanity as a whole, with all its sufferings, joys, tragedies and aspirations. Closing oneself into a limited identity group denies both respect for individuals and awareness of universal humanity. It can only be a basis for endless conflict, “my people are better than your people”, “no, my people are better than your people”. Those who “win” a momentary victory by imposing on others a destructive act of iconoclasm are only confirming their identification as “losers” as their sole key to success. "

"With such divisions, the American people will be absorbed in tribal skirmishes, while their criminal rulers continue to spread devastation around the world."


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