Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Micro-Agression & the Mural

Much Ado About NOTHING

The entire editorial page of the Lexington Herald-Leader of 21 December (not even any letters to the editor) was devoted to the permanent mural that has been covered in the university's hallowed Memorial Hall, painted by a highly respected artist in 1934 depicting Kentucky society/history. Two UK professors say it should stay and become a “teaching tool;” a historian says it belongs to the U.S. (Great Depression WPA project) so the General Services Administration should get in on the act; and a group of “students of color” apparently want it removed, since it represents “micro-aggression,” the newest term defining racism.

One of the professors suggested having an African-American artist paint a mural in that location to represent whatever a logical refutation to the offending mural would be, a sort of “dueling paintings” approach. Maybe the new painting would depict Simon Legree with horns cracking his bull-whip although only one in four southern families owned slaves and virtually none in the North.

The students of color mentioned the statues that offend them. On the Mall in Washington, D.C., between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials is the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., the size of a three story building on four acres, with MLK, arms folded and glowering down on the memorials to Lincoln, and the dead of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. The statue was sculpted in China by a Chinese artist, shipped to the U.S. in pieces and put together on the National Mall by Chinese workers...no people of color allowed.

Even if Lincoln had been sculpted standing instead of sitting, he would not be as tall as King, over 30 feet. A short distance away, the FDR sculpture shows President Roosevelt (1933-45) life-size in a wheelchair. Does anyone ever remark the disproportional aspects of that arrangement? No. However, there's no memorial to the 360,000 nearly all white Union soldiers who died of combat or sickness in the slave-freeing Civil War. My great-grandfather and two great-uncles, all Union soldiers, survived that war although great-grandad was wounded once and nearly died of disease once.

Or, take World War I, in which my father served in the Navy making those terrifying Atlantic crossings at the mercy – before radar and sonar – of the deadly German u-boats. There's no memorial on the National Mall to the 116,516 nearly all white GIs who died in that hellish conflict at the rate of 320 per day. As a personal matter, should I be offended, as a white person, by any of this? What difference does it make how I feel since it changes nothing?

That's precisely the message to send to ALL the students, not just those of color. The only way they can be offended is to allow themselves to be offended, something anybody half-bright can do. The constant drumbeat for more “togetherness” dialogue despite constant dialogue for the last 50 years is silly. A strong mind will disallow offense. A weak, victim-hood mind basks in being offended. That's the way of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

No “teachable moment” or “teaching tool” is needed because there's nothing to teach. I listened to a sermon a while back given in a white church close to an alleged slave-auction site on Main Street. The preacher was determined to lay an intensive guilt-trip on the congregants, none of whom or even their parents or grandparents had anything to do with that activity that ended in 1863. One wonders if she gave any thought to what a 14-year-old student of color might have thought about her vivid descriptions of an ancestor in chains. Obviously, she didn't or she knew that no young black was present or she was just dumb as a gourd.

During the basketball season last year, 23,000 fans (nearly all white) jammed Rupp Arena many times to see 12 students of color produce a record-breaking season for UK, with one white guy playing a few minutes infrequently. Did white people complain about that gargantuan disparity? No. They screamed themselves hoarse cheering on these offended (ask them) students.

Maybe the professors and administrators at UK ought to take back their university from teenagers and early 20-somethings of all colors and tell them to just suck it up and get on with it. Or is that just too, too offensive?

And so it goes.
Jim Clark


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