An artist's decision to prominently feature a non-white child on an elementary-school mural in Prescott, Ariz., sparked so much controversy that school administrators asked him to "lighten" the child's face after a city councilman launched a campaign against the mural, according to the Arizona Republic.
The Prescott episode isn't likely to help Arizona's growing reputation as a battleground of racial and ethnic confrontation, as the state faces a widespread boycott campaign over its harsh new immigration law.
The mural, which was funded by a state grant, features the faces of four actual students at the school and is intended to promote biking and other environmentally sustainable modes of transportation. The most prominent face on it belongs to a Latino student.
Steve Blair didn't like that. Blair, local city councilman and talk-radio host, inveighed against the mural on his show last month, according to the New York Daily News:
"I am not a racist individual," Blair said on a radio show last month, "but I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who's President of the United States today and based upon the history of this community, when I grew up we had four black families — who I have been very good friends with for years — to depict the biggest picture on that building as a black person, I would have to ask the question, 'Why?' "
Good question, to which there are two answers: 1) The boy in question is of Latino heritage (but it's hard to tell them all apart sometimes, right?), and 2) because the boy in question is of Latino heritage. It is suspicious, though, seeing as how only 42 percent of Arizonans aren't white.
R.E. Wall, a Prescott artist who worked on the mural along with several other members of the city's Downtown Mural Project, told the Republic that local residents driving by the mural as they were painting it — sometimes with children helping — shouted ethnic slurs. Wall claimed the school's principal asked him to make the child's skin tone lighter in response to the pushback. The principal acknowledged receiving three complaints about the child's race but insisted that the lightening was an "artistic" decision.
The important thing to remember here is that Steve Blair is not a racist individual and that he has been very good friends with Prescott's four black families for years. Blair didn't immediately return a phone call from Yahoo! News.
— John Cook is a senior national reporter/blogger for Yahoo! News.
Prescott, Ariz., elementary school to 'whiten' image of child in mural - Yahoo! News