We’re Getting These Murals All Wrong,” By Robin D.G. Kelley

Robin D. G. Kelley is a Professor of American History at UCLA and is completing a book on journalist Grace Halsell.

In a piece for The Nation titled, “We’re Getting These Murals All Wrong,” Robin D.G. Kelley makes a case for using the Arnautoff murals to reflect on the specter of white supremacy in America’s democratic tradition. Kelley, major African-American scholar and critic of white supremacy, also unpacks American progressivism and its ineffectiveness in tackling inequality. He concludes the piece by focusing on how the School Board used the concept of “reparations” to explain the high cost of the murals’ removal.

“I find it ironic that Mark Sanchez, the vice president of the school board, used the word “reparations” to describe the $600,000 cost of the Arnautoff murals’ erasure. In doing so, he not only perverts the concept of reparations but also fails to see that precious funds that could have been invested in arts education or an anti- racist curriculum will be used to cover up a work that actually makes a powerful case for reparations by revealing how white liberty and the wealth of the new nation were built on slavery, colonialism, dispossession, and genocide. Certainly, students can learn this in their classrooms, and they can see it in the streets of San Francisco as rising rents and corporate land grabs continue to displace poor black and brown people in the city.”

Photo: GWHS Alumni Association / Tammy Aramian

One comment on “We’re Getting These Murals All Wrong,” By Robin D.G. Kelley

  1. Berle Ckay

    Unfortunately I must report that the WPA mural at the Memorial Hall at the University of Kentucky in Lexington is also (June 2020) scheduled to be destroyed according to the university president. This mural depicts in small part as part of a larger attempt to celebrate the history of the state, persons of color in the position of subservient workers, presumably slaves, working in the fields. This decision is a product of the most recent movement marked by the general revulsion against police brutality against persons of color. There is no indication that an attempt will be made to preserve it, probably impossible because it is painted on plaster.

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