Controversial images within a 13-panel 83-year-old mural on the walls of a high school are slated to be painted over after allegations that the pictures were racist gained traction. Created in 1936, the murals are the creation of Victor Arnautoff and depict various aspects of the life of George Washington, the first president of the United States.
Arnautoff, who later joined the Communist party, according to a report by Blue Lives Matter, wanted to display an accurate depiction of George Washington’s life, including some of the darker aspects, such as slavery and the plight of Native Americans.
In one of the panels – which are displayed in the halls of George Washington High School in San Francisco – shows slaves working in a field. Another depicts white settlers stepping over the body of a deceased Native American.
“It’s a lot of emotional stress,” said Kai Anderson-Lawson, a senior at the high school.
“One of the reasons it’s hard to go to school sometimes is because of the mural in the lobby,” Anderson-Lawson continued. “I think they should try to, like, put healthy images on there.”
“The mural tells us about the conquest and colonization of the United States including the genocide of native Americans,” said Raoul Gonzales during a June 18 school board meeting. “The mural reminds us that this nation is born of blood and gore.”
“It is a racist mural,” said Virginia Marshall, a member of the Alliance of Black School Educators. “My history should not be racist but it is. I came from slaves.”
Not all advocated for the removal of the mural. Donna Parker believes the panels could serve as an educational tool.
“We should be teaching about the mural and what it means,” said Parker.
“I’m half native American. I have no problem with the mural,” she added. “It depicts what happened.”
Joel Britton, a Socialist Workers Party Mayoral Candidate, believes that removing the mural could lead to censorship.
“Destroying or covering it would be an act of censorship and a blow to freedom of expression that would set a precedent for further such actions,” said Britton. “Censorship creates precedents that will always come down hardest on the working class, including African American, Latinos, Native American, and Asian American working people.”
On Tuesday, according to a report by the San Francisco Examiner, the school board was unanimous in its decision to go forward with removing the controversial images by painting over them.
Officials originally stated that the cost of destroying or covering the mural could come in between $375,000 and $825,000 depending on the approach used. Painting over the mural was estimated to cost $600,000.