There is considerable lobbying by progressives, including Black progressives like Danny Glover, against covering the controversial mural in San Francisco’s George Washington High school which realistically portrays George Washington as a slave owner engaged in the extermination of Native Americans. Their arguments are compelling. But not as compelling as the Black students & parents who object to the mural for portraying them in a demeaning way, even though the artist’s intentions were to protest that treatment.

We only have to remember the very similar dispute over Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” once required reading in the high school curriculum, read & swooned over by whites who saw it as an anthem against racism & slavery. It portrays a little white street kid saving a Black adult slave on the run & is the very origins & matrix of white savior culture in American literature, art, & film. It’s a farce & a mockery with Twain putting minstrel language in Jim, the slave’s mouth. It was Black parents who saw their children disturbed & traumatized by the depiction of themselves as helpless buffoons who finally challenged its place in the curriculum.

We have to respect the sensitivities & judgements of Black children & parents, not malign them for attempting to whitewash & censor American history. As one Native American demanding the removal of the murals said, they represent “American history from the colonizers’ perspective.” It is often from the mouthes of children  & certainly from the oppressed that we best understand our own history, our own political blindnesses, our own compromises with white savior rancidity.

The mural will not be destroyed; it will be covered, hopefully with positive images of the monumental achievements & contributions of Blacks & Native Americans to world culture, science, & emancipatory theoretics.