Prescott Mural Controversy Follow-up

Steve Blair, the Prescott AZ city councilman who made several racist statements on his radio talk show over a public art project, has been fired from the radio station.

Here’s an interview Blair did with after the firing:

In the interview, Blair defends himself by saying that the mural was “graffiti” because it was on a public building and he, as a member of the public, disapproved of it. Yet, each of the murals that have been painted in Prescott have been on public buildings, with the approval of the building’s adminstrators. One of the biggest murals painted as part of Prescott’s Downtown Mural Project was on the walls of a local public library — with the library’s full blessing. Blair didn’t have a problem with how that mural was painted. In fact, Blair claims in the above interview that he really loves the library’s mural — perhaps that’s because the “Beyond Words” mural depicts the literary history of Prescott, and prominently featured in the artwork are several (White) Prescott historical figures?

This is a scene from the Prescott public library mural. Strangely, Blair has no problem with this piece of art.

 (If you want more information and pictures from the public library mural, you can see the library’s .pdf explaining the mural’s contents here. There also should be more information and images at Prescott’s Downtown Mural Project website, but last I checked it, the site’s servers had been overwhelmed following the mural controversy.)

In fact, Blair’s complaint in the interview above that the Prescott public doesn’t get enough say in how these public art projects are decided is outright hypocritical.

The elementary school mural at the center of this controversy is actually one of two eco-themed murals organized by the school as part of Prescott’s Downtown Mural Project; the second mural is being painted on the walls of a public restroom in Prescott’s Acker Park. That mural’s design was also voted on by the students of Miller Valley Elementary School, and is being painted in part by the school’s children. Unlike with the school and the library, the park lacked an obvious administrator to make the final decision on the design. Thus, the mural design was put on public display and circulated to local residents; the Prescott city council — of which Blair is a member — actually voted to approve the final design.

So, Blair’s lament that the public isn’t involved enough in how these murals — and their designs — get approved is complete and utter bullshit. Heck, as a Prescott city councilman, who voted on the final design of the Acker Park mural, Blair should have been fully aware that the mural was part of a series of eco-friendly murals being painted by the Prescott Downtown Mural Project. Unless he is an utterly incompetent elected official who sleeps during city council meetings, there is no reason for him to have been unaware of the elementary school mural’s theme and design.

Yet, Blair claims he had no idea what the Middle Valley Elementary School mural was about. In fact, he claims that, like one of his radio show listeners, he thought the mural was a picture of Black man (presumably the President) wielding a stick, and that’s why he didn’t like it.

If that’s the case, Councilman Blair, than let’s be clear. Let’s not obfuscate the debate with ridiculous arguments over historical buildings or inadequate public approval. You don’t like the mural because you don’t like seeing the face of a Mexican-American child on your daily commute. The issue is no more complicated than this: you are racist, and you don’t like being called on it.

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