An Open Letter to Superintendent Kapp, Prescott Schools

Dear Superintendent Kevin Kapp,

It is understandable that recent events have presented a difficult end to your tenure as Superintendent of Prescott Unified School DistrictThe Smart Choice“. The kerfuffle about the Miller Valley Elementary School mural illustrates that racial relations in America are delicate and complex. There was no way that such a mural, depicting students, could have been commissioned without difficulty. Someone, in a society that still includes both the misguided and the vicious as well as the astute and the righteous, would have found fault – possibly rightly, if the mural’s depictions had been other than those we have seen.

The accounts which I have read include at least two motivating factors for the critics of the original mural. One factor was that the principle (largest, dominant) figure is Hispanic-American. A bigoted critic, questioning the artists’ depiction, linked this element to the presence of an African-American as President of the United States – as if that self-revelatory question might be worthy, in a healthy society, of more than a ‘so what?‘.

The other factor was a purported need to ‘lighten’ the dark complexions of the mural to satisfy critics. That vile suggestion is reminiscent of an era when the mulatto, the quadroon, and the octoroon had differing (and fairly specific) social standing. Our family is interested in knowing (perhaps through genetic testing) more about our valued racial heritage. We also speculate about what some ‘pure white’ bigots might learn if they developed the same interest. We truly are a society with deep connections, which are too aften hidden instead of being treasured.

The critics of the original mural have earned a small comment. Their actions, possibly instigated by a bigoted critic’s comments on his radio show, included yelling “nigger” and “spic” when driving past the mural. It isn’t merely that such people are racists – they are also cowards who sublimate their nasty internal filth on an inanimate object.

Your most recent actions have been redeeming both for yourself and for your community. There is no redemption for the others I have mentioned without their personal confessions and long self-examination.

The apologies which you and Principal Jeff Lane have offered will serve to make Prescott and America a better place. For those who read this open letter, I provide a selection of your comments:

I got a wonderful feeling of pride.
We made a mistake and we’re sorry.
The original intent: absolutely celebrate the four beautiful children on this mural.
We gave the artistry back to the artists.

{Apart from the lesson in racial relations, the last statement
also provides wise advice in the practice of Management.}

Superintendent Kapp, I am happy for you, Principal Lane, the children depicted in the mural, and for your community. May this episode continue to provide opportunities for contemplation and for progress in our relationships with our neighbors.

It’s a nice mural! I hope that more schools do something similar. Artists are ‘Mural Mice‘ Pamela J. Smith and R.E. Wall.


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All original material Copyright James R. Stone 2010, except where specifically noted. Some images licensed under Creative Commons, or GNU Free Documentation License, or unlicensed and public domain.

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