Sometimes art should sooth us and sometimes it needs to challenge us. The new mural on Monroe Street does the latter.
The mural on the side of Neuhauser Pharmacy, on the corner of Monroe and Harrison streets, depicts a line of children of color standing in front of a vending machine. Bad stuff is being handed out by a white woman, while African American and Latino adults want to bring healthful things, but are being blocked.
I’ve got mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it’s courageous. In the heart of a white, affluent, liberal neighborhood (which happens to be my own) it makes a spot on criticism of white, affluent liberals.
But on the other hand, the question raised in the mural is only about who’s giving the handouts. It doesn’t depict the idea of earning anything. A better message would have been one where the kids are working to improve themselves rather than waiting to be given something by anybody.
It’s a coincidence that the mural was completed in the same week that the statue of Hans Christian Heg was restored to the Capitol grounds. Heg’s statue was torn down during riots following police shootings of Black men in the summer of 2020. Heg was a lifelong abolitionist who gave his life in the Civil War. Some protest organizers later said that they tore down his likeness and the Foreward statue, which represented the progress of women, to make a point about liberal Madison being too smug about its political correctness while making little actual progress.
It might have just been pure vandalism that they later sought to justify. But here’s the odd thing. I sort of agree with them. They were absolutely wrong to rip down the statues, but absolutely right about the underlying point, if that’s really what they had in mind. Few people do more damage to their own causes, especially these days, then white liberals. Nobody likes to be lectured to and self-righteousness is not a winning political strategy.
Anyway, I’m glad that Heg is back on his perch and I’m glad the mural is on Monroe Street. But the remaining issues we’ve got with race won’t be solved either by the prescriptions of liberal theoreticians or by more handouts, no matter where they come from. They’ll be solved when everybody has an equal opportunity to earn the American dream.
Welcome to the 230th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!