Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Baker County Mural Should Make People Think

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Baker County Mural Should Make People Think

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee, Times-Union columnist

Unnerving as it sounds, Dorothy Barnes may be on to something.

Barnes, a life member of the Baker County Historical Society, recently defended the images of three Klansmen atop horses lurking on a shadowy edge of a mural meant to depict the county's history.

A Gainesville judge and an African-American minister have called the mural, which is slated to be displayed in the county courthouse, offensive. Barnes says it shows the good and bad of history. Says if people don't know history, they will repeat it.

Amen to that. Except for one problem.

When such art is displayed in government buildings such as courthouses, in places that are supposed to be symbols of what makes us a free and democratic society, many people, both black and white, tend to view whatever that art depicts as a positive force in creating our society. That happens because the American history that tends to be immortalized in public places have, for the most part, always been about bronze busts and marble statues. About warriors and statesmen. About honor, not abhorrence.

So it's easy to see how including the Ku Klux Klan in the mural at a courthouse could upset people. Especially African-Americans, many of whom, because of the Klan, never got a chance to realize any of the things the courthouse is supposed to represent. On the other hand, having Klansmen in a mural might confuse some people. I'd hate to see some naive kid mistake the Klan as forces for justice when they were purveyors of genocide.

But like I said, Barnes may be on to something.

Because if she believes history, as displayed in the halls of government, ought to be realistic, then the mural artist has some more work to do. Like sneaking in a lynching scene or showing a black farmer being driven off his land by the Klan. …

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