An opinion piece from AZCentral:
A few weeks ago, I attended a holiday party at a downtown Phoenix restaurant. I walked around to view the photographs on the wall.
Then a photograph caught my attention.
Friends said, “It’s coal miners at a pub after work.” It was a photograph of coal miners with blackened faces. I asked a Latinx and white woman for their opinion. They said it looked like coal miners at a pub after work. Then they stepped back, frowned and said it’s men in blackface.
I asked the waitress to speak with a manager. Instead, I spoke with a white restaurant owner. I explained to him why the photograph was offensive. Evidently, someone else had made a similar comment about the photograph before.
Yet, the photograph remained on the wall. He said he would talk to the other owners and get back to me. While leaving, I asked him had he spoke with the other owners. He had not spoken with them, but mentioned Google said it’s coal miners after work.
In art, everyone sees something different
Who determines what’s offensive?
For me, the coal miners disappeared and a film honored for its artistic merit, despite being the most racist propaganda films ever, D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” (1915) surfaces, in which white actors appeared in blackface. The white owner saw coal miners in the photograph. Therefore, it was not offensive.
And a little further down:
Viewers cannot determine the intention of an artist’s work. Art also exposes society’s blind spots. Blackface is only a glimpse of a larger issue. The larger issue is the lack of representation of marginalized people and their voices in Phoenix.
Frequently, I enter art galleries and I am not represented in the art, which leads to uneducated curation for exhibitions. While shopping I am ignored because it is assumed I unable to purchase anything, or I am followed by a security guard because it is assumed that I am a threat to the store.
Each assumption is based on a stereotype. Blackface caricatures stereotypes of black people.
At the downtown Phoenix restaurant, my concern that the photograph of men in blackface was a threat to me and my face and voice were ignored.
A business’ photograph of men with blackened faces culturally says to me, “Whites Only.” It says people like me are not welcome.
Here is the photograph in question.
It really is quite sad. I could not possibly live my life acting like a victim for every single thing I perceive as some kind of assault to my existence. Newsflash, Rashaad, it is not all about you. I’m sorry (no) that you aren’t represented in the art at the art gallery you went to. Similarly, white people don’t sit around all day wondering how we can offend and marginalize black people. We honestly don’t care that much about you. Most of us just want to live our lives and be left alone. You should do the same.
Perpetual victimhood is almost like a disease. It is the ressentiment that Nietzsche frequently wrote about. And it is the kind of internal negativity that can destroy a person. Who wants to live their life as a victim anyways? Why would you want to give anyone that much control over how you feel and act? Stop being so pathetically weak and whiny.
Lastly, Rashaad, the world you are asking for would be a totalitarian shithole. You could not possibly put out any art if the deciding factor was whether it offended someone or not. That is completely insane.