The Oxon Hill High School “Art Display” Controversy

oxenhill ART

Oxon Hill (Maryland) High School allowed a display of student art to remain in the school’s rotunda for most of May. Some students and teachers said the display was “cathartic;” the Washington Post called it “an embodiment of the angst and anger” students felt “when police violence made national headlines.” “Young black males: the new endangered species,” read a placard; next to it was a cutout painted to look like a police officer with white skin reading a newspaper with obituaries of black men killed by law enforcement officers. Next to that was another silhouette painted black, depicting a black man with hands raised wearing a T-shirt with holes in it. “Blood” dripped  from the eight bullet holes, forming the stripes of an upside-down American flag.

Last week,  after a photo of the thing was posted  on Facebook and recieved criticsm there and on some conservative websites, school officials decided to remove the display. A spokeswoman for Prince George’s County Public Schools said the decision was made to protect the school and students. But those pesky students installed a new display consisting of two wooden coffins amidst flower petals, with headstones reading, “HERE LIES OUR FREEDOM OF SPEECH” and “HERE LIES OUR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.” They then tweeted messages with the hashtag #donttakeitdown and collected nearly 1,500 signatures on a petition demanding a statement of solidarity from the school board.

Isn’t self-righteous ignorance grand? Not only should the display have been removed, it should have never gone up in the first place, since it continues to spread a virulent and divisive lie (nobody was shot eight times with his hands up), while encouraging racial distrust and hatred. The Washington Post quoted Kiana Harris, a 17-year-old who graduated in May, who said, “It’s simply stating facts, and the same stuff could be found on the news. It really just made me think about all of the deaths that are happening, and the police are killing people who are unarmed.”

What “facts” is it stating? Young blacks are not an endangered species, in fact, they aren’t a species at all. Is this a school, or isn’t it? That black men are killed by police officers does not by itself mean that the black men were not at least partially responsible, or that their deaths were not justified in the line of duty. Is this a school or not? Do they teach critical thought, civics, cause and effect? Michael Brown was attacking a police officer and resisting arrest when he charged and was shot eight times. Do they teach reading at Oxon Hill? Honesty?

Is this a school, or not?

If the display made Harris think, it made him think using false representations of the facts and racially biased views. This same “stuff” cannot be found on the news, if the news is being read rather than skimmed and warped. Almost all the controversial police shootings have been complex, with many difficult factors affecting the guilt or innocence of the parties, and whether law enforcement officials used excessive force or not. If Oxon Hill High School isn’t teaching its students how to discern that from the news, it is negligent, incompetent, and not doing its job.

No school would allow a display that claimed that Martin Luther King was a Jewish woman, that the Declaration of  Independence was signed in 1932, or that we fought World War II against New Zealand, because a school exists to teach facts, not myths, lies and political narratives. “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” is a lie. That black males are being hunted down by police is a dangerous lie. The school, and its administrators, should neither respect an art display that “teaches” otherwise, nor tolerate it.

 Prince George’s County Board of Education member Edward Burroughs III, who represents the Oxon Hill area, made a motion for a “statement in solidarity” of the student’s art and their freedom of expression. It passed unanimously, because the adults in the County are as ignorant, apparently, as their children. They are also as irresponsible, but as adults, they have no excuses.

“This art piece was simply an expression of the way they see the world,” said Burroughs. If so, it is the job of the education system to help them see the world more clearly, not pander to their biases.

19 thoughts on “The Oxon Hill High School “Art Display” Controversy

  1. “Here lie the Twin Towers, destroyed by the Bush administration and a powerful cabal of Jews, and blamed on terrorists so that Bush could take all of their oil.”

    Just giving them an idea for the next art project.

  2. Anyone read about the Roof manifesto ?

    I was not raised in a racist home or environment. Living in the South, almost every White person has a small amount of racial awareness, simply beause of the numbers of negroes in this part of the country. But it is a superficial awareness. Growing up, in school, the White and black kids would make racial jokes toward each other, but all they were were jokes. Me and White friends would sometimes would watch things that would make us think that “blacks were the real racists” and other elementary thoughts like this, but there was no real understanding behind it.

    The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words “black on White crime” into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?

    From this point I researched deeper and found out what was happening in Europe. I saw that the same things were happening in England and France, and in all the other Western European countries. Again I found myself in disbelief. As an American we are taught to accept living in the melting pot, and black and other minorities have just as much right to be here as we do, since we are all immigrants. But Europe is the homeland of White people, and in many ways the situation is even worse there. From here I found out about the Jewish problem and other issues facing our race, and I can say today that I am completely racially aware.

    I want you all to think about it.

    The media’s slanted coverage of the Trayvon Martin incited the racism by Dylann Roof.

    Someone explain to me what would be wrong with charging those so-called journalists with murder. After all, it can be argued that their biased coverage led to those murders in that church. One of them was even willing to edit video to distort the story. Their bias incited racism. Racism led to murder. Therefore, as the argument goes, the media, in its biased reporting in that case, coupled with “ignoring hundreds of these black on White murders”, caused the murders in that church.

    Perhaps the state should control the media, requiring the permission of bureaucrats to publish the story to ensure that it is fair and balanced.

    Is there any argument against regulation of media to eliminate biases that lead to racist murders? Or prosecuting those “journalists” and “editors” for murder?

    • These clowns always have to write their “manifestos.” There are creepy similarities between these young killers, even when they kill for different reasons.

      We’re never going to have a real conversation about race. I just wasted 10 minutes of my life reading that entire “manifesto”….and his racist arguments are scientific ones (his conclusions are stupid, but he’s arguing from science.) He actually has one or two legit grievances, and he’s obviously smarter than average (and not one millionth as smart as he thinks he is.)

      He also rejects the Biblical/spiritual arguments against racism (that we have inherent equal worth as human beings, which he seems to think is a bunch of magic hokum), and let’s all note that his “enlightenment,” like that of so many other millennial new-humanists, came from the internet, and led to him rejecting his parental upbringing.

      This crop of young people is dumb, bored, narcissist, calloused, and primed to do something really, really bad if the right charismatic leader comes along.

      • You know… if it’s one person…. They’re an outlier. If there’s two…. it’s a coincidence… When it’s an entire generation, maybe we should start turning the magnifying glass somewhere else. I mean really…. They didn’t just magically come into existence in a vacuum.

  3. “The media’s slanted coverage of the Trayvon Martin incited the racism by Dylann Roof.”

    The soundbite culture and the media will reject that argument, Michael. They will insist that Dylann alone can be blamed, and suddenly they will be all about personal responsibility in this case, unlike most of the rest of the time when they harp about “cultures of violence” or “rape culture” or whatever.

    But yup, plenty of people have predicted (on this blog even) that constantly treating White people/cops/conservatives unjustly in the media and in public opinion would eventually cause one unhinged nut to pop off. I doubt that, say, NBC is so dumb that they don’t realize that either…but an unhinged white nut popping off is the kind of useful tragedy that those types can live with. I was on one Left-Leaning site where a commenter just lamented that Sandy Hook “didn’t get anything done” so this wouldn’t either.

    • I don’t know if he was an unhinged nut. What he found might have unhinged him, though. What he found is that he is a despised minority, that the courts, the media, colleges, and the world at large will not treat him fairly. He found that he has fewer rights than anyone else and he could be charged with crimes, fired, denied a college education, etc through no fault of his own but just because a member of a favored minority makes an accusation about him. He probably looked at the new college sexual assault policies and found that his voice means nothing because only women’s voices matter. He may have noticed that there are educational programs to promote the education of women and every favored minority group. Only his group and Asians are left as groups who shouldn’t have educational opportunities. There are no special laws that protect him as they do others, but there are special laws that are ready to restrict him, but not restrict others. His young mind may not have been able to face such an existence, such a seemingly hopeless future…

      I have noticed that for young adults, fairness is a big thing. They really can’t handle the idea there there could be unfairness that doesn’t get fixed. This is unfairness that isn’t getting fixed and is only getting worse. It is also an injustice that you aren’t even allowed to talk about without being accused of being racist, sexist, and homophobic. I guess this is what the Liberals meant by ‘hope’?

  4. I am all for freedom of speech and expression, but more importantly is the truth. The administration of Oxon has a responsibility and obligation to its students to be teaching the truth and not just some form or facsimile thereof. The display was not an accurate depiction of what happened. It should have never gone up. Furthermore, a school is not the village square. Students are there to learn not to express their opinions and views.

      • Do you really agree with that last sentence? I myself thoroughly disagree with it, though I would disagree less if it just had one crucial comma in it in the right place.

        • Yes, learning involves expressing one’s opinions and views. Sometimes you even find out that you were right all along.

        • Not to express their uninformed, ignorant opinions and views without the professional and responsible guidance and supervision teachers are hired to supply? Sure I agree with it. A graphic display asserting a historical falsehood is exactly the kind of expression of opinion teachers are obligated to shoot down. With facts, with instruction on critical thinking.

          • No, I asked you if you were sure you agreed with what he wrote – that is, with what he really wrote, not a changed version of it (which I myself already admitted could be far more acceptable).

            I have no problems whatsoever with pupils in school being constrained “[n]ot to express their uninformed, ignorant opinions and views without the professional and responsible guidance and supervision teachers are hired to supply”. I do, however, think it is a very poor approach to education to teach children “not to express their opinions and views”, because that is blocking them from learning how to do it – which means, they will be poorly equipped in later life. The two formulations are not the same; yours is about learning wisely under supervision, his is about avoiding learning (the way he wrote it, regardless of what he may have meant).

            So, do you really agree with the sentiments actually expressed? I already know you agree with what you were reminded of or what you took them for.

            • You do know that communication can and usually does go well beyond literal interpretation of words, correct? I believe I understood exactly what the comment was intending to communicate, and see no point in intentionally misconstruing it, as you enjoy doing. (This is a common pastime—I’ve enjoyed it nyself on occasion, though mostly before the age of 18. “Fuck that!” “Fuck that? How could I or anyone fuck that? You are asking me to have sexual relations with a proposed bill in Congress! Such an activity is both unlikely to be enjoyable, and probably physically awkward. Moreover, this does not really address your primary objective, correct? It would be more productive to just vote against it.”

              • I would have more confidence in your ability to discern a deeper meaning and work from that, if you did not so clearly fail to do that with what I tell you or ask you.

                Do you think I was challenging your ability to discern a deeper meaning and work from that, in your original “bingo”? I was not.

                Do you think I was complaining about the soundness of your underlying position, or of his, as near as I could figure them out? I was not.

                I wished to point out that the sentence I cited, as it stood, was a direct encouragement of ignorance and incapacity, but that that defect could easily be cured. Rather than accusing you of missing that defect I asked you your views about it. For you to point out that you understood what was meant is to miss my point: that what was written was a bad thing to do to children. Yes, you knew – or thought you knew – what was meant, but that is irrelevant when I was actually asking you to comment on what was right there. That’s not a snark, it’s an effort to be careful.

                If you really were that good at seeing what people mean, you wouldn’t routinely substitute a reading of my stuff that makes out that I am merely intentionally misconstruing. I am pointing out dangers that can come from things, when words are like knives with loose handles that can turn in your hand and cut you. Here, I ran someone else’s words past you, in the hope that you would look with clearer eyes: words asserting that children were there to learn not to do something. Yes, that is a foolish position for the writer to take, but the moral isn’t that I should substitute a different reading when I critique the wording, it’s that I should warn people that there’s a pitfall there – since someone is bound to fall in it sooner or later, even if ninety-nine others make it past safely. Just as you should treat guns as loaded unless they definitely aren’t, so you should treat things like this.

                • Careful about what? The sentence was clear as a bell in its context. I don’t understand why these things ignite you. There is so much to justify legitimate concern without having to manufacture imaginary offenses.

  5. The truth matters to precious few, it seems. Only People Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and local ABC News station, on Monday and early Tuesday (more outlets may have picked it up since then, I haven’t checked) covered the Unity March in Charleston. 20,000 people attended a march to pledge solidarity as a community in the aftermath of the shootings. CNN had nothing about it at all on its site as of last night. Has anyone else seen anything about it on a major network? CNN’s headlines yesterday were about continuing racism in the US.

    Social media was full of calls this week for whites to admit that ‘all whites have blood on their hands’. I posted links to the march on my FB page, and I may as well have dropped a turd in the middle of a lawn party. The two posts got one like each, 0 comments. Utter silence for whatever doesn’t agree with the current party line. The aspects that I find most alarming are those that remind me of the Salem witch trials (if you sink and drown you were innocent)….anyone who says ‘I’m not racist’ absolutely is, anyone who says they don’t think of others in terms of color is ‘lying’. It’s been a really strange week.

  6. I’d suggest to these young “Oxons” that if black youths are indeed an endangered species, then they might want to keep a close watch on each other. That’s where the danger overwhelmingly lies. In fact, they might want to get a white friend with a concealed carry permit in order to survive their peers.

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