The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Arizona Councilman Attacks Mural for Highlighting Dark-Skinned Youth

By Hatewatch Staff on June 7, 2010 - 4:29 pm, Posted in Anti-Black, Anti-Latino

A city councilman with a history of racial insensitivity in Prescott, Ariz., has been fired from his talk radio show after his complaints about a school mural featuring children of several races helped propel the artwork into an embarrassing national news story.

Last month, Steve Blair commented on KYCA about a mural at the Miller Valley Elementary School that depicted children of several races using “green” transportation. On the May 21 radio show, Blair took exception to the art prominently featuring a dark-skinned boy.

“I am not a racist individual, but I will tell you depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who’s president of the United States today and based upon the history of this community — when I grew up, we had four black families who I have been very good friends with for years — to depict the biggest picture on that building as a black person, I would have to ask the question, ‘Why?’” the Associated Press reported Blair saying.

Last week, Blair was reported as saying, “I’m not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever people start talking about diversity, it’s a word I can’t stand.” He added that he had received complaints about the mural and that, “What these people don’t like is somebody forcing diversity down their throats.”

Never mind that several Miller Valley Elementary School students posed for a photo that was used as the basis of the mural.

After the comments, school officials asked the artists to lighten the faces of the children in the mural, reportedly to make them appear more radiant and happy. The school superintendent and principal have since apologized, and the mural is being restored to its original form.

Apparently, this is hardly the first racial flap involving Blair. The local newspaper noted that earlier this year, Blair was one of two city council members questioning the need for a Spanish-language banner in the downtown area that encouraged Census participation. The sign was eventually removed. Blair and the other council member said they fielded calls from residents unhappy about the sign.

In 2007, The Progressive magazine took note of comments from Blair’s radio show where he searched for the appropriate term to describe Latinos and suggested the term “taco flippers.” “[F]rankly we are seeing a pattern and are regretting endorsing him for City Council,” The (Prescott) Daily Courier noted in an editorial Thursday.

The controversy has put the state of Arizona and its uncomfortable history of racism back into the national spotlight after the state passed a controversial immigration law earlier this year that has been widely criticized as basically legalizing racial profiling — not to mention another recent statute that essentially outlaws ethnic studies programs in the schools. (In the late 1980s, Arizona went through a similar period under Gov. Evan Mecham, who canceled the state’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and called black children “pickaninnies” before being impeached for obstruction of justice. Following the 1990 failure of Arizona voters to bring back the King holiday, the National Football League moved Super Bowl XXVII from that state to California in protest.) The mural controversy in this town of almost 43,000 people has been reported as far away as Europe and Australia.

And the publicity hasn’t been good. R.E. Wall, director of the Prescott Downtown Mural Project, told reporters that racial slurs were regularly hurled from passing cars at the artists working on the mural. “The pressure stayed up consistently,” Wall said. “We had two months of cars shouting at us.”

Wall said he heard comments that included, “Get the ni—– off the wall,” and “Get the sp– off the wall.”

Former Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson has called for Blair’s resignation in a letter to the editor. “Yesterday was a firestorm of bad publicity for Prescott and it was worldwide,” Wilson wrote. He added: “If you truly love Prescott, you need to resign from the Prescott City Council.”

So far, Blair isn’t budging. “When my constituents in the city tell me it’s time for me to go, and that I’m affecting how the city does its business, I will go,” he has told reporters. “I ran because I wanted to help. If I can no longer do that, I’ll step down.”

  • Raquel

    Keep in mind that this is only one of many incidents that SPLC discuss about and try to prevent from happening any longer. If we try to make a difference, and take action, like SPLC, we can too make this world less segregated among certain societies.

  • Veronica

    I will never go to Arizona. It’s becoming Ground Zero for racial hatred and bigotry. It’s even worse than the Deep South.

  • Carter

    Ahhh yes, Arizonans…..Where knuckle dragging is a mark of “State-citizenship” and when those folks smile you can see the fangs (generally when they are blathering about eating non-whites).
    I’ll bet that many people know that differing states of the Union hold more than one type of political personality and not all or even a majority of people from the South or South-West or rural areas within various parts of the country are NOT bigots! Some of you who pretend to be so damn “open minded” display the most classic elements of prejudgment based on where someone lives!
    Damn! Some of you need to look long and hard in a mirror before opening your mouth about bigotry, etc.

  • Homer

    Carter
    Libertarian my a$$. How many of the retired Arizonan’s eagerly await the next social security check or medicare? Do you actually understand what “libertarian” actually stands for? I am thankful they (and someday I) get these checks from the government. A state so filled with retiree’s can hardly be described as libertarian.

  • Carter

    @ skinnyminny:
    However the incidents being reviewed were “city-oriented”. The population centers have a decidedly different crowd than the rural areas.
    In Graham, Navajo, Pinal, & counties w/ a wider population base we have much less of the “out-spoken” that they have in Maracopa.
    I see my neighbors from afar. They are not within shouting distance & perhaps that’s one big reason why we generally see problems in large population based demographics….
    On various Reservations, the concept of Nationhood is alive & well. In rural settings of ranches or farms (working or not), I believe that the majority just want to live their lives in peace and privacy.
    I’m not over in Phoenix. It’s a big city like LA or Dallas & big cities attract emotionally challenged folks and busy-bodies who want to have a block-vote of lock-step non-introspective folks. I stand by my statement with the caveat that I’m talking about non-city dwellers.
    Heaven knows what nut cases exist in places like that. You pack a large number of rats together & you get problems. Pack a hen-house too full and the weaker ones get pecked….it’s an ugly truth.

  • Benito

    “All Men are created equal”! The founders had it right, when attempting to form a perfect union and they also knew that they were not there yet but knew we one day would get there. Lincoln moved us forward as did JFK and LBJ. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

    It is my contention that this AZ law is not constitutional and will fail when challenged (unless, of course, they keep adding more amendments), pretty funny for this so called perfect law, that many internet blogs claim it was copied “Word for Word” from the Federal law, which I frankly do not believe, if it was then no amendments would have been made, right?, of course.

    As for the undocumented workers, as was attributed to Ronald Reagan “It’s the Economy, Stupid”. When the economy is good we say let’s all celebrate “Cinco de Mayo, my brothers” but when the economy is down “it’s all your fault, you damn immigrant”. This too will pass. The real problem is the narcos, arms and people smugglers and that’s what the focus should be on.

    Don’t you find it funny that no one ever voted for Brewer for Governor, it’s all about politics and getting elected, do not be fooled. Busy Brewer has passed S.B. 1070, no permit conceal weapons law, the famous Birthers law, banning Ethic studies law, (could she be behind the Mural in Prescott, Arizona) and if history is a lesson she should look up Arizona’s House Bill 2779 from two years ago (which failed when legally challenged) and the craziest one the boycotted Martin Luther King Day, not wanting another holiday, how crazy is that. I believe there is an undercurrent to their enactment of new laws, they real love following a distinct pattern. Poor Brewer, last week, she first she said her Dad had died in Germany fighting the Nazi in World War II (war ended 1945) and we find out her father was never in Germany and died in California in 1955 (watch the spin doctors go into overdrive) and then she went to Washington and came back empty as always, poor dear.

  • ruben

    people just want too come to arizona to retire and be left alone?…that is just a bunch of baloney!…white extremist groups want to go to arizona because they know that there hatred is welcome there…the leaders of most of the white republican government positions in arizona from the governors office to the lowliest city councilmember in the smallest town are diehard racists and have brainwashed most of white arizona to embrace there paranoid point of view.and lets be honest most of these people are part of the tea party movement they are trying to legitimize there hatred by wrapping there hate around the flag and calling themselves patriots and alot of white america is buying into it.i believe that if the republican/teaparty should win the presidency in 2012 america is gonna see a wave of government sanctioned hate/discrimination that has not been seen since before the end of slavery.there will be nation wide goon squads and concentration camps like the ones that the hate monger arpaio is now running in arizona….god help any non white person that falls into the clutches of these people.i also believe that the country is in great peril from these same people,there hate is so great that i think they would gladly take the country into a new civil war(which is why you see so many new militia groups) to have there points of view and racist opinions become the law of the land.i agree with skinnyminny the 2012 elections are gonna be a history defining moment for the u.s.

  • skinnyminny

    Carter,

    Sorry! But I have got to disagree with you on people wanting to go to Arizona to retire and be left alone. I agree with you that Arizona has a strong Liberterian party.

    Here is why I disagree with you that people want to be left alone, in the articles “Phoenix Rising Rally Nativist EXPOSED by Dennis Gilman” and “Pro SB 1070 Phoenix Rising Rally: Neo-Nazis, Nativists Crackpots and more” in the Phoenix New Times blogs, the writer, Stephen Lemons posts pictures and Youtube videos of the rallies on the weekend of 6-5-2010.

    Guest Speakers and Attendees were Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio, Tom Tancredo, Ted Hayes allegedly told the crowd that he’ll arrest Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson for treason. Lupe Moreno allegedly called CNN’s Anderson Cooper a traitor, Chelene Nightingale a California gubernatorial candidate allegedly tells the crowd to boycott Hollywood and Los Angeles, an unidentified male shows up wearing a t-shirt “white boy society,” and J.D. Hayworth who is running against John McCain allegedly hired ‘bikers’ as security.

    California is on track to becoming like Arizona, just look at some of the candidates running for political office, Bill Hunt for Sheriff, Chelene Nightingale wants to be governor but tells people to boycott cities in her state? There are others that live in California but are endorsed and have had fundraisers by those in Arizona office.

    Again, I suggest people see the 1988 movie “Betrayed” with Debra Winger and Tom Berenger. Winger was a FBI agent that infiltrated the Sons of Liberty, this movie can be viewed online as well rented. These sites says you can watch this movie online free at Watchmoviesonlinezone.com and ovguide.com-I watched it on cable, and the similarities of today’s society and what’s happening with our politics, this should be a wakeup call to all Americans, know who you are voting for and don’t let the illegal immigration issue cloud your judgement on who you will vote for. Also should be a wakeup call that this could be behind the saying “2012 is coming for you.” Note, they never said 2012 is coming for all of us, but it coming for you – and being directed towards certain non-white groups.

  • Carter

    For those Arizonans who remember, Gov. Evan Mecham was quite “special”. Many thought he was sick. We have had an unfortunate number of governors and statesmen who were problematic.
    That’s why is a very good idea for people thinking to move here to re-think their agenda. Arizona is Arizona. it will never be a California or Massachusetts. It simply happens to be a conservative state.
    We are not all racists or bigots but the Progressive elements are within some of the university communities for the most part.
    Most people who have moved here have done so to be left alone or get away from the cities. The same had been true of Montana or Wyoming. It’s simply the nature of things.
    I hope no one is fooled into thinking that Arizona could become another California. That simply won’t happen due to the demographics and history of the state. Additionally, Libertarian politics have always been a strong 3rd party here; unlike many other states.
    Arizona has had one of the most transient populations of many states due to some of these issues & the University population.
    Arizona is a place to go to retire and be left alone. That’s basically it’s character.

  • skinnyminny

    This is not the first time this has happened. Apparently, they painted over other buildings featuring blacks, in addition to painting over the ‘Blue Boy.’

    It’s sad that in this time of our country, seems like we are only going backwards when it comes to racial relations. Oh well, I guess we won’t be a leader in anything anymore.

  • Tony

    You’ve got to love his idea when you see any depiction of darker skinned folk you have to ask “Why?”

    If it’s white, it’s normal, but the mere depiction of anything BUT white is to be questioned.
    But he’s not racist, and some of his best friends are black

    (Just picture rolling eyes here)

  • Paen

    I feel sorry for all the good people in Prescott who are made to look like a bunch of ignorant yahoos because of this bigot.