Controversy descended on the Denver Public School District this week when a 10th grader at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy submitted a painting that shows a police officer wearing a KKK hood pointing a gun at a black child wearing a hoodie. The painting was displayed in a city building as part of an outreach program, but it drew outrage from some citizens.
“This is not freedom of expression but an attempt to peddle hateful and racist trash as art! It is a racist message against police officers!” said Butch Montoya, a former Denver safety manager, to the Denver Post.
The Denver chief of police, Robert White, was similarly irritated by the artwork. “I’m greatly concerned about how this painting portrays the police,” White said. “I look forward to having a conversation with the student and her parents.”
On the other side of the issue, there were those who stuck up for the painting.
“I can see why this reflection was scary to them,” said Louise Martorano of a local art center. “At the same time, it should be taken with compassion and understanding the importance of what she’s seeing in the world. The building represents the people. It’s supposed to represent the many voices in our community.”
Right, and surely Martorano would be just as pleased to see a painting that glorified Trump’s Mexican wall hanging in the art center. These liberals are all about the many, diverse voices in the community until it’s one they disagree with. Funny how that works.
The controversy came to a quick end. The mayor’s office released a statement on Wednesday announcing that “after learning of the negative impact of her work,” the student in question asked to have the painting removed.
The problem here isn’t this painting, the response, or this specific student. The problem is that we’ve allowed our national dialogue to veer so far into outer space that this is considered a valid statement on police officers. We’re not talking about some tiny fraction of whackadoos in San Francisco here; calling all police racist murderers is now part of the mainstream spectrum of views. In fact, it’s more accepted than the opposite.
The Black Lives Matter movement has lost some steam – Trump has basically dominated the media for the last eight months – but it will be back the next time they have a shooting that fits their narrative. And with every new incident will come new reforms. Reforms that make it easier to be a criminal and make it more dangerous to be a police officer. That’s where we’re headed as a society, and it doesn’t take a brilliant artist to envision what that future will look like.