Sunday, November 29, 2015

Former Director of the Gender And Sexuality Resource Center Moans and Complains About Removal of Mural of Terrorist

This blog broke the story, and it went national: a mural of cop killer and domestic terrorist Assata Shakur in the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at Marquette. Quickly, the mural was painted over, and the Director of the Center, Susannah Bartlow, was fired.

She has now published an article on the issue in Feminist Studies, Vol. 41, No. 3, “Gendering Bodies, Institutional Hegemonies” (2015), pp. 689-697.

The mere title gives away the fact that this is going to be an example of the arcane and stilted rhetoric common among academic feminists. And indeed it is.
As the founding director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC), my job was to build an academic support office for women’s, gender, and LGBTQ+ education and empowerment. In the center’s third year, Amanda Smith (a Marquette senior) and Jeanette Martín (a community artist and program assistant at the center) envisioned, planned, and executed the Assata Shakur mural project as a way to invite greater community interest. In my role as director of the center, I supported the project, communicated it to senior leaders, and spread the word about the community-painting day in late March 2015.
So it wasn’t Bartlow’s idea. But she knew perfectly well who Shakur was, having signed a petition requesting that President Obama take Shakur off the Most Wanted Terrorists List. And she approved the project anyway.

Her claim to have “communicated it [plans for the mural] to senior leaders” is interesting, since if she informed “senior leaders” about who Shakur is, and they approved the mural, they are responsible and Bartlow was a mere sacrificial lamb.

Faced with a similar claim months ago, we wrote Bartlow, asking for details of what was communicated to higher-level officials, and she did not respond.

Defense of the Mural

Bartlow continues:
Over the six weeks it was on display at the center, the mural invited people into a quiet space off a hallway, and it had sparked discussion among staff, faculty, and students who used the space. The mural was one of very few images of a black woman anywhere on Marquette’s campus, and it contributed to a sense among many students of color that the GSRC was a space in which they were welcomed and safe and where they could be comfortable.

Yet in the distortions of white supremacy, the mural looked like a threat, rather than an intellectual and community representation central to the university itself.
So it’s “white supremacy” to object to object to a mural of a cop killer?

Did the mural “invite” people into the Center? If so, why was a mural of a cop killer particularly “inviting?” Does the clientele of the Center think killing cops is fine?

If one wants an image of a black woman, we can think of a lot of black women who have not killed any cop, and are not on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists.

As for the mural looking like a “threat,” this is what psychologists call “projection.” Politically correct feminists and other leftists are always claiming to feel “unsafe” when they face arguments and facts they find inconvenient. So they assume that other people feel “threatened” (rather than merely appalled) by an image of a black militant cop killer.

Bartlow goes on:
What happened specifically to this mural and to my job is also connected to the charged context of contemporary racialized violence. What happened to the mural is really a minor symptom of the full-on assault against poor people, people of color, queer people, and others who cannot access or play by the rules of twenty-first-century social dominance. No words fit the loss of life and the daily violations against black, brown, and poor people: in Milwaukee, where Marquette is located, more than 100 of the 105 homicides reported so far in 2015 involve black or Hispanic victims.
The chutzpah here is astounding.

Painting over a mural is part of the same phenomenon of black people getting killed?

Worse still is the assertion that 100 of the 105 homicides thus far this year had black or Hispanic victims. Is she implying that cops killed all these people? Klansmen?

No breakdown of victims by race of offender for Milwaukee is available at the moment, but national statistics pretty much tell the story. In 2012 (the last year for which tabulations are available), of 2648 blacks murdered, 2412 were murdered by other blacks. That’s 91 percent.

And the map of the locations of murders in the city of Milwaukee, published by the Journal-Sentinel, also tells the story.

It shows murders concentrated in black neighborhoods on the north side, and Hispanic neighborhoods on the near south side.

More Arcane Verbiage

Bartlow continues:
Our choice of Assata Shakur—a powerful, controversial black leader, an uncompromising woman, for better and worse—came out of a year-long process of supportive, consensus-based, power sharing between students and staff at our center. The mural was visible evidence that our feminist collaborations were working.
So she thought the process was great. But the outcome of the process was odious.

Why could not a “supportive, consensus-based, power sharing” process have produced a mural of a black woman that almost everybody on the campus could admire, and a mural that the Administration could have supported (rather than having to distance itself from). Quite simply: Bartlow and her collaborators were political extremists who didn’t particularly mind black militants killing cops.

Thus the hiring of Bartlow stands as a major fiasco. Perhaps the Administration will be more careful in the future. If so, this débâcle has served a useful purpose. But given the current administration’s habit of pandering to the activists, we have our doubts.

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