Tag Archives: censorship

Preserving Black History: 12 Months a Year


Debbie says:

The map above demonstrates just how endangered Black history is in the United States today. You can examine it more closely courtesy of a recently updated article by Sarah Schwartz at Education Week. Basically, though, the dark blue represents states where there are existing laws right now about what you can teach, and the dark yellow is states where similar laws are moving through the legislatures.

According to the EdWeek article which the map illustrates, most of the bills are copycats of a Trump executive order banning certain kinds of diversity training. Many refer to “critical race theory,” which is a complex and nuanced academic theory originated by (mostly) Black scholars, and has nothing to do with the curriculum of virtually any K-12 school. Many are specifically designed to make sure students “are not made uncomfortable” by what they learn in schools, and don’t have to contend with “divisive concepts” like “Tulsa, Oklahoma had a thriving Black community known as Black Wall Street, which was destroyed in 1921 by a vicious racist mob, and hundreds of people died.” That’s “divisive” not because there’s any question about the facts, but because the lawmakers and their supporters don’t want their kids to know about it–or maybe they just don’t want to answer their kids’ questions. And by “students,” the lawmakers of course mean white students, because (apparently) if a Black child feels uncomfortable because her history is still being erased, that’s fine.

Teachers have been fired, books have been banned from libraries and classrooms, and of course there is pushback from sensible people (of all races). But the juggernaut of censorship is juggernauting along. And it’s far from limited to the United States; many countries from India to Poland are engaged in suppressing any part of their own history that their citizens cannot just be uncomplicatedly proud of.

Here at home, The African-American Policy Forum is not the only group to ask “Is this the last Black History month?” The AAPF’s #truthbetold campaign is one good place to look for information, resources, and calls to action.  Facing History and Ourselves is another terrific organization doing the work.

Here at Body Impolitic, Laurie and I have been supporters of Black History Month for all the nearly two decades we’ve been blogging, and we don’t intend to stop. We post about Black history several times a year. This particular February we’ve been caught up with other immediate issues in our personal and professional lives, including the release of our Fat Studies article (which looks at fat oppression in–among other contexts–the context of anti-Black racism). We will continue to post about Black history, both in general, and when specific subjects catch our eye. If you’re looking for a moment of Black history (or gender history, or legal history) right now, you can check out this post on the redoubtable Pauli Murray.

Meanwhile, if you live in a state that is considering one of these laws, or a state that has passed one, fight back. Lobby, march, donate, support. The preservation of honest history is everyone’s fight; change doesn’t happen from the sidelines.


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Your Art Isn’t Good Enough for Our TRASH CANS?

Laurie and Debbie say:

As John Ferrannini describes in the Bay Area Reporter, the South of Market West Community Benefit District (SOMA West CBD) was looking for trash-can art to represent its neighborhood–an edgy, lively neighborhood that has managed to resist gentrification more than many San Francisco neighborhoods. They reached out to the Leather and LGBT Cultural District for submissions, very appropriately.

They accepted five of the submissions from that group, and notified the artists where their art could be found, and when. You can guess what happened next …

When our friend Dorian Katz, whose art is bylined Poppers the Pony, and her fellow artists  (including Justin Hall) went to look for their work, Dorian very specifically at the “southwest corner of 11th and Harrison Streets,” it wasn’t there. Trash can, check.
Artwork, check. Dorian’s artwork, not there.


by Dorian Katz

SOMA West CBD is, of course, being mealy-mouthed and vague.

“We received more leather LGBTQ-themed submissions than anticipated and unfortunately, we couldn’t use them all,” [Christian] Martin, [the director] wrote. “… If we had more time, we would have made clear that we reserved the right to choose (or not choose) whatever art we wanted, and that we could not guarantee that every submission would be selected. I’ve apologized and taken responsibility for not making that clear. We did make sure that each artist was compensated fairly for their time and work, whether we used the images or not.”

When pressed in a phone interview, Martin said that while “each piece of art was judged independently … the hanky code depiction was raised as a concern that some might have.”

Martin stressed that other LGBTQ and/or BDSM-affirmative imagery was chosen for the trash bins, among art representing other communities. Some displayed art features the now-shuttered queer bar The Stud, the now-scant “Miracle Mile” that was once full of gay bars and bathhouses, the Powerhouse, a jock strap, and bondage gear.

“Much of the art has BDSM themes,” Martin said. “We didn’t put any prohibition on hanky codes,” though some of the art was “a little too risqué for 24/7 public display.”

Martin said that since the art display is rotating, the artists whose works were rejected have been “reserved a spot in the next round.”

In other words, they had time to request art from the Leather and LGBT group, and the time to tell artists exactly where and when to look for their work, but somehow not the time to say “Sorry, we aren’t using your work,” let alone the time to say “Sorry, we don’t want our neighborhood associated with your sexuality any more.”

This is not only unprofessional. It isn’t only a sanitized view of the neighborhood and the city. It isn’t only rude. It’s also completely and utterly disrespectful of artists who spend not just time and thought, but also talent and care, depicting visuals they consider important. And it’s disrespectful of the political power of the censored art. It’s all part and parcel of how our culture treats artists–as interchangeable commodities, who can supply the right subject matter in the right colors in the right size for the trash can (!), and then people who are not artists (but have the power) can simply toss away whatever doesn’t suit them.

San Francisco, like all US cities, has a lot on its plate. Nonetheless, this disrespect and sanitizing deserves public outcry. And the artists whose work is missing deserve to have their art reinstated.


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