Friday, October 22, 2021

Too much white in the palette

A guard stretches at the Barbara Kruger show currently on exhibit at the Art Institute. 

     Harvey E. Clark was a CTA bus driver and World War II vet. In July 1951, he moved his family’s belongings into an apartment at 6139 W. 19th Street in Cicero. Before they could reside there, however, his would-be neighbors went berserk, rampaging through the building while the Cicero police stood by, doing nothing. Thousands of rioters smashed windows and dragged the Clarks’ furniture into the street. The governor had to call out the Illinois National Guard.
     Clark was Black. I am white, but nevertheless can still convey the story of how Cicero greeted the family that would have been the suburb’s first Black residents.
     At least I hope so; it’s in my next book. That hope is open to debate, however. In our current fraught racial moment, who is saying something can count as much as what is being said. Maybe more. The Art Institute of Chicago, like many old guard cultural institutions, is trying to be less lily white, and the museum’s eye fell on its staff of volunteer docents, who were fired en masse Sept. 3. Not for what they were telling visitors; but for who was doing the telling.
     “As a civic institution, we acknowledge our responsibility to rebuild the volunteer educator program in a way that allows community members of all income levels to participate, responds to issues of class and income equity, and does not require financial flexibility to participate,” is how Veronica Stein, the Woman’s Board executive director of Learning and Public Engagement, put it in an email delivering the bad news. “Rather than refresh our current program, systems and processes, we feel that now is the time to rebuild our program from the ground up.”
     Fox News expressed it far more succinctly: “Chicago museum fires all of its mostly White female, financially well-off docents for lack of diversity.”
     I think that’s why I initially ignored the story. Nobody cries like a bully, and while the Red Staters try to blind America to its racist past, labeling honest assessment of history as “critical race theory” and banning it by law, they seek cover by cherry-picking tales of cancel culture overreach, mostly from academia, to pretend that they are victims. Why amplify that?

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  1. Of course it makes sense to diversify the docent corp but why eliminate them with one broad stroke of the brush?
    Why not let natural attrition do the work?
    I can’t help but think that those checks in October may go somewhere else.

  2. Thanks for the priceless picture in the blog, didn't get that in the newspapers.

  3. It does seem that the Art Institute served up a soft one for the right wing to knock right out of the park.


  4. Harvey Clark's daughter, Michele Clark, was eight years old at the time of the Cicero riots. She later attended the University of Chicago Laboratory High School, Grinnell College in Iowa, and Roosevelt University in Chicago, where she received her degree.

    Michele Clark also completed a new program at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, designed for the recruitment, training, and placement of minority journalists. She was hired as a reporter for WBBM-TV, the CBS-owned station in Chicago, and then promoted. In July of 1972, she became a CBS News network correspondent.

    Michele Clark investigated the Watergate scandal. This included interviewing Dorothy Hunt, the wife of E. Howard Hunt, one of those who was about to be tried for his role in Watergate. She was also working on a story about cover-ups and hush money connected to the Watergate case.

    On December 8, 1972, both Michele Clark and Dorothy Hunt were aboard United Flight 553, flying from Washington to Chicago. While on final approach to Midway airport, the aircraft hit the branches of trees along West 71st Street, and then hit the roofs of a number of neighborhood garages before crashing and destroying five bungalows near West 70th Place and Lawndale. The crash and fire killed 43 passengers and crew, and two residents on the ground. Eighteen passengers survived, but Michele Clark and Dorothy Hunt died. Although there was much speculation that this was not an accident, the crash was eventually blamed on pilot error.

    Google "Michele Clark: CBS- Spartacus Educational"...and you will find a long list of conspiracy theories about Michelle Clark, Dorothy Hunt, and the plane crash that killed them. Enough of them to make you dizzy for a week.


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