The University of Notre Dame will cover up a series of murals depicting Christopher Columbus amid backlash over the paintings’ stereotypical and inaccurate portrayal of Native Americans and their relationship with white European explorers, the school announced.
The 12 murals, painted by Luigi Gregori in the 1880s, adorn the entrance of the university’s Main Building, a busy throughway that houses administration offices and some classrooms, in South Bend, Indiana.
At the time of their creation, the paintings were intended to empower Catholic immigrants in America, but their message whitewashes the catastrophic impact European explorers had on native peoples, Notre Dame President John Jenkins wrote in a letter to members of the school’s community on Saturday.
Here’s the entire letter from Father Jenkins, the ND president. Matthew Schmitz observes:
“Columbus’s arrival brought, for these peoples … repression of vibrant cultures”
—Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.https://t.co/PRNqz7OFql
— Matthew Schmitz (@matthewschmitz) January 22, 2019
So: at Notre Dame, you can’t see images of Columbus, but you can still watch hardcore pornography on the university’s WiFi system. Good to know. If only Columbus were depicted celebrating diversity in the sack with the natives, he might stage a comeback…
But seriously, this is disgraceful. It is possible to recognize the complexity of the European coming to the New World without abominating our ancestors. And necessary to!
UPDATE: Reader Jonah:
Why is the most basic historical accuracy of the painting a major criterion for removing it? There’s a larger sense of history about it that’s extremely important. How many Notre Dame students know there was a time when both Italians and Catholics felt outside the white, Anglo-Saxon mainstream, or that Columbus Day, now considered rather un-P.C., can fairly be called the first “diversity holiday”? Or that in 1892 during the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage, he was a major pop-culture icon in cities like New York for a wide range of new immigrant groups? There’s much to be learned from this painting about who we used to be as a nation, and it’s a complex story. Part of the underlying reason the mural is being hidden away is because it tells a story about the context of its creation in 19th-century America that’s too nuanced for blunt-minded “woke” activists in 2019 to deal with.
There’s another angle I don’t see anyone raising: this mural is art. Banning art, taking it off walls, and denying people access to it used to be one of those things that only busybody right-wing Christians would propose, and they would be vilified for it by artists, academics, activists, writers, free-speech advocates, etc. Young people are now okay with university administrators telling them what they can see and when they can see it? People on college campus are just nodding in acquiescence at censors who claim to know what’s best for them? When did “keep the art where it is and let individuals judge it for themselves” become a fringe conservative opinion?