Analysis & Comment

Opinion | A Battle Over Murals Depicting Slavery

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To the Editor:

Re “Artist and School Spar Over Murals of Slavery” (front page, Feb. 22):

The decision to cover these murals is totally outrageous. One doesn’t learn from the past by covering it over. You learn by studying, and that is what an educational institution should provide. You don’t erase, or cover over, the past because it is unpleasant or disturbing.

Of course it is, and continues to be, disturbing, but when you literally come face to face with it as these murals make possible, you then must consider what that discomfort means in terms of both our history as a nation and our laws and actions today.

The school should take down the panels, expose the murals and their history once again and provide context and the opportunity for discussion.

Elaine Hirschl Ellis
New York
The writer is the president of Arts and Crafts Tours, which hosts trips about 19th- and 20th-century art and architecture.

To the Editor:

The quote from a law student who was distressed by a visual depiction of slavery by a white artist — “The artist was depicting history, but it’s not his history to depict” — is most disturbing. The argument is not whether the artistic merits of the mural should be considered? Or that the mood of the piece may be too harsh for a student center?

Those who think censoring painters or other artists by limiting their creative themes according to their race or ethnic identity are closed-minded, and will erode free artistic expression.

Steve Cohen
New York

To the Editor:

The diverse reactions to the murals in the article can be attributed to a debate over the periods that influenced the artist’s painting style.

The intent of the school and the artist to represent the state’s role in helping slaves escape via the Underground Railroad was admirable. Yet the figurative style still harkens back to the comedically formulaic and stereotypical blackened ones of minstrels’ stage entertainment prevalent in the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The spirit of mockery seen in the most famous minstrel, Jim Crow, persists today in the form of white supremacy, voter restriction and inequity. That style’s history would not be lost on many viewers.

A discussion hosted by the school’s National Center for Restorative Justice about this issue could be a powerful learning tool for us all.

Theresa McNichol
Cranbury, N.J.
The writer is an art historian.

Corporal Punishment in Schools

To the Editor:

Re “Bills Push Corporal Punishment Ban in New York Private Schools” (news article, March 3):

I was shocked to read that physical violence against children is still tolerated in some New York schools. I suffered the occasional whack from the nuns in parochial school, usually for “having a fresh mouth,” but that was many years ago. I thought that anachronistic practice had long since ended.

I support the effort of Assemblyman Charles Lavine and his colleagues to protect students and bring all of our schools into line with the progressive values of a modern society.

John E. Stafford
Rye, N.Y.

What We Don’t Know About Ron DeSantis

To the Editor:

Re “My Fellow Liberals Are Exaggerating the Dangers of Ron DeSantis,” by Damon Linker (Opinion guest essay,, Feb. 27):

Mr. Linker misses the point of voters’ anxiety about Florida’s governor. The fear stems not from what we know about Ron DeSantis, but what we do not. We know that he shares Donald Trump’s penchant for bullying, bigotry, trolling and media manipulation.

What we do not know is whether Mr. DeSantis shares Mr. Trump’s contempt for the presidential oath of office. Will Mr. DeSantis use the bully pulpit to undermine faith in our elections, as Mr. Trump did? Will he try to overturn the results of a free and fair election, as Mr. Trump did? We cannot know, because Mr. DeSantis refuses to enlighten us.

Until he speaks forthrightly to these questions, voters (not just “liberals”) have a right to view Mr. DeSantis as more dangerous than Donald Trump.

Indeed, all Republican candidates should be expected to repudiate Mr. Trump’s malfeasance. Trust has been violated, and must be restored if we are to move forward together again as one nation.

Andrew Meyer
Middletown, N.J.

Help for Caregivers

To the Editor:

Re “Funds to Bolster U.S. Chip-Making Come With Catch” (front page, Feb. 28):

The Biden administration’s efforts to leverage its investments in semiconductor infrastructure to expand child care are laudable and much needed, but the policy falls short of supporting millions of Americans caring for aging or disabled loved ones who also need support to stay and succeed in the work force.

The 32 million working caregivers at this end of the spectrum continue to be left out of administrative and federal action to support working families. For example, working caregivers of older adults, people with disabilities and people living with serious medical conditions were excluded from the expansion of paid leave for federal workers and from the emergency paid leave provisions of Covid response legislation. As a result, these caregivers are more likely to report negative impacts at work because of caregiving responsibilities.

Using administrative authority to help caregivers balance care and work is urgently needed given stalled efforts in Congress to pass policies like paid family and medical leave, affordable child care, and strengthened aging and disability care. But without a comprehensive approach, millions of family caregivers will continue to be left behind.

Jason Resendez
The writer is the president and C.E.O. of the National Alliance for Caregiving.

California and the Colorado River

To the Editor:

Re “California Wants to Keep (Most of) the Colorado River for Itself,” by John Fleck (Opinion guest essay,, Feb. 23):

The essay does not acknowledge that only California has voluntarily offered to significantly cut its use of Colorado River water in the near term under a proposal that also ensures that cities in Arizona, Nevada and across the Southwest have the water they need for their residents.

California’s proposal strikes a balance between respecting longstanding law and recognizing that every city and farm that relies on the river must reduce its water use — precisely the sense of fairness and shared sacrifice that Mr. Fleck lauds.

The six-state proposal took the presumptuous approach of assigning the vast majority of cuts on water users that didn’t sign on: California, Native American tribes and Mexico. Ignoring existing laws will likely land us in court, costing time we don’t have.

We have to work together to keep the Colorado River system from crashing and protect all those who rely on it. We can do this through developing true consensus through collaboration — not by bashing one state or community.

J.B. Hamby
El Centro, Calif.
The writer is chairman of the Colorado River Board of California and the state’s Colorado River commissioner.

Guns and Crime

To the Editor:

Re “Chicago Reflects Democratic Split on Public Safety” (front page, March 2):

As Republicans look to exploit crime — gun violence in particular — as a campaign issue, Democrats would do well to point out the G.O.P.’s unwillingness to prevent illegal guns from spilling across state borders early and often.

Bruce Ellerstein
New York

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