Last week, a group of artists led by the UK painter Hannah Black demanded that a museum curator remove and destroy a painting from the Whitney Biennial.
The painting, “Open Casket,” depicts the bludgeoned head of a black teenager named Emmett Till, who was lynched by two white men in Mississippi in 1955.
The painting is by white artist Dana Schultz, who said that she had been moved by police brutality against black people to create the picture. For her efforts, black artists demanded that her painting be destroyed.
Their Open Letter said in part:
“The painting should not be acceptable to anyone who cares or pretends to care about Black people because it is not acceptable for a white person to transmute Black suffering into profit and fun.
“The subject matter is not Schutz’s; white free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.”
It is signed by black artists who want the museum curator to destroy this painting.
Totalitarians do two things:
They confiscate history, and they confiscate culture.
In 1821 Heinrich Heine, the German poet said, “Where books are burned, in the end people will be burned”.
And in case you think this is a just the actions of a few nut-cases, this call for a painting to be destroyed was also supported by some in the mainstream media, in the name of “respect.”
This brings me to another controversy, one that recently occurred in Australia.
Bill Leak, one of Australia’s greatest cartoonists recently died at the age of 61. Sadly, Leak’s last days were lived under severe stress, as the Australian Human Rights Commission brought legal action against him for a cartoon.
I'll give you other recent examples of this phenomenon, of secular morality of concern social justice turning into a fundamentalist religion.