The Ku Klux Klan won a major victory on September 29, when Indiana University decided to effectively censor the anti-KKK mural painted by Thomas Hart Benton. The KKK hated the mural because it reminded people of when they ruled Indiana politics, and because the mural celebrates the downfall of the Klan.
I deliberately described the Benton mural as “the anti-KKK mural” because that is exactly what it is. Benton was an enemy of the KKK and wanted to make sure that we did not forget the shameful time when they ruled Indiana politics. The historical value of the mural cannot be reasonably disputed.
If opponents of the mural were honest, I could respect their argument. An honest argument would be that even though Benton was an enemy of the KKK and the overall message of the mural is racial harmony, the image of the KKK is just too painful for black students.
But the liars opposing the mural are not honest or honorable. They smear it as the “KKK mural” and claim it “glorifies” the Klan. This is a damnable lie, and the liars spewing this lie deserve no respect.
Following is the e-mail I sent to the provost.
I am deeply saddened and disappointed by your decision to effectively censor the anti-KKK mural in Woodburn Hall. Rather than continue to educate students about the mural’s anti-KKK message, you chose to effectively hide it from public view by deciding that Woodburn 100 will no longer be a classroom. This is a loss for the free exchange of ideas, a loss for education and a win for the KKK.
I do appreciate that you once again clarified the record and spoke the truth about the mural. It is shameful and repulsive to see liars spreading lies about the mural, pretending that it is somehow pro-KKK. Liars must be refuted whenever possible, and you did a public service by doing that.
With that said, far fewer students will be exposed to this beautiful painting and its message of racial harmony. Far fewer students will be reminded of the shameful time when the KKK ruled Indiana politics and how heroic journalists caused the downfall of the Klan. The KKK and politicians allied with them hated the mural, and decades after they were embarrassed by the mural they are finally getting their wish.
The answer is not to hide the anti-KKK mural by abandoning the tradition of classes being held in Woodburn 100. The answer is to continue educating students about the purpose, message and history of this valuable piece of anti-KKK artwork. Obviously, it is a painful image – but that is the entire point. We should be reminded of this shameful time in our history so we can continue to say “never again.”