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Reality vs. Intent

Today in class we were discussing the problems with displaying artwork, which may shed a racist light on certain historical events, in places that are state sponsored such as the Governor’s Mansion or the Capitol. While I can understand, and appreciate these sentiments, the conversation raised several questions in my mind; which is more important, the actual meaning of a symbol or piece of artwork, or the publicly accepted  meaning of the symbol or artwork? What I mean is that I do not believe the people of Texas to be overwhelmingly and knowingly racist and I do not believe that the general public perceives these pieces of artwork, such as the pieces we viewed today, to have blatant racist themes. I understand that ignorance of a problem or situation does not constitute an adequate argument for the perpetuation of such a problem or situation, but at the same time where does intent fit into this debate? If the government of the state of Texas puts up a piece of artwork in the Capitol, but does not intend for that artwork to symbolize a support of racist feelings or actions, does the act of simply supporting the artwork constitute the perpetuation of racial violence? Every nation or state has to have symbols which provide a sense of nationalism, and unite the people under a certain ideological purpose. While certain symbols that have been adopted throughout our history may have a tainted past, if this past has been rewritten (even in a mythological manner) does the reality of their symbolism really matter? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I thought it was an interesting point of discussion.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 26, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    This is exactly what I’ve been thinking. When I was young, touring the Capitol, I didn’t see those pieces of art and see the things we discussed in class. It’s just like how many people don’t read into the underlying messages in Twilight.
    Most of the time, we learn about this as we grow older. There are always those who ignore the facts or remain blissfully ignorant. But I believe that the majority of Texans are not horrible racists and such.

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