6 months ago I was asked to do a poster for the 10th Annual Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals conference taking place in Lansing next March. I was asked to speak on the topic of art in recovery and how creativity can compliment a healthy recovery program. There would be approximately 600-800 prosecutors, judges, probation and law enforcement people in attendance. I also put them in touch with the "art and addiction" people from Johns Hopkins Medical School.
I submitted this piece about 4 months ago. Its real neat and is big, like 24" x 24". Everyone just raved about it. They had found me through this website and wanted something done in my style. It is a great example of exactly what I do.
This morning I got a phone call from the judge in charge of putting the conference together. He informed me that after several meetings they have determined my art to be racially insensitive and were sorry to say it was unacceptable. Apparently they took issue with my portrayal of the black inmate. Nothing was said about the fat cop, the hillbilly guys at the morgue, or the hot, blonde assistant DA.
This is the way I draw and every black guy I ever drew looks like this guy. Same with every other figure in the piece. I am a folk artist, I cant draw you a specific person. They all look the same just with different clothes and accoutrements. I am not a racist. In fact, one of the big parts of getting sober, is learning acceptance and tolerance. I am no better than the drunk sleeping under the bridge.
I was asked to please look at the big picture, the good that Michigan Drug Courts do, week in and week out, but I was not afforded the same "big picture" leniency with my art. Further, the hypocrisy of encouraging people in recovery to be creative and express themselves but only if it is politically correct is ridiculous.
I am 54 years old and I am embarrassed at how my generation and ones a bit older than I handle the race issue. For me, race is not an issue. My parents, grandparents etc. were not racists. I was taught to evaluate friends and relationships based on the content of their character not their skin color. I went to a huge high school that was completely racially diversified. In my fraternity house, during my undergrad years, we became racially diverse for the first time in our chapters history. Now I am being called a racist because of how I draw. Nevermind "the big picture" of what experience, strength and hope I might bring the conference. End of story.