The little black girl reaches above herself to spray paint “Bigger Than Hate” across the wall. Her back is turned, and she does not see a white officer crouching behind her with a weapon aimed at her back. This poster was created by a Sunset Park High School student, who has remained unnamed, as a part of a Black History Month-themed installation. However, after growing controversy, the school removed the work.
“We got a million calls about it,” a school source told the New York Post. “They put it up and took it down and moved it on the same day.”
Images of the poster were shared on Facebook and many, including the person who originally shared it, called for its immediate removal, according to the New York Post.
“Holy crap, the world is so lost,” one person wrote in a comment on Facebook. “How can a principal feel this is OK. A whole staff for the matter.”
In response, a collective of students stepped out of the classroom in protest of the piece's removal, and a rally was held outside of the school of education on Tuesday.
The student who created the poster based the image on a popular piece by Madam Muse, which illustrates a young girl changing graffiti on a wall from saying the n-word to the word “bigger,” and tagging “than hate” below it. Similar to the student’s piece, an officer creeps in the corner, pointing his gun at the child.
✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿 #madammuse pic.twitter.com/vm655bbfEp— _.Adri._ (@DrizzyyySas__) August 15, 2017
However, after receiving a number of complaints, school officials removed the piece from the school’s main lobby and into a different building associated with the district.
Many students stepped up to defend their peer's work.
“It sends a strong message,” one unnamed student told the New York Post. “I don’t think they should have removed it. That’s how the person who made it felt.”
“This is the reality these days,” another unnamed student was reported saying. “That’s all I can say about it.”
This controversy echoes the hardships of teaching black history in classrooms; especially amongst instances of a teacher in the Bronx stepping on the backs of black students in order to demonstrate the hardships of slavery and a white principal banning lessons on the Harlem Renaissance.
"All of this is just further evidence of a systemic problem in New York City," Natasha Capers, coordinator for the parent group Coalition for Education Justice, told Chalk Beat. "Systemic Problems call for system solutions."
In response, racial equity training is to be mandated for principal training programs and is set to include new curriculum that encompasses the voices of differing perspectives and voices. The city will also provide anti-bias training for 450 teachers, which makes up. 64 percent of teachers in the area.
"Anti-bias training and culturally responsive teaching are critical to ensuring a welcoming learning environment for all students," spokesman Will Mantell told Chalk Beat. "These approaches are integrated throughout New York City Schools."
Teaching racism and the history of discrimination in the United States can be a daunting task for many educators, but a tone must be set for the future.