Teachers in Westminster High School in Carroll County in Maryland were shocked to hear that they were being forced to remove pro-America posters depicting different American women from their classrooms. Each poster shows either a Latina, Black, or Muslim American woman captioned with a patriotic statement. School administrators decided that these posters, designed by artist Shepard Fairey, were too political and must be removed from classrooms. Yes, depicting American women who represent a few of their own students is now too political.
Carey Gaddis, a spokesperson for Carroll County Public Schools, said admitted that teachers were putting up the posters as a “show of diversity.” She continued to explain that the posters “were being perceived as anti-Trump by the administration.” Gaddis told the press that political posters are only permitted in classrooms they are “part of a curriculum and they represent both sides.”
Represent “both sides”? Should a poster be put up next to the depiction of a Muslim woman wearing an American flag hijab saying that Muslims are inherently un-American? Should the poster showing a Black woman captioned “We the people protect each other” be counterbalanced with a poster saying that different races in America should not protect one another as equal citizens? And should the poster featuring a Latina woman saying “We the people defend dignity” be matched with a poster dehumanizing Hispanic Americans?
What message does the school district mean to send to its students by condemning posters that show Americans of diverse backgrounds as all equally American?
Aaron Huey, a photojournalist who collaborated with Fairey on the posters, told the press that the posters were not designed to target any politician or political party, and are “definitely NOT anti-Trump in nature.” He continued, “Anyone who believes that these messages are dangerous or divisive needs to check themselves.”
The Huffington Post spoke to several students at Westminster High about the effect the administration’s ban on the posters was having. They report:
“Hamial Waince, a 17-year-old student at Westminster High and president of a women’s math and science club, said she has faced discrimination around town as a Pakistani-American Muslim. But she considers her high school a safe place where people are willing to stand up for her.
“‘Since the posters were taken down, what does that tell the students?” Waince asked. “That it’s perfectly fine to remove something which supports a moral value that each human being should have?’
“Madi Macera, a junior, said she knows two students ― one black and one of Muslim faith, both of them girls ― who were ‘upset and disturbed at the sight of teachers having to remove posters containing images of women similar to them from their walls. … I want people to understand that these are American people. They are a staple of who America is as a whole.'”
A former Westminster High student is stepping up to change this awful situation. Sarah Wack has created an online fundraiser to print T-shirts featuring the images on the posters that will be distributed to students for free. All excess proceeds from the fundraiser will be donated to the Amplifier Foundation, the nonprofit that put out the posters. The students plan on wearing the new shirts on March 1.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.