Regarding the Bartertown #muraldebate

UPDATE: MLive’s Troy Reimink put together a recap of the #muraldebate. This email was sent independently of the mural debate and just happened to coincide with the day that the mural debate began.

I feel compelled to share my email to Ryan yesterday regarding the Bartertown mural. The #muraldebate on Twitter is lively, but I’m afraid that people think the issue starts and ends with Che—that Che is the litmus, and if Che has a valid spot on that wall, then the same goes for the other 75% of that mural. Ryan responded in a more personalized version of point number one in Bartertown’s official statement and offered to chat, something I fully intend to take him up on.

Hi, Ryan—

I admire your efforts to establish a vegan eatery that’s both accessible and cozy. I came down to Bartertown for the first time during Wake Up Weekend. To be blunt, I was stunned to see Mao leading the charge with a ladle, cultural revolutionaries dishing out saucers, hoisting signs and cradling an allusion to that iconic red book.

The only reason I could imagine that you reappropriated this historical event for your walls is because of the association with socialism. But honestly, as a Chinese American, I couldn’t understand why you would choose this scene any more than you would have pulled a chapter out of Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship. Although it’s still hotly debated—hundreds of thousands or millions—a horrifying number of political dissidents, ethnic minorities and wrongly accused innocents in China were persecuted, tortured, raped and killed during Mao’s reign. All of it in the name of the proletariat.

One of my operational underpinnings is “From each according to his[/her] abilities, to each according to his[/her] needs.” I can sympathize with the philosophy of socialism, but I don’t see the sound logic in choosing that historical scene to capture it.

I’m not claiming to speak for all Chinese and Chinese Americans. I also can’t assume that someone else has pointed out to you just how thunderstruck a person of that ethnic heritage might find the mural. I believe in the concepts behind what you’re doing and want to frequent Bartertown, but as a member of this community, I feel the responsibility to point out how uncomfortable this and other portrayals could make your potential patrons.

Denise Cheng.


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