This petition concerns the newly painted image of Derek Mason on the corner of West End and 28th avenue. While we are thankful for your company’s willingness to house this mural and happy that Vanderbilt is the only SEC school in history to hire two Black head football coaches, we find this portrait problematic. The image is drawn in a way that is reminiscent of racist Black caricatures from the past. His lips are whitened, his skin is darkened, and his eyes have a yellowish tint, features that are synonymous with racist imagery of the 20th century.
We do not believe that this was done purposely or with malicious intent. However, we do think this painting strongly resembles how harmful Black images have been portrayed in the past. The visual imagery of one of the most prominent African-American figures at Vanderbilt University should not resemble an archetype meant to further subjugate African-Americans. This sends the wrong message to African-American students on campus about how they are viewed by the community at large. Whether intentional or unintentional, images like these have real consequences for the psyche of the African-American population at Vanderbilt. These well-documented consequences include diminished self-concept, lower self-esteem, and unhealthy attitudes towards those from similar backgrounds. As a cutting edge leader in today’s modern world, we think that Verizon should not be propagating the imagery of racism. We are calling on Verizon Wireless to have the mural changed so that it is not evocative of caricatures from the Jim Crow era. We look forward to hearing back from you.
Vanderbilt NAACP and the Vanderbilt community