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Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:37 PM

Is it Art or is it Discrimination?

Is it Art or is it Discrimination?



NEW ORLEANS (CN) - An employee sued The Roosevelt Hotel, a Waldorf Astoria hotel and one of the most opulent in New Orleans, claiming its 73-year-old mural of slaves picking cotton and drinking booze holds her and other African-Americans "open to ridicule and shame."

Deandra Pittman claims the hotel blew off complaints that its mural, by nonparty Paul Ninas, "creates a hostile work environment and subjects her to feeling demeaned and looked down upon."

She sued First Class Hotels dba The Roosevelt New Orleans, and Waldorf Astoria Hotels, in Federal Court.
In her complaint, Pitman "contends that the Roosevelt Hotel has created a hostile work environment by allowing a mural to exist on the wall of the Sazerac Lounge which depicts African-American slaves picking cotton, consuming alcoholic beverages and acting in manners which hold African Americans open to ridicule and shame."

- See more at: http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/02/27/55231.htm#sthash.E11gOFyH.dpuf

40 replies, 2312 views

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Arrow 40 replies Author Time Post
Reply Is it Art or is it Discrimination? (Original post)
The Straight Story Feb 2013 OP
el_bryanto Feb 2013 #1
Dreamer Tatum Feb 2013 #2
The Straight Story Feb 2013 #4
HappyMe Feb 2013 #8
OceanEcosystem Feb 2013 #6
el_bryanto Feb 2013 #12
msanthrope Feb 2013 #13
GodlessBiker Feb 2013 #3
loyalsister Feb 2013 #11
msanthrope Feb 2013 #16
loyalsister Feb 2013 #21
msanthrope Feb 2013 #24
loyalsister Feb 2013 #26
cali Feb 2013 #15
GodlessBiker Feb 2013 #23
msanthrope Feb 2013 #27
cali Feb 2013 #31
lunatica Feb 2013 #5
The Straight Story Feb 2013 #7
lunatica Feb 2013 #39
loyalsister Feb 2013 #29
lunatica Feb 2013 #40
BainsBane Feb 2013 #9
msanthrope Feb 2013 #14
BainsBane Feb 2013 #17
msanthrope Feb 2013 #20
GodlessBiker Feb 2013 #25
msanthrope Feb 2013 #28
GodlessBiker Feb 2013 #30
msanthrope Feb 2013 #35
Dreamer Tatum Feb 2013 #10
sdfernando Feb 2013 #18
Peter cotton Feb 2013 #19
mrmpa Feb 2013 #22
RC Feb 2013 #32
Moonwalk Feb 2013 #38
Moonwalk Feb 2013 #33
Kalidurga Feb 2013 #34
Avalux Feb 2013 #36
Moonwalk Feb 2013 #37

Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:38 PM

1. I think anytime you see something offensive to you in a public place you should have the right to

destroy it or have it destroyed.

Bryant

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Response to el_bryanto (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:41 PM

2. Strongly agree - if it offends even one person, it needs to be destroyed.

And the original creator jailed.

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Response to Dreamer Tatum (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:43 PM

4. And we could have a public meta area to discuss it

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Response to The Straight Story (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:48 PM

8. For a full week, at least.

With pie fights and strawmen. Or pie flinging strawmen.

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Response to el_bryanto (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:47 PM

6. I hope you're kidding. By this logic there'd be vandalism going on 24/7.

 

People don't like a painting in a public place....so they should get to wreck it?


Christians don't like an atheist painting in a public place, so, bring the eggs and buckets of paint?


Atheists don't like a Muslim statue in public, so, bring out the hammers and chisels?

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Response to OceanEcosystem (Reply #6)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:58 PM

12. Why not - think of all the employment in the artist community

replacing all those statues and paitings destroyed. This could lead to a new golden age of art.

Bryant

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Response to OceanEcosystem (Reply #6)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:08 PM

13. You are going to need a better sarcasm detector. I suggest one with a finely-tuned irony meter.

Welcome to DU!!!

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:42 PM

3. If an employer or its employees placed pictures of African-Americans as slaves picking cotton and ..

... drinking, might it be considered to be contributing to a hostile work environment for an African-American employee?

I think so.

What does it matter that the picture is 73 years old? Latches? Perhaps. Has Ms. Pittman been working there a long time and is only now bringing the issue up? But, has the hostility only recently increased, thus bringing about the law suit? Or has the case law recently changed, thus making this cause of action more likely to succeed?

Her case is not without merit.

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Response to GodlessBiker (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:56 PM

11. I agree

One justification for racism I have heard from bigots is "slavery was a terrible thing but it ended a long time ago those *** won't let us forget about it. I wonder why?

With that in mind, this is art that should be preserved in order to remember history. But, as you said the environment is key. This kind of art should be placed where it will be taken seriously. I think that whether or not that is the best place for that is questionable.

I am sure it would be a huge undertaking, but is it possible to move it?

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Response to loyalsister (Reply #11)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:23 PM

16. Do you even realize where these murals (4 of them, over several walls) are? The Sazerac Lounge

should move its art so it will be taken seriously?

I'm guessing you've never been?

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Response to msanthrope (Reply #16)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:43 PM

21. Since I asked, you can assume that I don't know...

what kind of undertaking it would be. I have seen murals by Thomas Hart Benton in our state Capitol.
There are other possibilities. Would it not be possible to cover them and display them at times when they can be discussed seriously? Wouldn't it be possible for them to displayed upon request?

I can see the plaintiffs point. I think it's likely that a lot of people see this mural as cartoonish and demeaning. Do you not realize that few people take visual arts seriously?

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Response to loyalsister (Reply #21)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:02 PM

24. Cover art in a bar so that a massage therapist in the hotel spa feels better? No....people's

silliness should not be coddled.

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Response to msanthrope (Reply #24)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:04 PM

26. "silliness should not be coddled"

But, self entitlement of some artists should be?

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Response to GodlessBiker (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:21 PM

15. As a woman, I'm offended by all representations of Rape of the Sabine Women

including Rubens, David and Picasso. They should all be removed from anyplace the public can view them. Christians are offended by "Piss Christ" and "Madonna".

Dangerous way of thinking.

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Response to cali (Reply #15)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:49 PM

23. First of all, being offended isn't sufficient. The "art" or anything else ...

must create a hostile work environment. That is a high bar to pass and there is no guarantee that plaintiff here will meet it.

Secondly, the person complaining is an employee of the business, not a member of the general public. Employees have certain rights to a work environment, one of which is that it is non-hostile based upon certain criteria, which do not attach to members of the general public who might see the "art."

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Response to GodlessBiker (Reply #23)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:07 PM

27. She's a spa employee. This is art in the Sazerac Lounge. Unless she's giving massages in the bar,

she's not seeing this art.

It's a bullshit claim.

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Response to GodlessBiker (Reply #23)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:17 PM

31. She would, as misanthrope points out, have to go out of her way

to be in a hostile work environment. It's a shit suit by someone who's out for $$$. And I find it pathetic.

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:44 PM

5. Art is not always meant to please

Sometimes it's just a reflection of the artist.

Hopefully a compromise will be reached and the art will be moved, not destroyed. Art is a great way to gauge history and society. This art would be a very good history lesson on racial history and attitudes.

Just like the movie Birth of A Nation is a great teaching movie on many levels.

I think future generations have a right to see the past, warts and all.

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Response to lunatica (Reply #5)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:47 PM

7. "I think future generations have a right to see the past, warts and all." Like Captain Kirk did

at the oscars?

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Response to The Straight Story (Reply #7)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 06:21 PM

39. He obviously saw the warts!

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Response to lunatica (Reply #5)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:10 PM

29. "I think future generations have a right to see the past, warts and all."

Absolutely. But, for it to have a desirable effect, context is important.
A piece that highlights the ugliness of our past should probably be placed somewhere where a serious discussion would naturally be ignited rather than a place where people give cursory attention to the content. If this were in a real museum it would be different.

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Response to loyalsister (Reply #29)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 06:22 PM

40. That's why I said it should be moved, but not destroyed.

It has no place in a restaurant.

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:49 PM

9. The picture could be removed and placed

somewhere else, like in a museum or a private collection. It looks to me like both art and a hostile work environment.

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Response to BainsBane (Reply #9)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:20 PM

14. It's not a "picture." It's a 4 panel mural over several walls in the Sazerac Lounge.

In New Orleans. In the Roosevelt. Dear, Sweet Jeebus....I hesitate to tell you the goings-on that happen there....

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Response to msanthrope (Reply #14)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:24 PM

17. well, I don't advocate the destruction of art work

It reminds me of the Bonfire of the Vanities, all those Botticellis in flames.

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Response to BainsBane (Reply #17)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:42 PM

20. Ms. Pittman has a bullshit claim. She works in the hotel spa. How she even sees

the murals during her regular work hours--unless she gives her massages in the bar--is beyond me.

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Response to msanthrope (Reply #20)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:03 PM

25. Does it matter that she sees it? Or, is the point ...

whether or not other employees/management have used or referred to the picture in a way to create a hostile work environment for Ms. Pittman.

If a female cop learns that male cops/officers are creating art in the men's locker room which depict women in a negative light, AND these depictions bleed into the work environment to make it hostile to female employees, even though female employees are never in the male locker room, do the female employees have a cause of action based upon a hostile work environment?

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Response to GodlessBiker (Reply #25)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:08 PM

28. Yes, actually. It would matter. nt

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Response to msanthrope (Reply #28)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:11 PM

30. I'm sure the District Court would be heavily swayed by such an analysis.

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Response to GodlessBiker (Reply #30)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:36 PM

35. I presume the judge is well aware of the 5th's 4-prong test for a hostile work

environment based on race. I'm sure they've all read Walker v. Thompson 214 F.3d 615.

I suspect no judge will be swayed by the argument that a masseuse in the spa was subjected to pervasive pattern of harassment--a hostile work environment--by a mural in the bar.

And, yes, you have to actually be aware of harassment.

Let me give you a hypo. If my boss calls me "racist insult" to my face, that's harassment. If my boss tells this to my friend, but my friend says nothing to me? Not harassment. I have to be aware of it.

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 03:56 PM

10. Tell her she can have the "damages" she wants or have the picture removed

but not both.

I smell someone looking for a few bucks.

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:35 PM

18. Its ART!

Come on! I think it is a stupid lawsuit. Looking at the work I don't see anything that specifically says "slaves" to me. This could have been a somewhat typical contemporary scene in the 20s or 30s in the South.

This work was commissioned by the WPA and definitely needs to be preserved. This is where the artist envisioned the work to be and it has been there since it was painted 73 years ago.

Here is the work it its natural setting:

http://therooseveltneworleans.com/dining/the-sazerac-bar.html

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:39 PM

19. Hasn't this woman ever heard of historic context?

 

Good grief.

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Response to Peter cotton (Reply #19)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:44 PM

22. Nope,...........

history, art appreciation, and reasoning have been removed from the public school curriculum.

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:20 PM

32. By that same "logic", all copies of any Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn stories

 

both finished and unfinished, would have to be destroy.


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Response to RC (Reply #32)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:59 PM

38. Um, no. Workers at a hotel are not being forced to read those stories...

...on a daily basis. Let us imagine if a hotel bar had photos from "Birth of a Nation" showing the brave KKK saving the white woman from the evil black man. And every black employee in the hotel had to see these photos on a daily basis as they went about their business. We'd probably agree that this was not a friendly environment for black workers. And we'd probably agree that though "Birth of a Nation" should not be destroyed, that the propaganda aspect of those images was making the hotel a hostile work environment for those workers.

Now I'm not saying that this mural is the same as that, but we have to keep a fair perspective on what's being argued here. This is a picture, not a book--it is being seen by workers continuously. And no one is arguing that it be destroyed, only removed because it's message is disturbing to the workers.

If we're going to argue against this point of view by way of comparisons, we need to make fair comparisons.

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:24 PM

33. This would seem to be the offensive picture in question....



Bigger image here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ourviewphotography/3818142097/in/photostream/

As compared to the others which seem to be picturing contemporary (1920's/30's) images of New Orleans.

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:26 PM

34. I think it could be both...

Not sure it's worth a lawsuit over though. I do think it would be better for the mural to be in a regular museum though, perhaps the Smithsonian. It is a WPA project that in itself makes it a historical work of art. Some people might look at it and think about how things used to be. I doubt anyone looks at it and thinks see that is how black people are. But, who knows, there are a lot of squirrelly people out there with some strange ways of thinking and looking at things.

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:43 PM

36. Let's destroy it, and while we're at it, all other offensive art, books and music.



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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 05:44 PM

37. Here is what Dee Pittman has to say in defense of removing the mural:

Just to illuminate her side of it:

These murals were painted on the walls in the 30's before blacks were allowed to patronize the hotel or restaurant. They were not painted there for a history lesson, they were painted there with ill intentions and nothing anyone says can change that.

The Sazerac Bar is intended for leisure and a luxury experience among other pleasures.

Imagine a black person on vacation, having a meal, relaxing, kicking back having a few drinks with friends. Then looks up and sees a wall tainted with a huge painting of slaves picking cotton in their beautiful destination. I've imagined it would be quite the shock. I'd imagined it's the same way Jews would feel if it were a mural of Jews in a concentration camp. Or any race who has had a history of genocide, or any person that has ever experienced ostracism of any kind. Having a painting of this sort inside of a hotel or bar/restaurant makes me question it's intent.

I understand Black history is Black history and it can not be erased or ignored, neither do I wish it to be. However, there is a certain level of tact to be demonstrated to insure respect and justice for all.


She continues by pointing out that she's not the only worker offended by the artwork:

I had learned about this mural on August 5th 2011 while having a discussion with a coworker. At that time Iíd learned that this mural has been the topic to many conversations whispered about among employees. My coworker then shared with me how it made them and other employees feel. This made me very emotional. I asked my coworker, "if this bothered you so, or any of the others, why then wouldnít anyone talk to someone in charge to tell them how this affects you?" their reply was, "Iím just a little person." By the end of the work day Iíd had a chance to run it by other coworkers in my department. They all knew already, I was the only one in the dark. They brushed it off by saying, "oh, everybody knows about that, people have tried to have it removed before but itís not going anywhere itís worth to much money."


So that's her side of the argument--that it affects a lot of employees, not just her.

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