Update: Since writing this post, we sat down with 4 of the owners of Bartertown to discuss the community debate. They admitted that they need to be better at Facebook and promise to try to keep up with it, and not censor open discussion. They also asked us to wait until the mural is 100% complete before passing judgment, and think that people will feel differently once they see it in it’s entirety – we agreed to do just that.
Like a lot of vegans, vegetarians, and just plain foodies in Grand Rapids, we’ve been anxiously anticipating the opening of Bartertown Diner and Roc’s Cupcakes. Anytime a new business opens in West Michigan, it’s cause for celebration, and we get especially excited about a purely vegan joint.
Our excitement was short-lived when we were saddened this morning to see a good friend upset over a picture of the new mural on the wall of Bartertown. The mural has many images, but one is the often seen depiction of a young Che Guevara. It’s not anything we’d ever thought about honestly, but we’re not of Cuban descent. Our friend is.
To hear the stories of our friend’s parents encounters with Guevara gives us the chills. To know those stories, and after doing our own research, it puts Guevara in a new light It gives us pause as to the point of that particular mural in a vegan diner.
Our friend expressed his discontent on his Facebook page. A discussion followed, where many people’s eyes were opened just as ours were. The response was overwhelmingly in favor of pulling the mural down, and there’s little reason not to. Guevara is no one’s hero, and you’d assume that once the proprietors of Bartertown understood the sensitivity, there would be an acknowledgment of ignorance and the mural would come down soon after. Bartertown had a chance to rectify the situation.
But that’s not what happened. Some people posted on Bartertown’s Facebook wall, asking them to reconsider the mural and some posted links with websites regarding Guevara’s atrocities. The comments were quickly deleted.
If that wasn’t enough, adding even more fuel to the fire, a statement has been made through another Facebook account which links over to the original Bartertown Facebook page – presumably to make it harder for comments to be posted. The statement disregards any concerns about Guevara, warns that anyone who voices their displeasure will be banned from their Facebook page and comments will be deleted (as were the one’s posted earlier today), and promises that the final and completed mural will somehow make it all better.
We hope the Bartertown team comes to two realizations:
1. If you’re going to be in social media, you have to deal with the good and the bad. If you want to defend your right to have Guevara on your wall, so be it. But don’t silence the conversation. Bartertown had the opportunity to discuss the mural with others in their community, and they chose to shut the door before we even had a chance to walk in.
2. The mural is in poor taste…no matter your “pacifist anarchist” views. Take it down.
Kolene & Jon