Posted BY: Nancy Andersen
The other day, I noticed a moving display that read, “Rise Above Racial Injustice.” Only it wasn’t moving in the emotional sense; it was traveling down the road. While sitting in my car at a red light in Chapel Hill, NC, a large public transit bus passed by fully decorated with woke messaging. Next to the “Rise Above Racial Injustice” slogan were illustrated portraits of two residents, each wearing large medical masks, surrounded by the phrases, “my self-worth negates racist remarks” and “rise above hate.”
As part of an “Art + Transit” program, the town of Chapel Hill commissioned full vinyl wraps for three public passenger buses. Artists applied for the opportunity to display their social justice artwork. Winners included the “Racial Injustice” design, a “Can’t Stop Pride” design with a raised fist (probably not the best slogan for a vehicle that stops repeatedly), and a “LatinX Pride” bus festooned with cartoon hearts and various gendered Spanish terms like “mama” and “papa.” Even the interiors didn’t escape activist art. The bus ceilings are wrapped as well: one program participant explained, “Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling, so why not a bus?”
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Chapel Hill’s public transportation bureaucrats ignored their town’s own policies. Public transit advertising rules state that Chapel Hill Transit “does not intend to create a public forum for public discourse or expressive activity,” and “maintain[s] an image of neutrality on political matters and other noncommercial issues that are the subject of public debate or concern.” Just like the fiery but mostly peaceful protests of 2020 in the midst of COVID lockdowns, rules don’t apply when it comes to select and exaggerated social injustices.