Story written about Ghana trip was ‘tone-deaf’

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To the Editor:

Since I am sending this letter to a larger audience, I would like to reference the Martha’s Vineyard Times’ previous coverage of Andrew Vandall’s destruction of the diversity murals at the high school, and his subsequent suspension from his job. These events were also reported in the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette.

When I saw that a teacher who had been suspended for the destruction of the diversity murals was given a spotlight in The Times to reinvent himself as a multiculturalist, I was shocked that he had been given this forum without any disclaimer. As I began reading, I realized that Mr. Vandall was not only painting himself as an expert on cultural awareness, he was also going to make no reference to the disciplinary actions by the administration that led to him having the time to volunteer in Ghana.

In Mr. Vandall’s essay, I was hoping to see a man reflecting on his own poor choices. This is not what I saw.

If The Times would like to give Mr. Vandall a platform to make amends to the community, I applaud them. Again, this is not what I saw.

In this forum, Mr. Vandall could have reflected on his actions and potentially shown the remorse that we have not yet seen. What we saw was an attempt to erase the events of last year and recreate a history in which Mr. Vandall did not enter the high school at night to destroy student-created diversity murals. For many in our community, it is, at the very least, too soon for a puff piece on “cultural literacy” by the perpetrator of these events.

After reviewing the article, I quickly submitted a comment using the Times’ own commenting system. In my comment, I spoke of a parent who had stopped me a few days prior to tell me how hard their daughter had worked on one of the murals that was destroyed. I continued to write about the original African American Heritage Trail mural, which was painted by a dear friend of mine. I concluded by stating that I hoped Mr. Vandall was attempting to make amends by volunteering in Africa, and how I would applaud the effort if it were to appear contrite.

I was surprised to learn that my comment was not posted on The Times website. I subsequently learned that another person’s comment referencing Mr. Vandall’s previous actions was also not posted. I am hoping this is due to time restrictions on online commenting. With that in mind, I am going to assume it was not a more deliberate attempt to protect Mr. Vandall or The Times itself for posting such a tone-deaf article without any mention of his prior actions.

In my original comment, I stated that being Elaine Weintraub’s daughter, I felt I was perhaps not the right person to comment on this, and that I am fully aware my opinion may seem biased. With that in mind, I would like to remind the Martha Vineyard Times and the community in general that not a single one of those murals was painted by Elaine Weintraub. They were painted by the children of our community. When Mr. Vandall chose to destroy them, the conversation became about his actions alone.

Aislinn Weintraub
West Tisbury