My first stop in Colorado was Boulder to see Ms.Sclafani and meet her art graduate school compatriots. Boulder is a special college town, nested in the foothills of the Rocky Mountain front range. It is a highly educated and progressive community and it is extremely white, almost to an unnerving degree. There is a lot of money in Boulder and it seems that it is only increasing. Could be a good thing, but I don't know. Props to Melissa Sclafani for bringing dat NYC attitude to Boulder and swinging for the fences.
At the behest of Melissa, she insisted that she had the Dean's approval to park the flag in the center of campus, outside the Art School. I expressed my skepticism because giant institutions like UC have policy & protocol and almost NEVER roll with it. She said it was fine, so I rolled with it, despite knowing better. We got up at 5:30am and dropped the flag on campus with great anticipation.
Upon returning at 9:00 there were a few tags, but definitely a mass of students wondering about it. I jumped right in and started pitching to the crowd of undergraduates. I kept asking, "Do you have any thoughts about America?" and the response was always the same, "Uhhhh, I gotta get to class". Now this wasn't apprehension, this was intoxication. Not drunk college students, but stoned ones. Mouth breathing, glassy eyed, fully functioning, "adults" taking in something abnormal to their daily routine. I wasn't too surprised by this, but it did seem like EVERYONE was in this same condition. I felt like I was challenging their numbness to reality and they didn't really know how to respond. Not only was this something unusual and demanding of a political thought/opinion, but also was an intruder from the real world. The enclave of Boulder knows that serious stuff is happening in our country, but why "harsh our mellow" with racial tensions, political discourse, & challenging thoughts? This is college, man. To their credit, there were many insightful additions to the flag. Of course these came from minority students, while the white students chose glib or catchy expressions (yeah yeah yeah "Dicks out for Herambe" what ever that means kid). I imagine it is hard to know or even formulate a genuine expression when your entire life has been really fortunate and really homogenous. This is where the ultra liberal crosses over into the secretly conservative. Everything is beautiful and easy to accomplish, and we're all in this together, things are so good because we're so good. It is one thing to extol the virtues of progressivism and another thing to put them to practice in a culturally and economically diverse society. You can't find minorities in Boulder because they can't afford to live there. Is this by design? Probably not. Really just the outcomes of white migration into the area over the history of our country. But it has generated a place where affluent whiteness is the norm so much so that if you're not "green" (read rich) you're not accepted. This is a convenient method of segregation that reinforces conservative principles within the younger population: we're supposed to be here, you're not.
Of course the our illicit interjection into campus life was not to go unnoticed. Shortly after lunch, a finely dressed women from University Events approached me to inquire "why" and "how" I got here. I explained I was at the invitation of the art school Dean. Of course that matters not because "you must have permission from me", she said. I attempted to get her ideas about America, to see that this is a good project, that your position could influence the thoughts and minds of the student body. She wavered for a moment, but became insistent that "you just can't do things without permission or everyone would do what ever they wanted." I do understand, but every small school I've taken the flag to has welcomed me and the experience I bring to their campus, while every large institution has denied me because someone has the responsibility to make sure there is a decision about what is happening. Strange but not at all surprising. My adjudicator insisted I move the flag immediately, that I was not permitted, now! She was getting huffy that her power might be getting disrespected. I explained that I had to walk to get my truck, maybe an hour before I could have it removed. This made her fume. As I walked away, she just kept repeating, "Move it now." Power is messing with your head, lady.
Upon my return to "fix the problem" a small crowd had gathered because now the campus cops were there to enforce her will. (POWER! I NEED MORE POWER!) I cooly greeted the officers, giving them a quick pitch on the flag. No reaction. "Hey guys, relax. I'm hitching up right now, be gone in a minute." No reaction, hands on tasers, assuming firing distance and stance. I say, "Hey kids! get your cell phones out! We're gonna be YouTube stars today," as I continued to prep my rig for departure. At this moment, I wondered about being black, if I would already be on the ground writhing with compliance shocks, what it is like to not get any benefit of the doubt, to be assumed guilty and a threat to society for simply being. A reminder of how fucked up things are outside "the shinning city on the hill" known as Boulder. I looked at the officer in charge and asked him if he'd help me guide my truck back to the trailer, which made him relax and engage me in a cooperative manner. The tension had passed, I was determined not a threat and we joked a little bit about trucks and trailers. I could have gone for fame, ("Artist Tased on UC Campus Today Over Free Speech") but that is not my purpose. Peace, compassion, expression, collaboration. In those terms, my stop at UC was a success. Cheers!