Pilgrim speaks about racist images’ impact on society


Zane Lutz

February 11, 2013 Dr. David Pilgrim, founder of the Jim Crow Museum, gives a speech in the Kiva Monday night at 7. Dr. Pilgrim discussed the topic of diversity and shared images of the various items on display in the Jim Crow Museum. Photo by Zane Lutz.

Alyssa Flynn

David Pilgrim, the founder of the Jim Crow Museum in Big Rapids, Mich., spoke about images and how they continue to have an impact on today’s society Monday night at the Kiva.

Caricatures of old photos of African-Americans and a post-card of African-American babies with the words “Alligator Bait” at the bottom were met with shock, along with offensive images about Mexican-Americans, Muslims-Americans, Jewish people and gay people.

“All those millions of objects, they did two things: They reflected attitudes about African-Americans and they shaped them,” Pilgrim said.

Pilgrim said his goal when opening the museum was to get people to talk about race relations.

“I wanted to show that racism in our society was pervasive,” Pilgrim said. “It was almost always present.”

Pilgrim said he believes that racism, sexism and homophobia are spread in our culture by gatherings.

“That matter of the fact is that we talk about race at our kitchen tables, movie theaters, restrooms,” Pilgrim said.

While the images were met with shock, some references made by Pilgrim were met with laughter.

He mentioned the Freedom Riders, people who rode a bus from the North to the South in support of desegregation in transportation, when he spoke about the Black Images course traveling to the Jim Crow Museum by bus. The class laughed at the reference.

Throughout the speech, students chimed in about what Pilgrim spoke of.

For example, Pilgrim began to say a quote by Francis Dorsey, assistant professor in Kent State’s Pan-African studies department.

“Once an individual definition of themselves is the same as the oppressor, the oppressor can destroy that individual without any physical stress on their part,” said the students of the Black Images course, finishing the quote.

The event was sponsored by the Center for Student Involvement, the Student Multicultural Center, the Department of Pan-African Studies, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Contact Alyssa Flynn at [email protected].