Our View: Not your father’s racist

DKS Editors

Michigan’s newest museum features a full-size replica of a lynching tree. A cartoon monkey holding a banana accompanies a shirt that reads “Obama ’08.”

A mouse pad shows robe-wearing Ku Klux Klan members chasing an Obama caricature above the words, “Run Obama Run.”

The $1.3-million, 9,000-piece Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia fills a new exhibit hall in Ferris State University in Big Rapids. Objects in the museum, ranging from a century to a year old, depict years of racist ideology from the segregation era to the civil rights movement to present day.

The Associated Press reports: “The n-word is prevalent throughout, and many items portray black men as lazy, violent or inarticulate. Black women are shown as kerchief-wearing mammies, sexually charged Jezebels or other stereotypes.”

The true purpose of the museum, according to curator David Pilgrim, is to encourage dialogue. In fact, he designed the tour to end with a “room of dialogue,” in which visitors are encouraged to discuss the objects they have just seen and how to promote tolerance.

Pilgrim collected all the items himself, beginning in the 1970s in Alabama, spending “more time in antique and flea markets than the people who work there.”

Understandably, people have mixed feelings when they see all the hate as real and tangible objects directly in front of them. That’s why the collection is truly invaluable to advancing the conversation of where racism stands in this country. The value lies in the fact this museum does not downplay racist bigotry as history, but rather shows it as a timeline ending with current times. It proves racism is still alive.

Hate is not something you can read about in order to understand its power. We encourage everyone — even those who think they understand — to go in person and exchange some thoughts in the dialogue room. It will surely change your perspective.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.