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I've heard it often suggested that if you want to address a certain social behavior, like the human cancer that is racism, your choices are to ignore it or confront it.  So we've always seemed to bounce around in this nether land of doing too little, or too much to combat it; either we turn our backs on blatant demonstrations of racism because we fear how much power there might be behind it, or we make blanket statements, accuse innocent people or try to fight hatred with violent hatred.

Until now.


Now, there's a third option.  And we've joked about it in the past but never actually pulled it together to this degree.  Some of us have sneaked into teabagger rallies trying to get photos of a particular display of ignorance or hatred, and then we've posted it on a blog or in our Facebook page for as many people to see as possible.

David Pilgrim of Grand Rapids, Michigan has taken it to the nth degree, and has created the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia.  So now there's a place where ignorance and bigotry not only gets posted and shown for a few days, but is on display for the ages to look at, to try and understand, to learn from, and to identify it in all its forms.  When David Pilgrim says 'racist garbage', that's not an epithet.  He means it literally!


"I collect this garbage because I believe, and know to be true, that items of intolerance can be used to teach tolerance..."

David Pilgrim is originally from Mobile, Alabama.  And that point always seems to get made whenever one talks about Mr. Pilgrim's work as the museum's curator, and as Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, an organization working within Ferris State University.  That's where the museum is, by the way.  I haven't been able to ascertain why mention of his original home comes up, but I have an idea.  If you want to create a museum of something, as an archeological disipline you have to go and dig for it where it's remains are richest.


In order to truly enjoy the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia you'd have to actually go there and see it for yourself.  Or you could seek out other outlets that include Pilgrim's works among their other displays.  For example, the exhibit, THEM:  Images of Separation  has been packaged for road tours and is currently on display at Kendall College of Art and Design.  

But for those of us just too far to take in Pilgrim's Jim Crow Museum of racist garbage, here's a nice little video tour:

David Pilgrim's idea is so simple and so brilliant I can only hope others see it for the valuable education tool it is, and duplicate it a million times over.  There will always be a time to be gentle when images of racism appear, and there will always be time when even going overboard to confront it will seem like the logical thing to do.  But now there's a third option.  Put racism on display, let's all look at it, know it, teach it.  And then when it appears in the display cases of real life, we can know exactly who and what it is we're dealing with.



Originally posted to Detroit Mark on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 05:22 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yeah, I hate that shit. (12+ / 0-)


    If you lose your disc or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate de-resolution. That will be all.

    by SpamNunn on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 05:28:08 AM PST

    •  what? we irish have tempers? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      devtob, Pozzo, Detroit Mark, zenox

      no!  can't be true!

      Judging from picturebooks, apparently Heaven is a partly cloudy place. - Rilo Kiley

      by Cedwyn on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 05:46:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good point - sometimes we don't recognize (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      devtob, Pozzo, megisi, marykk

      racial imagery because it seems benign.

      To me this is just a mascot - "The fighting Irish." Do you find it offensive.

      I remember the 'teachable moment' with the oushback about Polish jokes whose punch lines featured an offensive stereotype of Polish people.  It was easy to understand and give it up.

      We certainly recognize jokes that start out "A white man, Chinaman, and a Jew..." are offensive.

      The line between merely tasteless jokes and offensive ones can be hard to see, but certainly when we get a pushback about a joke or a stereotype of a group of people, we need to listen and not trivialize their complaint.

      HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

      by HylasBrook on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 06:30:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Eww. (7+ / 0-)

    I seriously don't think I could stomach that place, but good on David Pilgrim for creating the museum to begin with.

    No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. -- Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Colorado is the Shiznit on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 05:53:22 AM PST

  •  Interesting diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, mallyroyal

    From you even more interesting.  I say that because I've spoken of raciem, and had you seeking me out to be diametrically opposed to the concept.  It's interesting that you can detect it in at least half of society.

    Every moment in life contains an off ramp. Never be afraid to use it.

    by Adept2u on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 06:34:18 AM PST

    •  yeah I'm trying very hard to separate out (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the diary from my prior interactions with the diarist.

      it's difficult.

      "Wake the town and tell the people!" ~Ewart Beckford, O.D.

      by mallyroyal on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 08:42:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Try starting (4+ / 0-)

        with a new assumption that you've lept to unfounded conclusions, got caught up in a swarm of piler-ons and have been utterly wrong about something.  You'll find that there is no conflict between this diary, my comments, and me as a human being.

        Another approach, rather than just slyly casting aspersions on my character, present some evidence to back up the slanderous attitude and make your case.  That is, if you honestly believe any such evidence exists.

        I'm not afraid of guns! I'm afraid of the people that obsess over owning them.

        by Detroit Mark on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 09:11:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this (4+ / 0-)

    diary, Detroit Mark.

    I've always thought that one of the reasons that racism has become such an institution in this country is in the way it's been communicated to the next generation.  

    For children, the symbol is more accessible and understandable than the words - and successive generations exposed to the symbols of racism are taught that it is acceptable in a very insidious manner.  

    Good on Mr. Pilgrim!

    Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportion to our fears.-LaRouchefoucauld

    by luvsathoroughbred on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 07:00:39 AM PST

  •  My wife and I ... (9+ / 0-)

    ... are antiques dealers. If you're in the business, at some point, you'll have to choose whether to handle these goods or not. We've made a decision not to.

    It's a part of our history and needs to be collected and preserved in places like this, but we refuse to profit from it. That doesn't make us noble, but it feels like the right thing to do.

    Interestingly, some of the biggest collectors in what's come to be called "black Americana" are African-Americans and I applaud that. It's pretty much a guarantee that it will be properly handled.

    •  You know, I've always heard that this crap is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      avidly collected by African Americans.  But I've never seen evidence of it.  I sell antiquarian books, and I rent space in a couple of multi-dealer antique malls.  I've seen many hundreds of people come in looking for black Americana, and exactly one of those people was African American.

      She was a very scholarly black woman who bought a book from me-- an early tract on the evils of slavery (which is the ONLY type of black Americana I deal in.)  Another dealer suggested that she might be interested in a book in her showcase-- a disgusting children's book titled, charmingly, "Ten Little Ni**ers".  The response was a very polite "No thank you", but if looks could kill, that dealer would be dead and buried.

      And the people--again, all of them white-- who were interested in this shit quite clearly found it just endlessly clever and oh-so amusing.  So it concerns me that this museum might become very popular with all the wrong people, for all the wrong reasons.

      •  Hmm (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        devtob, megisi

        Perhaps you're right.  Maybe the best course of action is to just dig a hole and bury every time someone creates a racist statue, or prints a racist poster and try and convince people it doesn't exist.

        Because god know the people who would find it amusing don't bother making their OWN racist symbols, and making their OWN racist statements.  They seek out places like museums where racism is condemned to get their best ideas.

        You may be on to something.

        I'm not afraid of guns! I'm afraid of the people that obsess over owning them.

        by Detroit Mark on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 07:58:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well I'm guessing that was a snarky response- (0+ / 0-)

          but I'm not sure why.  I don't believe I suggested that we burn and bury all evidence of racism and pretend it doesn't exist.

          Since I deal in artifacts, obviously I respect the notion that we should preserve our history, even the nastiest parts of it.  But I've had way too many dealers try to convince me that this stuff is not collected by racists, when all of the evidence tells me otherwise.

          •  You're talking about "collectors" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Purveyors...junk dealers.

            This guy is a sociologist.

            I'm not afraid of guns! I'm afraid of the people that obsess over owning them.

            by Detroit Mark on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 08:18:31 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am aware of that. And I don't believe (0+ / 0-)

              I objected to this guy or to his museum.  
              I was addressing a commenter-- not you-- about the widely-held belief that black people are avid collectors.  Got it?

              •  Such collectors do exist. (7+ / 0-)

                I don't know if they're the majority of collectors, but there are black people who collect this stuff. I saw a segment on "Antiques Roadshow" or some such show, and they profiled several blacks who collected racist memorabilia. They likened it to a way of owning their history. For what it's worth, they appeared to be young enough not to have first-hand knowledge of Jim Crow era America, so they might view this stuff in a different way than older people would.

                •  Oh I don't doubt that some black people (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Bill W, Bulldawg, marykk

                  collect this stuff, and you're probably right that it would more likely be younger people.  Bur since I literally spend every waking moment of my life in the world of collectors, it would seem that I would have encountered some of them if this were as widespread as some people believe.

                  Here's my real problem:  anytime that I have questioned a person buying this stuff about why they find it so fascinating, they invariably tell me that black people are the biggest collectors.  In other words "I'm not a racist just because I love this statue of a little black kid eating watermelon on the toilet-- black people love it too!"  Which sounds like a variation on "black people say the n-word all the time so why can't I?"  Just pisses me off, that's all.

      •  it's true that some African Americans (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        megisi, marykk, Alec82, gramofsam1

        collect this stuff.  I've seen several collections, including one owned by my mom's ex boyfriend.

        the reasoning tends to be along the lines of "never forget".

        I'd never collect the stuff.

        "Wake the town and tell the people!" ~Ewart Beckford, O.D.

        by mallyroyal on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 08:39:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed--- the operative word being (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          "some".   But if my 20 years in the collecting world is any indication, they are far outnumbered by collectors who are just plain racist assholes.  

          •  I don't doubt that at all. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            "Wake the town and tell the people!" ~Ewart Beckford, O.D.

            by mallyroyal on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 09:58:25 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nor do I, mallyroyal ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... I've seen it, just as any dealer has.

              And here's my original sentence:

              Interestingly, some of the biggest collectors in what's come to be called "black Americana" are African-Americans and I applaud that.

              I can only say that I'm surprised that you've never heard of James Hicks, gramofsam1.

              In addition, the biggest and most active collectors seldom buy from dealers in antiques malls, so that may explain things. They tend to work the quality auctions and private collections.

      •  I thought objets were collected by whites (0+ / 0-)

        and things like signs were collected by blacks.  My cousin has a Colored Only sign in her eat-in kitchen.

        I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear--Martin Luther King, Jr.

        by conlakappa on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 05:22:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Are there some white collectors who (0+ / 0-)

        want the stuff as a reminder of the evils of racism?

        I guess I'm thinking that people who collect stuff from Nazi Germany might not necessarily be siding with the Nazis, so people collecting racist memorabilia might not be siding with the racists.  

        Still, it's a distasteful hobby IMO.

        Our President is teh awesome!

        by GMFORD on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 09:29:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm surprised (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jaysunb, gramofsam1, mallyroyal

    that you wrote this diary, Detroit Mark given your comment and rec history.  With your apparent ability to detect blatant forms of racism, perhaps you can also learn to pick up on the subtle forms of racial animus that persist at this site. I anticipate that you will show more respect in your interactions with the AA members on this site.
    It would be great to have you participate in Black Kos.

    Like a tree planted by the river, I shall not be moved.

    by lightshine on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 07:17:18 AM PST

    •  See my reference (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Samulayo, megisi

      to blanket and false accusations.

      When someone's found an opportunity to color me as somehow complicit to some poorly made case of racism, that's how they've done it.

      Recently a diary made the case that all republicans are racist.

      The stupidity of such a charge wasn't even worth my time to comment, but I did anyway.

      That is the basis of your baseless charge.

      I'm not afraid of guns! I'm afraid of the people that obsess over owning them.

      by Detroit Mark on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 07:29:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Last year I purchased... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ....a book by the name of War in South Africa and the Dark Continent: From Savagery to Civilization.  It was written and published in 1900, right at the onset of the Second Boer War.  What I found interesting about the book was the way in which "Kaffirs," "the original natives of the country," are described as relatively passive and secondary.  The English, the Boers and even the Americans take center-stage when compared to the role of indigenous black Africans, as though they are of minor importance.  Although the author describes the unjust treatment of the natives by Boers, these descriptions take up perhaps a couple of paragraphs or pages in a book that is over five hundred pages long, and purportedly written with the intent of educating Americans about the South African disputes.  The mistreatment of the natives is essentially an ancillary concern, used to paint the Boers as monstrous but ultimately not worth as much space as describing the political injustices the Boers themselves claimed.

    I suspect that there is much more of that in the historical record, as opposed to nakedly racist art and literature.  Good diary, tipped and rec'd.  

    For there our captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion."

    by Alec82 on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 09:14:00 AM PST

  •  When I was a kid (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    we used to visit my Dad's aunts near Lafayette, Indiana.  the family had been farmers.  First, hardscrabble farmers, but later, successful, "gentlemen" farmers.  Successful enough that by the 1920s they were vacationing in Florida.

    My great aunt's house was full of wonderful tchotchkes. /Two items stick with me.  One was the wonderful turquoise glass candy dish.  The other was a letter openere.  It was encased in a little cayman that had somehow been, well, taxidermified.  And the letter opener itself, which slid into the little cayman, had, as its handle, a little head.  A little African-American head.  

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 08:29:20 PM PST

  •  Glad to see this rescued. I missed it first time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Detroit Mark

    around. I'm frankly not sure what to think. My first inclination is that sheeite should not see the light of day. My second inclination is sure - put it in a place where it can be mocked for the stupidity it is for generations to come. Such things should not be forgotten but shown as examples for the next generations to look at and say - I can't believe we did that stuff. I cannot imagine that AAmericans would avidly collect these things but I laughed when somebody upthread mentioned her friend has a sign in her kitchen that says colored only. That would be something I would do. I'm a bit "off".  What would be really good is if his collection gets acquired by the Henry Ford Museum. That would get it the status it deserves. I'd hate to think that it would only be visited by the types that relish that mindset in it's current location.

    "I have ferrets with fins" - African Cichlids. And (3 - nope....) 2 pooties too! Ren (crossed the Rainbow Bridge 10/19/10), Stimpy (16 yrs) and Rocky (4 yrs)

    by mrsgoo on Sat Feb 05, 2011 at 08:41:26 PM PST

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