Media and imagery can heavily influence the way people see the world, and that influence is not always positive. Through this exhibit, you will learn about the history of these racist caricatures, the effect they’ve had on the African American community, and the implications they still have today. Objectively Racist includes images, product packaging, knick-knacks, and other objects that help perpetuate individual, institutional, and structural racism.
Community member Doug Belton Sr. lent these objects to the museum for display with the intention of donating them to the RMSC collection. Mr. Belton started collecting racist caricature objects by accident. A record collector, he searched for albums in barn sales and thrift shops outside Rochester, where he moved in 1970. Mr. Belton often came across sheet music containing derogatory representations of African Americans. These images reminded him of growing up in Mississippi, and he purchased the music as a reflection on that time. A few years ago, Mr. Belton heard about the Take It Down project that transformed a racist carousel panel into an anti-racist educational exhibit. He decided to share his own collection with public audiences to expand conversations about racism. This presentation of the Doug Belton Collection examines how racist caricatures perpetuate individual, institutional, and structural racism.
Though we cannot change the past, we can take steps in the present to create a different future. Confronting racist imagery, and America’s racist past, is the first step toward making societal change.