ROCHESTER, NY, January 12, 2020— Media and imagery can heavily influence the way people see the world, and that influence is not always positive.
The Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) is challenging visitors to reflect on how racist media influences people’s lives through a new permanent exhibition, Objectively Racist: How Objects and Images Perpetuate Racism… And What We Can Do To Change It.
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.
Belton Sr., from Mississippi, first gained an interest in working with RMSC when he attended a program in connection with the Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism exhibit presented by the Take It Down Planning Committee in partnership with RMSC. After learning about how the committee and RMSC worked together to turn the pickaninny Dentzel Menagerie Carousel panel into an anti-racist, educational exhibit, Belton Sr. was inspired to collaborate with the project and museum by sharing his own collection of racist imagery.
“I was hopeful my collection would be helpful to others and, perhaps, even inspire people to push for better race relations. It was my belief this kind of material needed to be made available to the entire community, and expanded on by objective historians,” said Belton Sr., discussing how these items can help raise awareness of individual, institutional, and structural racism. “That was my reason for wanting to donate these items to the museum. I believe only by understanding history, some of which we may want to forget, are we able to continue to grow and become the best we all can be: dignified and honorable.”
After the American Civil War, many states and towns passed laws that helped legalize racial segregation and systematically reinforced the social, economic, political, cultural and educational oppression of African Americans. Racist images were an important part of this “Jim Crow” era, and many of these images are still part of American culture and continue to influence beliefs and practices today.
“Identifying and understanding a problem empowers us to address it in a meaningful way. It’s critical that we talk about racism, be truthful about our history, and discuss how racism continues to manifest and oppress people of color in both obvious and subtle ways,” said Kathryn Murano Santos, Senior Director for Collections & Exhibits at RMSC. “Museums are uniquely positioned to help people make these connections because we hold the concrete evidence in our collections: authentic objects, like the ones on display in Objectively Racist.”
By facing America’s racist past head on, Belton and the Museum hope that this exhibit can open deeper dialogue within the Rochester community about racism. While it’s important to discuss these issues throughout the year, special attention will be given to these topics during Black History Month in February.
According to Minister Clifford Florence, Andria Bryant, and Howard Eagle, three members of the Take It Down Planning Committee, two opportunities to engage in a deeper dialogue about individual, institutional, and structural racism are just around the corner. Presentations associated with the Take It Down! Organizing Against Racism exhibit will be held at the Central Church of Christ, at 101 South Plymouth Avenue, on February 8th, and at the FIGHT Village Community Room, at 186 Ward Street, on February 22nd. Both presentations will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on their respective dates.
“I hope people who see these objects can take away an idea of how things used to be, and that they have a better understanding of each other instead of demonizing one race or the other so we can all move forward,” said Belton Sr.
Objectively Racist: How Objects and Images Perpetuate Racism… And What We Can Do To Change It and related programming are free with regular Science Museum admission: $18 adults, $17 seniors and college students with ID, $16 ages 3 to 18, free for children under 3 and RMSC members. For group reservations and rates, call 585.697.1942.
Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) includes the Science Museum, Strasenburgh Planetarium and Cumming Nature Center. Offering experiences at the Museum with more than 200 interactive exhibits, Planetarium with a 65-foot dome and Nature Center on 900 acres, the RMSC stimulates community interest in exploration. In addition, the more than 1.2 million RMSC collection items tell the story of Rochester’s past and present, including its rich history of innovation and invention. RMSC receives major funding from Monroe County, where it is one of the top three most visited attractions serving children and families. For more information about RMSC, visit RMSC.org. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.