Join 3,558 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


January 28, 2002
1:35 PM   Subscribe

Are these kind of constant reminders really the way to heal and bond our future generations from the evil deeds of our grandfathers?
posted by oh posey (46 comments total)

 
Yes.
posted by swift at 1:40 PM on January 28, 2002


Constant reminders? Golly, I haven't thought of lynching in days.

Seriously, museums and historians aren't responsible for developing "ways to heal." They remind us as a nation of episodes in our past that inform our future.

You don't want "constant reminders" of lynching, even though the act itself is repeated in modern times? How about slavery? Should Civil War re-enactments be banned?

(Gosh, I hate it when I find myself at the bottom of a slippery slope without the energy to climb back up.)
posted by sacre_bleu at 1:43 PM on January 28, 2002


What swift said.

The first step to moving above and beyond the past is to know what that past was, in all its shocking and grisly detail.

I hated being shown QBVII and every other holocaust movie when I was a kid. My Mom would make me watch them, though, and I'm glad she did.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:49 PM on January 28, 2002


The subject of this article, Without Sanctuary, can be seen online and has been discussed several times here, just three days ago in fact.

See the images for yourself then think about it.
posted by mathowie at 1:51 PM on January 28, 2002


I think this bears repeating, but it's technically a doublepost
posted by ColdChef at 1:52 PM on January 28, 2002


oops. sorry.
posted by ColdChef at 1:53 PM on January 28, 2002


Given that it certainly seems as though the South, generally, is unwilling to face its slave holding history and the repercussions, then yes. That this display can go up in New York and yet take 2+ years to be displayed in a tiny museum in Atlanta is a pretty sad state of affairs.

On the other hand, one doesn't need to see a lynching to know that it's wrong. Photographs may often do more to enforce a sense of distance and unreality in the viewer - not only is the event remote in actuality (recorded on paper, not something that can be experienced fully) but also, as period clothing in the photos will confirm, in temporality. Americans aren't so good with being in touch with their history.
posted by gsh at 1:53 PM on January 28, 2002


YES YES YES, we need these kinds of reminders. For the same reason I get so pissed when Japan refuses to mention their atrocities in WW2 in history books for Japanese children. Why Germany needs to keep remembering what it did to the Jews. Why we need to remember what was done to America.
It's a nasty, horrible part of our history and people can't afford to forget about it. While I don't think we need to apologize again and again for it, we do need all Americans to know what we've done in our history as a nation. To the Native Americans. To the slaves. To the blacks. To the Japanese Americans in WW2.
I know it's cliche...but if you don't know history, you WILL be doomed to repeat it.

For example, we are, as a country, ashamed by what we did to Japanese Americans during WW2. As a result in this war, the country has been very careful not to demonize Middle Eastern Americans. A good example of us learning from past mistakes and why this kind of thing is essential.
posted by aacheson at 1:58 PM on January 28, 2002


"He who controls the present controls the past.
He who controls the past controls the future."
- George Orwell, 1984

The reminders are not constant. And occasionally, yes, we do need to be reminded of the capabilities of humankind. If we know our own lower depths, we can recognize them in the now before we all drown again...
posted by grabbingsand at 2:00 PM on January 28, 2002


What is meant by "bond our future generations from the evil deeds of our grandfathers?"

Also: yes.
posted by jasonsmall at 2:15 PM on January 28, 2002


Given that it certainly seems as though the South, generally, is unwilling to face its slave holding history and the repercussions, then yes. That this display can go up in New York and yet take 2+ years to be displayed in a tiny museum in Atlanta is a pretty sad state of affairs.

gsh, this is a very uniformed comment to make. I am sure that television has told you that the south is full of hate-filled bigots, and it doesn't help that Southerners stubbornly hold on to tradition, but this isn't really the case. A portion of "the South" is often referred to as "The Bible Belt" - yet it is the Midwest that is home to "The Hate Belt."

This display was put together to educate people and expose them to a disappearing past, yet some people tend to hold onto their dated generalizations and stereotypes.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 2:20 PM on January 28, 2002


In answer to the post's question, probably not. However, such exhibits are excellent ways for museums to get some free publicity and possibly rake in some extra cash.
posted by mischief at 2:24 PM on January 28, 2002


In a well-publicized feud, they slung epithets such as "liar" and "racist," even though both are white.

Which can white people not call each other, liar or racist?
posted by rhyax at 2:25 PM on January 28, 2002


Given that it certainly seems as though the South, generally, is unwilling to face its slave holding history and the repercussions,

Though I think this statement a tad too general, it does make something of a point: that there are people (southern Americans or not) who want to believe that these atrocities don't, didn't and can't happen. The power of denial is a "wonderful" thing (/sarcasm). This exhibition calls to mind The Rape of Nanking, and, as the subtitle says, it is an undeniable history in pictures. Any who wish to feel innundated with this history had better take a look, just so they can recognize the madness in those who deny the truth of that history.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:32 PM on January 28, 2002


It is far better to know the hard, ugly truth and learn from it than to hear convenient lies, of commission or ommission, that reinforce our own prejudices and ignorance.
posted by UncleFes at 2:32 PM on January 28, 2002


mischief, I think that was pretty abhorrent. To suggest that a museum would house such an exhibit for reasons of publicity and profit....that certainly needs some explanation. Have there been past instances of this?
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:34 PM on January 28, 2002


Seriously, museums and historians aren't responsible for developing "ways to heal." They remind us as a nation of episodes in our past that inform our future.

I think this is probably the most important point I've read about this project. To some Without Sanctuary is a compilation of evil deeds and to others its a record of acts done for the greater good.

A photograph has no moral value. You get moral value by projecting your own positions onto it. A dead Taliban soldier who may be as young as 17 is a proud trophy of our defeated enemy but a dead 17-year old civilian is a sad, but acceptable war-time loss for the greater good.

In the end I think its foolish to think a few photographs are going to change anyone's mind. If anything they will just be reinforcements for racial beliefs learned through rhetoric, culture, and habit.
posted by skallas at 2:35 PM on January 28, 2002


Instances of a museum marketing a special exhibit? Plenty of 'em. Have you never noticed the banners strung from light poles as you drive down the street in any city with a large museum, or the ads on TV or in the newspaper, or billboards, or junk mail? Hell, just last week I was getting a popup for a musem special exhibit whenever I hit the LA Times site.
posted by mischief at 2:42 PM on January 28, 2002


In the end I think its foolish to think a few photographs are going to change anyone's mind. If anything they will just be reinforcements for racial beliefs learned through rhetoric, culture, and habit.

Slightly disregarding the fact that reinforcing beliefs is changing someone's mind, the opening question of this thread was whether or not we need to dwell on these awful things of the past. My answer is absolutely, just because it will reinforce the ideas that lynching is wrong, and any who would rather sit-the-fence on the topic might be put in the position of having to choose in the future. Whether the choice for the individual is moral or not, its a helluva lot better than allowing one to turn a blind eye.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2002


What I found odd about this article on the show is that I had posted the on-line version at my blog this morning.
Here is the site of the lynching exhibit for those interested:

without sanctuary
posted by Postroad at 2:51 PM on January 28, 2002


Hmm.

OK maybe you have a point there, mischief. I just don't want to think that the Primary motivation for such a display would be monetary. That was what I railed against.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:52 PM on January 28, 2002


Actually, it has been through several visits to the Deep South (Georgia and South Carolina specifically) that have informed my observation, and not television.

And I am all too aware of the history of racism in the Midwest - I was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, birthplace of the KKK, and lived for a few years in Irvington, where one of the past Grand Dragons lived, in a mansion where he poisoned his girlfriend and committed god knows what other atrocities.
posted by gsh at 2:54 PM on January 28, 2002


re: "constant reminders" kinda makes it sound like the MLK historical site is nagging people. i mean you'd hope the only place for lynchings nowadays would be in a museum.

It's a very brutal history that the general public doesn't know about.

the exhibit kinda reminded me of michael ray charles' artwork i saw the other day on art21. i guess in contrast to the less brutal side of racism, like if the "general public" doesn't know people are capable of picnic lynchings then you sort of have to wonder about subtler forms of dehumanization.
posted by kliuless at 2:56 PM on January 28, 2002


Thank you hotdoughnutsnow ... I just wanted to see which road of assumption people would take ... I'm Southern...and I've seen and known first hand about those horrifying images as I was raised in a racist Southern world.

I'm lucky. I was strong enough and stubborn enough to stand up to it and say No ... this is wrong. And now I live and work and play right in the middle of Atlanta with the greatest people on earth...of all races and distinctions. But quite frankly I'm in the minority. We still have a huge separation of race here and its not getting better. Racism exist on both sides. And a good percentage of people living here now are not born Southerners.

I feel we are fostering a wedge between our races by not allowing the past to heal. Our children and their children will never have a chance to bond and grow if we can't move past the past.

Constant Reminders.


posted by oh posey at 2:59 PM on January 28, 2002


er, ...photographs in a museum exhibit. um, yeah! and that other sentence doesn't make any sense either :)
posted by kliuless at 3:00 PM on January 28, 2002


And a good percentage of people living here now are not born Southerners.

That right there seems to me to be a good reason why exhibits like this one are so important. The lynching is not a familiar part of history for most Americans. How else will they learn about it? The point of these exhibits is to raise questions and open a dialouge.
posted by jasonsmall at 3:21 PM on January 28, 2002


i mean you'd hope the only place for lynchings nowadays would be in a museum.

I dunno, kliuless, there's all those exhibits from "abstract arteeests" that might just warrant ...
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:26 PM on January 28, 2002


Considering that people are still burning crosses on other people's lawns, I don't think it's time to stop talking about past misdeeds. They're over, but the legacy's still with us.
posted by headspace at 3:39 PM on January 28, 2002


Jimmy Allen did us all a favor by collecting this pictures in the first place. I can appreciate the constant reminders argument but I think not letting people forget trumps it.
posted by y2karl at 4:50 PM on January 28, 2002


Yes.
posted by swerdloff at 4:56 PM on January 28, 2002


I feel we are fostering a wedge between our races by not allowing the past to heal. Our children and their children will never have a chance to bond and grow if we can't move past the past.

Thing is, racism isn't safely contained in a past we can approach through books and pictures. The "wedge" between the races is a result of white ignorance or complicity with contemporary white privilege and racial oppression -- stuff that doesn't go away when you shut the family album and stick it back on the shelf.
posted by sudama at 5:00 PM on January 28, 2002


oh posey:

No one has to go to a museum. If these were street posters or in government propoganda, I suppose ... but are you really arguing that these images should be kept hidden?
posted by argybarg at 5:08 PM on January 28, 2002


Grandfathers is right.

it wasn't that long ago, well within living memory that these things not only Happened, but were Common.

my father is old enough to have been in some of those photos.
posted by th3ph17 at 6:14 PM on January 28, 2002


Lynchings are a comfortable touchstone for liberals because they evoke images of white violence on blacks. They soothe the cognitive dissonance of the current reality that most black murders are committed by blacks.
posted by Real9 at 6:40 PM on January 28, 2002


What rodii said.
posted by y2karl at 7:19 PM on January 28, 2002


They soothe the cognitive dissonance of the current reality that most black murders are committed by blacks.

By all means, show us all that most LYNCHINGS are commited by Blacks
posted by Wulfgar! at 8:47 PM on January 28, 2002


after viewing the exhibit online, i am struck by some added facts.

a. not all of these photos, picture postcards mostly, were of events that took place in the south. some from kansas, some from out west, one from minnesota (the duluth race riot of 1915). this is not a reminder of the sins of the south, but the sins of this country as a whole.

b. the most recent photo is from 1960. 42 years ago.
posted by grabbingsand at 9:57 PM on January 28, 2002


The photos make myth a reality. We've all heard about the lynchings of the South (and other places) but who really understands what happened? These photos make you understand. That's a historical reality right there and we'd be stupid to ignore it and foolhardy to bury it.
posted by amanda at 10:19 PM on January 28, 2002


this is not a reminder of the sins of the south, but the sins of this country as a whole.

Whoa, let's not get carried away. Let's remember that these lynchings were instigated, planned, carried out, cheered, and covered up by white people, in interest of defending and preserving the integrity of the white race and the white skin privilege that many of us continue to enjoy to this very day.
posted by sudama at 5:36 AM on January 29, 2002


> I know it's cliche...but if you don't know history, you
> WILL be doomed to repeat it.

A half truth, the other half of which is that if you do know history you will be doomed to repeat it anyway.
posted by jfuller at 8:05 AM on January 29, 2002


Certainly one of the most famous lynching photographs comes from Muncie Indiana. This incident is also unique in that one of the victims live to tell the tale, although his two companions were not so lucky. What is astonishing is that thousands of copies of the photograph were sold as souvenir postcards in the 1930s.

I think the Civil War really skews our view of racism as a North vs. South issue. An alternative view of the Civil War is that it wasn't fought over racism but economics. Many abolitionists were not especially motivated by an ideal of equality, but by a belief that economic segregation was more cost-effective than slavery.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:10 AM on January 29, 2002


>> I know it's cliche...but if you don't know history, you
>> WILL be doomed to repeat it.
>
>A half truth, the other half of which is that if you do know
>history you will be doomed to repeat it anyway.

So true! There's an island in the south pacific that does nothing but reinact the bronze age over and over again.
posted by Flimsy_Parkins at 11:40 AM on January 29, 2002


this is not a reminder of the sins of the south, but the sins of this country as a whole.

Whoa, let's not get carried away. Let's remember that these lynchings were instigated, planned, carried out, cheered, and covered up by white people, in interest of defending and preserving the integrity of the white race and the white skin privilege that many of us continue to enjoy to this very day.


Whoa, let's not get carried away. While what you say is true to a great degree, to claim that only white people are to blame is falacious. Anyone, irregardless of race, who did not take an active stand shares in the guilt because they passively accepted the situation. Your argument also seems to gloss over the fact that not only blacks were lynched and that lynchings were not exclusively utilized only for racial issues.
posted by RevGreg at 2:32 PM on January 29, 2002


Sudama,

You know, if I (as a black man) said those things (and others you've said) about white people - I would rightly be called a racist...
posted by owillis at 5:03 PM on January 29, 2002


My grandfathers didn't lynch anybody.
posted by bingo at 4:59 AM on January 30, 2002


Not by me, Oliver.
posted by sudama at 10:23 AM on January 30, 2002


« Older Wall Street Journal bureau chief is kidnapped....  |  Indian & Pakistani ex-pats dis... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments