DEARBORN – Martin Luther King, Jr. said it eloquently – “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Prejudice and hate are not only seen as being reflected in the current political climate; they are considered to have long been promoted through items as innocuous as a souvenir postcard or a Halloween costume.
From Oct. 14 to March 11, the Arab American National Museum presents “THEM: Objects of Separation, Hate and Violence.” This exhibition explores artifacts and images from the early 20th century to the present day that reflect and encourage stereotyping and discrimination.
“THEM” will be presented in the Lower Level Gallery at the AANM, 13624 Michigan Ave. The cost is free with regular museum admission.
Created by the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, and expanded in conjunction with AANM, this exhibition exposes stereotyping in society and helps visitors resist these messages. A related public program is set for Oct. 21. The content of this exhibition may not be suitable for all visitors.
“THEM: Objects of Separation, Hate and Violence” showcases items from popular culture – including those sometimes labeled as “harmless fun” – that are seen as stereotypes of various groups such as Arab and Muslim Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, Jews, poor whites and those who are “other” in terms of body type or sexual orientation.
Through 35 separate framed pieces and more than 15 additions for this presentation, “THEM” tackles some of the most contentious, cultural hot-button issues: anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment, Holocaust denial, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and immigration. The exhibition is an extension of the Jim Crow Museum’s philosophy of using objects seen as encouraging separation and negativity to teach tolerance.
“It’s our hope that viewers will leave the exhibition with a heightened awareness of these seemingly harmless items, and how they negatively affect individuals, communities and American society,” said Elizabeth Barrett Sullivan, AANM’s curator of exhibits.
“We encourage viewers to think critically about these items and their hateful messages. We also urge people to discuss this exhibition with their friends and family, and confront those who, for example, use oppressive or racist language on a regular basis.”
This exhibition follows up on the success of the Jim Crow Museum exhibition “Hateful Things,” comprised of artifacts from its collection. David Pilgrim, the founder of the Jim Crow Museum, said “THEM” responds to questions he received from people who saw the previous exhibition, which focused specifically on imagery seen as demeaning to African Americans.
“THEM” also includes items seen as negatively stereotyping African Americans, but that is only a part of the exhibition’s larger picture.
“I’m hoping ‘THEM’ shows discrimination and stereotyping is not just a black/white issue,” Pilgrim said. “It’s more pervasive than that.”
The Oct. 21 event, Hikayat: Personal Narratives of Race, Identity & ‘The Other,’” is a storytelling and free workshop for people ages 14 and up.
During the workshop, from 4 to 6 p.m., participants can explore the art, significance and essentials of storytelling and construct their own story by focusing on topics of race, identity, being the “other” culture, confronting stereotypes and more.
From 6 to 7 p.m., participants may stroll the gallery, including the “THEM” exhibition.
Live storytelling will be available to the public from 7 to 9 p.m. Cost is $8 for AANM Members, and $10 for non-members. Storytellers in the metropolitan Detroit area will share their personal experiences on topics of race and racism, identity, culture, confronting stereotypes and being labeled “the other.”
To register for the workshop or purchase tickets for the live storytelling, go to http://arabamericanmuseum.org/hikayat.
For further information on “THEM,” go to www.arabamericanmuseum.org/THEM.