‘slavery didn’t end in 1865. it evolved’ – new exhibit explores racial state violence

August 11, 2017
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If anyone urges you to adopt a “post-racial” mindset between now and September 3rd, flame them, then bring them to the Brooklyn Museum.

The latest exhibit on display, “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America“, is the antidote to ignorance, and a rude awakening–and reminding–of the raw realities that accompany living-while-black in this country. If you’re looking for an easy museum experience… it doesn’t matter, because there’s nothing easy about systematic oppression, and it’s time to digest the indigestible.

Mounted by the museum in collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the small display draws connections from the perils of the past to the tribulations of today in a stark presentation of slavery over the years. Paying specific attention to what the EJI refers to as “racial terror lynchings”, the organization had previously gathered accounts of more than 4,000 lynchings between 1877-1950–now presenting them in the most personalized way possible.

Visitors are guided through two viewing rooms bearing photo essays and personal accounts, pedestrianizing the case, making the lynchings more than a statistic and hammering the root of internalized fear into our psyches. No visuals of actual lynchings are included–a purposeful choice–as the goal of the project is informing and empathizing, taking each event deeper than the surface.

At the same time as reckoning history, “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America” takes it a step further, connecting the past and present. Thanks to a mix of medium, era, and narrative, this fact remains clear: though “abolished” in 1865, bondage simply shifted with the times. As skirts shortened, and gender roles eased, slavery just morphed under government regulations and social norms, and the longer we try to sweep that under the rug, the longer it persists.

Whipping is a hate crime, so now the warden is the overseer and the courtroom is the auction block.

As it stands, African Americans are incarcerated over 5 times the rate of Whites, and 2.5 times more likely to be murdered by police. None of this is coincidental, and the exhibit only stresses this as suggestive imagery and art of today are peppered with the words of Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes–all with the goal of telling the truth.

From Bryan Stevenson of EJI:

“Truth and reconciliation is not pretty. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, it’s not comfortable. Because truth and reconciliation is sequential. You’ve got to tell the truth before you can get to reconciliation, and sometimes telling the truth is hard.”

The time for reconciliation is now, so take a deep breath and visit “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America” at the Brooklyn Museum through Sept.3rd.