By Alexandria Garry
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – “Hateful Things” an exhibit at the Mark Twain House and Museum, is a shocking and disturbing look at our country’s history and continued bias towards race.The exhibit holds posters, figurines, games, and commercial products all containing degrading and at times graphic depictions of African Americans.
The most shocking pieces for me were a display of classic children’s books including beloved characters like Dumbo, Mickey Mouse, and Woody the Woodpecker and the DC comic Captain Marvel, each with African American characters depicted as ignorant and uneducated.
They played into the typical stereotypes of the age, either with a broken Southern dialect, or as tribal “savages.”
Seeing childhood favorites portraying these hateful messages hit home for me, making me look back on old movies and TV shows where the racism may not have been as explicit, but still contained the undertone of white superiority.
The second and most shocking item was an anti-Obama banner from the 2008 elections, which read ‘Stop the Monkey Business.’
Exhibits like this remind me that slavery was not so long ago and segregation and the fight for civil rights was within my parents’ lifetime.
I like to think that as a society we have come a long way on the road to seeing beyond race, but the fact of the matter is racism is still far too common. And I hope that the horror of this fact can be recognized and resolved by, if not my generation, then the next.
The exhibit, though troubling, was incredibly thought-provoking and presented in a beautifully poetic way.
Twain quotes adorn the walls throughout the exhibit, giving a break from the morbid artifacts and shedding a hopeful light on the whole experience.
One thing that came to mind while reading through the hateful words and propaganda was the subject of biology and X & Y chromosomes. We have 23 pairs of chromosomes and out of those 23, 22 pairs are exactly the same in every single human being.
We are all exactly the same, and yet we let one difference – whether it be race, gender, or religious beliefs – justify the discrimination and humiliation of people.
One set of chromosomes can tear people apart.
Twain said it best: “I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices or caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being – that is enough for me; he can't be any worse.”