Letters to the Jim Crow Museum
Thank You for Sharing Your KnowledgeDear Dr. David Pilgrim,
I have just read your article "The Garbage Man: Why I Collect Racist Obejcts" and it has made a BIG impression on me. I am an international student from Denmark enrolled in a class called Black Popular Culture at American University in Washington DC. I cried several times as I read your article and I guess I really just want to thank you for sharing your knowledge. I was shocked when I last week watched the documentary 'Ethnic Notions' and so angry and upset! When I went to my class nobody seemed to react in the same way that I did – and it made me think, are Americans (I am generalizing – I am sorry) not shocked by a documentary like that or is it simply because they are brought up with it? And by that I mean they know about the racist objects and so on. I had to call my mother back home in Denmark and simply cry because I was overwhelmed by what I had seen and that I felt like I was the only one reacting that strong to it.
I have been traveling in Africa and my mother has been married to an African who lived in a poor village in Senegal – and the fact that some of these objects are showing Africans as savages makes me so furious and I just want to cry. It is not just offensive to African Americans but also to Africans. In 2001 I was in Senegal driving through a village where a car accident had just occured and of course we stopped to help out as there were no ambulances to come and pick them up. The people in the village could not believe that white people would get out their car to let them in and drive the badly wounded to the nearest doctor. What is wrong with this world? It is horrific to experience how this insane belief that "whites are superior" still exists. I thought though that this was an exception because they had never met white people, but then to arrive in the States and read and observe how racism still exist is heartbraking. I get embarrassed and angry for being white when I experience inequality or should I say 'hidden' inequality where one race has several advantages in the society. It cannot be happening in the year of 2012?? I hope and believe that as many people as possible will come and visit your museum and I would love to come there one day and talk about race and racism. So thank you for doing the work that you are!
Finally I just want to tell you that I got really touched when I read about the white guy who cried in the museum and apologized to you and how much it meant to you. I want to apologize but I don't feel it is being authentic through an email so I thank the white man in the museum who could do it in the right way that day.
You have opened my eyes to some really essential issues in the American society – thank you!With a hope for a better world.
All the best,
A Danish student from American University
-- February 4, 2012