Confronting Racist Objects in Antique Stores
I love antiquing, I love history. Inevitably I encounter racist objects from the past sitting around on a shelf somewhere. I've seen racist caricatures of Asians, atrocious stereotypes of black people, Native Americans, and Nazi collectibles which make me nauseous.
I'm not a confrontational person. I used to be in my 20s in my riot grrl days. My anonymous zine in college was filled with in-your-face anger and smashing the patriarchy verbiage. Nowadays, I don't feel like it's my job as a woman of color to have to educate vintage dealers (usually white) about problematic items. I believe it is their responsibility to research and to ask who profits from and is harmed by the visual portrayal of these objects. I don't want to "have a conversation" with the store owners and give my free labor to them. Nor do I want to buy these items because 1) I already own a whole bunch and 2) I don't want to give my money to them.
So I have devised a strategy to make me feel like I am doing something vs. nothing. This works for ME, may not for you, everyone has a different way.
I hide the racist object somewhere else deep in the store (assuming it's not in a glass case) then I leave this JUST SAY NO, Mad-lib-style note with the item. The note says:
JUST SAY NO
This object is harmful to (group of people) because it is:
( ) A racist stereotype
( ) A celebration of historical atrocity (ie: the holocaust, genocide)
To learn more, google "confronting racist objects", "Jim Crow Museum", "model minority"
I made this a downloadable image so you can print it out and take it with you next time you go antiquing! Leave a message for the next person who may not be aware of how these objects are harmful to specific groups of people.
Thanks for smashing the patriarchy with me!