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  • Simone Jameson KJNB TV

Thrift Store Exhibit Sparks Conversations About Race

From consignment shop, to Arkansas State University Museum, an Aunt Jemima doll, a Spanish dress, and Disney's Pocahontas movie are among those displayed in the "Sorting Out Race: Examining Racial Identity and Stereotypes in Thrift Store Donations exhibit. It gives visitors like Emily Boves a history lesson on race in America.

"I knew a little bit about the story of Aunt Jemima," says Boves, "but I didn't know that it was such a negative connotation."

All the items in the thrift store exhibit were collected over a five year period, from well-known thrift stores, including Goodwill and The Salvation Army. Arkansas State University's diversity office donated $10,000 to bring the exhibit, which is actually the first of it's kind in Arkansas.

"People don't see the [items] as something that can perpetuate stereotypes," continues Boves. "They see it as something catchy. But some of it is pretty offensive."

The exhibit features stereotypes like the African Mammy, The Sleeping Mexican, and The Savage Warrior. It also poses questions to contentious topics, like how do we define race? And, is there any less racism today than a hundred years ago?

Jill Kary is the curator of education for the exhibit, and says the goal isn't to make people color-blind, but to get them thinking differently about differences in color, size and gender.

"Every person you see has their own set of stereotypes," says Kary. "They continue to judge you just from the way you look, and the way you talk."

Kary says it can continue the cycle of racism, and threats that lead to hostility, alienation and achievement gaps.

"We want the conversation to be open," Kary states. "We don't want folks to keep their mouths closed about it anymore."

The final piece of the exhibit is "Becoming Colorbrave", which Kary says is recognizing that no two people are the same, but that there is more that unites the human race than separates.


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