By Jeanann Woodard
As we pulled up on the icy day, we were greeted by the majestic chapel stretching above the trees. While I was admiring the architecture, I could not help but think of the religion that most commonly used the chapel. It brought to mind how even though Christianity has caused many positive things, it can be taken to a dangerous extreme and be used to falsely support stereotypes against people of other religions. Then, the exhibit in the library furthered my thoughts of how easily people can twist things to make them seem more appealing to the majority of the population.
Our guide warned us at the beginning that some of the things we would see would shock us but that we should keep in mind that the purpose of the Southern Poverty Law Firm is to ensure these hate groups and publications are brought to an end. One of the most shocking things I saw in the newspaper WAR was the things they had for sale. There was a T-shirt with a cleverly disguised swastika made of interlocking arms and hands. Also, there was a page of stickers like one that was trying to convey what they believed an African-American mind was made up of. The heading even used a derogatory word; then the picture just made it even worse as the illustrator portrayed the man’s lips as half the size of his face. The three big sections of the brain were divided into stereotypes such as craving watermelon, desire for gold chains, drugs, alcohol and the like, and criminal motives, leaving only pea-sized sections for virtues such as responsibility. Also, the way people slip some of these stereotypes to best improve their appeal in is unbelievable such as a journal finding or pride in your race. Some things were just blatantly out there, such as the entire Spotlight magazine. When I saw the comic claiming that the truth was the only thing that had be harmed by the crematoria, I could not believe the lengths they went to in order to try to justify the burning of Jews “to prevent disease spreading.” Plus, the picture of the Nazis and the picture of the Ku Klux Klan in such public places are disheartening to think people simply watched these groups take control.
Another memorable thing Patrick, Kendra, and I got to experience was meeting a student at the university over lunch. Introducing himself as “Edison like Thomas Edison,” what we had learned early in the day about the famous inventor’s anti-Semitic views popped into my thoughts. Through the rest of our conversation, we were able to learn a lot about Duke as well as what high schools were like in Edison’s hometown of Beijing, China. I especially enjoyed learning more about these differences because it is very important to broaden your worldview in order to avoid another event like the Holocaust. As history has shown, when you are ignorant to other cultures, you will more easily fall victim to propaganda and be largely swayed by the stereotypes you hear.
In the Nasher Art Museum, when I heard from one of the curators the background of the artist of a set of black and white works, I was not surprised to hear that when Hitler came to power he made certain to remove the female professor from the art institute. Knowing that Hitler applied to many different art schools, and he was denied by all, leaves you wondering if his forced removal of the female professor partly stemmed from damaged pride. Another shocking thing from the museum portion of our trip was one of the Motley paintings that featured many stereotypes. Because he had African-American roots, I was surprised to see him portray African-American males with huge clown-like lips, women, as the caption read, with “voluptuous” shapes, and a child with messy braids. This whole day brought to light for me many things I now feel I was sheltered from and would find hard to believe if I had not seen it. In my classroom, this will further pushes me to make sure my students one day know the truth behind history.