Michigan State University has apologized after a gift shop display featuring dolls of prominent black figures hanging from trees sparked outrage.
What We Know:
- Student Krystal Davis-Dunn posted pictures on Facebook after coming across the display inside the gift shop at the University’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts in East Lansing, Michigan last week. The pictures showed dolls of notable black figures including Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Prince, Barack and Michelle Obama hanging from strings on display trees.
- Davis-Dunn told local news station WLNS, “It’s insensitive for the fact of the historical context it’s, ya know, the lynching of African Americans. It’s a fear tactic.”
- MSU spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant said in a statement, “We were made aware of an inappropriate and insensitive display at the Wharton Center gift shop which used a tree-like rack to hold historical black figures. Regardless of the intent of the display, its impact cannot be ignored-people were hurt and offended.”
- Guerrant added: “We have work to do, and MSU remains committed to creating a culture that is inclusive and safe for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors. As we enter Black History Month, it’s important we not only recognize the many contributions of African Americans but we remember history and confront all bias.”
- Student Adam Hafner told WILX, “This isn’t WSU’s first run into something similar to this and also that this can’t keep happening.”
- Another student, John Ray, told the station that people of color “feel unwelcome” at MSU.
- In a post on Facebook on Saturday, Davis-Dunn added: “Non-people of color may not be provoked or triggered by these displays, but for me and the group of people of color I was with….it was a visceral experience. Davis-Dunn also stated, “How many apologies are they going to make, how many more apologies? What is the action plan? I need something real. I need some transparency. I need to know what is happening.”
An MSU spokesperson said the display was inappropriate and that all the volunteers and employees at the gift shop will be receiving training that focuses on the impact and understanding of intentional and unintentional racial biases.