The university in East Lansing put up a gift shop display for Black History Month featuring dolls of prominent and historic Black leaders hanging from wooden trees, as shown by a photo on social media. By the clothes the dolls wore, they seemed to represent Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Prince and Barack and Michelle Obama hanging from strings on the display trees. The shop is located at the university’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts.
Student Krystal Davis-Dunn saw the display and expressed her outrage in a Facebook post that was accompanied by photo proof.
“My intention posting these images was to vent and highlight the continuous acts of microaggressions I’ve experienced as a Black student at MSU,” Davis-Dunn wrote. “The symbolisms in these photos explains itself. I don’t care about the artist intent nor the Wharton Center for Performing Arts gift shop intent, it’s the impact of it and the culmination of all the culturally insensitive events that has happened at MSU. These images evoke a visceral experience… trauma lives in the body. Enough is enough!”
The display was eventually taken down on Friday once the university started receiving complaints.
MSU released a statement apologizing for the display, calling it “inappropriate and insensitive.” They further said the Wharton Center would be providing employees and volunteers with “racial bias training.”
“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,” MSU Spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant wrote.
This statement was not enough for some students, however.
Another person, Paule-Equality Jackson, reposted Davis-Dunn’s picture on Facebook writing:
“The University has issued a statement, and said that all employees will have to ‘take mandatory racial sensitivity training.’ The display has also been taken down. But that is not enough.” Jackson ended by writing an Ida B. Wells quote: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
Davis-Dunn responded to Jackson’s post by writing, “Way to use your voice! Paule-Equality Jackson. Call Michigan State University… demand affirmative action… inclusion and diversity among leadership faculty and staff. As well as more institutional support for domestic students of color!”
It seems Michigan State could be on the brink of more backlash and protest if they don’t turn things around in an expansive and meaningful way.