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  • [This talk contains graphic images Viewer discretion is advised]

  • I collect objects.

  • I collect branding irons that were used to mark slaves as property.

  • I collect shackles for adults

  • and restraints for adults

  • as well as children.

  • I collect lynching postcards.

  • Yes, they depict lynchings.

  • They also depict the massive crowds that attended these lynchings,

  • and they are postcards

  • that were also used for correspondence.

  • I collect proslavery books that portray black people as criminals

  • or as animals without souls.

  • I brought you something today.

  • This is a ship's branding iron.

  • It was used to mark slaves.

  • Well, they actually were not slaves when they were marked.

  • They were in Africa.

  • But they were marked with an "S"

  • to designate that they were going to be slaves

  • when they were brought to the US

  • and when they were brought to Europe.

  • Another object or image that captured my imagination when I was younger

  • was a Klan robe.

  • Growing up in South Carolina, I would see Ku Klux Klan rallies occasionally,

  • actually more than occasionally,

  • and the memories of those events never really left my mind.

  • And I didn't really do anything with that imagery until 25 years later.

  • A few years ago, I started researching the Klan,

  • the three distinct waves of the Klan,

  • the second one in particular.

  • The second wave of the Klan had more than five million active members,

  • which was five percent of the population at the time,

  • which was also the population of New York City at the time.

  • The Klan robe factory in the Buckhead neighborhood of Georgia was so busy

  • it became a 24-hour factory to keep up with orders.

  • They kept 20,000 robes on hand at all time to keep up with the demand.

  • As a collector of artifacts and as an artist,

  • I really wanted a Klan robe to be part of my collection,

  • because artifacts and objects tell stories,

  • but I really couldn't find one that was really good quality.

  • What is a black man to do in America

  • when he can't find the quality Klan robe that he's looking for?

  • (Laughter)

  • So I had no other choice.

  • I decided I was going to make the best quality Klan robes in America.

  • These are not your traditional Klan robes you would see at any KKK rally.

  • I used kente cloth,

  • I used camouflage,

  • spandex, burlap, silks, satins and different patterns.

  • I make them for different age groups; I make them for young kids

  • as well as toddlers.

  • I even made one for an infant.

  • After making so many robes,

  • I realized that the policies the Klan had in place

  • or wanted to have in place a hundred years ago

  • are in place today.

  • We have segregated schools, neighborhoods, workplaces,

  • and it's not the people wearing hoods that are keeping these policies in place.

  • My work is about the long-term impact of slavery.

  • We're not just dealing with the residue of systemic racism.

  • It's the basis of every single thing we do.

  • Again we have intentionally segregated neighborhoods,

  • workplaces and schools.

  • We have voter suppression.

  • We have disproportionate representation of minorities incarcerated.

  • We have environmental racism. We have police brutality.

  • I brought you a few things today.

  • The stealth aspect of racism

  • is part of its power.

  • When you're discriminated against,

  • you can't always prove you're being discriminated against.

  • Racism has the power to hide,

  • and when it hides, it's kept safe

  • because it blends in.

  • I created this robe to illustrate that.

  • The basis of capitalism in America is slavery.

  • Slaves were the capital in capitalism.

  • The first Grand Wizard in 1868, Nathan Bedford Forrest,

  • was a Confederate soldier and a millionaire slave trader.

  • The wealth that was created from chattel slavery --

  • that's slaves as property -- would boggle the mind.

  • Cotton sales alone in 1860 equalled 200 million dollars.

  • That would equal five billion dollars today.

  • A lot of that wealth can be seen today through generational wealth.

  • Oh, I forgot the other crops as well.

  • You have indigo, rice and tobacco.

  • In 2015, I made one robe a week for the entire year.

  • After making 75 robes, I had an epiphany.

  • I have a realization that white supremacy is there,

  • but the biggest force of white supremacy is not the KKK,

  • it's the normalization of systemic racism.

  • There was something else I realized.

  • The robes had no more power over me at all.

  • But if we as a people collectively

  • look at these objects --

  • branding irons, shackles, robes --

  • and realize that they are part of our history,

  • we can find a way to where they have no more power over us.

  • If we look at systemic racism and acknowledge

  • that it's sown into the very fabric of who we are as a country,

  • then we can actually do something about the intentional segregation

  • in our schools, neighborhoods and workplaces.

  • But then and only then can we actually address

  • and confront this legacy of slavery

  • and dismantle this ugly legacy of slavery.

  • Thank you very much.

  • (Applause)

[This talk contains graphic images Viewer discretion is advised]

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B2 TED klan robe racism slavery collect

The symbols of systemic racism — and how to take away their power | Paul Rucker

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/07/03
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