Volume 7, Issue 1
The first one hundred days of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, controversial policies and executive orders sparked national protests and dialogue on race, racism and institutional racism. It has also stimulated conversation on the role and place of racist iconography and artifacts in the nation at a time when racial attacks and tensions are mounting. Using the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia (JCM) at Ferris State University as a case-study, this paper analyzes one way that racist images and artifacts are being used to create a more honest record of public memory that centers matters of race and culture within broader American cultural and historical memory of the Jim Crow period and in creating rhetorical spaces of dialogue that inspire social change. JCM is examined here as a counter-museum and open resource to the public that encourages visitor participation and dialogic analysis through a moral lens that challenges dominant discourses from the Trump administration and sites of public memory that employ either symbolic annihilation or trivialization/deflection as their main rhetorical strategies in depicting the legacy of America’s racial past. Key Words: Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, African Americans, racist artifacts, Donald Trump, David Pilgrim, rubbish theory, Repetition and difference theory.
This essay explores the rhetoric associated with a Trump era of U.S politics, one that has been described as “divisive politics of identity” (Rodrik, 2016). In particular, we analyze on-line comments offered by self-identified majority group members (e.g., white, heterosexual, Christian and/or male) in response to the fears and concerns of certain co-cultural groups (e.g., immigrants, refugees, women, people of color, LGBT persons). Our analysis of dominant group rhetoric reveals both unsupportive (endorsing Trump’s policy initiatives, ignoring one’s societal privilege, focusing on one’s own societal disadvantage, resisting majority group essentialization and dismissing and/or trivializing co-cultural concerns) and supportive messages (acknowledging the legitimacy of co-cultural concerns, recognizing one’s own privilege, challenging other dominant group members, and embracing the role of co-cultural ally). The essay concludes with a discussion of our findings and implications for future research. Key Words: dominant group, U.S. politics of identity, co-cultural theory, privilege, Donald Trump.