written by art historian & curator Mihaela Manolache
Discrimination, bigotry, and racial separation mark the dark chapters of human history. Manifestations of racism have often been reflected in artefacts and images that perpetuated divisions between different ethnic groups. Examining the artefacts is crucial in understanding the depth of racial divisions that existed in the past. Today we know that some societies were separated by opposing categories. The expression “Us vs. Them” must be seen as a mindset that often involves the idea of one’s own group (“Us”) being superior while viewing other groups (“Them”) as different or threatening. It’s a cognitive and emotional framework that can lead to discrimination and conflict between different groups based on factors such as race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or other distinguishing characteristics.
Throughout history, various artefacts and images have played a role in promoting the “Us vs. Them” ideology, reinforcing racial divisions and hierarchies. By confronting these painful aspects of history, we can actively work towards a more inclusive and equitable future. Addressing and challenging the “Us vs. Them” mentality is a fundamental step for promoting understanding and empathy among diverse societies.
Understanding the Impact
Racial artefacts and images of separation have had a significant impact on societies. They not only reflect historical inequalities but also contribute to shaping contemporary attitudes and structures. There are some key points to consider to fully understand the impact of racial artefacts.
Perpetuation of Stereotypes and Prejudices
Racial artefacts and images often rely on stereotypes to convey their messages. These stereotypes simplify complex identities and cultures, reducing them to a narrow set of characteristics. Over time, exposure to such artefacts can lead to the internalisation of these stereotypes, contributing to the reinforcement of biased attitudes and prejudiced beliefs.