After an Online ‘Onslaught’ over Exhibit on Racial Justice, a Florida Holocaust Museum Vows Not to Back DownBreaking News
tags: museums, racism, Protest, Holocaust history, George Floyd
In late November, the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida sparked outrage when it opened its current exhibition, “Uprooting Prejudice: Faces of Change.”
The bilingual exhibit, which runs through Jan. 31, consists of 45 large-format, black-and-white photo portraits. Chicago photographer John Noltner, a native of Minnesota, was inspired to take the shots in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing at and around the site where he died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.
Noltner offered the temporary exhibit to the Center, which had a hole in its schedule. The exhibit, said the Center’s assistant director Lisa Bachman, was “right in line with our mission.”
The photos are mounted on dark gray, carpeted walls lining two softly lit rooms. In each, the face of a single person fills the frame, along with a short text in the words of the multiracial subjects. In the second room, there is a slideshow of the photos, with additional text and softly playing music.
Many of the captions respond to prejudice, convey pain, hurt and fear, as well as some anger. One reads: “Let’s rebuild our community and stop looting our buildings. The message is not anarchy. The message is justice.”
George Floyd is not pictured or mentioned except in a list of hashtags in the slideshow, nor are the circumstances of his death. But that did not keep local and national headline writers from dubbing it a “George Floyd Exhibit,” which – predictably – set off a small firestorm on Twitter:
“George Floyd is added to a Holocaust museum?,” tweeted Ezra Levant(@ezralevant), of the site Rebel News, on Nov. 22. “That trivializes and distorts the Holocaust and its six million Jewish victims. And it grotesquely implies that American police are Nazis.”
Martin Daubney (@MartinDaubney) called the exhibit “unbelievable…To align Floyd’s tragic death with the massacre of 6 million Jews is hugely insensitive. But it’s also political: it positions police as Nazis. Awful decision.”
The right-wing website Breitbart called it “a tribute to Floyd” which attempts “a shocking parallel.” The Daily Caller said the exhibit was “dedicated” to Floyd. American Renaissancesaid the purpose of the exhibit was “to honor George Floyd.”
“To equate the Holocaust with other acts of racism in this country is a disgrace,” said Alex Grobman, co-author of Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?
Linda Olmert, a former board member at Yad Vashem, told World Israel News that the Orlando exhibit, “is in fact nothing less than a false quest for universalism that criminally diminishes the intransigent uncompromising racism toward the Jewish people.”
The online reports — written by people who neither viewed the exhibit nor called Center staff for a response – provoked angry emails and messages left on the Center’s voicemail. All of which shocked Pam Kancher, the Center’s executive director.
“I was surprised by the onslaught,” she said in an interview at the Center. “We can take criticism,” which often comes whenever the Center highlights anything apart from the Shoah, she said. “But not the outpouring of hate and the vile comments this time.”
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