Transcript: Museum London Looks at Racism in the City's Past | Aug 27, 2019

Jeyan stands in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and striped beige tie.

A caption on screen reads "Ontario Hubs: Confronting London's past. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says MUSEUM LONDON'S EXHIBIT
DIFFICULT TERRAIN
EXPLORES RACISM
IN LONDON, ONTARIO'S PAST
THROUGH OBJECTS
LIKE CHILDREN'S TOYS,
POSTCARDS AND PACKAGING.
I VISITED THE MUSEUM THIS SUMMER
TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT
HOW ITS CURATORS
WANT VISITORS TO BE COMFORTABLE
WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs."

A clip shows an object painted with clichéd depictions of natives and a wooden toy canoe with similar drawings.

A woman's voice says
WE'LL THINK THAT, YOU KNOW,
THESE ARTIFACTS'
REPRESENTATIONS,
ARE OF THE PAST, BUT YET,
THEY'RE SYMBOLIC OF WHAT'S STILL
HAPPENING TODAY.

A second woman's voice says
FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE,
IT DOESN'T MATTER
WHERE I TRAVEL.
THERE IS SOMETHING
THAT IS OFFENSIVE TO US.

As close-up shots show drawings of black people and Asian people, a man's voice says
IT'S PART OF OUR DNA AS FAR AS
A COUNTRY AND A CULTURE.
WE NEED TO START TO UNPACK
SOME OF THESE THINGS.

A woman in her forties with curly brown hair appears on screen and speaks an indigenous language.

Then, in English, she says
MY ENGLISH NAME IS AMANDA MYERS.
I'M THE DIRECTOR OF INDIGENOUS
SERVICES AT WESTERN UNIVERSITY.

A woman in her thirties wearing a white hijab appears and says
MY NAME IS EAMAN FAHMY.
I'M A CONSTITUENCY ASSISTANT.

A bald and clean-shaven man in his forties in a black three-piece suit says
MY NAME IS IS LEROY HIBBERT,
AND I AM
THE MULTICULTURAL
OUTREACH COORDINATOR
FOR LUSO COMMUNITY SERVICES.

A woman in her fifties with short gray hair says
I'M AMBER LLOYDLANGSTON.
I'M THE CURATOR
OF REGIONAL HISTORY
HERE AT MUSEUM LONDON.

A woman in her thirties with long curly dark hair says
MY NAME IS SAMANTHA MATTY
AND I'M A SOCIAL WORKER,
AND WE ARE THE CO-CREATORS
OF DIFFICULT TERRAIN.

A black and white picture shows two women in blackface makeup. Another picture shows two babies crying.

Jeyan narrates IT'S MEANT TO MAKE YOU
UNCOMFORTABLE,
ASK QUESTIONS AND EMPATHIZE.
MUSEUM LONDON'S EXHIBIT
DIFFICULT TERRAIN
IS HELPING SPARK A CONVERSATION
AROUND PREJUDICE,
DISCRIMINATION AND OPPRESSION
THROUGH OBJECTS
IN ITS COLLECTION.

Amber steps into an archive and says
WITHIN HERE, THERE ARE
SOME 45,000 TO 50,000 OBJECTS.
WE HAVE ANY NUMBER OF OBJECTS
IN THE COLLECTION
THAT WERE AT ONE TIME
CONSIDERED APPROPRIATE,
BUT WHICH, TODAY, CLEARLY RAISE
A LOT OF RED FLAGS.
I'M TAKING YOU NOW TO
OUR CHILDREN'S ARTIFACTS,
OUR TOYS AND GAMES.

Jeyan narrates
AMBER BROUGHT TOGETHER
FOUR COMMUNITY LEADERS,
EACH FROM VARIOUS BACKGROUNDS,
TO REFLECT ON THESE ITEMS
THAT STILL HAVE RELEVANCE
FOR CHILDREN TODAY.

Amber stands next to a metal rack containing dozens of toys.

She says BUT I THINK THEY CAN TEACH
SOME PRETTY POWERFUL THINGS:
PREJUDICE, RACISM,
THAT SORT OF THING.

Jeyan narrates
EACH WERE ASKED
WHAT OBJECTS SPOKE TO THEM.

Eaman says
THE PUZZLE
OF TEN LITTLE INDIANS,
BECAUSE THAT
WAS JUST SO POWERFUL.
AND HOW WE TEACH RACISM
AND GENOCIDE
WHEN IT COMES TO
THE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY,
AND HOW WE'RE STILL HAVING
THAT CONVERSATION, REALLY.
IS IT GENOCIDE?

A snippet of an animated clip plays in which a group of indigenous children walk in the desert as a song plays that says
TEN LITTLE, NINE LITTLE,
EIGHT little Indians...

Jeyan narrates
WHILE THERE HAVE BEEN
MANY ADAPTATIONS
OF THE NURSERY RHYME SINCE
IT WAS CREATED IN THE 1860S,
THERE'S STILL ONE
BASED ON DEATH AND MURDER.

AMBER says WHAT THIS SONG DOES
IS COUNT DOWN,
BASICALLY FROM 10
TO NONE.
AND EVERY TIME
A LITTLE INDIAN IS KILLED,
IT'S ACTUALLY QUITE VIOLENT.
THEY FALL DOWN A HOLE.
THEY GET BLOWN UP.
THE ORIGINAL LYRICS
ARE REALLY QUITE HORRENDOUS.
IT WAS WRITTEN
AT A TIME WHEN THE UNITED STATES
WAS KILLING
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE.
AND IT WAS AT A TIME
WHEN CANADA
WAS ABSOLUTELY INVOLVED IN
CULTURAL GENOCIDE,
AT THE VERY LEAST.

A picture shows a drawing of a man behind bars. Then another image shows a white man walking on his hands as a black man in a red suit carries his legs on his shoulders.

Jeyan narrates
THE DIFFICULT TERRAIN EXHIBIT
HOUSES 25 OBJECTS
AND 10 IMAGES.
IT COVERS INJUSTICES TOWARDS
THE INDIGENOUS, BLACK,
IRISH AND ARAB COMMUNITIES,
AMONG OTHERS.
IT ALSO TOUCHES ON GENDER ROLES
AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.

Samantha says
THERE'S THIS MUSICAL BOX,
AND ON THAT MUSICAL BOX
THERE'S THIS BOY LASSOING
THIS GIRL.
AND IN THAT, HE'S SMILING
AND HE HAS THIS POWER
AND CONTROL OVER HER.
AND I'VE WORKED WITH LOTS OF
VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS
OF CRIME AND TRAGIC CIRCUMSTANCE.
AND SO, THAT ONE
REALLY SPOKE OUT TO ME.
BECAUSE EVEN THOUGH THAT WAS,
YOU KNOW, 40, 50 YEARS AGO
THAT MUSICAL BOX WAS CREATED,
WE STILL KNOW THAT, YOU KNOW,
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
EXISTS.
WE KNOW THAT FOR CANADIAN WOMEN,
YOU KNOW, ONE IN THREE WOMEN
WILL EXPERIENCE SEXUAL VIOLENCE
IN THEIR LIFETIME.

A clip shows a wooden box with a grille lid.

Jeyan narrates
SITTING ON THE FLOOR
OF THE EXHIBIT
SITS A LARGE WOODEN BOX
WITH A HORRENDOUS HISTORY.
THIS WAS USED IN
THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURY
AND BELIEVED TO BE
A MORE HUMANE WAY
TO TREAT MENTAL ILLNESS.

Amanda says
THE RESTRAINT CRIB, FOR ME,
WAS A REALLY...
DIFFICULT ITEM
TO LOOK AT.

She clears her throat and continues
THE RESTRAINT CRIB
THAT THEY HAVE HERE
WAS USED FOR PATIENTS
IN A HOSPITAL SETTING.
BUT THESE TYPES OF
RESTRAINT DEVICES
WERE OFTEN EMPLOYED IN
OUR RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SYSTEMS.
SO, FOR ME, IT WAS
A REALLY IMPORTANT REMINDER
THAT, UM,
HOW WE CONSIDER THE HEALTH
AND WELL-BEING OF OTHER HUMANS
HAS AGAIN...
HAS REALLY NOT CHANGED
THAT MUCH.

Amber says
IT IS BASICALLY A BOX
THAT CLOSES.
IT HAS SLATS.
IT'S FORMED WITH
VERY THICK SLATS.
AND WHEN YOU OPEN IT...
AND IT'S DISPLAYED OPEN HERE...
YOU CAN SEE SCRATCHES
IN THE LID.
WELL, PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CONFINED
IN THIS THING
AND THEY WERE TRYING TO GET OUT.
THIS WAS DONE IN GOOD FAITH.
AND FOR ME, THINKING ABOUT IT,
THINKING, WELL, WHAT ARE
WE DOING TODAY IN GOOD FAITH
THAT IN 20, 30 YEARS,
50 YEARS DOWN THE ROAD,
WE'RE GOING TO LOOK AT AND SAY,
"I CANNOT BELIEVE WE DID THAT"?

Fast clips show the entrance to Museum London and several of the objects on display.

Jeyan narrates
MUSEUM LONDON
IS A COMMUNITY MUSEUM
AND HOUSES ITEMS
FROM ACROSS THE REGION.
THIS DIARY WAS DONATED BY A
LONDONER WHO HAS SINCE PASSED.

Amber says SHE WAS A YOUNG GIRL.
SHE WENT OFF TO CAMP.
AND ALL OF THE GIRLS SIGNED EACH
OTHER'S LITTLE AUTOGRAPH BOOKS
AS GIRLS WILL, AS CHILDREN WILL.
AND THEY DID ALL SORTS OF
LITTLE RHYMES.
THERE'S ALL SORTS IN THERE.

Jeyan narrates
BUT AMONG THEM WAS A RHYME
YOU WOULDN'T EXPECT
IN SUCH AN INNOCENT BOOK.
IT READS,
"GOD MADE THE N-WORD."

Amber says
"HE MADE HIM IN THE NIGHT.
HE MADE HIM IN A HURRY.
HE FORGOT TO PAINT HIM WHITE."
WHICH ALMOST MAKES ME
WANT TO CRY,
BECAUSE I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT
SOMEBODY WOULD WRITE
SUCH A THING.

Leroy says
IT'S NORMALIZED. IT'S PART OF
HOW PEOPLE COMMUNICATED.
NOBODY BATTED AN EYE.
NOBODY THOUGHT IT WAS INCORRECT.
NOBODY THOUGHT
IT WAS IMPROPER,
AND IT WAS PART OF
HOW PEOPLE COMMUNICATED.
AND BACK THEN, A FEW YEARS AGO,
THAT'S SOMEWHAT
THE SHOCKING PART.

A clip shows a cloth with a swastika on display.

Jeyan narrates
EACH OBJECT IN THE EXHIBIT
IS ACCOMPANIED BY A REFLECTION
FROM ONE OF THE CO-CURATORS,
AND VISITORS ARE ENCOURAGED
TO HAVE THEIR SAY
AND SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS
ON HOW TO BUILD
A MORE INCLUSIVE SOCIETY.

A note left by a visitor reads "Once you open your eyes and start seeing it, you cannot stop. Awareness + action."

Amber says
IT CAN BE REALLY EASY TO LIVE
IN A LITTLE BUBBLE
AND TO BE...
ESPECIALLY...
I'M A PRIVILEGED WHITE WOMAN.
I REALLY AM.
AND I AM SO INSULATED
FROM A LOT OF THESE THINGS,
AND I KNOW I'M NOT ALONE.

Eaman says
WE OFTEN TALK ABOUT BEING SAFE
AND HAVING SAFE SPACES.
BUT WE ALSO HAVE TO BE
TALKING ABOUT BRAVE SPACES,
AND THAT BRAVE SPACE IS THAT
WHEN WE'RE REALLY CHALLENGING
OUR SELF
TO LOOK AT OUR SELF AND REFLECT.
WHAT IS IT THAT I CAN DO
IN REGARDS TO ANY SORT OF RACIST
CIRCUMSTANCES OR SITUATIONS THAT I FACE?

Samantha says I HOPE PEOPLE COME IN
AND ARE UNCOMFORTABLE,
AND THAT THEY LEAN INTO
THAT DISCOMFORT.
I HOPE THAT
WHEN THEY'RE UNCOMFORTABLE,
THAT THEY TAKE A MOMENT
AND THINK TO THEMSELVES, LIKE,
WHY AM I UNCOMFORTABLE IN THIS?

A picture shows the entrance to the exhibit. An end slate reads "Ontario Hubs Field Producer, Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. Editor, David Erwin."

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Museum London Looks at Racism in the City's Past