Race Relations Past And Present

Gene Shaw Museum

Gene Shaw Museum

Recently a good friend of mine suggested that the museum in Saint George Park might be too controversial for Second Life. Surprised I asked her why, her response, because of the “racial thing.” Puzzled I asked racial thing? What racial thing?! Since the museum is dedicated to shedding light on this little know jazz trumpeter, I felt it was important to include all the aspects of his life that showed his decisions, talents and influences. So I put up photos of my father AND my mother, showing how courageous and unusual these people were in marrying and raising interracial children in the late 50’s-60s. My mother of course, having been a major influence on his work and his life, is included. The circumstances of a white woman meeting, falling in love with and marrying a black man was a part of their shared history, the fact that it was also considered taboo than, make it a part of American history. Now I’m not going to say that it wasn’t a bit difficult being an interracial child of that era, or that watching President Obama’s inauguration speech didn’t leave me emotional, of course it did, but not because he was black, but because he was an “Other.” The box that you check on every official form to describe your race when you don’t quite fit into one definition. Since I also was an “other” he represented a new hero for a new time another “other” that I could relate to.
But in general the images/information in the exhibit represent a past, not a present. Although there are of course some of the same racial issues currently, things were different back than. My children wouldn’t even recognize some of the racial expressions we used in the 60’s such as “pass for white.” The words, this idea even, does not exist in 2009. So for me the story of Gene Shaw is just a fascinating, semi romantic, musical history. But the thought that this history could be considered a currant controversy, and controversial in a virtual world that in itself is controversial, well…, that left me thoughtful.
This conversation sparked a new friendship and a wonderful conversation. I believe that uncomfortable or not, communication is always the key to understanding.
What do you think? Drop by check out the museum and let me know your thoughts. Controversial? Or the story of an American Jazz musician?

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