Want to understand white supremacy? New exhibit running at NJ college
GALLOWAY — White supremacy and racism are on display at Stockton University, in the form of a new photo exhibit.
Those who visit are meant to leave with a better understanding of the history and mindset behind the white supremacist movement. And by doing so, the creators suggest, society has a better opportunity to respond to vicitimizers more effectively and perhaps recruit people away from the racist organizations.
"We're not trying to excuse any kind of behavior, obviously. But we try to understand it," said Elke Weesjes, one of the creators of the exhibit.
Running through the fall semester, the exhibit examines the lives and experiences of individuals who join the racist groups, as well as those who've left. Dozens of photos are spread across five exhibit categories, accompanied by captions that dive into commonly overlooked issues, such as how racist beliefs are passed down from one generation to the next.
"Visitors will be surprised at how diverse the white supremacist movement is in terms of age, gender and motivations to join," Weesjes said. "The popular notion that the white supremacist movement is nothing more than a band of angry white men is not just false, it is also harmful since it causes us to underestimate these groups' destructive power."
The exhibit, titled Within and Beyond Exclusionary Communities: White Supremacy and Racism in the United States, features the work of photojournalist Anthony Karen, who has more than 20 years experience photographing extremist groups throughout the country.
"Showing racists in this more 'human' context challenges our perspective, including trying to understand why some of these individuals may have chosen a particular path," Karen said.
Weesjes said it was hard to find a venue to display an exhibit that focuses on such a sensitive issue, but Stockton jumped at the chance to educate the public in a unique way.
"The hosts, creators and sponsors of the exhibit in no way support or condone the ideologies and actions of white supremacist groups and organizations," said Raz Segal, associate professor and director of Stockton's Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies program. "We stand with the people targeted by these groups."
Weesjes and Karen will take part in an opening event on Sept. 19, from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
The exhibit is free and open to the public. It's located inside a classroom within the main academic building.
Individual and group visits require registration by calling 609-652-4699. That number can also be used to RSVP for the opening event.
The exhibit can be viewed online using this link from the Kingsborough Holocaust Center in Brooklyn, where Weesjes serves as director.
Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York is the next stop for the exhibit, in 2024, Weesjes said.