Let Us Decide - 27 East

Letters

Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1679667

Let Us Decide

Of all the character assassinations, invective, political swill, lies and bad faith routinely chronicled in the Letters to The Press, none is as outrageous as that from Dr. Georgette L. Grier-Key, executive director and curator of the Eastville Community Historical Society [“A Great Harm,” Letters, February 13].

Ms. Grier-Key, emboldened by her titles and position — accolades dear to the cramped academic mindset — dares to dictate who should control art, recovered history, historical interpretation, and what the public has a right to see and consider. A politically correct Philistine, she is guilty of co-opting a country’s and a people’s past to impose a world view, as did the slavery-defending Southern historians who came before her.

Sam Johnson, and his black dolls [“African-American Rag Dolls On Display At Rogers Memorial Library In Southampton For Black History Month,” 27east.com, February 4], are the target of her “professional” ire. She ignores the many possible interpretations they evoke, and the insights into another era that might bring to bear on them, in favor of a single interpretation.

She should consider the never-to-be-forgotten Percola Breedlove, who burst out of the pages of Toni Morrison’s first novel, “The Bluest Eye.” Praying always for physical beauty that might include her, but seeing only the porcelain blonde dolls of the rich white children, what might she have made if given one of the black dolls handed down to us by Mr. Johnson’s preservation?

The inner life and the sufferings imposed on this child born in a novel informed a generation’s sensibilities. That was 1970. In 2013, “The Bluest Eye” was the “most banned book” because of its sexually explicit, graphically described content and disturbing language. While well within imagining, or even reporting, that a child would suffer what was described, it is now considered best suppressed. Or left to professionals to interpret?

Dr. Grier-Key would banish Mr. Johnson’s collection to “his own home” and says the public deserves “more.” More than her privileged censure, for sure. She refuses to allow that craft can become art, and that symbols and artifacts, mercurial to meaning, transition over time to inspire thought, study, insight and conscience — “more” than is envisioned in her curatorial policing and demands for a “tightly controlled environment.”

The Press is misguided in characterizing a “misstep” [“A Teachable Moment,” Editorial, February 13], and the library as well for justifying the exhibit as a “teachable moment.” The public doesn’t need to be controlled, or “taught,” but to look with fresh eyes unencumbered by dogma. We are capable of feeling without being told, and moved by Mr. Johnson’s love and connection to his own past and future while not denying its pain.

Pulling down statues, destroying what survives of the past and dictating history is not the way to redress. Preservation, experience and insight is. We, the public, are then free to make up our own minds!

Frances Genovese

Southampton

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