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(UPDATED) Display with 'Hung' Black Figures Sparks Outrage, New Racial Bias Training

Updated: Feb 14


According to WILX 10, no charges will be pressed against employees involved, but MSU will focus on "diversity and racial-bias education."


Contributor: Jack Carlson


Figurines hanging on a display tree at the Wharton Center brought outrage and controversy, causing MSU to apologize and issue new racial bias training.


The outrage was centered on a tree display with several prominent black figures. The figures were “hung” with string.


The black figures, which included Harriet Tubman, Michelle Obama, and Martin Luther King, Jr., were described by visitor Krystal Davis-Dunn as “insensitive,” and representative of a “lynching.” She further told WLNS, “something needs to happen now.”


According to witnesses, another tree featuring hung white figurines was situated nearby but has brought less attention. So far there has been little controversy.


Michigan State University apologized telling WLNS, “Regardless of the intent of the display, its impact cannot be ignored – people were hurt and offended. We sincerely apologize to our community members.”


“Intentional and unintentional racial bias training,” will now be held for Wharton Center employees and volunteers, MSU Spokesperson Emily Guerrant further told WLNS.


[RELATED STORY: MSU Black Alliance DEMANDS Validation of Perceived Bias, and More Minority Leaders]


MSU currently mandates diversity and inclusion training for all newly enrolled MSU students. MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives currently runs the online-based training.


The training, as reported by The Morning Watch, has highlighted microaggressions, gender and race privilege of white males, and white male obliviousness to diversity.


Many people took offense to the figurines because of how they believed they were resemblant of lynchings. Moreover, several told WLNS they believed the Wharton Center should be held responsible.


"Students of color here feel unwelcome here. I'm just going to say it," said John Ray, an MSU student told WILX 10.


[RELATED STORY: MSU Progressive Alliance DEMANDS a Sanctuary Campus, Money, Others]


This outrage comes weeks after MSU’s administration released plans to establish “diversity committees, new diversity administrators, plans for a new multicultural center, and mandated diversity training for all staff, faculty, and students.”


This isn’t MSU’s only incident of alleged racial bias. In fall 2017, a shoelace dropped in a dorm was mistaken for a noose, and just months ago in October 2019, toilet paper nooses were found in another dorm.



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