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Black History Month display at MSU sparks outrage

The "offensive display" of prominent black figures was set up in MSU's Wharton Center.

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Black History Month display on Michigan State University's campus sparked some outrage. 

It was on display in the Wharton Center, inside a gift shop, according to a report from WLNS. 

The display had prominent black figures tied to a tree. When discovered, the display was called "insensitive" for the historical context. 

WLNS says some of the figures hanging from strings on display trees included former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On a separate tree, WLNS says white figurines were on display. 

Michigan State University said in a statement to WLNS regardless of the intent of the display, the impact could not be ignored.

MSU officials said the display was removed and that employees and volunteers of the Wharton Center will undergo racial bias training that focuses on the impact of intentional and unintentional racial bias. 

The full statement, provided to WLNS by MSU spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant, is below:

“We were made aware of an inappropriate and insensitive display at the Wharton Center Gift Shop which used a tree-like rack to hold historical black figures. Regardless of the intent of the display, its impact cannot be ignored – people were hurt and offended. We sincerely apologize to our community members and have immediately removed the display. Additionally, after the Wharton Center reported the incident, it agreed to provide employees and volunteers with racial bias training that focuses on the impact and understanding of intentional and unintentional racial bias. We have work to do, and MSU remains committed to creating a culture that is inclusive and safe for all faculty, staff, students and visitors. As we enter Black History Month, it’s important we not only recognize the many contributions of African Americans, but we remember history and confront all bias.”

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