Cultural Appropriation & Antiques

Today Geoff and Amanda and I went to the Boston Antiques & Design Show in Wilmington, MA.  We’d never been to this show before and we actually heard about it in a book we found at a used book sale at MIT.  The book was awesome, it’s here if you want to check it out, but it may have mentioned that the show is held in a Shriners Auditorium.  Shriners, like the guys wearing little fuzzy red fezzes.

I should probably mention that I find the idea of grown men wearing bejeweled fuzzy red hats to be utterly hilarious.  Even funnier?  Giant metal fez hats outside the hall.

This hat-on-a-pole greeted us as we drove in.
This hat-on-a-pole greeted us as we drove in.
Hat-on-a-sign in front of the building.
Hat-on-a-sign in front of the building.  It even has a tassel.

They also have their own fleet of strange vehicles.  Check it out.

It's a Shriners golf cart with flashing red and blue police lights built it.
It’s a Shriners golf cart with flashing red and blue police lights built in.

It also had a couple empty cans of Rolling Rock in the back.  Nothing but the best brew here.  On the way back to the car we saw this.  I think if I’d seen it on the way in I would have laughed hysterically the entire time.


Yes, you’re reading that correctly.  It says CLOWN UNIT.  The jokes, they write themselves.

Inside the building, there were actual men in bedazzled fuzzy hats.  I spotted one near the concession stand.

Fez man is getting condiments for his food.
Fez man is getting condiments for his food.

This particular Fez man was apparently the fire chief.  The dining area where we were all sitting was under this enormous raised stage that has a throne, piano, and (fake) camel on it.  It was loaded with flags, tents, spears, paintings of pyramids, and looked like this.

That hanging sign lights up.  For reals.
That hanging sign lights up. For reals.



And, to top it all off, they have a Super Secret Restricted Area FEZ ROOM.  Seriously.

It's a Secure Area.
It’s a Secure Area.  Obviously.

And as hilarious as all of this is, there’s one thing about all of it that’s really problematic.  The symbols, the names (Aleppo, Mosque, Temple, etc), the regalia, are all based in cultures and religions that are distinctly not from the US.  The Shriners were founded in NYC in 1870.  This is a fraternal order designed by white men and, especially until recently, designed for white men.  Only.  We certainly didn’t see any POC there today in Shriners regalia.

The fact that they host cool things in their auditorium is great: antiques shows, roller derby, etc.  And, they actually do a lot of work for the community, particularly children, see the Shriners Hospital for Children here in Boston.  But, it isn’t 1870 anymore.  There was sign Geoff noticed today about how they were fundraising for something related to their “Mosque.”


I’m sure that sounded really exotic and cool in 1870, but we know today that it isn’t some far away exotic thing.  A Mosque is a house of worship in one of the world’s major religions and they’re located all over the world.  The Christian Conservative wing in the US would be outraged if a fraternal order called their clubhouses “Churches” and the screaming on FauxNews would be endless.  Why is it still acceptable to call these places Mosques or Temples just because it was done in 1870?

Times change.  We’ve made a lot of changes since 1870.  We’ve made a lot of progress that we can all be proud of.  Let’s change some of these old, hateful habits we’re still hanging onto.


P.S. See our next post for some of the amazing stuff we saw and some of the stuff we bought.

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