Although I’ve heard from friends who have visited Washington, D. C.’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) that it’s a fantastic place, its online presence suffered from the adoption and proselytizing of Critical Race Theory (CRT), at least on this page about “Whiteness.”
Yesterday I posted two posters from that page about the nature of white culture, which you can see at the preceding link. The posters gave a ridiculous stereotype of white culture, were pretty close to being racist, and, in fact, if you saw the posters as an implicit contrast with black culture, it would be extremely racist towards blacks as well. Since yesterday, those posters have disappeared. Clearly the pushback against them was strong—and rightly so. I doubt that my own criticism had any influence on this, though I haven’t trawled the Internet to see who discussed those graphics. (This incident has already made it onto the NMAAHC’s Wikipedia page.)
Reader Rik G and others informed me that the NMAAHC has added a statement explaining why they removed the graphics. To wit: :
At the National Museum of African American History and Culture, we believe that any productive conversation on race must start with honesty, respect for others, and an openness to ideas and information that provide new perspectives.
In that context, we recently unveiled “Talking About Race,” an online portal providing research, studies, and other academic materials from the fields of history, education, psychology, and human development. Our goal in doing so was to contribute to a discussion on this vitally important subject that millions of Americans are grappling with.
Since yesterday, certain content in the “Talking About Race” portal has been the subject of questions that we have taken seriously. We have listened to public sentiment and have removed a chart that does not contribute to the productive discussion we had intended.
The site’s intent and purpose are to foster and cultivate conversations that are respectful and constructive and provide increased understanding. As an educational institution, we value meaningful dialogue and believe that we are stronger when we can pause, listen, and reflect—even when it challenges us to reconsider our approach. We hope that this portal will be an ever-evolving place that will continue to grow, develop, and ensure that we listen to one another in a spirit of civility and common cause.
Despite all the talk about “conversations,” respect, and “constructive dialogue”, though, the page still remains a repository of CRT. The videos of Robin DiAngelo (about whom we’ll have more to say later) and bell hooks are still there, along with discourses on white fragility, white privilege, microaggressions, and so on. As far as I can see, nothing was removed save the videos. The remaining part of the website still sounds like a hectoring indoctrination session given to captive college students by diversity administrators.
Not that there’s no point in discussing these issues, but the way it’s done is as far from a “conversation” as I can see. There is no respect for those being lectured to, only the implication that “Listen up—this is the truth.”
When I went to Auschwitz a few years ago, the exhibit spoke for itself, there were no posters about the evils of anti-Semitism, just a stark presentation of pictures of the new inmates, presentation of the “judicial” rooms, prison cells, and wall where people were shot, piles of possessions removed from those interned and killed (toys, artificial limbs, glasses, suitcases, razors, and, most affecting, the hair shaved from women), and, finally, a visit to the barracks itself from a highly trained guide who just told us what everything was. That was infinitely more moving than having lectures about the demonization of Jews. The whole visit spoke for itself, and both my companion and I were deeply moved. In fact, the companion, a German woman, was so distressed that she refused to speak German for a week, so ashamed was she of her people.
Why couldn’t the exhibit at the NMAAHC speak for itself this way—without the CRT and lecturing? Even the websites could have been constructed to convey a stark message of the evils of racism and the difficulties of the black experience in America. But that is not the way things go today. We must have hectoring. We must be told where we’ve sinned and why we need to repent.