Racism, in all its forms, is unpleasant and should not be tolerated. What’s even worse is when a tax-payer funded museum, such as the Smithsonian, decides they will engage in racism, while pretending it’s something else. In their infinite wisdom, the National African American Museum, which is part of the Smithsonian, embarked on a new initiative called “Talking About Race” with a chart listing attributes of white people. See the chart below or click here.
Perhaps the museum’s creative team should crack open a dictionary or simply google the term “stereotyping” before engaging in overt racism and putting it forth as some redeemable product of value. An organization such as the National Museum of African American History should have a grasp on the history and legacy of racism and bias, so it’s quite shocking to witness them imbuing their rhetoric and materials with this kind of ugliness.
Under the guise of “Talking About Race,” the museum has constructed a curriculum called, “how to identify whiteness” for the stated reason of “discussing race, equity, and inclusion.” At the center of the program is a chart called “Aspects & Assumptions of Whiteness & White Culture,” that upon reading, conjures images of bias reminiscent of the Jim Crow era or anti-Semitic propaganda produced by Joeseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany. Here are a few attributes of “whiteness” that the museum finds objectionable and worthy for their “chart”:
Rugged individualism, self-reliance, nuclear family with a mother and father, objective, rational linear thinking, the scientific method, cause and effect relationships, work before play, respecting authority, heavy value on ownership of goods, property, and space, plan for the future, justice based on English common law, and to protect property and investments, action-oriented, be number one, being polite. Saying these expressions – “tomorrow will be better” – “if you didn’t reach your goals; you didn’t work hard enough” – “hard work is the key to success.”
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley demanded that the taxpayer-funded museum explain why they released the racist curriculum to teach Americans how to identify “whiteness.” A week after Hawley’s request, the museum responded with the following:
“The original purpose of the chart’s content was to raise issues for discussion in facilitated sessions, to spark questions and conversations about various perceptions and of experiences with race. The content you referenced was not meant to be absolutist statements, but rather served as starting points for curated discussions. In the workshops, the general statements found in the chart were used to discuss perceptions and societal practices and mores, and how we can be aware of those perceptions and experiences. Participants shared experiences and perceptions about dominant cultural norms in order to understand how race impacts individuals differently. Absent that facilitated content, the chart detracted from productive conversations, and was removed.”
Despite carefully chosen words, the divisiveness and bias, though muted, remains. The response letter said the statements weren’t “absolutist” and meant to “raise issues for discussion,” but the title “Aspects & Assumptions of Whites & White Culture” clearly had a racial group in mind accompanied by an exhaustive list of presumably negative stereotypes of Caucasians. It’s also quite disturbing to see the mention of “workshops” where they use a list of racial stereotypes to guide them through discussions of “perceptions and societal practices and mores, and how we can be aware of those perceptions and experiences.”
Many of the attributes cited in the list are those of all successful societies, cultures, and people, and it’s shameful that the Smithsonian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture view these traits as tainted and something that people should regard with scrutiny and not pursue. On the contrary, the personality traits and characteristics detailed in the chart are responsible for all the progress made in science, technology (computers/internet), medicine, and transportation.
Because of adherence to the scientific method, objective, rational thinking, cause, and effect relationships, believing in the concept of being rewarded for hard work and thinking that tomorrow is going to be better, the world is better off than it’s ever been. Over the last 200 years, every metric of human existence has improved. Globally, extreme hunger has fallen from 90% to less than 10% today. Globally, only 12% of people were literate in 1800; today, 86% are literate. The number of children who died before reaching five years of age in 1800 was 43% – in 2020, less than 4% die before that age (click to see statistical citations).
The hard work of individuals and groups who employed the behaviors that the Smithsonian finds repellant have made our world far better off than it otherwise would have been. Maybe it’s time for the museum to re-imagine the “workshops” they sponsor and change the title of their “Chart” to “Aspects And Behaviors That Elevate Humanity.”