Every American should be chilled to their very core that this world of hate, oppression, and systemic injustice is the one on which we live.
Museums & Race acknowledges that the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade are literal reflections of anti-Black, white supremacist ideology that exists in America and can be seen in every facet of our museums.
As written by the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable: “We acknowledge our complicity in the long history of systemic racism within our country and the institutions of power in our city. We will continue to work to dismantle white supremacy within our organizations, schools, and communities.”
For too long, museums have resisted any formal role in addressing oppression, but, as our colleagues have insisted, museums are never neutral. Noted historian and acclaimed scholar Ibram Kendi writes, “there’s no in-between safe space, neutrality in this struggle — either we’re producing this racist society or we’re struggling against it.” Museums, by and large, have been in the business of racist reproduction, which we see in board composition, hiring practices, opaque and unjust salary structures, persistent curatorial discrepancies, dismissal of racialized narratives as “too controversial,” and so much more. If you are aware of the reality of our society, and the oppression facing Black Americans, you should be actively working to dismantle it.
We call for museums to step forward with those who are already fighting, cast off their chains of inaction, and find some way to make a difference in the field, for museum workers, and in support of dismantling white supremacy in all institutions for the good of their communities, their institutions, and their nation.
As national and international practitioners that center the ideals of justice, we are not surprised that this is happening. This is the time to raise our voices against racism and elevate anti-racist actions. We stand in solidarity with justice-centered communities, rejecting systemic and institutionalized racism and demand a radically-imagined museum community in which human dignity is honored before property. This statement is only a small part of a much larger movement.
Three things museums can and SHOULD do now:
- Lift up Black voices and center the experiences of Black people,
- Learn and embrace anti-racist policies and practices that dismantle anti-Black oppression,
- Engage with groups such as Museums and Race, Museum Hue, Visitors of Color, Museums Art Not Neutral, MASS Action, Incluseum, the Empathetic Museum amongst others to do the work that is needed for transformation.