Douglas Andrews / July 16, 2020

Racism Hits the Smithsonian

If you thought hard work and objectivity were virtues for all humans, think again.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts put it simply and succinctly back in 2007: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Apparently, our nation’s most important collection of museums never got the message.

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), as the “About” page of its massive website notes, “was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. … The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.”

All that is good. Great, in fact. Unfortunately, the NMAAHC has lost its way. Its managers seem to think that they can’t “promote and highlight” the unique and priceless contributions of African Americans without sending their visitors to a racial reeducation camp.

The topics of “White Privilege” and “White Supremacy” have come to our national museum, and the discussion is not only deeply divisive — it’s demeaning to both whites and blacks. How so? By suggesting that fundamental precepts such as individualism, hard work, objectivity, respect for authority, the traditional family structure, and the written tradition belong to “white culture” and are therefore foreign to folks with black or brown skin.

As for which group should be more insulted and more outraged by this grotesque bit of stereotyping, it’s hard to say. As National Review’s Rich Lowry put it, “Nothing to see here — the Museum of African American history just peddling racist drivel, as if any of these qualities belong to a particular race.”

Byron York supplied Exhibits A, B, and C of the museum’s crimes against colorblindness here.

“Let’s play a game,” begins Ben Shapiro. “It’s a simple game. You have to decide whether the following statements were made by David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK, or the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a project of the Smithsonian Institution.”

Shapiro then serves up a bunch of softballs — statements so preposterously racist that they couldn’t possibly have been uttered by those in charge of our nation’s most important historical treasures. Statements like, “Whiteness stands for ‘rugged individualism,’ and the notion that ‘independence and autonomy’ are ‘highly valued.’ Whiteness stands for ‘the nuclear family’ in which children should ‘be independent.’ Whiteness stands for ‘objective, rational linear thinking’ … and places ‘emphasis on scientific method.’”

It’s a rigged game, of course, but that’s Shapiro’s point. “According to the NMAAHC,” he continues, ‘White dominant culture, or whiteness, refers to the ways white people and their traditions, attitudes and ways of life have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States. And since white people still hold most of the institutional power in America, we have all internalized some aspects of white culture — including people of color.’“

It’s hard to know where to begin unpacking this racist knapsack (to borrow from one of many moth-eaten screeds found within the museum’s website), but we’re reminded of what former President George W. Bush once said about "the soft bigotry of low expectations” and about the perceived status quo and destiny of black Americans. Besides, as Michael Knowles pointed out more recently, “The Left controls every major institution in America: mainstream media, the academy, administrative government, Hollywood, Big Tech, etc. So if ‘institutional racism’ really did exist, whose fault would that be?”

It’s a great rhetorical question, and one that all of us — black, brown, and white — should think seriously about before visiting the NMAAHC or — to those inclined to vote Democrat on November 3 — before heading to the polls to throw a lever against “White Supremacy.”

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