To Fight Racism Within Museums, They Need to Stop Acting Like They're Neutral

VICE, May 21, 2018

"In April, the Brooklyn Museum hired a white curator, Kristen Windmuller-Luna to oversee its collection of African art. The appointment outraged skeptics who felt that a black curator should oversee the institution’s African objects. Decolonize This Place, a New York activist group, staged a protest occupying the museum’s Beaux-Arts Court and penned a letter publicly accusing the museum of racism and aiding gentrification, demanding prompt change. One protester flung a pink banner over a balcony that read: “THEY WANT THE ART, NOT THE PEOPLE.”

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The sign, for me, gets at the heart of the debate around how to combat racism in cultural institutions, which are both succeeding and failing to address the issue. The overwhelming whiteness of museums has discouraged communities of color from visiting their galleries. Nationally, about six percent of museumgoers are black and a 2010 study by the American Alliance of Museums predicted that in 2033 people of color would make up nine percent of museumgoers. Activists working within the system and outside of it want the same thing: for museums to stop acting like they are neutral and to acknowledge and correct the longstanding, racist histories that have affirmed white supremacy."

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