The National Museum of African American History and Culture removed an infographic about ‘whiteness’ from their online portal “Talking About Race” after they received criticism from Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.
In response to Hawley’s initial July 20 letter inquiring about the online race-based curriculum, Lonnie Bunch, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, responded with her own letter on Monday, obtained by The Federalist.
She said that the infographic, which was approved across various museum departments, was intended to “spark questions and conversations,” and also explained why, following the resulting backlash, it was removed from the website.
“The intent of the portal is to provide resources to assist the public in engaging in conversations about race.”
“We recognize that a specific chart presented de-contextualized information that did not contribute to productive, informed conversations. We erred in including the chart, and therefore we eliminated it from our portal,” the letter read.
The infographic was titled “Aspects & Assumptions of Whiteness & White Culture in the United States.”
It contained a definition of “white dominant culture” and listed key attributes and qualities associated with “whiteness,” such as “rugged individualism,” “self-reliance,” hard work and respect for authority.
The National Museum of African American History & Culture wants to make you aware of certain signs of whiteness: Individualism, hard work, objectivity, the nuclear family, progress, respect for authority, delayed gratification, more. (via @RpwWilliams)https://t.co/k9X3u4Suas pic.twitter.com/gWYOeEh4vu
— Byron York (@ByronYork) July 15, 2020
Hawley’s initial letter suggested that the infographic might cause “racial division” rather than foster “mutual respect” between people of different races.
He additionally posited that the various qualities the infographic attributes to white individuals are qualities that other Americans possess, too.
“The claim that these qualities and commitments — ideas Americans of all races have traditionally celebrated and [striven] to teach their children — are distinctive to white Americans would be troubling enough given its implication that they are foreign to Americans of color,” the letter stated.
On the “Talking About Race” website, the NMAAHC posted an additional message regarding the controversial infographic.
“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.”
In Bunch’s letter, she additionally notes that the Smithsonian is conducting a review of the website.
The NMAAHC is a public, taxpayer-funded institution established by Congress in 2003 for the purpose of documenting “African American life, history, and culture.”
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