Challenging White Supremacy: A Call for Critical Race Theory in Museums

Challenging White Supremacy: A Call for Critical Race Theory in Museums

RHIANON KOHL
Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home. Boys Town, Nebraska

JARED HALTER

Central Michigan University

THEORY AND PRACTICE, VOL. 4, 2021


Keywords museum, critical race theory, sociology, race

Abstract This article is an examination of the potential use for critical race theory (CRT) perspectives in museum scholarship. Our primary research objective was to critically understand the ways in which museums engage with communities as sites of storytelling that perpetuate and challenge Whiteness, racism, and white supremacy. We recognize how museums were born and exist in a white supremacy culture and how their practices can counter initiatives of inclusion by existing within this culture. Questions we considered and explored were: (1) What do social and cultural structures of white supremacy and racism mean for the ways in which museums function as an institution? and (2) What roles should a critical perspective like critical race theory play in museums? Through our examination of the roles that museums take in our society and culture, we identify CRT as a lens to critically examine how museums participate in and contest white supremacy within their functions. Lastly, we call for increased research of CRT in museum scholarship.

About the Authors

Rhianon Kohl is currently an archivist at Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home in Nebraska. Her research and interests are focused on examining museum functions using sociological perspectives. She is particularly interested in studying race and racism, community and urban development, empowerment, social justice advocacy, and community engagement.

jared halter is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Intergroup Dialogue at Central Michigan University. His research critically examines how sensemaking is affected by the ways in which understanding of notions and narratives about the American Dream, race, class, gender, and sexual orientation influence and are influenced by each other in their meaning making process. He specializes in social justice education and intergroup dialogue, teaching courses in racism and discrimination, women’s and gender studies, sociology, education, and leadership.


Introduction

Imagine waking up one day to realize that the world is not what you have been taught, that many of the stories you were told about self and society were not accurate. This is the experience that many people who step into jared halter’s classroom experience. They experience an awakening process as they read, watch, and listen to stories that counter the dominant narratives and ideas that they were socialized with. As they engage with this material they routinely ask, “Why was I not taught these things in school and other places where I learned about them? Why was I not taught that the United States was founded through the genocide of Native and Indigenous peoples? Why was I not taught about how slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration benefitted whites in the United States?”

In the 1600s, laws were created to establish a relationship between race and property that formed the basis of subordination of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) along racial and economic lines.[i] The conceptions of Whiteness and white supremacy were founded on the principle of Whiteness as property.[ii][iii] Racial identities by the 1680s manifested to indicate who was free (whites) and who was a slave (Blacks), which began the formation of race as a social construct for whites and Blacks.[iv] Laws were enacted that established Whiteness as standard or baseline for whites to accumulate power through property ownership and social liberties and rights.[v] These laws created the legal formation of white racial advantage through the oppression of BIPOC and of the cultural, social, and systematic advantage that is known as white privilege.[vi] This resulted in a U.S. ideology that is imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, and heteropatriarchal, and reinforced the notion of Whiteness as normative. Museums were born within this ideology and culture, and thus maintain culpability for the way they have participated as socializing agents to reinforce hierarchies of race within this system.

The use of museums is a cultural practice, a repository for cultural heritage both of objects and ideas, and the (re)formation of social relationships.[vii] The museum’s existence in society is molded by white supremacy, and the power to shape interpretations from the dominant, racialized perspective. Museums are in positions of power because they help reinforce attitudes and behavior as they are modeled to visitors. Thus, museums act as brokers of power by influencing viewpoints on which particular narrative is deserving of interpretation, dissemination, and acceptance into society’s general knowledge repertoire.[viii] This power is why it is important for museums to be cognizant of what they convey, and must use frameworks and lenses that fully illuminate the ways white supremacy and racism have shaped history. 

In this paper we critically examine literature on museums to understand the ways they have existed within a culture that centers Whiteness in its historical storytelling. Our primary research objective was to critically understand the ways in which museums engage with communities as sites of storytelling that perpetuate and challenge Whiteness, racism, and white supremacy. The primary questions that drove our literature review, selection of theoretical framework, and analysis and conclusions were: (1) What do social and cultural structures of white supremacy and racism mean for the ways in which museums function as an institution? and (2) What role(s) should a critical perspective like critical race theory play in museums? These questions guided our literature search about museums and the roles they play in (re)creating and challenging dominant racial narratives and ideas. Through our questions and literature review, we identified critical race theory as a vital framework to understand the racial, cultural, and institutional context that museums are located in.

Museums Need Transformation

In the late 20th to early 21st century the function of museums began to shift from being only stewards of heritage to concentrating on all-inclusive interactive engagement with communities and visitors. The International Council of Museums (ICOM) defines “museum” as:

“A museum is a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.”[ix]

Museums at their best are places that can offer a space for critical reflection and conversation. However, at their worst, museums are a reminder of the power and privilege they choose to perpetuate.[x] We propose that museums should grow beyond ICOM’s definition and strive toward being centers of social justice by evaluating their role in society as perpetuators of racial inequality. For this to occur, the institution needs to evaluate the ways in which they participate and exist in the US racial hierarchy that places whites at the top. The permeation of white supremacy into structures, institutions, and culture is pervasive in the U.S. The notion of white supremacy is not only the overt acts of race-based hatred, but as Ansley stated, it is “seen to relate to the operation of forces that saturate the everyday, mundane actions and policies that shape the world in the interests of white people.”[xi] Within museums, white supremacy occurs through the use of exhibition space through a white lens, colonialist attitudes in the accessioning of objects, and often choosing to not engage and stay silent on tough racial conversations.[xii] Thus, colonialism and Whiteness influence museum practice and these practices propagate white worldviews that marginalize the perspectives of BIPOC.[xiii] White supremacy is pervasive within US culture, and the function of museums illustrates that by using Whiteness as the lens to interpret histories and retell historical stories through exhibits, education, and engagement activities. Thus, museums must account for and contend with white supremacy to be a place that is inclusive, just, and polyphonic.

For the deep work of community building and engagement to be effective, museums must be reflective of the empathy, inclusivity, and justice it wishes to encourage. This requires structuring important museum practices by evaluating: (1) internal operations such as diversity hiring, anti-racism education and policies, and commitment to re-storying history and (2) external policies like engagement with marginalized groups, formation of sustainable relationships, and collaboration with community stakeholders.[xiv] Few museums have been keen to take on an evaluation and regeneration of their role and services.[xv] However, with strong diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, museums can refocus their strategic goals, mission statements, and research to elucidate how social justice needs to be adjusted and expanded.

Real change happens when museums are devoted to racial, gender, and social justice by implementing equitable policies across every single department.[xvi] Young stated that professionals and academics with influence and knowledge on the study of the arts should make a sustained commitment to partake in the reformation of cultural policies by deeply analyzing and dismantling current policies, as well as the practices of their formation.[xvii] Museum practitioners, and the institutions themselves, have gradually realized the need to address inequalities by calling for museums function to be restructured. Addressing white privilege and racial oppression, and the power to uphold or dismantle it, is slowly being considered within museums. Countering these inequalities requires radical leadership that contends with and challenges white privilege and racial oppression in ways that hold the museum accountable.[xviii] Other departments, like museum education, should look at the ways in which white supremacy and privilege permeate how they operate. Ng, Ware and Greenberg wrote that anti-oppression museum education gives space to marginalized groups to share their voices. Not using anti-oppression education perpetuated Whiteness and white privilege, which disempowered marginalized BIPOC communities.[xix] Efforts by museums should center those who are oppressed, and whose lived experiences are marginalized by white supremacy.[xx]

Efforts to be anti-oppressive and anti-racist can seem daunting, but it is possible to learn liberating ideas despite how we have been socialized.[xxi] Some museum educators have taken steps to adopt anti-racist practices, such as “sharing power with people of color, introducing multiple and diverse narratives, (and) engaging in critical reflection on race disrupt(ing) racist values and attitudes that build barriers to creating culturally and racially inclusive spaces.”[xxii] A focus on terminology can be a useful first step in transforming the museum experience. There are demands for educators to use commonly used social justice terminology by explaining definitions and offering concrete examples. When words such as race, gender, sexual orientation, transgender, power, prejudice, discrimination, racism, privilege, oppression, ally, and intersectionality are critically understood it allows for deeper conversations to occur on social issues.[xxiii] Creating an image of museums as a place of allyship is important to generating an authentic and more meaningful experience that promotes reflection on the ways in which race and power have influenced history and our lived experience.[xxiv] Allyship should be a significant image for museums to strive for, especially if there is a sustained commitment to community engagement. If museums are seen as elitist institutions that cater to the white experience, then BIPOC will not be included or want to engage with them.[xxv] There must be a direct commitment to confronting inequality and injustice to become truly inclusive, polyphonic, and democratizing.[xxvi]

White Supremacy in Museums

The transformation into a socially equitable institution starts with the acceptance that museums are located within a white supremacist culture and harbor those sentiments in nuanced ways. Museums as an institution are complicit in perpetuating views that are unjust by assembling and propagating dominant narratives.[xxvii] The need to challenge long-held practices to transform into racially equitable spaces for inquiry and community should be paramount. However, many museums still hold onto the idea that they are a politically or racially neutral space. A claim of neutrality means that the ways in which power and race operated in the formation of the United States are not accounted for and examined in the museum. A museum’s declaration of neutrality toward issues based on social inequality, like race, allows for Whiteness to maintain power within the institution. Owen discussed that Whiteness cultivates its power from being entrenched in our social practices and systems that remain mostly invisible to white people.[xxviii] Thus, racial inequalities continue being ignored. White supremacy gains potency through the claim of being a neutral space (ignoring how race defines museal operations) and allows for Whiteness to be the lens that structures the institution.[xxix] Therefore, when the role of race is not contended with, museums further the interest of the white status quo and expand the depth with which white supremacy is embedded in the construction of US culture and history.[xxx]

A claim of neutrality means that the ways in which power and race operated in the formation of the United States are not accounted for and examined in the museum.

The foundation of museums is linked with legacies of colonialism and Whiteness, which have also underpinned their authority to make decisions.[xxxi] For example, museums have existed to collect culture for preservation and display with the mentality that objects were better taken care of in the institution, rather than within communities that birthed the cultural material.[xxxii] The action of stewarding culture has placed the museum in a unique position of power, both as an authority to deem what cultural material is relevant for preservation, and to socialize their audiences with the knowledge they choose to share from their collections.[xxxiii] Museums are viewed as the primary culture collector and given authority in America to create exhibitions for the gaze of white audiences.[xxxiv] The lack of critical examination and discussion of race in museums cater to the comfort of white people and illustrates to them that museal spaces exist for their belonging. Domínguez, Weffer and Embrick identified museums as white sanctuaries, or spaces where whites can reconfirm their positions of dominance in society. Museums, with this identification, are created by and for white audiences with internalized colonialized mindsets that aid the ratification of structural inequality.[xxxv] The perpetuation of white European and Euro-American art as “high art,” the display of pillaged artifacts from colonialized cultures, and the hierarchy of cultures purposefully displayed that place whites as the ideal represent instances of how museums help reaffirm white dominance.[xxxvi] The identification of museums as white spaces further illuminates their foundational support of Whiteness, their perpetuation of inequality, and negates their claims of neutrality.

Museums are supposed to be places that are democratizing, inclusive, and polyphonic.[xxxvii] Yet, they claim to be neutral and free from race and politics, which has allowed the supremacy of whiteness to overshadow democracy, inclusivity, and the chorus of multicultural voices.[xxxviii] For museums to fulfill the way they define themselves, race and the way it has shaped history, culture, and social systems must be considered.[xxxix] Therefore, we identified critical race theory as a theoretical framework that could be utilized by museums that centers race, contends with white supremacy, and works to dismantle racial oppression.

Critical Race Theory

Critical race theory (CRT) was introduced into mainstream scholarly research within Critical Legal Studies (CLS), before it moved into areas such as feminist studies, sociology, psychology, and education.[xl] Social science scholars took notice of scholars such as Derrick Bell, Patricia Williams, Richard Delgado, and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw for their analysis of race’s impact on social institutions and systems.[xli] Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw wrote that CRT was informed by a critical position toward racial power that was an outcome of post-civil rights activism.[xlii] The Civil Rights Movement illuminated the race, class, and gender hierarchies remaining in US social structures, which prompted CRT’s formation. In the late 1980s, theorists and legal scholars developed the tenets of CRT from what started as a movement in CLS.[xliii] Derrick Bell, one of the first to write about CRT through legal scholarship, explored how racism is embedded in laws and policies.[xliv] 

Critical race theory grounds the role that race and racism play in history, legislation, policy and practice, institutions, culture, social systems, and the lived experience.[xlv] Critical race scholars have established five tenets of CRT: “(a) the centrality of race and racism and their intersectionality with other forms of subordination, (b) the challenge to dominant ideology, (c) the commitment to social justice, (d) the centrality of experiential knowledge, and (e) the transdisciplinary perspective.”[xlvi] Race is central within a CRT lens, and it is approached from an intersectional standpoint that includes gender, class, sexual orientation and ability/disability. CRT questions and contests the dominant racial narratives that permeate institutions and the formation of society.[xlvii] Social justice is an important concentration for CRT because it works to reconcile injustices that result from racial domination and subordination.[xlviii] CRT centers the lived experiences of BIPOC by using their stories and lived experiences to counter dominant racial narratives.[xlix]

In the 1990s educational scholars began using CRT to contextualize the social structure of educational institutions. Gloria Ladson-Billings concluded that because of the intention, attention, and value attributed to Whiteness that CRT is “an important intellectual and social tool for deconstruction, reconstruction, and construction: deconstruction of oppressive structures and discourses, reconstruction of human agency, and construction of equitable and socially just relations of power.”[l] Thus, CRT would provide museums a tool to recognize and transform practices and structures of white supremacy and racism in ways that provide agency to BIPOC.

Critical race theory is rooted in social justice and can be utilized to reconcile fallacies in power structures. A problem with educational institutions like museums is that they operate in a contradictory fashion. They oppress subordinated racial voices despite the potential they have to liberate and empower.[li] By examining white supremacy and racism with CRT, it is apparent that racial hierarchies in the United States were formed as a system of domination that propagated the oppression of BIPOC for the direct benefit of whites.[lii] The power of Whiteness was so pervasive it influenced social and cultural practices that formed current social institutions.[liii] Thus, the legacy of racial oppression in the United States is something museums must address to be democratizing, inclusive, and polyphonic spaces.

To counteract the traditions of white supremacy/privilege, CRT identifies racist injury and identifies their origins and challenges the dominant racial ideology.[liv] Racism is woven into the fabric of American life and CRT is purposed to uncover and expose it.[lv] Thus, CRT is useful to critically analyze museums for ways in which they (re)create dominance and subordination and can create racial justice and inclusion. For example, the stance of neutrality – the refusal to address systemic inequalities – CRT exposes as harmful. CRT challenges the concept of Whiteness as neutral (or baseline), where all other races are judged in relation to Whiteness.[lvi] Inherent issues (like neutrality) that exist in social institutions operate to inadequately address racial inequalities in ways that maintain white supremacy. It is worth reiterating that not only is our culture formed across racial divides, but also gender and class hierarchies. The consideration of the intersection of multiple oppressions is considered crucial from a CRT perspective to fully examine the lived experiences of people of color and combat white supremacy.[lvii]

Why Museums Need Critical Race Theory

Museums have been defined and conceptualized as places that are supposed to be democratizing, inclusive, and polyphonic.[lviii] They have been called to acknowledge and address conflict, to protect and ensure diverse histories are told, and to advance equality and social justice. Yet, when museums convey narratives about US history, they often center Whiteness and perpetuate white privilege and racial oppression by their claim of being politically and racially neutral. The way museums function does not meet how they are defined and conceptualized. CRT centers voices of BIPOC in ways that honor their stories and history and highlights the way history has been shaped by racism that was created and enforced by whites. CRT would aid museums with addressing the ways race continues to be an integral way culture is socialized and structured, and how museums have (re)created and perpetuated racial hierarchies. With CRT, museums would be able to decenter Whiteness and contest neutrality, challenge white supremacy, decrease the marginalization of BIPOC in historical narratives, and provide a more accurate learning experience.

Museums control the narratives and stories they tell and display; these narratives educate people about history and are often digested as fact. Exhibitions, educational models, and operational decisions that are not conscious of the ways in which white supremacy and racism shape US history perpetuate white privilege and racial oppression. Exhibitions created from the currently used perspective of the white experience neglect to embrace a polyphonic story and hide the socializing power of the museum in ways that uphold white supremacy. For instance, the exhibition designs of notable American art museums employ hierarchal approaches to culture, favoring European and American artists in places of prestige. Conversely, American Indigenous, Asian, African, and Latin American art and culture are presented in juxtaposition to their white counterparts and evaluated from a white Euro-centric perspective.[lix] Exhibition practice that favors a white racial lens to establish and view stories of diverse collections of culture perpetuates a false and incomplete narrative. CRT can compel the museum to address these issues by confronting racial hierarchies and decentering Whiteness. More so, inviting BIPOC communities, stakeholders, and CRT scholars to offer critical evaluations of racist museum practices would aid the museum in identifying issues they have accepted as normal and correct.

Museums are institutions responsible for chronicling stories about individuals, groups, and society. Thus, if museums operated from a CRT lens, they would tell stories in ways that more fully depict how race, racism, and white privilege affected events and lived experiences.

Critical race theory centers race and racism in how events, society, and the lived experience are understood. Museums are institutions responsible for chronicling stories about individuals, groups, and society. Thus, if museums operated from a CRT lens, they would tell stories in ways that more fully depict how race, racism, and white privilege affected events and lived experiences. This more nuanced and comprehensive storytelling would teach visitors a fuller and more complete understanding of history. Museums would become places that challenge white supremacy and racial hierarchies, working to counter and rectify racial narratives that maintain white supremacy, white privilege, and racism.

Socialization in the Museum

Museums are being called to reform, restructure and decenter the hierarchies that exist within a culture of white supremacy.[lx] Their history includes the dissemination of ideas and narratives from white racialized lenses that ostracize BIPOC narratives, perspectives, and culture. These methods of socialization instill and preserve white dominance by espousing white racial narratives and inviting their visitor to participate in their dissemination.[lxi] Thus, museums hold tremendous power to legitimize, naturalize, and reproduce social relationships.[lxii] CRT would reframe how museums function within a racist society by having them intentionally look at how race played a part in shaping different events and time periods throughout history. Museums could do this is by using counter-stories (a challenge to dominate ideology), a tenet of CRT, in exhibition spaces. Counter-stories would provide stories and voices from BIPOC perspectives to counter dominant racial narratives that center Whiteness and white interpretations. Thus, CRT would help museums center marginalized voices in ways that interrupt white supremacy. Allowing museums to present ideas and history in more complex, balanced, and accurate ways. This harnessing of museums’ power in socializing processes to be polyphonic would mean they work to the benefit of everyone—BIPOC, as well as white people. 

Museums control substantial amounts of power in their ability to disseminate narratives that reinforce the power structures of our society. Ideally, they would give voice to those communities that have been subjected to oppression created by white supremacy.[lxiii] However, American museums showcase an adherence to a white esthetic. Topics such as how America was formed, our social evolution, the formation of the legal system, and celebrations for nation-shaping individuals are made palatable for white audiences. They usually distance responsibility of how white supremacy influenced history and culture by shying away from race altogether. Addressing social justice or diversity and inclusion efforts by commemorating BIPOC cultures with separate buildings or halls are counterintuitive when the truth about their marginalization and trauma from white supremacy is ignored and only approved expressions of their culture is displayed.[lxiv] Museums socialize the public with their versions of how cultures are to be represented, and often ignore the hard truths of oppression and white supremacy.

It is the responsibility of museums to reconcile their past and present, conscious and unconscious bias, and operational mode of exclusion in order to be inclusive social justice advocates. The movement to dismantle harmful exclusionary practice and adopt a serious commitment to communities of color can be grounded in CRT. Museums have adopted roles in society that extend beyond the procurement and management of material culture to include encouraging justice, community accountability, equity, and inclusion.[lxv] They hold the power to proliferate socially regenerative information and model social justice as possible and within the reach of the public.[lxvi] By utilizing tenets of CRT, the museum would place the role of white supremacy and racism central in their interpretations and telling of history. This intentional, deliberate commitment to centering the role of race would help museums see themselves as spaces and places shaped by dominance in culture, history, and different time periods. It would allow museums to critique and understand the way they have been arbiters of narratives that are not neutral, and most often told from white, racialized lenses.

CRT and Neutrality

A fundamental part of transformation in museums when using CRT is the recognition of the fallacy of museums as neutral spaces. Museums make decisions supported by specific points of view that are shaped by their origins within colonialism and imperialism. This origin, coupled with a culture and society that is centered on Whiteness, makes their claim of neutrality erroneous.[lxvii] Within the museum, every decision is made by the socialized participation of institutional decision makers; thus, the traditional idea of museums as objective needs to be rectified.

Yet, the push for just action— the renunciation of neutral and objective views—is often met with uneasiness.[lxviii] Museums that claim they are neutral spaces and are objective are akin to a white person who claims they do not see color.[lxix] To be colorblind is an attempt to present oneself as not racist, to present race as not salient in society and the lived experience. Downplaying race makes it difficult to be open to the effects of white supremacy and racism, and limits openness to responsibility for their existence and continuation. Being colorblind, or claiming neutrality, minimizes the negative impact of race on BIPOC, as well as ignores the positive impact it has for white people. It prevents the museum and individuals who interact with them from seeing the full spectrum of BIPOC experiences.

When museums claim neutrality, they erase the ways in which whites directly benefit from oppression, and how racial privilege and oppression shape culture, institutions, and social systems to white people’s advantage. Museum’s reluctance to combat issues affected by race is a political decision that allows misunderstanding about racial oppression and white supremacy to grow. The use of CRT within museum practice would confront white supremacy and allow the museum to rectify is past adherence to silence, take responsibility for its participation within a white supremacist culture, and reaffirm their commitment to being socially just.

Museums must recognize themselves as institutions that are intertwined with the cultural and political, and the power of the position they hold. There is great power in the ideas and narratives that shape how people think and understand. Museums curate sites that convey these concepts, making it a place that holds great influence and power in socializing individuals that visit them. When museums make deliberate choices to include and produce certain narratives, they reinforce their position as a disseminator of history with the power to exclude.[lxx] CRT can illustrate how museums use white perspectives to frame practice and behavior and highlight the foundations that have been systematically planted to achieve compliance with white supremacist narratives. The framework would assist museums to reconcile the lapse in connection between their declaration of being places of justice and their stance of objectivity and neutrality. Revolutionary action that centers marginalized voices and disrupts Whiteness, with a sustained commitment to challenging paradigms that consistently ostracize communities of color, would bring museums closer to being inclusive disseminators and stewards of heritage and culture.

The transformation into an equitable and just interpreter of history transpires when museums choose to face contemporary issues with support for justice. Utilization of CRT would change the focus to center race and marginalized narratives to dismantle white supremacy. The framework of CRT would deliver awareness to the “hidden” histories, which have been systematically excluded, to create a more all-encompassing understanding of society. By accepting their responsibility to be an equitable institution, in addition to the awareness of their inherent political nature, museums can positively affect all communities, especially groups that have been historically marginalized and oppressed. By instilling the tenets of CRT into their operation, museums will become activators for social reconstruction and contribute to the creation of more egalitarian societies.[lxxi]

Conclusion

In this paper we called for museums to recognize that they exist and function within an inherently racist system that has yet to be dismantled, and to make a commitment to use CRT to transform themselves into more equitable and just institutions. Museums are institutions that are meant to contextualize history and provide factual narratives to perhaps inharmonious heritage.[lxxii] Without centralizing the role of white supremacy in racial oppression it reinforces racial hierarchies and communicates to communities, especially communities of color, that museums represent exclusion. We believe that CRT is one way for museums to become places that are democratizing, inclusive, and polyphonic.

If we look to ICOM’s definition of a museum, there is a failure to account for the socializing role museums have played that has cultivated and perpetuated white supremacy and racism in the United States. Acquiring, conserving, researching, communicating, and exhibiting are actions that have been underpinned with colonialism and white supremacy. By utilizing CRT, museums can understand how decentering race and maintaining a stance of neutrality has allowed racism to flourish within their museal actions. CRT illuminates how these functions have been a disservice to society, and will help museums combat white supremacy and racism in ways that increase social justice.

Throughout the paper, we have laid out how the adherence to telling narratives from white lenses positions these ideas as normative and mainstream. Educating visitors about history in this way works in opposition to communicating a complete narrative. We argued that CRT would transform these practices to center voices of color and contextualize history in polyphonic and inclusive ways. It would demand that museums include anti-oppression education, decenter dominant white narratives, use diverse hiring practices and collaborate with community members.[lxxiii] This demand also includes changing the paradigms museums use that support white supremacy.

We believe that by using CRT it would ensure museums convey history and narratives in ways that elicited deep understanding of the pervasiveness of white privilege and racial oppression. Inclusion of community voices and shareholders in the formation of their own histories is fundamental to CRT. It is also important to museums becoming centers of justice and inclusion, spaces for critical dialogue, and trusted repositories for equitable heritage. It would transform museums into places that work to rectify their racial inequalities and erroneous histories. Museums would now be a true polyphonic place of inclusion for and with diverse communities that promote social justice, community understanding and wellbeing, and that steward a more complete and nuanced historical record. They would become a place of liberation and social justice that convey history that dismantles white supremacy and racial oppression, and a place that accurately represents history and works to the benefit of every person.


Notes

[i] Cheryl I Harris, Whiteness as property. Harvard Law Review, 106, No.8 (1993): 1717. https://doi.org/10.2307/1341787

[ii] Harris, 1717.

[iii] David S. Owen,“Towards a critical theory of whiteness.” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 33. No. 2 (2007): 207, https://doi.org/10.1177/0191453707074139

[iv] Harris, 1718.

[v] Harris, 1717; Owen, 203–222.

[vi] Owen, 206.

[vii] Kevin Coffee, “Cultural inclusion, exclusion and the formative roles of museums. Museum Management and Curatorship, 23, No. 3(2008): 262, http://doi.org/10.1080/09647770802234078; Samuel A. Smith and Kenneth E. Foote, Museum/space/discourse: analyzing discourse in three dimensions in Denver’s History Colorado Center.” Cultural Geographies, 24, No. 1 (January 2017): 133,https://doi.org/10.1177/1474474016663930

[viii] Coffee, 264.

[ix] International Council of Museums, “Museum Definition.” Accessed May 2021. https://icom.museum/en/resources/standards-guidelines/museum-definition/ 

[x] Gretchen Jennings and Joanne Jones-Rizzi, “Museums, White Privilege, and Diversity: A Systemic Perspective.” Dimensions (2017): 65, https://nemanet.org/files/9615/0228/7672/Dimensions-Diversity-Special-Edition_JenningsJonesRizzi.pdf

[xi] Frances Lee Ansley, “White Supremacy (And What We Should Do about It).” In Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1997, 592.

[xii] Silvia Domínguez, Simón E. Weffer, and David G. Embrick. “White Sanctuaries: White Supremacy, Racism, Space, and Fine Arts in Two Metropolitan Museums.” American Behavioral Scientist 64, No. 14 (December 2020): 2028–2043. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764220975077; Taylor R. Genovese. 2016. “Decolonizing Archival Methodology: Combating Hegemony and Moving towards a Collaborative Archival Environment.” AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous People, 12, no. 1 (March): 34. https://doi.org/10.20507/AlterNative.2016.12.1.3. Tracy Teslow. 2007. “A troubled legacy: Making and unmaking race in the museum.” Museums & Social Issues 2, No. 1: 25.

[xiii] Daniela A. Fifi and Hannah D. Heller, “Exploring Manifestations of White Supremacy Culture in Art Museum Education and Interpretation.” Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education, 36, No. 1 (2019): 117.

[xiv] Robin S. Grenier, “Moments of Discomfort and Conflict: Holocaust Museums as Agents of Change.” Advances in Developing Human Resources, 12, no. 5 (2010): 576,https://doi.org/10.1177/1523422310394434; Radiah Harper and Keonna Hendrick, “Doing the Work: A Discussion on Visioning and Realizing Racial Equity in Museums.” Journal of Museum Education, 42, No. 2 (2017): 167, https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2017.1306665; Colleen Kawalilak and Janet Groen, “Restorying the present by revisiting the past: Unexpected moments of discovery and illumination through museum learning.” Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, 22, No. 2 (2016): 153, https://doi.org/10.1177/1477971416672325; Wendy Ng, Syrus Marcus Ware, and Alyssa Greenberg, “Activating diversity and inclusion: A blueprint for museum educators as allies and change makers.” Journal of Museum Education, 42, No. 2 (2017): 144, https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2017.1306664; Sandell, 7; Emese R. Toth, Sandy Guttman, Andie Kimura, and Therese Quinn, “Expanding the boundaries of museum studies: Popular education through engagement with hidden histories of organizing and activism.” Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, 22, No.2 (November 2016): 203, https://doi.org/10.1177/1477971416672326

[xv] Lola Young, “Rethinking heritage: Cultural policy and inclusion.” In Museums, Society, Inequality, edited by Richard Sandell, (2002): 206, New York: Routledge.

[xvi] Marit Dewhurst and Keonna Hendrick, “Dismantling racism in museum education.” Journal of Folklore and Education, 3 (2016): 29, https://doi.org/10.1080/10598650.2017.1311745

[xvii] Young, 203.

[xviii] Jenning and Jones-Rizzi, 67.

[xix] Ng, Ware, Greenberg, 143.

[xx] Ng, Ware, Greenberg, 146.

[xxi] bell hooks, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. New York: Routledge, 2.

[xxii] Harper and Hendrick, 167.

[xxiii] Dewhurst and Hendrick, 27.

[xxiv] Ng, Ware, Greenberg, 144.

[xxv] Young, 204-205.

[xxvi] Young, 203.

[xxvii] Richard Sandall, “Museums and the combating of social inequality: Roles, responsibilities, resistance.” In Museums, Society, Inequality, edited by Richard Sandell, (2002), New York: Routledge, 8.

[xxviii] Owen, 206–208.

[xxix] Jenning and Jones-Rizzi, 65–70.

[xxx] Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, “Twenty Years of Critical Race Theory: Looking back to Move Forward Commentary: Critical Race Theory: A Commemoration: Lead Article.” Connecticut Law Review, 117 (2011): 1260. https://opencommons.uconn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1116&context=law_review

[xxxi] Genovese, 34–35; Teslow, 11–44.

[xxxii] Genovese, 34.

[xxxiii] Coffee, 262–265.

[xxxiv] Teslow, 14.

[xxxv] Domínguez, 2028–2043. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764220975077.

[xxxvi] Domínguez et al, 2032–2040.

[xxxvii] International Council of Museums Definition.

[xxxviii] Jenning and Jones-Rizzi, 65–66; Sandell, 18.

[xxxix] Harper and Henrick, 167.

[xl] Crenshaw, 2011, 1263; Gloria Ladson-Billings, “Just what is critical race theory and what is it doing in a nice field like education?” Qualitative Studies in Education, 11, No. 1 (1998): 10, https://doi.org/10.1080/095183998236863.

[xli] Derrick A. Bell Jr, “Brown v. Board of Education and the interest-convergence dilemma.” Harvard Law Review, 93, No. 3 (January 1980): 518-533, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1340546?origin=JSTOR-pdf; Ladson-Billings, 11; Daniel Solórzano and Tara J. Yosso, “Critical Race Methodology: Counter-storytelling as an Analytical Framework for Education Research.” Qualitative Inquiry, 8, No. 1 (2002): 25–25, https://doi.org/10.1177/107780040200800103; Daniel Solórzano and Tara J. Yosso, “Critical Race Methodology: Counter-storytelling as an Analytical Framework for Education Research.” Qualitative Inquiry, 8, No. 1 (2002): 25–25, https://doi.org/10.1177/107780040200800103.

[xlii] Crenshaw, 2011, 1260.

[xliii] Ladson-Billings, 10.

[xliv] Bell.

[xlv] Ladson-Billings, 9; Mari Matsuda, Charles Lawrence, Richard Delgado, and Kimberlé Crenshaw, Words that wound: Critical race theory, assaultive speech, and the First Amendment. Boulder, CO (1993): Westview; Daniel G. Solórzano, and Tara J. Yosso, “Critical race and LatCrit theory and method: Counter-storytelling.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 14, No.4 (2001): 471–495; Cornel West, Race matters. Boston: Beacon Press.

[xlvi] Daniel Solórzano, Miguel Ceja, and Tara Yosso, “Critical Race Theory, Racial Microaggressions, and Campus Racial Climate: The Experiences of African American College Students.” The Journal of Negro Education, 69, No. 1/2 (2000): 66, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2696265.

[xlvii] Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum (1989): 139–167. https://philpapers.org/archive/CREDTI.pdf?source=post_page; Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color.” Stanford Law Review, 43 (1990): 1241–1299.

[xlviii] Mari J. 19 Matsuda, “Voices of America: accent, antidiscrimination law, and a jurisprudence for the last reconstruction. Yale Law Journal, 100 (1991): 1399.

[xlix] Solórzano and Yosso, 2002, 25.

[l] Ladson-Billings, 9.

[li] Solórzano and Yosso, 2002, 26.

[lii] Harris, 1718; Ladson-Billings, 9; Owen, 207; Solórzano and Yosso, 2002, 25.

[liii] hooks, 40; Owen, 207.

[liv] Solórzano and Yosso, 2002, 27.

[lv] Ladson-Billings, 11.

[lvi] Amy Aldous Bergerson, “Critical race theory and white racism: Is there room for white scholars in fighting racism in education?” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 16, no. 1 (2003): 57, http://doi.org/10.1080/095183903200003352; Kimberlé Williams, “The first decade: Critical reflections, or a foot in the closing door.” UCLA Law Review, 49 (2001): 1343–1394, http://www2.law.columbia.edu/fagan/courses/law_socialscience/documents/Spring_2006/Class%202-Origins%20of%20Social%20Science%20Law/Crenshaw_Foot_in_the_Closing_Door.pdf; Crenshaw, 2011, 1260; Adrienne D. Dixon and Celia K. Rousseau, “And we are still not saved: Critical race theory in education ten years later.” Race ethnicity and education, 8, no. 1 (2005): 8, https://blogs.brown.edu/amst-2220j-s01-2017-fall/files/2017/10/And-we-are-still-not-saved-critical-race-theory-in-education-ten-years-later.pdf; Solórzano and Yosso, 2002, 26.

[lvii] Crenshaw, 1989; Dixon and Rousseau, 10; Solórzano and Yosso, 2002, 25–26; Tara J. Yosso, “Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth.” Race Ethnicity and Education, 8, No. 1 (2005): 73, http://doi.org/10.1080/1361332052000341006

[lviii] International Council of Museums.

[lix] Domínguez et al., 2038–2040.

[lx] Emily Dawson, “Reimagining publics and (non) participation: Exploring exclusion from science communication through the experiences of low-income, minority ethnic groups.” Public Understanding of Science, 27, No. 7 (2018): 772–786, https://doi.org/10.1177/0963662517750072; Jenning and Jones-Rizzi; Ng, Ware, and Greenberg, 146; Lola Young, “Rethinking heritage: Cultural policy and inclusion.” In Museums, Society, Inequality, edited by Richard Sandell, (2002): 203-212. New York: Routledge.

[lxi] Timofeeva, 1753.

[lxii] Samuel A. Smith and Kenneth E. Foote, Museum/space/discourse: analyzing discourse in three dimensions in Denver’s History Colorado Center.” Cultural Geographies, 24, No. 1 (January 2017): 133,https://doi.org/10.1177/1474474016663930

[lxiii] Jenning and Jones-Rizzi, 65.

[lxiv] Domínguez et al, 2040.

[lxv] Ng, Ware, and Greenberg, 149.

[lxvi] Grenier, 576; Junghwan Kim, Jieun You, and Soo Yeon Park, “Adult learning for social change in museums: An exploration of sociocultural learning approaches to community engagement. Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, 22, No. 2 (2016): 185, https://doi.org/10.1177/1477971416672328; Harper and Kendrick, 167; Sandell, 4; Smith and Foote, 133-134; Toth et al., 200.

[lxvii] Ng, Ware, and Greenberg, 148.

[lxviii] Sandell, 18.

[lxix] Jenning and Jones-Rizzi, 65–66.

[lxx] Laura Hall, “In Lieu of Objectivity: Defining Advocacy in the New Museum.” In Defining the Museum of the 21st Century: Evolving Multiculturalism in Museums in the United States, edited by Yun Shun Susie Chung, Ann Leschchenko, and Bruno Burlon Soares (2018): 68. Paris: ICOFOM.

[lxxi] Sandell, 4.

[lxxii] Smith and Foote, 133.

[lxxiii] Ng, Ware, and Greenberg, 143; hooks, 35; Sandell, 18; Young, 203; Jenning and Jones-Rizzi, 66-67; Ng, Ware, and Greenberg, 144; Grenier, 580; Kim, You and Park, 185; Toth et al., 203.


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