The Smithsonian Institution-the world's largest museum and research complex-includes 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park. It had impressive exhibits when I toured the museums during my high school senior-class's extended trip to Washington D.C. This is why the Institution's latest museum dedicated to racism and racial segregation is troubling.
The Smithsonian did not name the museum the Race and Racial Segregation museum. The museum website says, "The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history, and culture." Nevertheless, naming it the National Museum of African-American History and Culture (NMAAHC) makes it factually a racially segregated history. Congress created it by law that provides 50 percent tax support. Therefore, the museum represents legally supported racial segregation.
Prominent in NMAAHC are exhibits about the 20th century Civil Rights Movement's fight to overturn laws of racial segregation that resulted from the 1896 Supreme Court Plessy v. Ferguson separate-but-equal decision. Therefore, the museum is a contradiction, because it embodies ideas of race, white supremacy, and racial segregation civil rights advocates opposed.
Another contradiction, the Smithsonian's American History museum featured a 2004 "Separate is not equal" forum based on the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v Board of Education decision that ruled separate but equal in schools was not equal. Included was a documentary, "Race: The Power of an Illusion," offering evidence from genetic science the idea of race is a biological myth. Therefore, one must question how the Smithsonian could discard science eight years later to name a museum based on segregated race history.
Director Lonnie Bunch wrote about NMAAHC's purpose, "Equally important is the opportunity to help all Americans see just how central African American history is for all of us. This is not a museum that celebrates black history solely for black Americans. Rather we see this history as America's history. NMAAHC will use African American history and culture as a lens into what it means to be an American. When I think about many American values like resiliency, optimism, and spirituality, there are few places where one can better understand their origin and evolution than through African American history and culture. If one wants to explore the changing definitions of American citizenship, liberty, and equality, where better than through the black experience?" His remarks are full of contradictions that show the moral hypocrisy of the museum as named
Here is a new version of Bunch's remarks. "Equally important is the opportunity to help all Americans see just how central America's history of oppressing humans based on skin color is for all of us. This is not a museum that reports the practices of human oppression based on skin-color solely for the people society targeted for the oppression. Rather we see this history as America's history. NMAAHC will use the human experience of human oppression in America based on skin-color and people's reaction to it as a lens into what it means to be an American. When I think about many American values like resiliency, optimism, and spirituality, there are few places where one can better understand their origin and evolution than through the human experience of skin-color based oppression in America and people's reaction to it. If one wants to explore the changing definitions of American citizenship, liberty, and equality, where better than through the experiences of the people that faced oppression because of their skin-color?"
The Smithsonian should feature the same history and displays but in a museum named National Freedom Museum.
Racial prejudice is a negative characteristic of American culture or a social disease infecting many citizens. Society constructed the idea of a black race with limited intellectual ability based on bigotry as the foil for a similarly constructed white race of superior people. Therefore, curing the bigotry would destroy the foundation for both racial group identities fashioned from it. This would be a positive development except many Americans want to continue the fantasy. Black history celebrated as Black (African) Americans' heritage provides the means to continue it.
I knew from nine-years old that race was a social fantasy like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny fantasies. The race fantasy racially stereotyped people based on imaginary skin color-nobody had black or white skin color like horses and cows did. I rejected the role as a human character with traits of innate limited intelligence and low human worth. Reason and experience disproved them.
I tolerated Black History Month believing the celebrators intended it to complete American History. Then, I noticed society mostly described it as a celebration of black race culture as if the oppression visited on people was their culture. Perhaps, I hadn't been paying attention and most Americans always described it that way. I decided to read directly what Dr. Carter G. Woodson the educator who originated "Negro History Week," said.
In a letter dated October 1, 1927, Woodson said that history education in American schools means someone "has been well instructed in the story of the Hebrews, the Greeks, and Romans." This teaching includes a special study of the achievements of Europeans and Americans that convinces people there is no other history worth considering. Woodson describes this "so-called history teaching in schools and colleges as "downright propaganda, an effort to praise one race and decry the other to justify social repression and exploitation." He said this teaching left the world in darkness as to the progress of mankind with each corner of the world extoling its particular heroes."
Woodson set a goal to lift the darkness by publishing books and courses about "Negro" life and history to show the actual progress of mankind. He said, "They cover every aspect of the history of the Negro race, its economic progress, its social problems, African art, African Anthropology and African Philosophy." He originated Negro History Week saying, "Besides building self-esteem among blacks (Black History Week) would help eliminate prejudice among whites."
Clearly, Woodson agreed with early 20th century social theory of human races. However, he saw them as racial groups with equal ability and accomplishment. Obviously, he understood a world in darkness as one without true knowledge of all races' history. He decided that teaching black history would help cure the problem with more positive information about the accomplishments of "black" people.
Many Americans share this view of the human species in three race categories. Many of them intended civil rights advances to secure equal opportunity for members of all racial groups in America and not to erase the idea of race. I assume that about 53 years of black history taught and celebrated as black race culture premised acceptance for the African-American label that gained widespread acceptance around the 1980s.
I was of a different mind having never abandoned my youthful conclusion that race was a fantasy. I served in the struggle for equal rights and opportunity from necessity. Nevertheless, I pursued goals for federal and State governments to provide equal protection under the law for the liberty and property rights of all persons as citizens of the United States without consideration of socially constructed identities.
Widespread government and social policy based on racism shows it still dominates over constitutional principles and the science discovery. However, ignorance, pack mentality, and amorality are required traits for race fantasy in society. Critical thinking, self-determination, and morality are traits that secure a free society. Therefore, the race fantasy survives only by smothering those traits Americans need to secure liberty and sustainable economic prosperity.
Oppression is the culture of the oppressed and not the oppressor is the deception advanced by race fantasy's assertion that, "Black History is the heritage or culture of Black Americans. Reason orders that if American law and social policy condoned the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans for enslavement the policy reflected the culture of the enslavers and not the enslaved or their freed descendants. Likewise, national law and social policy that denies liberty and economic opportunity to freed citizens and their descendants as citizens reflects the culture of the oppressors and not the race culture of the oppressed. Finally, few descendants of immigrants retain their ancestors' culture and language past the second or third generation. Therefore, the fantasy-race assertion is absurd that Americans retained separate universal black-African or universal white-European cultures of ancestors over centuries, even if continental cultures existed.
Woodson is correct that Americans must change the teaching in schools and colleges that continue the nation and world in darkness about the progress of mankind. However, we accomplish this goal by teaching the findings of science that discredit ideas of and race and not by expanding race propaganda teaching about a separate black-race culture in America. Instead, we should teach events in history inclusive of all persons, their role, and contribution.