What role should museums play in taking action against institutional racism?
A couple of years back, bell hooks said:
“What we do is more important than what we say or what we say we believe.”
The Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s, Ahmaud Arbery’s and Breonna Taylor’s deaths the last months stand up against a long history of racial violence and injustice in America, systemic racism and police brutality targeting African Americans. In solidarity with the movements in the USA, protests on other continents followed quickly, addressing racial injustice around the globe.
How do museums and other cultural organisations position themselves during this time? A majority of museums are built on the foundation of white supremacy, their collections dating back to times, when colonialists exploited other cultures. The staff of most museums do hardly represent the people they are supposed to serve. The same goes for the artists that are given a stage there and the partners they work with. Staying silent makes them complicit and contributors to a system of oppression. Where do they stand when it comes to actions and changes that tear down and refuse the very system they are built upon? How do they back-up their social media posts about solidarity? This is not the time to stay silent. This is the time for radical allyship, so what can we do?
According to Kimberly Drew, what museums should be working on right now is: “How can we, as an institution think about the way that we change the work that we do, that’s the question we should be having instead of how do we react.” And she adds: “I’d rather see a really well thought out ten point plan instead of a hashtag Black Lives Matter”.
With contribution of
We did it a bit differently this edition. Instead of a debate between three speakers, we approached several experts and asked them if they would like to contribute to this evening and share their voice by sending us a video recording. A big thanks to the following people who contributed:
- Astrid Elburg
- Guinevere Ras
- Imara Limon
- Julius Thissen
- Malique Mohamud
- Mike Murawski
- Richard Kofi
- Zak Mensah
- Zippora Elders
Disclaimer: Night Shift is a safe space. We consider it relevant, urgent and inspiring to hear more about our guests’ thoughts from their personal perspective.