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Smithsonian yanks controversial teaching graphic insisting rational thinking, hard work are linked to 'whiteness'


That was fast

Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

The Smithsonian's National Museum for African American History & Culture removed a controversial graphic on "whiteness" from its website.

The museum took heavy fire over the last several days for the teaching graphic, which insisted that whiteness encompassed traits like placing priority on the nuclear family, hard work, and Christianity.

What are the details?

The museum, in a late Thursday statement, announced that it removed the graphic from its website following the outcry.

The statement began, "At the National Museum of African American History and Culture, we believe that any productive conversation on race must start with honesty, respect for others, and an openness to ideas and information that provide new perspectives."

"In that context, we recently unveiled 'Talking About Race,' an online portal providing research, studies, and other academic materials from the fields of history, education, psychology, and human development," the statement explained. "Our goal in doing so was to contribute to a discussion on this vitally important subject that millions of Americans are grappling with."

The statement pointed out that the graphic clearly caused a fair amount of controversy on the internet, and in response, the organization decided to remove the graphic from its portal.

"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," the museum admitted.

In closing, the museum pointed out that the site remains to "foster and cultivate conversations that are respectful and constructive" to race relations in the U.S. and beyond.

"The site's intent and purpose are to foster and cultivate conversations that are respectful and constructive and provide increased understanding," the statement concluded. "As an educational institution, we value meaningful dialogue and believe that we are stronger when we can pause, listen, and reflect—even when it challenges us to reconsider our approach. We hope that this portal will be an ever-evolving place that will continue to grow, develop, and ensure that we listen to one another in a spirit of civility and common cause."

What else was on the offending graphic?

The museum's "Talking About Race" page defines "whiteness" and "white radicalized identity" as "the way that white people, their customs, cultures, and beliefs operate as the standard by which all other groups are compared."

Important topics on the page include "white fragility," "white nationalism," and "white supremacy."

"Whiteness is also at the core of understanding race in America," a portion of the site reads. "Whiteness and the normalization of white racial identity throughout America's history have created a culture where non-white persons are seen as inferior or abnormal."

The graphic, which was titled, "Aspects & Assumptions of Whiteness & White Culture in the United States," insisted that many white people believe singular, core ideas about what it means to be a white person in America, and what defines them.

Some of the items included priority on family structure — in this case, a nuclear family as the acceptable baseline for a social unit — well-established work ethic, the Christian religion, European beauty ideals, a respect for authority, an aspiration to self-reliance and independence, and valuing property and ownership.

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