Skip to content

A Truly Teachable Moment About Race

A portion of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture’s chart on “Aspects and Assumptions of Whiteness & White Culture in the United States” that was removed after backlash. (NMAAHC)

The image was chilling. It was the sort of thing you’d expect to find in a history book used to justify the racist Jim Crow laws.  Yet there it was, brand new for 2020: An infographic developed as part of the new “Talking about Race” exhibit now showing at the taxpayer-funded Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). 

According to the NMAAHC, hard work, rational thought, the nuclear family, a respect for private property, and delayed gratification are all attributes of “whiteness.” That’s the polite way of promoting the defamatory racist stereotype of “non-white” people as lazy, incoherent, promiscuous, thieves hellbent on instant gratification.

The museum explained:

The exhibit did not launch as smoothly as its curators might have hoped.  The very next day:

Mission accomplished. This short-lived graphic provided America with a truly teachable moment — a moment that calls out for a genuine reconsideration of the approach chosen by the NMAAHC and others.

Apparently, the highly professional, credentialed, trained staff of an institution dedicated to honoring African-American contributions to America and combating anti-black racism needed comments from the general public to notice that it was reinforcing some of the most damaging racist stereotypes in American history.

This shocking blindness is symptomatic of a deep problem plaguing America’s educational institutions — and a full generation of recent graduates….


Bruce Abramson

Bruce Abramson

Bruce Abramson has over thirty years of experience working as a technologist, economist, attorney, and policy analyst. Dr. Abramson holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Columbia and a J.D. from Georgetown. He has contributed to the scholarly literature on computing, business, economics, law, and foreign policy, and written extensively about American politics and policy.