Last month, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released a report on combatting the “institutional racism” at the National Archives. The report represents the creeping invasion of institutional woke-ism, complete with calls for a new lexicon to push “anti-racist terminology” and a permanent bureaucracy to
pay woke activists make sure NARA doesn’t fall back into its institutionally racist ways.
Many outlets, including PJ Media, have focused on NARA’s recommendations for the National Archives rotunda, which claim that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are not by themselves “Charters of Freedom,” so the National Archives must retire that phrase or change it. Yet the 105-page report does not just represent one organization’s Woke browbeating struggle session — it also exposes how Marxist critical race theory and other ideologies entrench themselves in an institution.
“Racism is embedded in the history and current practices of NARA,” the report insists. “Dismantling such structural racism will require vast changes to NARA’s work culture at every level as well as an ongoing and active committment [sic] to anti-racist work througout [sic] the agency’s future.”
The executive summary gives three examples of “structural racism,” including “a preponderance of BIPOC [black, indigenous, people of color] in lower-paying, lower-status jobs and the preponderance of White people in higher-paying, higher-status jobs; legacy descriptions that use racial slurs… to describe BIPOC communities; and a Rotunda in our flagship building that lauds wealthy White men in the nation’s founding while marginalizing BIPOC, women, and other communities.”
In order to counter supposed “institutional racism” at the National Archives, NARA would institutionalize a new bureaucracy at all levels of the organization, staffing the agency with activists dedicated to a leftist agenda.
The NARA report presents the recommendations of a “Task Force on Racism to identify and recommend solutions to issues—both explicit and implicit—stemming from structural racism within NARA.” That task force itself broke into three groups: the main task force, the archival description subgroup, and the museum subgroup.
Naturally, the task force calls for a permanent body to implement its institutional “reforms.”
“NARA must engage in an ongoing process of review to ensure that our operations, policies, programs, and strategic direction work toward dismantling structural racism. This includes establishing one or more permanent bodies to continue and build upon the Task Force’s work and developing appropriate policies to support this work,” the document recommends (emphasis added).
The task force also recommends that “NARA must commit resources, including staff, to implement the Task Force’s recommendations”; that “NARA must address barriers that discourage or prevent BIPOC [black, indigenous, people of color] from security staff, internship, and volunteer positions”; and that NARA must run “all-staff training on topics such as diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion… [which] includes developing and maintaining a language style guide that denotes anti-racist terminology and is regularly revised as language changes”.
Furthermore, the task force recommends that NARA “continue to seek out and listen to staff input about racism within the agency,” as if racism at the National Archives is too deep for a 105-page report to penetrate. The task force also recommends outreach to “marginalized communities” in order “to identify where efforts to dismantle structural racism fall short and ensure that we improve them.”
Finally, the report recommends that NARA establish “external partnerships” for “anti-racism work,” thus coordinating with leftist groups to further this agenda.
In the name of fighting racism, the NARA report recommends a permanent inquisition into the National Archives’ supposed racism, “permanent bodies” to constantly push NARA in a leftist direction, more tax dollars to hire politically motivated staff, staffing procedures specifically designed to cater to certain races, leftist critical race theory training materials, and partnerships with leftist groups. Just how much money will this institutional Wokeism cost? The task force does not provide an estimate.
Some of the task force’s recommendations may seem reasonable, but the document pushes its conclusions to extremes. It follows Marxist critical race theory (CRT), which teaches that hidden racism pervades American institutions and guides people to seize on any racial disparity as ipso facto proof of racial discrimination, despite the clear prohibitions on racial discrimination in federal law. Advocates claim that the American status quo is racist — if not “white supremacist” — so extreme measures to reverse historic injustices are the only “anti-racist” option.
The NARA report claims that the National Archives has “a responsibility to eliminate racist language in archival descriptions and revise the policies and practices that led to it.” Considering the fact that some documents did use the N-word to describe black people, it seems acceptable to remove any such references from document headings on any online catalogues, so long as any changes do not erase the historical record.
However, the document defines “racist language” to include “not only explicitly harmful terms, such as racial slurs, but also information that implies and reinforces damaging stereotypes of BIPOC individuals and communities while valorizing and protecting White people.” By the task force’s own logic, this kind of “racist language” would include praise for the Founding Fathers, whom the task force considers too “white.”
Of course, the task force could not limit itself to racially offensive language. “The ADS [Archival Description Subgroup] also recognizes that racist language is only one type of harmful language and that oppressive systems do not exist in a vacuum. The subgroup therefore calls on NARA to address sexist, homophobic, ableist, etc., language in archival descriptions and related policies and practices,” the document argues. “NARA will only succeed in dismantling oppressive systems if we acknowledge their complex, overlapping nature and the cumulative harm they cause to marginalized communities.”
Get ready for “body positivity” at the National Archives. Also, in the name of reversing “misgendering,” activists may unilaterally decide that historical figures were “really” transgender or gender non-conforming.
Of course, it wouldn’t be enough for current National Archives staff to monitor the catalogue in their current positions. Instead, the task force recommends that NARA “establish a permanent working group to develop and implement a systematic approach to changing language, and provide documented training and standard operating procedures for staff.”
The task force also recommends the National Archives “create a method by which end users can notify NARA of racist and otherwise harmful language they find in descriptions.” With this system, Woke activists inside and outside the National Archives can twist the meaning of words to find hidden racism in America’s historical documents. Activists inspired by critical race theory have already found supposed racism in apple pie, fireworks, fonts, cheese, and trees. Oh, and according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, even “treating all people the same regardless of race” may not absolve a person of racism.
In a similar fashion, the task force strains to find examples of racism in the National Archives. “NARA’s records related to BIPOC are more difficult to find because they are under-described, while our website and Catalog over-describe the records and achievements of White men by using more extensive, superlative, and subjective language. NARA needs to rectify generations of racist recordkeeping practices that have marginalized BIPOC and made them footnotes in the historical record,” the report states.
While the contributions of some black Americans and Native Americans may have been unjustly overlooked, the records did not focus on “white men” because they were white but because many of these men proved instrumental to the founding and growth of America. “George Washington” will always be more searchable in the National Archives than Sitting Bull, not due to racism but because Washington had a larger impact on history. Americans should acknowledge the overlooked contributions of minorities, but a racial disparity in searchability does not necessarily involve racism.
While many commentators have focused on the NARA recommendations for the rotunda, this entire report represents a terrifyingly comprehensive attempt to institutionalize critical race theory and other leftist ideologies (such as LGBT orthodoxy and anti-ableism) in the National Archives at taxpayer expense.
This institutional Wokeism is spreading through America’s education system, its corporate culture, Big Tech companies, and government agencies. The National Archives merely gives Americans a glimpse at just how insidious this threat truly is.