“Are art museums welcoming enough to minorities? While it’s probably a question that never occurred to you since, if you are so inclined, you simply pay the admission and enter, it it apparently a pressing issue to some people,” Derek Hunter writes at the Daily Caller:
One of those people to whom this though has occurred is first lady Michelle Obama.
At the opening of the new $420 million Whitney Museum in New York City, the first lady spoke of a “feeling of not belonging” in museums when she was a growing up on the south side of Chicago.
In her speech, Obama said:
You see, there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, ‘well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood.’ In fact, I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum.
And growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was one of those kids myself. So I know that feeling of not belonging in a place like this. And today, as First Lady, I know how that feeling limits the horizons of far too many of our young people.
Just as a reminder, Chicago hasn’t had a Republican mayor since the days of Al Capone. Michelle Obama was born in 1964; Richard Daley was mayor for life of the Second City, from 1955 until his death in 1976. According to Wikipedia, Michelle Obama’s father was a cog in the Daley machine as a Democrat precinct captain. And then there are the city’s museums themselves; as Derek Hunter noted above, “you simply pay the admission and enter.” Were Chicago’s museums, very likely in the mid-’70s staffed top to bottom with perilously leftwing archliberals (if they were anything at all like say, New York’s Museum of Modern Art during that period), a seething hotbed of racism, eager to turn away black customers or alienate them via “that feeling of not belonging in a place like this”?
I don’t recall any black students in my classes at Doane Academy being turned away at the gate or returning home feeling afterwards feeling alienated when we visited Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute or the Museum of Art (where Rocky Balboa famously leapt up the stairs) in the mid to late 1970s. At Ricochet, Jon Gabriel doesn’t recall the firehouses being let loose on any patrons of color when he toured Chicago’s museums during that period, either:
I have been to several Chicago museums on many occasions. Whether I was at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, or the Museum of Science and Industry, the bustling crowds were made up of every ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Buses brought in schoolkids from each neighborhood in Chicago and every ‘burb surrounding it. I’m sure a young Michelle Obama participated in similar field trips many times.
And it’s not as if she grew up in poverty, relegated to the South Side’s infamous housing projects like some of my friends. The First Lady had a thoroughly middle-class upbringing in a stable, nuclear family. Her excellent grades got her into Chicago’s superb Whitney Young Magnet High School where she was given one of the finest secondary educations in the state.
Did this smart, successful student actually think Chicago’s many popular museums were closed to “someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood?” Did she “never in a million years dream” she would be welcome in these cultural centers, even though her school must have had field trips to most of them? I find this very hard to believe.
After college, I would make multiple trips a year to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I don’t recall Michelle’s fellow Democrats Bull Conner or Robert Byrd barring the entrances there, either. (Though what Philip Johnson thought about MoMA’s diverse patrons is possibly another story…)
As the commenters at Ricochet note, what the FLOTUS could be discussing is the sort of self-limiting mindset that declares going to a museum as “acting white:”
The museums are off-limits to people of color as long as people of color tell people of color that people of color going to the museums are “acting white.”
* * * * * * * *
There is no such evidence. Anyone can go who has an interest in going, and everyone knows that, including La Obama.
But that doesn’t mean that a black kid won’t get a lot of grief from his peers for acting white by going to a museum, or even wanting to go. I have a hard time imagining a group of inner city black kids discussing a trip to the museum.
* * * * * * * *
I don’t know any white kids who want to go to a museum.
Worst class trip ever.
I remember my 8th grade vote being to go see the diving horse in Atlantic City, but noooooo! Teacher had to get her way.
Let me ask a question: At what point do white people stop politely accepting false allegations of racism? When do we say enough is enough and fight back?
I’m so tired of it.