by Bob Barr
A highlight of any visit to our nation’s capital is spending time at one or more of the beautiful Smithsonian Institution museums that line the National Mall. Since the Smithsonian was founded in 1846, these museums have grown to house artworks and artifacts from Native American pottery to the Apollo moon lander, allowing visitors from around the world to see and understand the greatness that is our country and our culture.
Tragically, even this magnificent cluster of museums has fallen victim to the destructive political correctness that now is driving protestors to deface and tear down statues of George Washington and other great Americans.
One of the more recent examples of this divisive effort is seen in a program on “Whiteness” at the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC), a part of the Smithsonian Institution. This bizarre exhibition warns viewers of “white racialized identity” as embodied by such cultural beliefs as “rugged individualism,” “the nuclear family,” and “hard work” – all hallmarks of what formerly were considered positive traits that helped build our country; but which now are presented in a negative light, essentially as racist. Instead of noting the ability of each individual by strength to overcome adversity, white participants in this macabre exhibition instead are lectured to consider themselves “fragile” because of their skin color.
The deep disdain for capitalism as a foundation of America’s growth from a small littoral country into a world superpower, and the undisguised assault on Western Enlightenment that are reflected in this exhibit, would be shocking if found anywhere in a public forum, but especially so when incorporated as part of the publicly-funded Smithsonian.
On the other hand, considering what is being urged these days by such once-respected institutions as the New York Times and what is being taught at many heretofore respected institutions of higher learning, perhaps this should not be seen as shocking.
There is, after all, a movement known as the “1619 Project” that seeks to convince persons ignorant of both history and common sense that America was not founded in 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. According to this twisted narrative, America was “founded” a century and a half earlier, not on principles of individual liberty and limited government, but singularly on slavery and white privilege.
This perverse re-writing of history is now being offered the imprimatur of legitimacy through inclusion in the NMAAHC.
The Smithsonian describes its foundational purpose as a repository for the “American national identity,” which embodies “an identity rooted in exploration, innovation, and a unique American style.” For many decades after its official founding, it upheld this legacy. Nevertheless, such a powerful tool as the world-renowned Smithsonian could not be resisted forever by those who wish to rewrite history. Thus, over the years, radical-Left activists have infiltrated the Smithsonian system, not openly as the radical revisionists they are, but as “historians,” “social scientists,” and “educators.”
NMAAHC’s program is a deliberate effort to radicalize a member museum of the Smithsonian using misinformation and propaganda completely at odds with the very foundation of the Smithsonian’s establishment: “the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” The “Whiteness” exhibit is the opposite of knowledge, as it turns America’s historically documented founding philosophy of individual liberty on its head with circular logic and academic gobbledygook devoid of any genuine substance. In so doing, these radical revisionists are ruining the reputation of a storied institution, for the sole purpose of turning it into another mouthpiece for the “woke” agenda.
The pride that American adults and schoolchildren would feel as they crossed the threshold into the National Museum of American History to view the massive American flag that flew over Ft. McHenry as Francis Scott Key penned the words to the “Star-Spangled Banner,” now is sought to be replaced by a sense of guilt and shame as visitors confront the “Whiteness” exhibit at another of the Smithsonian’s museums just blocks away.
The drive by the Left to radicalize our country and our culture is not only being waged by Antifa thugs, Black Lives Matter protestors and liberal elected officials, who enable their destructive behavior on the streets of America’s cities, from Portland to Atlanta. It is a war being fought just as aggressively, though more discreetly, in the very public institutions supposed to preserve and protect our nation’s heritage.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7 District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990. He now serves as President of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation based in Atlanta, Georgia.