I’ve dedicated my career to the study of critical race theory, and how it can be employed in museums. Critical race theory is an academic framework that scrutinises how legal systems create racial realities. It challenges the idea that race is just a given, and it encourages us to think about it as a social structure.
Critical race theory rejects the philosophy of colour-blindness. It considers how racism is embedded in state institutions and legal systems, which are in turn reinforced by historic hierarchies. So stark racial disparities—across income, health, education and incarceration, for example—persist in the US, despite decades of civil rights reforms.
Yet many of our elected representatives actively oppose critical race theory. And, in my experience, it is rarely understood or taken seriously by the leaders of our museums.
There has been a reckoning since the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Discussions about race are now considered important. But, five or six years ago, museums couldn’t care less.
When I started out in museums, many of those I met in leadership positions didn’t understand what I meant when I spoke about critical r
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