It’s not enough to pay lip-service to being anti-racist
I was struck at our conference last year by the clear message from the keynote panel on anti-racism and museums: racism is everyone’s problem and we need a national strategy. At the Museums Association, we are keen to make sure we turn words into action, and have convened follow-up discussions with museum leaders to explore what we need to do to make our organisations anti-racist. We have also published our own action plan.
This month, we publish our Museum Essentials course on anti-racism, which will help everyone in the sector build their understanding of the impact of racism and how museums can help fight it by exploring systemic racism and what it means in museums. This requires acknowledging that racism is more than individual acts of discrimination or personal prejudice and that it is a structural issue affecting the whole of society, including museums. It also means understanding the role that museums play in perpetuating racism and the positive role that they can take, with their communities, in dismantling it.
In 2020, George Floyd’s murder sent shock waves through society, and many museums published statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and committed to becoming anti-racist organisations. The true test of this commitment is what we do, as well as what we say.
Sharon Heal is the director of the Museums Association