The proliferation of ethnically and racially segregated museums on Washington's National Mall threaten to balkanize the groups of tourists descending upon the fabled Smithsonian row of museums there, a Democratic congressman warned today.
“Every indigenous immigrant community, particularly those brought here enslaved, have a story to tell and it should be told and part of our history. The problem is that much as we would like to think that all Americans are going to go to the African American Museum, I’m afraid it’s not going to happen,” Virginia Rep. Jim Moran said at an Appropriations Committee hearing. “The Museum of American History is where all the white folks are going to go, and the American Indian Museum is where Indians are going to feel at home. And African Americans are going to go to their own museum. And Latinos are going to go their own museum. And that’s not what America is all about.”
Moran has a history of controversial remarks, including saying in 2003 that the Iraq War only went forward because of strong support from the "Jewish community," for example, and for arguing that racism played a role in the outcome of the 2010 elections.
A museum for Native Americans, which Moran called “disappointing” and “a glorified arts and crafts fair,” opened in 2004. An African-American museum is expected to open in 2015 and there's talk of another dedicated to Latinos.
Moran is concerned these various museums are not only “breaking up the American story into separate narratives based upon specific ethnicities,” but overcrowding the National Mall and putting financial burdens on Congress as well. “It’s a matter of how we depict the American story and where do we stop?” said Moran. “The next one will probably be Asian Americans,” said Moran. “The next, God help us, will probably be Irish Americans.”
Moran’s Democratic colleague, Puerto Rican born Rep. Jose Serrano, disagreed and said, while they’re at it, the Smithsonian should include more of the histories and cultures of the U.S. territories as well. “This generation has been called on to remedy a lot of stuff that happened in the past,” he said. “We have to take care of it.”