#ForTheCulture An open letter to NYC’s Cultural Institutions

#ForTheCulture : “We, the people, representing current and former black and brown employees, as well as other POC and non-POC allies, as a coalition from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Opera, The Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim Museum, and other cultural institutions (listed below) present a united front on the following institutional misconduct:

We write to you to express our outrage and discontent of consistent exploitation and unfair treatment of Black/Brown people at these cultural institutions.

We write to inform you that your covert and overt white supremacy that has benefited the institution, through the unrecognized dedication and hard labor of Black/Brown employees, with the expectation that we remain complacent with the status quo, is over.

We write to inform you that we will no longer tolerate your blatant disrespect and egregious acts of white violence toward Black/Brown employees that reflect the oppressive tactics to keep Black/Brown employees maintained and subordinated.

We write to inform you that we will no longer conform to your forced silencing when we complain about the lack of commitment to the well-being of Black/Brown employees and patronizing, yet dismissive responses we are provided when we report bullying/work-place hostility, unfair practices, unequal pay, lack of growth…etc.

Therefore, we are demanding the dismantling of the systemic oppression that the aforementioned institutions readily participate in while demanding the back-breaking work product of Black/Brown employees.

We are demanding that you acknowledge your participation in this systemic oppression, which complicity damaged the lives of the many Black/Brown employees who have suffered in silence, who have left their jobs without other means of income, who have suffered health issues, who have worked tirelessly and effortlessly all to be compensated significantly less than white employees, while working in a perpetual state of fear.

Despite the institutional misconduct as presented above, the extensive evidence of this harmful behavior over the course of many years, in which senior leadership including HR and Legal have been made aware of, you continue to overlook and justify the white violent behaviors that target Black/Brown employees. You present to the public as an inclusive and supportive environment, but you are all BUT inclusive. You sweep the turmoil and abuse under the rug, while accepting dollars provided by the government and well-meaning donors.

The repeated response of “we have a lot of work to do” coupled with the lack of any real change can no longer be considered a failure, but an insult. This insult is further compounded by the lackadaisical response to our growing frustration from institutions, which receive tax payer funds or sit on city/state-owned property.

The time for discussion has passed as you refuse to engage in any meaningful dialogue. Now is the time for action. We do not need any more surveys, affinity groups, panels, or committees and other empty attempts to conceal the racism. We need you to acknowledge your white supremacy and do what needs to be done to change it.

The demands listed below have been echoed by many. Together we stand in solidarity to demand more of our cultural institutions.

  1. We call for the immediate removal of ineffective, biased Administrative and Curatorial leadership to demonstrate good faith of the board for real, systemic change.
  2. Create a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office, with a Chief Diversity Officer that reports directly to the Board Chairman. This office shall include, but is not limited to, two support staff positions and an Ombudsman, who will serve as the liaison between the office and staff. The office shall be provided an adequate budget to perform market research, data analysis, provide bi-annual anti-racism/anti-bias training, and hire consultants as needed.
  3. The board shall work with search firms that have a proven track record in finding and recruiting BIPOC talent to replace all open positions. Provide an easily accessible annual report to be housed on the museum’s website that details workforce statistics in respect to race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and age, including current workforce and all candidates reviewed, subsequently employed, and/or discharged.
  4. Again to demonstrate the good faith of the board for real systemic change, there shall be an immediate review of terminations both voluntary and involuntary of all Black and Brown employees under the current HR leadership. In addition, we demand a review of all racially driven incidents, investigations and outcomes, that occurred within the past five years. A report of these findings should be compiled and made available to the public on your website by January 1, 2021. Dismantle the practice of issuing non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) to involuntarily terminated employees that complain about racism and discrimination. Furthermore, terminate past NDAs related to racism/discrimination complaints within your organizations. Black/Brown employees should not be silenced for speaking out about the injustices they have endured.
  5. Mandate all department heads follow clear guidelines on anti-racism and anti-bias recruitment, retention, and review practices. In conjunction with the Office of DEI, there shall also be a compensation review of BIPOC employees to develop a pay equity structure within HR.
  6. Implement a zero-tolerance policy of any staff saying racially-charged statements and/or participating in any racially charged activities. Any employee caught in this regard shall be terminated immediately.
  7. Seek true board recruitment that reflects the City’s diverse population.

We find these demands to be reasonable and necessary if this institution wants to truly be a 21st Century cultural institution. Failure to publicly and internally address and meet these demands will result in the public call out of these institutions’ internal practices of racism and their treatment of Black and Brown employees. In addition, we offer these other demands that the board should implement in good faith:

  • Immediate review of past and current acquisition practices with strong efforts and actions to re-homing art and objects that were stolen from Black and Indigenous lands.
  • Announce anti-racism is a part of your mission and denounce past institutional bias, looting, and cultural appropriation. Structural changes that come out of this mission are to be supported by policies and procedures that are accountable with outcomes of equity.
  • Support the movement to defund the police by ending all contracts you have with the NYPD.
  • Stop all forms of performative allyship and virtue signaling NOW and remove all past social media posts that illustrate this performative allyship.
  • Create a career-track for BIPOC employees with clearly defined goals and processes for advancement within the institution that is approved by the Office of DEI. This includes supporting BIPOC interns and developing a talent pipeline not only with CUNY/SUNY students but utilizing the strong HBCU network across the country.
  • Create a development pipeline that seeks diverse patrons to grow into members and eventually donors.

We will no longer be silenced, abused in the shadows nor take the treatment white employees would never accept. We are taking you to task on your inability to support your community of Black/Brown employees.” All credits, & more information, courtesy #ForTheCulture