Administrators at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston apologized to a group of Black students from a local middle school after students complained they felt unwelcome during a class trip that included racist comments.
Last Thursday, students from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy charter school visited the museum for a seventh-grade trip but said they were targeted with racist comments and demeaning treatment from MFA staff and museum-goers, said Arturo J. Forrest, the school’s principal, The Boston Globe reports.
MFA released the following statement is response to the students’ complaints:
“The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s recently adopted Strategic Plan, MFA 2020, came with a commitment to renew our invitation, welcome, and engagement of audiences that reflect the diversity of our city. As we work to grow our community, we need to be sure that everyone feels welcome here—we want this to be your museum.
“Last week, a number of students on an organized visit encountered a range of challenging and unacceptable experiences that made them feel unwelcome. That is not who we are or want to be. Our intention is to set the highest of standards, and we are committed to doing the work that it will take to get there.
“We were extremely troubled to learn about the experience a class from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy had at the MFA. Immediately after being made aware of the situation, Makeeba McCreary, the MFA’s Chief of Learning and Community Engagement, reached out to Christopher Coblyn, Interim Executive Director of the Academy, to apologize and work together with MFA Protective Services to investigate the details of what happened. McCreary and Coblyn have been in direct communication since the day of the visit.
“We want to apologize specifically to the students, faculty, and parents of the Davis Leadership Academy. We deeply regret any interactions that led to this outcome and are committed to being a place where all people trust that they will feel safe and treated with respect. We look forward to ongoing conversation and commit to using this situation as an opportunity to learn and create a culture of unwavering inclusion.”
According to the outlet, museum staff made fun of students by using racist stereotypes and making insensitive comments like telling them “no food, no drink, and no watermelon.”
Another MFA patron reportedly told a young female student that she needed to pay attention during the tour so she could avoid becoming a stripper in the future. Yet another person called the students, “(expletive) black kids,” said Forrest.
An internal investigation has been launched about the matter, said Makeeba McCreary, the MFA’s chief of learning and community engagement, which could result in consequences for those involved, she said Wednesday.
“If they feel they were treated in a way that was racist or unwelcoming, I don’t need to review video,” McCreary said. “What I’m interested in is that it doesn’t happen again.”