One year ago, in an op-ed in The Hill, we denounced the first-ever exhibit of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Latino, “Presente! A Latino History of the United States,” for its blatantly Marxist narrative of the experiences of Hispanics in America.
Our view, then and now, is that Congress should defund both the museum—which was approved three years ago and is yet to be built—and its inaugural exhibit.
House Republicans shared our concerns. Last month, the House Appropriations committee cut funding for the museum for the next fiscal year, pointing out the exhibit’s many shortcomings, and especially how it portrays Hispanics as mere “victims of oppression.”
This was an important step, but now the full Congress must follow through.
After recently meeting with Smithsonian leadership, members of the Appropriations committee resolved to let the funding go ahead. The Smithsonian reassured them that they are willing to “rectify their actions.”
We completely understand the desire to trust the Smithsonian, but its clear ideological bent indicates that it does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.
“Presente!” is not an atypical abomination. It is exactly what one can expect now from the Smithsonian and other museums. The assurances of one person or a group seeking to have funding restored are worth nothing against the full-scale capture of the arts apparatus by a small but zealous ideological minority.
Their dogma divides America between the oppressed and their oppressor, between victim and supremacist—the Marxist playbook. Nobody should be shocked that “Presente!” cast Hispanics as oppressed victims.
Museums have become ground zero for this dynamic, as they are portrayed by the woke as embodying the “colonizing mindset” of the oppressor group, which in America is white, male, patriarchal and “hetero-normative.” Museums, and arts in general, must thus be “decolonized” in their view.
Don’t take our word for it. In 2020, the new director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art told The New York Times, “There is no doubt that the Met and its development is also connected with a logic of what is defined as white supremacy.”
The Smithsonian itself is thoroughly infected with this ideology. Smithsonian Magazine has a website promoting “158 Resources to Understand Racism in America.” One of them is a handout on how to be an “antiracist,” which argues from the perspective that the mere fact of being white makes you worse, if not evil. It calls on whites to “understand and begin to take responsibility for your power and privilege as part of the white group—such as acknowledging the historical roots of White Supremacy and knowing that the White privilege you have as a result of that history is a real thing.”
It also promotes articles that explain what white supremacy is, including a video by Ibram X. Kendi, who calls for racial discrimination as the solution, and an article that explains that white people “must acknowledge and understand their privilege, work to change their internalized racism, and interrupt racism when they see it.”
“Presente!,” also known as the Molina Family Gallery, is exactly what it is supposed to be: an incubator for grievances that the curators want Hispanics to bear against the United States. It couldn’t be anything but that. And the Latino Museum, if it ever becomes a reality, won’t be anything but that. That is what is happening in the arts world.
Conservatives have, for some time now, been saying that they will reverse the left’s takeover of cultural institutions. They have been winning elections on the promises to do just that. “Presente!” and the Latino Museum are therefore a litmus test of how serious these promises are.
Republican politicians must bear in mind that once a federal agency, institution or program is fully established, it is very difficult for Congress to come back and make substantial changes to it, much less abolish it.
The Latino Museum, through its first exhibit, is already pushing a Marxist portrayal of Hispanics, reducing their history to racism, colonialism, and a “struggle for justice” in support of a progressive agenda that includes, “immigration reform,” “criminal justice reform” and “LGBT rights.”
The exhibit contradicts the experiences of most U.S. citizens of Hispanic origin. As the Appropriation Committee’s report stated: “The museum almost myopically portrays Latinos as an oppressed monolith united largely by their victimhood, neglecting the nuanced and varied experiences, including remarkable successes, of the American Latino, and despite the thousands of courageous Latino military heroes that served our country proudly and honorably…”
Little attention is paid to the hard work, innovation and creativity of Hispanic entrepreneurs and small-business owners; the strength, unity and resiliency of Latino families; or the vitality of Hispanic churches.
The wokeness of the exhibit is unsurprising, but it should generate enough concern among conservatives to halt this project. Most Hispanics, who reject the left’s extreme cultural ideology and woke terms such as “Latinx,” would certainly appreciate it.
This piece originally appeared in The Hill on September 5, 2023