To defend a Latino exhibit they worked on for two years until the Smithsonian scrapped it, two radical professors chose this week to go on the set of none other than Democracy Now! Yes, the signature TV program of Marxists and all their causes.
Truth be told, it was the perfect setting.
Johanna Fernandez, associate professor of history at Baruch College in New York, and Felipe Hinojosa, professor of history at Baylor University in Texas, used the interview to protest that they were being “smeared” as Marxists by conservatives such as me. I’ll lay out the record below and let you decide.
The Smithsonian Institution hired the two academics to curate the second exhibit of the coming National Museum of the American Latino, which hasn’t been built yet but was approved in 2020.
But after Alfonso Aguilar of Latino Partnerships, Joshua Trevino of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and I wrote in an August 2022 op-ed that the first exhibit, “Presente!,” offered “an unabashedly Marxist portrayal” of Hispanic history, the Smithsonian emailed Fernandez and Hinojosa to pull the plug.
Both Time magazine, which last week broke that story, and the New York Times, which added new reporting over the weekend, have been unclear on whether the next exhibit was canceled outright or merely paused.
But the two professors appear to think it’s canceled. Fernandez complained to the host of Democracy Now! Amy Goodman that this “evolving crisis” was the result of a scare campaign by conservatives. “And now, again, this has reached a federal museum, and not just any federal museum, but the largest network of museums in the world, which is known as the Smithsonian,” she said.
Hinojosa added that he found alarming “the critiques that came to us” from the Smithsonian. “When the email came in November of 2022 that this exhibit was going to be paused or canceled, I think it confirmed our fears of the fact that the Smithsonian was not viewing the Latino civil rights movement as a broad enough story,” he said. The second exhibit, you see, was ostensibly going to be about “civil rights.”
But as Time reported, both Fernandez and Hinojosa think the exhibit was canceled because of how they were going to approach their subject: “They believe it was because they planned to feature a variety of counter-cultural organizations of the 1960s that questioned how well American democracy was meeting the needs of its citizens under a capitalist system.”
Raising questions about capitalism would not be surprising coming from either.
Fernandez is on the editorial board of Socialism & Democracy, a journal that says that its “perspective is broadly Marxist.” She has been a guest on Revolutionary Left Radio, a podcast that “explores political philosophy, history, science, religion, culture, art, and struggle through a socialist lens.” And she has spoken in seminars for the Workers World Party, which bills itself as “a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist party.”
Her podcasts appear on the platform of Workers World, a self-described “Revolutionary Socialist Organization for Global Class War.” Also, Fernandez’s most recent book was a sympathetic portrayal of a Puerto Rican Marxist-Leninist group, The Young Lords. Fernandez, lastly, advocates the release from prison of the Marxist cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, the cause celebre of the limousine far Left.
In remarks at a Workers World Party webinar, Fernandez said she supported his release because “Mumia writes about domestic problems as much as he writes about international problems, and he has a critique of the state and of capitalism. This means that he represents a continuity in the Black radical tradition, a continuity in Black radical descent from the 1960s to the present.”
Fernandez told Goodman that “through this witch hunt and by smearing historians and curators as Marxists, these conservatives are using fear … In many ways, this sounds and looks like a repeat of the Red Scare.”
A “Scare”? If Fernandez is not a Red, she gives a pretty good impression of one.
Hinojosa is less Brezhnev and more Gustavo Gutierrez, the Peruvian Marxist priest who in the 1960s invented Liberation Theology, which aims to use the church to bring about revolution, and who was rebuked by St. John Paul II because of the incompatibility of Marxism with Christ’s teachings.
Hinojosa praises Liberation Theology throughout a 2021 book. For example, he wrote that it was very useful in the fight against urban renewal.
In a podcast that year, Hinojosa said, “What the 1960s and 1970s did for Latinos, especially the rise of Liberation Theology, was to be able to see themselves in a brand new way, to be able to rearticulate their identity, to reject this notion that they were to just assimilate and become white Americans, to take on a brown identity, a sense of difference and a connection with indigenous roots … that was a beautiful moment.”
Hinojosa seems have a particular problem with all assimilation. In his 2004 thesis, he writes critically of German immigrants who in the 1930s “no longer identified with their ethnic heritage instead opting for the assimilationist terms ‘Anglo-American’ or ‘white,’” and then “benefited from their whiteness in the U.S.” In this, he seems to be a cross between the critical race theorists of today and the transnationalist intellectuals who a century ago opposed assimilation by European immigrants.
It should raise eyebrows that the Smithsonian hires people of this ilk to select and organize the artifacts that will tell the story of 64 million Americans of Hispanic descent, one-fifth of the population and a key voting bloc. It’s likely the Smithsonian will hire future Fernadezes and Hinojosas because Congress is too busy to provide the necessary oversight.
The Latino Museum was a bad idea from the start, and the Smithsonian has proved it.
This piece originally appeared in Restoring America by the Washington Examiner