The violence and chaos that ensued in our nation’s capital on January 6 was horrifying and reprehensible, and a clear attack on our democracy and society propagated by deliberate deception and misinformation from elected officials. On a day that the United States recorded the most COVID-19 deaths in a single day so far, rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol building in an effort to overturn the unambiguous results of our presidential election resulting in the additional tragic loss of lives.
Museums serve millions of people of all backgrounds and political persuasions in communities across the country, who cast their vote on Election Day. Regardless of whom their ballots favored, our support for the democratic process and the peaceful transition of power must be unequivocal.
There is no doubt that systemic racism and the consistent downplaying of the threat of white supremacy in the United States allowed for the security breach on the Capitol, a museum itself, to take place. The treatment of the rioters, many of whom bore clothing and paraphernalia symbolizing hate, violence, and white supremacy, highlights a pronounced double standard in how peaceful Black and brown protesters fighting for racial justice have been treated.
At this dark junction in our nation’s history, museums must lean into their missions and step up to the challenge ahead of us by fighting against white supremacy through educating our communities, building empathy, combating disinformation, and uplifting the stories and voices that have endured in the margins. As interpreters and educators of history and culture, museums and museum professionals have the power to uphold democracy and democratic norms, call out bigotry and hate, and fight for racial justice.
We thank our members of Congress who returned to the Capitol after rioters were cleared to resume the electoral college count and certify President-Elect Biden’s victory, the members of the media who stayed to accurately document this atrocity, and the museum professionals who are now assessing the impact to the Capitol’s collections.
It could not be clearer that it is time for lawmakers to unify around the certified election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. Only united can we move forward to confront our nation’s many challenges, chief among them addressing systemic racism in the United States and ending the pandemic.