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MFA apologizes to minority middle-school students from Dorchester who were treated like dirt on a recent visit

Marvelyne Lamy, an English teacher at the Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester, describes a school trip to the Museum of Fine Arts last Thursday that began with the students being warned not to eat watermelon and got even worse, with security guards following their every step while ignoring other, white kids, touching exhibits and stuff. And then:

As we were walking out, our students were standing in the doorway of the Africa exhibit. We had them clear out the doorway so people could pass by. This lady walks by and says, “Never mind there’s fucking black kids in the way.” And ironically she says this in the African exhibit. We reported all these incidents to the staff at the MFA, and they just looked on with pity. They took our names and filed a report. Their only solution, they will give us tickets to come back and have a “better” experience. We did not even receive an apology.

The MFA today posted an open letter apologizing for the way the students were treated:

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.

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Comments

The sounds of silence from our elected leaders in city and state government is despicable. If this treatment of young children happened down South our elected leaders would be leading the charge to label the museum as the citadel of hate.

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The teacher posted her account to her own Facebook page two days ago, and the MFA only publicly responded late today. So it may not be silence as much as relatively few people knowing about it yet.

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If somebody asks them, I hope they respond appropriately.
But one of the weirdest recent developments in politics is people who think elected officials' main job is to comment on current events on social media. I know people who actually think freshman congresspeople are "getting more done" than their predecessors because of how active their social media accounts are. That's because it's almost the only thing they are doing!

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I think you couldn't be more wrong. The freshman congresspeople are doing as much, if not way more, than many of their colleagues. They're also more transparent and see the value in reaching out to their constituency via several platforms, to keep them informed and updated as to their actions and viewpoints on issues that matter to people.

Part of the value of social media platforms like theirs is that it helps shift the public conversation. It gets people thinking about what matters to them, and a path forward.

I'm not sure why you think silence on media platforms = more work being done. Especially not considering how terrible congress has been at getting anything of value done in the past years.

Anyway, here's just some of the stuff they have been working on in the past months:

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/12/politics/house-freshmen-democrats-first-1...

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At the very beginning of the tour, one of the staff gave an overview on what to expect and told the kids no food, no drink, and no watermelon (we didn’t know they said this until the end).

I'm thinking that watermelon was bottled water.

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One of her students heard it and she didn't, but told her later. Did you read the rest of her account (and the MFA letter), or did you stop after that?

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... that you are engaging in the creative "reframing" of "what must have been said" because we can't possibly trust people who have been historically abused to accurately report current abuse because it makes us uncomfortable.

Right?

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Some of them have an axe to grind and social currency to gain by making false accusations against innocent people whose appearance makes them convenient scapegoats. Grifters like Al Sharpton and Michael Avennati have made careers out of making false accusations.

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And a teacher.

And top officials at one of the most prominent institutions in the city, who have issued a very public apology.

Professional grifters, all of them?

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Kind of like the kids who scrawl swastikas into their desks because they know it will get a rise out of the supposed adults in the room. The grifters just glom on to them as a target of opportunity.

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More like the drivel you post here that you think is intellectually superior based on your opinion of yourself.

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Quiet day on the MAGA boards so we have visitors spouting BS...makes perfect sense...

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Once again, so close to becoming but not quite yet a self-aware wolf.

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is that you take something that happened, like this, and basically say, 'hey, because some people do bad, silly, dumb things, the rest can't be trusted?" Good. God. You and Fishy must be related.

Yes, there are grifters in the world, Ro, but I am not as cynical as you. Most people to good things. What a horrible way to go through one's life.

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to ascribe cynicism to his brand of nuanceless grade school level trolling is to lend him credibility.

he’s one of two things: an elaborate troll, or more likely, a well-read idiot, owing his formative education to the european system he loves to invoke.

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Because some people are grifters, we require evidence before we accept claims as true, and express skepticism if the evidence presented is merely testimony by people with something to gain from a possible lie.

Tell me, whyaduck, should we have all uncritically believed Jussie Smollett because who would lie about something so horrible as being assaulted on the street by racist thugs?

Should we have uncritically believed Julie Swetnick, because who would lie about being the main attraction at a high school rape party?

Tawana Brawley, "hands up don't shoot," kids in cages, and many more are outright lies and propaganda. You want them to be true, so you suspend your disbelief. And you get played. You believe things that are false. You make decisions based on bad information. And you think you're doing God's work while you're at it.

Sad.

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You just seem to basically post about how racism doesn't exist and that PoC are liars and cheats.

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Part 1: Teacher embellishes story, trying to get attention. Using profanity in a Facebook post is unprofessional. Like the NH Lunch Lady, waiting for the true story to come out.
Part 2: MFA apologizes, because it’s the PC thing to do
Part 3: We’ll all forget about this by Memorial Day weekend, the MFA is a D-list attraction anyway.

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The MFA is anything BUT a D list attraction! (I could, and have, spent hours there and it's never enough)

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You're tone-policing a person of color who is speaking out about racist behavior that took place. Doing this is racist. The poster gets to choose what language to use and how to use it.

People of color experience enough actual racism without needing to make up racism, and spend enough time dealing with it as it is, without wanting to spend any more time dealing with it.

I'm not sure what you mean by "getting attention," but yes, attention should be drawn to racism. Every white person should be calling it out when we see it.

"PC" is a term invented by right wingers to complain about being asked to stop engaging in behavior that marginalizes others. "MY STAFF CAN'T EVEN MAKE WATERMELON JOKES TO BLACK CHILDREN BECAUSE IT'S APPARENTLY NOT PC." No, your staff should stop doing so, because it's racist.

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Well put, eeka.

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This reminds me; whatever happened to the janitor in southie who got put on leave for spray painting hate speech on the side doors of the school building?

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I dont think he was fired, if he was I didnt see it in the news.

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If only these words were genuine:

“That is not who we are or want to be.”

We all know they aren’t

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How do you definitively determine if security guards are paying too much attention to one group and too little to another?

You can't touch the exhibits in an art museum. If a guard doesn't stop you, they're not doing their job. It doesn't matter if someone else got away with it a minute earlier.

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Read (or re-read) the teacher's account. It's not that guards were telling kids not to touch things, yeah, we get it, it's a museum full of expensive stuff. It's that the guards were specifically hounding just the black and brown kids about this and ignoring the white kids doing the same thing.

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I'm an old white guy, and I too have felt excessively watched at the museum. I thought it was just par for the course. You want to know where else I felt excessively watched, to the point of distraction? The McKim Building of the BPL, of all places. During the lengthy renovation period of the Johnson Building the music books were all relocated tot he top floor of the McKim. I was partly looking for a certain book and partly browsing the aisles. The place was kind of deserted, and the security guard (an African-American female by the way, but I don't believe that had anything to do with the incident) virtually hounded me. Pretty much following me aisle to aisle. What did she think I was going to do? Either she was bored out of her mind or she was just plain crazy, but I was freaked out enough that I left without locating the book I went for. Later I regretted that I didn't report her.

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What makes you think that your story compares to what they experienced? Are you saying that the playing field is now suddenly level between races? It’s bad enough that kids have to turn on the ‘telly’ and listen to garbage from media outlets and politicians that are laden with anti-black/brown messages. But now it’s the museum, as well?

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We have one person's Facebook post. Which is fine, but - maybe she's making it up? Maybe she's misrepresenting what happened? Is there any corroboration to what's been said?

She saw the guards yell at her students for touching exhibits - but maybe the guards are yelling at other students too, which she didn't see. She wouldn't know if she's being treated differently, because she doesn't know how everyone else has been treated.

She saw the guards following her students - but maybe guards follow groups of kids all the time. Again, she wouldn't know if she's being treated differently, because she doesn't know how everyone else has been treated.

Maybe the MFA had a sudden outbreak of racism - or maybe there's a rational explanation for what happened.

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Your response is racist behavior. A person of color is telling you that racist behavior occurred. People of color have the lived experience to know when they are experiencing racism. You weren't there, but you're deciding to side with the white folks involved in the story instead of the person of color. You might want to think about that.

For what it's worth, I'm a white person, and I'm at the MFA with groups of children of color several times a week. This isn't anything new. My kids and their peers have not gotten anything from the MFA as overt as the watermelon comment, or you better believe I'd be blowing up social media about it. But it's one of local institutions where they've experienced a fairly high level of racial microaggressions from staff and patrons. And for what it's worth, on the whole, parenting and teaching in the Black community has much more of a focus on manners and respect than in white communities. This is a pretty well-known phenomenon. I watch groups in the MFA where Black students are sticking together in lines, using indoor voices, moving aside to let groups of traffic through. I watch white groups of kids swarming around so no one can get through, running, screeching, touching things, ignoring people saying "excuse me" and trying to get through. And yeah yeah, #notall and all that. But seriously, this is a well-known dynamic among people who spend a lot of time in both predominantly white and predominately Black circles. There's also research on white adults seeing Black children as older and more guilty. The white kids touching shit are curious and didn't know any better. The Black kids are touching it with criminal intent. This is the view of many white people, even if when asked, they would say of course it isn't. Ask people who live this and receive this treatment. Or ask the ample research that's been done on this.

Oh, can I tell you about the time I saw a group of white kids led by an MFA staff member, and one of the kids was wearing those shoes with skate wheels, using them as skates, and stopping himself by running into walls and display cases? I followed the group around to several galleries to see if the teacher would say anything. Nope.

BTW, this post is being discussed in a majority-Black online local parent group. The comments are much different.

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POC can make up stories just as others can. I'm NOT saying that it happened here, I have absolutely no idea what took place at the MFA, but calling someone "racist" for questioning the way it happened or asking for more information is idiotic.

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.

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...that you don't notice a pattern of what incidents cause some posters to "question the way it happened"?

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There is a kind of trolling that questions a first person account for illogical reasons. It is common enough that I might characterize it as victim blaming more than racism. But the thing is we were not present when these events took place. How can you dispute a first person account without contradictory facts? It says more about the criticizer than this teacher. This museum is full of cctv. If you want to make an assumption, assume that the Museum looked at the video before they responded. Assume that they interviewed the staff working that day. From the MFA's response they certainly didn't know anything to dispute the teacher's account.

Bringing up the possibilty that "POC can make up stories" is trolling. So far I haven't seen any facts disputing the teacher's account.

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"white folks involved in the story"

The teacher's report didn't say anything about the race of the MFA guards or staff.

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You definitively know, regardless of age or gender. To not be aware of that reality is pretty f'ing pathetic..

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security cam footage

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I've been to plenty of museums in my time and the standard operating procedure is to have a security guard standing at a point where they can see if anything is going on in a particular room or gallery. From the descriptions here there was one or more security guards who were tailing this particular group. Do you see how those two experiences are different? If you've only experienced one of those things maybe you should think about what it would feel like to be treated as the other.

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So I can’t say what did or did not happen in this instance. However, I can say that I have taken my adult classes to the mfa on 10 occasions and that they were not treated poorly though they are all mostly people of color. In fact, we were v much welcomed.

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I don’t get it? It is fruit and it is yummy. But why would a guard specifically call that out? Not something one would bring to a museum, I wouldn’t think.

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I have trouble believing that part. The guards at the MFA are professionals. They're not minimum wage temp workers who don't know what they're doing. Saying something racist to a school group would be an automatic way to throw your job away, and for what purpose?

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Three months experience and strong interpersonal skills required, with a knowledge of security procedures preferred. Physical requirements require standing and walking for long periods of time. That's it. https://www.mfa.org/employment/security-officer-i-security-patrol-mon-fr...

The MFA is like everywhere else they use security officers to observe and report, peroiod.

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Have you interacted with MFA guards?

How would you compare them to, say, security at a stadium rock concert or big-box store?

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Simple Google search will enhance your learning...

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Everything old is new again.

...but still tired and old.

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It was a MFA staff person.

Kindly read what happened before commenting. Cripes.

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The MFA is free for BPS classes and it has a gallery on nearly every culture we learn about. I've been bringing kids, most of them students of color, there for years and have never encountered anything like that. A couple things - if you don't prep yourself, your chaperones and most importantly your kids you are going to have trouble because middle schoolers are like that. In most cases there are motion detectors that go off when you get too close a sculpture. That will get the security guard over to talk to your group and yes they will watch you for awhile. So I tell my kids not to do that before we get there. You also need to break up your kids into smaller groups that you can manage, anybody who tries to walk 25 or more kids through a gallery is going to lose track of half of them. I sign up for the free guided tours and create an assignment based around the visit so we're not just wandering without a purpose. I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess this is a teacher who hasn't been doing this too long.

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This is awfully close to "she got assaulted because she didn't think to wear something less sexy."

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No, a teacher prepping her students on acceptable museum behavior (not touching the artwork) to prevent being criticized by guards is not the same as being assaulted for wearing revealing clothing.

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...where the students were behaving inappropriately. Can you point it out?

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Like, anything at all?

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I completely agree with you. But what do you expect in terms of experience in education and actually working with kids?

"A charter school authorized by the state charter schools commission is required to seek highly qualified, properly trained teachers and other qualified personnel. Yes. ... However, charter schools may also hire uncertified teachers if they have the following qualifications: A bachelor's degree."

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...of "apologies" that say "This is not who we are". What a weak, self-serving, reality-denying, gaslighting disclaimer that is. It may not be who want to be (or at least, who you want to be perceived as), but it is demonstrably who you ARE.

Extra points off for weak pablum euphemisms like "challenging and unacceptable experiences" instead of calling it what it was -- racism.

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At least this is an actual apology that takes responsibility for what happened and isn't "We're sorry you felt offended." And lists the corrective actions underway to prevent similar things in future. (Of course, the MFA can't prevent every patron from being an asshole, but I'm glad they're trying.)

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It's an "apology" couched in terms that avoid taking responsibility or naming the issue at hand. When you call a racist an "asshole" instead of a racist, you avoid naming the problem, and thus, move away from a solution.

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So we are asked to believe that black school kids were brought to one of Boston's most liberal and refined institutions in 2019 and 1950's Selma broke out?

I'm glad to see some skepticism here. An earlier poster referenced the (Tynan) Middle School mystery. Last fall, without hesitation or caution, the media, politicians and "religious leaders" swarmed to one-sidedly condemn "racist and bigoted Southie" after the hateful graffiti was discovered. The story went silent after it was credibly determined that the graffiti was done by a black school employee. No apologies, in fact a Google search of the Tynan would lead one to believe that the incident happened as originally reported.

BPD and Mayor Walsh need to assign top Detectives to very thoroughly investigate these incidents. Prosecute civil rights crimes to the fullest extent and also vigorously exonerate those falsely accused. The Chicago Police earned universal respect for uncovering AND announcing at press conference, the Smollett hoax.

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Aside from the security guard thing (which sounds like the guards were concerned more with the black kids than the white kids) and the watermelon comment thing (which, you are aware, is a racist/offensive comment to make to black folks), the two charming visitors who compared one of the students to a stripper and attached the descriptive word "fucking" to "black kids", well, that shows you, Fishy, that racism is alive and well by some of those who visit even a bastion of refinement like the MFA.

The fact that the MFA did not question the security guards and the staff member the day that it happened, is telling. Their luke warm response to the teacher's concerns is unfortunate. Personally, I would not leave until I received some satisfactory explanation from the guards and the staff person on their behaviors.

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We don't know what the MFA did or didn't do that day.

The teacher says the MFA took a report. Senior staff at the MFA was in touch immediately afterward. What else should they have done? The teacher can't expect the MFA to call the accused employees down to be questioned immediately, in front of her, while all the kids are waiting.

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...it's Fishy with more dog-whistling that he calls "skepticism" and that stinks like week-old FISH. You're not really up to speed on what happened with the Chicago PD, are you?

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.

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It's wrong to hold MFA accountable for remarks allegedly made by visitors. She originally stated that her students were blocking a doorway when a visitor allegedly made a comment about [expletive] black kids. MFA apologized for their experience, but Lamy refused to accept it and contacted every media outlet in Boston.

Lamy also stated one of her students touched an exhibit and was then followed around by guards. Sounds like guards were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. MFA has offered apology for her alleged bad experience, offered free tickets, and offered to have an admin person meet with the school.

Lamy has no interest in MFS's good faith apology. She has an agenda.

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The visitor's comment was one part of the problem. Only one.

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... I was shocked by how few security guards there were. I managed to chat with one of the guards and he said the MFA had laid off a large chunk of the guard staff -- and that they each now had many rooms to patrol. Apparently they have more cameras installed and think this is an adequate replacement. I have never seen a more understaffed major museum. Not sure a guard would have the authority to follow a group out of his section -- but he might have had a fairly large section to keep track of.

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