The Smithsonian's African American History Museum Launches Free Online Tool, 'Talking About Race'

by Kristine Cannon
Originally Published: 
National Museum of African American History and Culture
National Museum of African American History and Culture

Let the National Museum of African American History and Culture teach you about race, racism, and racial identity

What does it mean to be anti-racist? How do I talk to my children about racism? These are the very valid, very important, very challenging questions many are asking, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is here to help.

The museum, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., launched a new online portal called Talking About Race, designed to help communities talk about racism, racial identity, “and the way these forces shape every aspect of society, from the economy and politics to the broader American culture,” the Smithsonian’s press release states. The portal was originally planned to launch at a later date, but the NMAAHC moved the date up in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more — as well as in response to the nationwide protests.

“Since opening the museum, the No. 1 question we are asked is how to talk about race, especially with children. We recognize how difficult it is to start that conversation. But in a nation still struggling with the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and white supremacy, we must have these tough conversations if we have any hope of turning the page and healing. This new portal is a step in that direction,” says Spencer Crew, interim director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in the release.

The online portal, which is free of cost and doesn’t require registration or sign-up to use, offers digital tools, online exercises, video instructions, scholarly articles and more than 100 multi-media resources tailored for educators, parents, caregivers, and individuals committed to racial equality.

“The portal offers a wealth of resources to inform and guide discussions—videos, role-playing exercises, targeted questions and more,” Crew says. “We hope that people will use this site to become more comfortable about engaging in honest dialogue and self-reflection.”

Talking About Race also includes published research from leading experts, activists, historians, and thought leaders on race, equity, and inclusion, including Brené Brown, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Robin DiAngelo, Julie Olsen Edwards, Jerry Kang, Ibram X Kendi, Enid Lee, Audre Lorde, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Tim Wise.

Visitors will notice that phase one of the portal includes eight subjects, including “Being Anti-Racist,” “Bias,” “Community Building,” “Historical Foundations of Race,” “Race and Racial Identity,” “Self-Care,” “Social Identities and Systems of Oppression,” and “Whiteness.”

“By releasing the new portal today, the Museum aims to help individuals and communities foster constructive discussions on one of the nation’s most challenging topics: racism, and its corrosive impact,” Crew says.

Talking About Race is an incredibly useful, informative tool that anyone eager to educate themselves on race can — and should — use.

“To be antiracist is a radical choice in the face of history, requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness,” Ibram Kendi writes in How to be an Antiracist.

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