The Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA) has issued an apology to students from a Dorchester middle school who were subjected to racist comments during a field trip on May 16. The museum went through the security footage of the class’ entire trip and concluded that two visitors made racist comments to the students. Those visitors have been banned from the MFA.
The students from the school, Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy (DLA), also reported that upon arrival, a museum employee told them “no food, no drink, no watermelon.” The employee said that the line was “no food, no drink, no water bottles,” as is the museum’s standard. The MFA cannot be certain what was actually said to the students, it stated in a press release.
Ninety-nine percent of the students at DLA are students of color and 94 percent of the faculty is of color, according to the school’s website.
Security officers followed the seventh-grade students through the exhibits and told them not to touch the pieces, according to a Facebook post by teacher Marvelyne Lamy that detailed the incident. She wrote that white students in another group touched the exhibit without being reprimanded by security, and were not subjected to the same scrutiny that her students were.
One of the students told Lamy that another museum visitor had said that it was a shame that she was not learning and instead was stripping, after the student danced along to music in the exhibit, according to Lamy’s Facebook post.
After reviewing the tape, the museum identified two specific visitors who made “disparaging comments.” Their membership has been revoked and they will receive a no-trespass cease-and-desist notification, effectively banning them from MFA grounds.
The guards were changing shifts and therefore overlapped with each other at times, but they were not intentionally monitoring the DLA students closer than they would any other visitors, the release said. The MFA did say, however, that it understands how it may have appeared to be racial profiling and that it will adapt security procedures to ensure no future visitors feel the same way.
“I’ve just spoken to Christopher Coblyn and Arturo Forrest at the school to apologize again on behalf of the MFA. I have requested an opportunity to meet with students at the school next week,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, MFA director, in the release.
“These young people left the Museum feeling disrespected, harassed and targeted because of the color of their skin, and that is unacceptable. This is a fundamental problem that we will address as an institution, both with immediate steps and long-term commitments. I am deeply saddened that we’ve taken something away from these students that they will never get back.”
The museum said it will be providing additional training to all employees about policies and guidelines for interacting with school groups that come in for visits.
Featured Image by Alex F. / Wikimedia Commons