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National Museum Of African American History: Valuing ‘Hard Work,’ Being ‘Polite,’ ‘Objectivity’ All ‘Aspects’ Of ‘Whiteness’
People march from The National Museum of African American History and Culture to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to mark the Juneteenth holiday June 19, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Literature from the National Museum of African American History & Culture says concepts like valuing hard word and time, and being polite and objective are all aspects of whiteness or white culture in the United States.

“The National Museum of African American History & Culture wants to make you aware of certain signs of whiteness: Individualism, hard work, objectivity, the nuclear family, progress, respect for authority, delayed gratification, more,” reporter Byron York posted Wednesday.

“Aspects & Assumptions of Whiteness & White Culture in the United States,” reads the title to an online-accessible pamphlet for the museum.

“White dominant culture, or whiteness, refers to the ways white people and their traditions, attitudes and ways of life have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States,” the pamphlet explains. “And since white people hold most of the institutional power in America, we have all internalized some aspects of white culture – including people of color.”

Below is a list of eight of the 13 categories outlined in the museum literature, with some of their corresponding “aspects & assumptions of whiteness & white culture” in the U.S. (The full pamphlet can be accessed here).

Rugged Individualism:


-Independence & autonomy highly valued + rewarded

Family structure:

-The nuclear family: father, mother, 2.3 children is the ideal social unit

-Husband is breadwinner and head of household

-Wife is homemaker and subordinate to the husband

-Children should have own rooms, be independent

Emphasis on Scientific Method:

-Objective, rational linear thinking

-Cause and effect relationships

-Quantitative emphasis

Protestant Work Ethic

-Hard work is the key to success

-Work before play

-“If you didn’t meet your goals, you didn’t work hard enough”

Status, Power & Authority:

-Wealth = worth

-Respect authority


-Follow rigid time schedules

-Time viewed as a commodity


-Steak and potatoes; “bland is best”

-Man’s attractiveness based on economic status, power, intellect


-Be #1

-Win at all costs

-Winner/loser dichotomy

-Must always “do something” about a situation

-Majority rules (when Whites have power) 

The museum also directs white people to read a book called “White Fragility” by author Dr. Robin DiAngelo, a white female.

“If you identify as white, acknowledging your white racial identity and its privileges is a crucial step to help end racism,” the museum says under a section captioned “Confronting Whiteness.”

“Facing your whiteness is hard and can result in feelings of guilt, sadness, confusion, defensiveness, or fear,” it continues. “Dr. Robin DiAngelo coined the term white fragility to describe these feelings as ‘a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.’ Since white people ‘live in a social environment that insulates them from race-based stress,’ whites are rarely challenged and have less of a tolerance to race-based stress.”

In another section captioned “White Privilege,” the museum claims that white people in America “receive advantages that nonwhite groups do not.”

“These benefits and advantages, of varying degrees, are known as white privilege,” it says. “For many white people, this can be hard to hear, understand, or accept – but it is true. If you are white in America, you have benefited from the color of your skin.”

The list of top-donors for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, which is in part taxpayer funded, includes the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, for $20 million or more, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at $10 million or more.

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