Museum apologizes for telling 'black and brown' students not to eat watermelon
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston apologized after a teacher complained that her students were subjected to racism. (The Museum of Fine Arts Boston)
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Friday, May 24, 2019 2:18PM EDT
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has apologized after a middle school teacher says her students were subjected to racist comments and profiling from staff and patrons during a field trip.
In a Facebook post published earlier this week, English teacher Marvelyne Lamy said she brought her Grade 7 students -- who she described as all “black and brown” -- from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester, Mass. to the museum on May 16.
“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,” she wrote.
Lamy said she and the other chaperones were not made aware of the comment until after the visit so they carried on with the tour. She said her students were instructed not to touch any of the artifacts even though they could see a group of white students on another school trip touch the displays on several occasions as the security guards looked on.
“The minute one of our students followed suit, the security guards would yell at them that they should not touch exhibits,” she said.
As Lamy and her students made their way through the museum, she said they were closely followed by security guards.
“Many of our students grew agitated,” she recalled. “It got so bad that I started gathering our students so we could leave.”
On their way out of one of the exhibits, Lamy said one of her female students told her that a patron made a disparaging comment to her when she was dancing to music being played in the museum.
“The visitor said that’s it’s a shame that she is not learning and instead stripping,” Lamy said.
That’s when Lamy said she had had enough and rounded up her class to leave. When her students were standing in the doorway of the African exhibit preparing to exit, the teacher said a museum guest walking by said there were “f***ing black kids in the way.”
Lamy said museum staff offered her tickets to bring the class back on another occasion after she complained about the treatment they received during the visit.
“We did not even receive an apology,” she said. “The worse [sic] part about all of this is seeing the hurt look on my children’s faces as this was their first time experiencing racism first hand.”
Two days after Lamy’s complaint, the museum’s leadership team issued a statement apologizing for “a range of challenging and unacceptable experiences” that made the students feel “unwelcome” during their visit.
“That is not who we are or want to be,” the statement read. “Our intention is to set the highest of standards, and we are committed to doing the work that it will take to get there.”
The next day, museum executives visited Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy to discuss the incident with school officials.
“We’re in the process of rolling out some new training next month, so we’re figuring out how to expedite that and maybe bolster it with more,” Katie Getchell, the museum’s deputy director, told local television station WBZ.
The executives also invited the students to return to the museum, something Lamy has vowed she won’t do.
“I cannot stress to you enough, I WILL NEVER GO BACK TO THE MUSUEM OF FINE ARTS,” she wrote on Facebook.