It has been three months since we pledged our commitment to anti-racist practices.
We at RK&A, individually and collectively, pledge our commitment to being anti-racist—which we recognize as an ongoing pursuit through our everyday actions.
To hold ourselves accountable, we want to document publicly the work we have been doing and work still to be done.
First, we have continued personal and professional development in how to be anti-racist through various avenues. We have read the CCLI National Landscape Study: The State of DEAI Practices in Museums, a first field-wide study of DEAI practices by Cecelia Garibay and Jeanne Marie Olson, participated in the Visitor Studies Association discussion of the report with our colleagues, and have referenced it in recent writings. As a staff, we have read and discussed AAM’s TrendsWatch report, whose first trend addresses systemic equalities of wealth and power. We have engaged in conversation with our clients about museums and neutrality and AAM’s recent Audiences and Inclusivity Primer. Further, we have worked to stay abreast of developments in our field about anti-racism. And unfortunately, we have confronted the racist practices that persist, such as the release of a job posting for a museum position with duties that include maintaining its “traditional, core, white art audience” followed by a critique of this museum’s leadership by the former director who intones the same white supremacist language in calling for the museum’s return to “its historic purpose.”
A second step we have taken is to actively encourage our clients to share the results of our studies out with the people from whom we have collected data. More and more, museums have been working to bring underrepresented voices into their development processes for exhibitions, programs, etc. through evaluation. Our goal has been to make sure the museum approaches those relationships as equitable and not extractive. For example, when we collect any data, we tell the person for whom the data is being collected and how it will be used (per IRB requirements). However, for equity and accountability, we also want to tell audiences exactly when and how the museum will follow-up with them (e.g., sending them a written report, inviting them to a presentation by the evaluator, etc.), so they know specifically how their feedback is being considered—not just that is being considered in abstract terms.
Third, we have been considering how we can represent the individuals behind the data points. Our professional development has taught us that aggregated data can hide inequities. Therefore, we have had ongoing discussions about how to disaggregate data to explore equity issues (i.e., by ethnicity, gender identity, socioeconomics, etc.). We are still trying to tackle the best approach to disaggregation within our work since (a) our samples tend to be of museum visitors (although we have been working to broaden our reach in this remote era); and (b) museum visitors tend to be largely homogeneous and do not allow for us to disaggregate with confidence statistically (although arguably those statistics are white supremacist structures). We plan to continue to develop in these areas and also look forward to presenting more equitable data visualization, inspired by this AEA365 blog post.
There is of course more work for us at RK&A to do in our efforts to be anti-racist. One of the most important steps we have taken over these last three months is to put anti-racist practices on the agenda for every one of our staff meetings to generate conversations to move our work forward. We look forward to sharing with you our ongoing work.