National Archives' report: Rotunda is structurally racist, needs safe spaces and trigger warnings

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

It’s time to “reimagine the Rotunda”. That is the conclusion reached in a report released by the National Archives’ task force on racism. The National Archives Rotunda is an example of structural racism and the Founding Fathers are portrayed too positively. Who knew that the Rotunda is in need of safe spaces and trigger warnings?

The Rotunda of the National Archives displays the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. The National Archives holds permanent records created by the U.S. Congress, U.S. Supreme Court, Federal District Courts in the District of Columbia, and Select Federal Agencies. It also houses pre-World War I military service records for U.S. Army and Confederate veterans and pre-1940 vessel and station logbooks for the U.S. Navy. The National Archives’ task force on racism determines that changes must be made. The report was completed in April and released this month with little notice. What the report does is provide yet another opportunity for erasing American history in order to fit the narrative of revisionists – the white Founding Fathers were racists who do not deserve to be recognized for their role in creating the world’s greatest experiment in self-governance. Structural racism “unequivocally impacts” how employees of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) interact with each other, visitors, and the historical records, too.

What does that conclusion even mean? Most of the changes needed are in the use of language and the need to stop “lauding” white men.

Some examples of “structural racism” were provided in the summary of the report, including “legacy descriptions that use racial slurs and harmful language to describe BIPOC communities,” which includes actual racial slurs alongside terms such as “elderly,” “handicapped” and “illegal alien.”

Additionally, the report categorized the National Archives’ Rotunda as another example of “structural racism” as it “lauds wealthy White men in the nation’s founding while marginalizing BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and other People of Color], women, and other communities.”

Maybe some performance art will change how visitors feel upon looking at our country’s sacred documents. Reimaging the Rotunda can include staging “dance or performance art in the space that invites a dialogue about the ways that the United States has mythologized the founding era.” Mythologized? How is reading an actual historical document and historical timelines telling myths? Apparently, Americans are so soft these days that visitors to the National Archives need to provide trigger warnings as they prepare to view historical documents and safe spaces, too. I’d like to say this report is a parody of how far the movement to rewrite history and let the woke among us tell us what to think has come but it is not. This is an attempt of a national museum to advance the nationalization of teaching Critical Race Theory.

The report also called for “trigger warnings” to be put in place with historical content to “forewarn audiences of content that may cause intense physiological and psychological symptoms.”

“Providing an advisory notice to users gives us an opportunity to mitigate harm and contextualize the records,” the report reads. “It creates a space to share with the public our ultimate goals for reparative description, demonstrate our commitment to the process, and address any barriers that we may face in achieving these goals (i.e., the size and scope of the Catalog and the ever-evolving knowledge we gain regarding what is harmful).”

Perhaps smelling salts should be available in kiosks. For decades, we’ve not read reports of visitors to the National Archives suffering physical or emotional damage from viewing historical documents and records, have we? Students manage to get through history classes, discussions are held about American history in schools, so I assume most people are at least vaguely aware of what the documents tell us. Discussions are well underway about the flaws of our Founding Fathers. The Broadway show “Hamilton”, the story of Alexander Hamilton, created an alternative world of black and brown people as the creators of “America then, as told by America now”. It has been a smash hit. Americans are capable of taking American history with a grain of salt. In other words, “Hamilton” is an example of how times change. The early days of America are not the same as today’s America, but the fact that the early days laid the groundwork is undeniable. The continued guilting of white Americans is over the top.

As mentioned above, the main concern seems to be in the language of the founding documents. The documents should be “less celebratory of historically impactful Americans, such as former President Thomas Jefferson.”

“OurDocuments.gov features transcripts and historical context of ‘100 milestone documents of American history’ but often uses adulatory and excessive language to document the historical contributions of White, wealthy men,” the report reads before taking aim at Jefferson.

“For example, a search of Thomas Jefferson in OurDocuments.gov brings up 24 results. He is described in this sample lesson plan as a ‘visionary’ who took ‘vigorous action’ to strengthen the ‘will of the nation to expand westward,’” the report continues.

“The plan does not mention that his policy of westward expansion forced Native Americans off their ancestral land, encouraged ongoing colonial violence, and laid the groundwork for further atrocities like the Trail of Tears,” it added.

This is where we remember that the current Secretary of the Interior is Deb Haaland, the first politician of Native American heritage to lead the agency. Times change. Her appointment doesn’t lessen or change past secretaries. It’s the history of the department.

We’re going to need some safe spaces, too, in every NARA facility. NARA has “a responsibility to eliminate racist language in archival descriptions and revise the policies and practices that led to it.”

The task force said that “racist language” includes “not only explicitly harmful terms, such as racial slurs, but also information that implies and reinforces damaging stereotypes of BIPOC individuals and communities while valorizing and protecting White people,” the report reads. “Descriptive terminology cannot be divorced from its context.”

The Archive wants to literally re-write history, apparently. You can’t make this stuff up. Enough is enough. This is divisive and must stop. The task force was commissioned by National Archivist David Ferriero, who was nominated by Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2009. The task force is in response to George Floyd’s death. There is no specific length to Ferriero’s term. Perhaps there should be.