One Year Later: What The National Museum Of African American History & Culture Means In The Age Of Trump
“Do you know what that picture is?”
A black mother asks her daughter as we’re all seated at a makeshift bar facing a large picture of the Greensboro Four inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture‘s Sweet Home Café. The girl shakes her head, awaiting her mother’s answer.
“That’s the Greensboro Four.”
Above us looms their faces: Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson. There’s a poignancy in this moment — me, this woman and her daughter, as well as the many, many black people who’ve sat in these same seats, are only able to do so because of the sacrifices of the Greensboro Four; because of black children in Oklahoma waiting to be served at the John A. Brown Co. Luncheonette in Oklahoma. This museum solely exists because of the perseverance and resilience of black people in the United States of America.
“Can you say grace, please,” the mother asks her daughter. Almost reflexively, I join them in prayer and give thanks to the black heroes pictured before me, as well as those that I’ll see throughout the museum, dedicating my plate of catfish, macaroni and cheese, and red beans and rice to each and every one of them.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the NMAAHC, a museum which has been in the making since 1915. Following a legislative push in the late ’80s, the museum was authorized in 2003, and a site was chosen for its location three years later. The museum officially opened on September 24, 2016, with a ceremony led by then President Obama. Since then, people throughout the country and beyond have traveled to the museum, with the institution having received 2.5 million visitors (approximately 6,850 visitors a day). The museum now stands as a symbol of modernity and progress, and as a stark moral contrast to the centuries-old monuments surrounding it.
However, as much as the museum has changed in a year so has the country it resides in. The museum debuted at the end of the Obama era, a racially fraught eight years that found the country’s first black president revered and reviled for simply being black. His successor was supposed to be Hillary Clinton who would’ve been the country’s first female president. But by the morning of November 9, 2016, what was expected to be a landslide win ended in a disappointing and surprising loss. Donald Trump was selected to be president for the next four years.
Nearing the end of 2017, we’ve seen the ramifications of a Trump presidency, including what has arguably been a reemergence of extreme racism by the those who most feel emboldened by Trump — white people. There’s no denying that this president exists as retaliation to this country electing a black man as president twice and almost electing a woman as president. Trump was put into the White House because of white supremacy; because a group of people can’t fathom the idea of being equal to, let alone lesser, than a group of people they consider themselves superior to.