Press Release: Field Museum stands in support of Black Lives Matter

June 3, 2020 Statements

As an institution whose mission is to enable a brighter future rich in nature and culture, we cannot remain silent about the killing of George Floyd and so many other Black people in our Chicago community and our country. We stand in solidarity with the Black community and against the centuries of violence they’ve been subjected to, and continue being subjected to today.

The use of excessive force by official representatives of the State cannot be viewed as the actions of a few rogue officers or “bad apples,” but must be understood as part of a systemic structure of violence encoded in laws, policies, and norms. Our society is built in a way that harms communities of color, or allows harm to come to them through inaction and inequity. We see this in lots of ways, including the ways that communities of color are being affected by COVID-19. The disproportionate rates of sickness and fatalities suffered by communities of color is evidence of the accumulated harm of institutional racism and persistent neglect of people who ironically are being held up as “heroes” for their essential work and yet continue to suffer.

As a natural history museum, we know what happens when societies are unequal: they fall apart. Our scientists study civilizations throughout history all over the world, and this is a common thread. The greater the inequality, the more unstable the society becomes. Societal vulnerability is rooted in racial and economic inequality, which must be addressed if we are to overcome the crises facing us.

We also, as a natural history museum, are aware of how museums have helped contribute to this inequality. Museums like ours have perpetuated structural racism through questionable collecting practices, misguided portrayals of Black and Brown people, and by denying people of color a chance to decide how their stories are told. We have only recently begun to address this legacy and make necessary changes. We have a long way to go.

As the city of Chicago experiences this moment, there has never been a time when the need for kindness, generosity of spirit, and respect for humanity in all its richness has been more urgent. These qualities will continue to be essential for the work and mission of the Field Museum. We are inspired by the many ways that Chicagoans have demonstrated their capacity to act together, whether it is through taking care of each other, creating solidarity networks, or marching together to demand change in racist policies. Let’s resolve together to continue to uphold the values that bridge divides and work to expunge the racism and injustice that continues to harm—even kill—us. The members of our family who are feeling unsafe, who are feeling angry and alone must know that they are part of a community that supports them and is present for them.

Every single one of us bears responsibility for the world we are creating for the next generation. The museum can do its part by continuing to be a place of education for the public at large. We stand with the Black community, including our colleagues. Your voices are heard. #BlackLivesMatter