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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

MFA Boston Comes Under Fire for Mistreating Visitors of Color

The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, is facing backlash over the treatment of a class of minority middle-school students who visited the institution on May 16. Their teacher cut the field trip short after visitors and employees allegedly made a series of racist comments directed at them. Members of the museum security staff were also accused of racially profiling the group.

The thirty seventh graders from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester, Massachusetts—all of whom are black or Latinx—were greeted by an MFA employee who told them, “No food, no drink, and no watermelon,” according to Marvelyne Lamy, the educator who posted about the incident on social media. 

“We were instructed not to touch any of the artifacts in the museum, yet the white students there touched the displays several times while security looked on without saying anything,” Lamy wrote on Facebook. “The minute one of our students followed suit, the security guards would yell at them that they should not touch exhibits. Throughout our walk through, they followed us. Many of our students grew agitated. . . . It got so bad that I started gathering our students so we could leave. I was pulling one of my students to come out the exhibit, when she said that one of the visitors made a comment towards her when she was dancing to music included in the exhibit. The visitor said that’s it’s a shame that she is not learning and instead stripping.”

Lamy reported the incident to MFA staffers, who did not initially extend an apology. Instead, they offered them free tickets and invited the class to return to the museum. Almost a week later, the MFA issued a statement on Wednesday, May 22, which read, in part: “We deeply regret any interactions that led to this outcome and are committed to being a place where all people trust that they will feel safe and treated with respect. We look forward to ongoing conversation and commit to using this situation as an opportunity to learn and create a culture of unwavering inclusion.”