Yesterday, Funk & Beans posted a letter from a concerned parent about the perception of racism in the Kidtropolis Exhibit. Today, a representative from the Museum responded via email. I am glad to know that Museum staff and administrators recognized the problems of the exhibit and chose to remove the images in question.
Here is the email response from the Musuem representative.
Thanks so much for reaching out to us with your concerns about the Kidtropolis CSI component at the Museum. Our hearts broke when we read how we offended you and caused so much concern. As a place dedicated to transforming communities through nurturing children, the last thing we intend to do is to reflect racist views. You’ll be glad to know that we removed the children that appear to be Hispanic as you indicated or that have Hispanic surnames in the exhibit. And you have our sincere apology for having offended you.
We have the CSI exhibit in Kidtropolis because the children who directed our development of the exhibit overwhelmingly requested that we have a jail. After a year of prototyping among children reflective of Houston’s ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, it was clear that Houston-area children expected a city “built by kids, for kids” would have a place to discipline those who broke their community’s laws. The consequences of knowing “right from wrong” are clearly important to the age group we serve. We chose to include the CSI space as a result.
Throughout Kidtropolis we depict the children who are the proprietors of businesses, are the news anchors, are on screen debating each other and running for office. This helps get across the conceit that Kidtropolis really is run by kids. Your email caused us to canvas the exhibit again, to ensure that we have a good cross reference of all ethnicities and both genders in these photos. We have roughly 30% for each African American, Hispanic American, Caucasian American and approximately 10% Asian American, with a split between boys and girls. Since our most recent annual visitor demographics indicate we have 47% Hispanic, 24% African American, 21% Caucasian, 8% Asian, we’ve decided to add more Hispanic children to our overall mix to better reflect Houston’s changing demographics. This week we have staff’s children volunteering to pose as our Police Chief, Emergency MD, another vet, award winning news anchor, lead reporter, and market manager. We have Hispanic children currently as the vet, bank president, elected officials including former mayor, city planner, forensic scientist, and commodities trader.
We will continue to depict actual children in the CSI area in keeping with the Kidtropolis conceit, but we will remove the sign in front of each child which references “City of Kidtropolis Police Department”, with a name depicted. When we reviewed these images today through your concerns, we could see where all of the children look guilty of something! Before our changes today, of all the crimes to be solved in the Kidtropolis CSI, two of the Caucasian children, one African American child and one Hispanic child turn out to be the guilty ones. We depicted a total of 10 from which to choose.
I want to assure you that the children who posed for the area approved of the role that they would have in the exhibit, and the parents approved as well. With these changes, we will make sure that no ethnic group, especially those who have historically faced and still face discrimination because of ethnicity, are emphasized. We’ll be mindful of “looks” being misleading as well; for instance the boy “Logan Hill” whom you identified as Hispanic is actually Syrian American. We will be extra diligent to insure that we do not damage any child’s self-image, nor fan any fires of hate.
Thank you for your interest and concern. I deeply appreciate, as do all of us, your sincere and thoughtful request of us. Please do not hesitate to be in touch with me again for any concern.
The Children’s Museum of Houston