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Michelle Obama: Museums Don’t Make Young Minorities Feel Welcome

Derek Hunter Contributor

Are art museums welcoming enough to minorities? While it’s probably a question that never occurred to you since, if you are so inclined, you simply pay the admission and enter, it it apparently a pressing issue to some people.

One of those people to whom this though has occurred is first lady Michelle Obama.

At the opening of the new $420 million Whitney Museum in New York City, the first lady spoke of a “feeling of not belonging” in museums when she was a growing up on the south side of Chicago.

In her speech, Obama said:

You see, there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, ‘well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood.’ In fact, I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum.

And growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was one of those kids myself. So I know that feeling of not belonging in a place like this. And today, as first lady, I know how that feeling limits the horizons of far too many of our young people.

This feeling of not belonging has, according to her speech, caused her and President Barack Obama to “open up the White House to as many young people as possible, especially those who ordinarily wouldn’t have a chance to visit.”

In her remarks, she continued:

And that’s one of the reasons why Barack and I, when we first came to Washington, we vowed to open up the White House to as many young people as possible, especially those who ordinarily wouldn’t have a chance to visit. So just about every time we host any kind of cultural event, a concert or performance, we ask the performers to come a few hours early and host a special workshop just for our young people.

The message we’re trying to send is simple. We’re telling our young people: The White House is your house. You belong here just as much as anyone else in this country. We’re telling them: Make yourselves at home in this house. Be inspired by the artists and performers you see. And start dreaming just a little bigger, start reaching just a little higher for yourself.