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People on Twitter are upset that the Smithsonian’s hip-hop curator is white
Should a white woman be in charge of Black art?
A debate about representation sparked on Twitter on Monday after Bermuda-based radio host DJ Chubb noted that a white woman is curating the ongoing hip-hop collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
THERE IS A WHITE WOMAN CURATING THE HIP HOP PART OF THE NMAAHC SMITHSONIAN?!?!?!?!?!?!? WHO LET THIS SHIT HAPPEN!?!?!
— Dj Possibly The Plug (@DjChubbESwagg) September 20, 2018
Timothy Anne Burnside is a seasoned museum curator and started the hip-hop collection for the museum back in 2006, according to Smithsonian Music.
Following the initial tweet on Sunday that pointed out her race, Burnside received both support and criticism from hip-hop fans and musicians. Some believe that Burnside is justified in leading the project because of her lengthy resume and allyship to the Black community.
.@timothyanne Burnside HAS put maximum effort and time into preserving Black culture in the NMAAHC. Her work has been diligent AND with class and necessary resPEct. Support your local library it'll make you understand the meaning of a true learning museum in this 21st Century
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) April 11, 2018
DJ Chubb someone got up early today in what I guess was an attempt to slander the good work being done by @timothyanne at the @NMAAHC. I know she’s somewhere leading a tour or unearthing an artifact, so she’s probably unbothered by this bully. But I have time today!
— Symone D. Sanders (@SymoneDSanders) September 21, 2018
Timothy was instrumental in many exhibits, a big part of why the museum opened on time, and is a museum curatorial expert.
She's also probably forgotten more about hip-hop than most people ever even know. She's amazing.
But don't believe me.
Ask any of your favorite rappers. https://t.co/uonBUBTx1m
— Sam Whiteout (@samwhiteout) September 21, 2018
Others argue that if Burnside is a true ally, she would not be the public face of the exhibit because hip-hop is a historically Black art form.
I have several observations in the wake of the #timothyanneburnside imbroglio.
1. It is disturbing how so many black thought leaders still require the seal of approval from white institutions to grant legitimacy to their voice. (Hence why so many so-called #bluecheck blacks
— Ms. T (@jacksontalent) September 24, 2018
To be completely honest, idgaf if white ally sis is qualified to do the job. It’s the National Museum of AFRICAN AMERICAN History and CULTURE, there are plenty Black people who can curate/socialize in the Hip Hop exhibit . • _ pic.twitter.com/6KpSYZ4UWF
— Yan Li the Street Tweeter (@DUCKedOff41) September 21, 2018
Hip hop is Black art. It is Black art that has been under attack since before it had a name. We cannot and should not separate race and racism from hip-hop. PEOPLE NEED TO TELL THEIR STORIES! Their oppressors should NOT be invading those spaces and narratives.
— Septembre Anderson (@SeptembreA) September 22, 2018
Several Black professionals who have personal ties to Burnside took to Twitter to defend her, another contentious element of the issue. Black Twitter argued that “blue check” Black people were only defending Burnside because they know her, disregarding that Burnside’s position as a hip-hop cultural historian might be problematic no matter who she is.
I still can’t believe how ALL these blue check black people made absolute fools of themselves jumping out the window to defend a white woman who didn’t lift a fumbling finger or say a mumbling word to defend them back. 😂#BlackLenaDunhams#CurateGate#ApologyTour#NMAAHC
— 87 Percenter (@nativeone) September 24, 2018
Blue check. Black tears. https://t.co/4FUyVQUdr2
— Full stop. still talking shit though (@DomoQuexote) September 24, 2018
Columnist Jamilah Lemieux (@jamilahlemieux) tweeted a thread explaining the difficulty of balancing support for her colleague with the knowledge that white women are in positions of privilege and “rarely go undefended.”
“My respect and fondness for Tim doesn’t negate the reality that hip-hop has been welcoming to white women way that makes my skin crawl,” she wrote, “and even if I love some of these women, it comes knowing that they get access and opportunities that young Black kids (esp girls+ LGBT) don’t.”
2) My respect and fondness for Tim doesn’t negate the reality that hip-hop has been welcoming to white women way that makes my skin crawl, and even if I love some of these women, it comes knowing that they get access and opportunities that young Black kids (esp girls+ LGBT) don’t
— 2/2 Milahs (@JamilahLemieux) September 22, 2018
She continued in a later thread: “To love and serve Black people, as a leader, an ally or whomever else, requires you to learn to recognize our tenderest points and our deepest wounds, to work to avoid doing additional harm to them and to react accordingly when those sore places have been touched.”
6) To love and serve Black people, as a leader, an ally or whomever else, requires you to learn to recognize our tenderest points and our deepest wounds, to work to avoid doing additional harm to them and to react accordingly when those sore places have been touched.
— 2/2 Milahs (@JamilahLemieux) September 22, 2018
Aside from liking tweets favoring her position and previous work, Burnside has not publicly commented on the issue. She did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
Alexis Tatum studies journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. She's an editorial intern with the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Orange magazine and the Daily Texan.