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Black Activists Called Out for Loyalty to White Woman Appointed to Curate Hip-Hop Exhibit at African-American Museum

Black Twitter faced off with “BlueCheckNegroes” in a heated two day-long debate over whether it was appropriate for a white woman to be the head curator for a new hip-hop exhibit set to debut at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

The Washington D.C. museum recently put cultural historian Timothy Anne Burnside at the helm of the carefully curated project, however, folks are questioning whether she should be allowed to speak for the culture when she’s not a part of it.

Timothy Anne Burnside

Timothy Anne Burnside serves as a curatorial museum specialist at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. (Photo by Jati Lindsay )

Twitter user @DJChubbESwagg was among the first to speak out, questioning why the museum would hire a white woman for a cultural exhibit. His challenge quickly drew the ire of “Blue Check” or verified Twitter, mainly Black scholars, activists and intellectuals who consider Burnside an ally of the Black community.

“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 …,” CNN political commentator Symone D. Sanders tweeted. “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!”

April Reign, creator of hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, also chimed in, chiding DJ Chubb for what she saw as an attempt to discredit Burnside, her personal friend’s, work and knowledge of Black culture.

“He started with the ALL CAPS ‘a white woman is running hip hop?!’ or whatever,’ Reign tweeted. “It wasn’t about qualifications for him. It was solely about race. If you want to talk about mentoring and a pipeline to get more of us in museums, cool. But that wasn’t his goal.”

“Who has the same skill set that would be better in this position?,” the marketing exec quipped after Chubb asked why the job wasn’t promoted “from within.” “Did they apply? Because the job was open to everyone. Name some names. Be specific.”

The NMAAHC also refused to bend to the outrage of Black Twitter, writing, “[we’re] proud of our diverse research and curatorial workforce. Our staff’s wide-ranging expertise and varied professional experience enables us to fulfill our mission.”

“We remain unwavering in our commitment to diversity across every aspect of the institution,” it added.

The decision didn’t blow over well with folks who saw Burnside’s appointment as a slight to Black and hip-hop culture.

“I’m a few days behind but dear lord verified black bougie Twitter is ANNOYING!” one critic wrote. “How does a Black man get attacked by other Black people for asking (and rightfully so) why a white woman got hired to curate a hip hop exhibit in the national museum of African American history.”

“Instead of reassuring the community, blue checks and wannabe blue checks fell on a sword to defend this white woman,” another critic said. “Y’all jumped at the chance to make an example of a Black man asking a good ass question.”

They added, “Hell, if we gone keep it a buck, Timothy should have been prepared and willing to field questions from concerned Black folks. I mean, she’s an ally, right? That’s what allyship means, right?”

Others specifically attacked Reign for defending Burnside just because she’s her friend.

“WHITE WOMAN’S WHORES. ALL OF THEM,” one person wrote. “ReignOfApril is the apology I was WAITING for though. you got your whole fame and blue check from #OscarsSoWhite but our Black ass museum is excused cuz the bitch is your friend? GIRL CHOKE.”

“That Reign of April woman built her platform around the lack of diversity and inclusion in the Oscars yet has an issue with his curator inquiry. In fact, she has #OscarsSoWhite in her bio. All that Black activism just went out the window since it’s her white friend.”

Reign, among other Twitter elites, has since apologized to @DJChubbESwagg for coming at his neck. She tweeted, “I f**cked up. There are no two ways around it. I jumped when I should’ve minded my business and that was wrong. I apologize to @DjChubbESwagg for escalating a question he had every right to ask. I used my platform poorly and I’m sorry for that. Full stop.”

This debate seems far from over, however, as the hashtag #AskTimothy has since taken off.


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