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We don’t have a museum in Washington on the African-American experience (“Case History,” 2/6) not because of disunity in the African-American community but because the white majority in this country has always refused to acknowledge the horrors of slavery and its aftermath. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a wonderful institution, but that does not change the fact that it commemorates killings committed by Europeans
and not Americans. One can exit
the Holocaust Museum feeling quite good about America. Sure, FDR
sat on his hands while millions
were slaughtered, but the U.S.
military ended the killing. We were the good guys.
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A museum focusing on slavery (or on the extermination of Native Americans, for that matter) would be a far more unsettling experience. Not long ago, I was in the Czech Republic and visited a museum built on the former site of Lidice, a town in which the German Army had murdered every inhabitant during World War II. During my visit, several buses full of German teenagers arrived. I walked through the museum with them. Their reaction was nothing like American reactions to the Holocaust Museum. They fell apart in tears and shame. Despite being born 30 years after the end of the war, they felt responsible for killings done in their name. I trust that is how Americans (at least the better among us) would react to a museum here about slavery and racism. That is why it will not be built. As someone once said (or should have), being an American means never having to say you are sorry. The museum will not happen.
Chevy Chase, Md.
via the Internet