Students Racially Profiled at Boston Museum

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What was meant to be a day of fun was, for the students of the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy, a harsh reminder of the fact that racism is not dead. During their visit to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, they claim to have been racially profiled in many ways, which turned this history field trip into a first-hand experience.

 The School

The class consisted of thirty students from Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy, located in Dorchester. The learners were all in the seventh grade. This charter school has a rather diverse population of students. 72% of them are African Americans, while 26% are Hispanic. This visit to the museum, in particular, was a reward for those who have gained the highest grades, which makes it seem particularly tragic that they were treated as “criminals,” according to their teacher.

“No Food, No Drink, No Watermelon”

The first thing that caught the teacher, Marvelyne Lamy’s attention was the refrain her students received before starting their tour. Along with the standard warnings about no food or drink, the museum guide then added “no watermelon.” This, of course, seems to have been focused on the black children in the group, as it is a commonly-held stereotype. It was to be the first incident out of many in their brief visit.

Do Not Touch

The racism did not stop there. While white children were allowed to touch some of the displays (or, at least, it was ignored if they did), HYDLA students were explicitly told they were not to do so. When they attempted to do as the other children did, they were spoken to harshly and with raised voices by security personnel. And still, it grew even worse.

Not Learning, but “Stripping”

All of this obviously racially-based treatment came to a head soon afterward. But it wasn’t just the museum staff that seemed to be intent on spoiling a good day for some hardworking students. One of the other visitors to the museum noticed a student who was dancing to the music playing along as a part of a display. Speaking of the seventh grader, they were reported saying that it was a shame she wasn’t learning, but “stripping.”

Being Followed

This seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for teacher Marvelyne Lamy. Instead of putting up with further injustice, she decided it was time for the students and herself to leave. As they made their way towards the exit, she reports that they were followed by one of the security personnel. This, she continues, was not something that they did to anyone else who was visiting the museum that day. Read more about the violation of the law on

The Aftermath

For students and their teacher, the day was ruined. There was no justice, only the looks of pity from those at the desk when these incidences were reported. While they were presented with tickets and an offer to come back to the museum, they were not given an apology by the staff. Lamy said that the worse part, in her mind, was the pain she saw on her students’ faces and that she has no intention of ever going back to this museum again.

The Museum’s Response

So far, the steps have been pretty limited, but there are signs that the museum is trying their best to salvage the situation. There was a meeting with the school’s director about the visit, which has been referred to as the first step at a resolution. Meanwhile, the museum itself has said that it is conducting an internal investigation and could not publicly speak about what happened at this time. They were, however, “troubled” by what they learned had happened during the disastrous field trip.

What was meant to be a fun, educational outing for the best and brightest of Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy instead became a lesson connected to the reality of the world. Racial profiling will surely stick with students and teachers for many years to come. As a result, children are left with different problems of their own. They can only hope that there will be justice for what they have experienced and maybe one day the Americans will eradicate discrimination in their heads