A German museum that was attempting to create a “safe space” for Black, Indigenous, and other ethnic groups that have suffered under colonialism is now under police guard in the city of Dortmund in response right-wing threats against the institution.
The LWL Museum Zeche Zollern had designated a specific time slot to be reserved for those audience members wishing to attend the workshop “This Is Colonial,” set to open today, September 18. The idea, according to the museum’s website, is that for four hours each Saturday, visitors “affected by racism” could visit but “protect themselves from further (even unconscious) discrimination.”
The museum wanted “to be considerate of people who are more affected by the topic of colonialism than others,” LWL director Kirsten Baumann said in a Facebook video.
“During the ‘Safer Space’ on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., our white employees do not enter this building,” the museum noted in a comment on the video.
The limits on admission were to work “on a trust basis”—but that didn’t prevent a right-wing backlash against the idea. Two white men visited the museum last month, recording a video in which they confronted museum staff with accusations of discrimination against white people.
The recording, which went viral on TikTok and was shared by Joana Cotar, an independent German member of parliament who was previously part of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, sparked a flurry of threats against the institution, prompting local officials to dispatch a police guard for the duration of the show’s run.
The museum staff feels “threatened,” Barbara Rüschoff-Parzinger, head of the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe’s cultural department, of which LWL is a member, told the Washington Post. It is “absolutely false” that the museum is banning white visitors, and the TikTok post was heavily edited, she added, noting that the employees in the video are suing for defamation, as they did not consent to being recorded.
As of press time, the museum had not responded to inquiries from Artnet News, but has denied allegations of racism against white people.
“We are experimenting with this safer space and asking our visitors for four hours a week to refrain from visiting and leave the room to BIPOC [visitors],” Frank Tafertshofer, the museum’s head of press and public relations, told Hyperallergic. “We cannot find this to be racism—people who experience racism do so seven days a week.”
Response from online audiences has been mixed, with one commenter on the museum’s Facebook post about the initiative insisting that “a request that separates people based on the color of their skin is definitely racism.” Another user countered this viewpoint, writing that “I’m really happy that there are finally more and more state-supported projects and education about colonialism and racism.”
“This Is Colonial” is on view at the LWL Museum Zeche Zollern, Grubenweg 5 44388 Dortmund, Germany, September 18–October 15, 2023.
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