The National Archives has added a ‘harmful language alert’ label on the nation’s founding documents including the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as part of a new ‘anti-racism’ policies put in place by a task force.
The move by the institution, which is also considering retiring the term ‘charters of freedom’ since the founding documents did not grant liberty to everyone, has prompted furious reactions online.
The agency implemented the new policy as per the recommendation of an anti-racism task force that was named last year after the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Earlier this year, the task force produced a 100-page report blasting its own headquarters’ rotunda for ‘structural racism’ over paintings it displays which are said to depict the United States’ white founding fathers in too positive a light.
According to the authors, the rotunda’s famed murals depicting scenes such as the sighting of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are insufficiently tempered with depictions of Native Americans being driven off their land by settlers.
The National Archives building is seen above in Washington, DC in 2004. The federal agency that runs the museum storing the nation’s founding documents has placed ‘trigger warnings’ on its web site for visitors wishing to scroll through PDF versions of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence
Included in the task force’s report is a spreadsheet of terms that it describes as ‘legacy descriptions that use racial slurs and harmful language to describe BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities’, which it claims are further examples of structural racism.
According to the spreadsheet, words like ‘crippled,’ and ‘illegal alien’ should be removed and avoided being used again.
lt also highlights the use of offensive anti-Asian slurs used throughout the archive, and recommends adding a ‘trigger warning’ about texts containing words, to ‘forewarn audiences of content that may cause intense physiological and psychological symptoms.’
That means anyone who clicks into the section containing the PDF versions of the country’s founding documents will see a warning that they ‘contain harmful language that reflects attitudes and biases of their time.’
A link attached to the label takes a user to the NARA’s ‘statement on potentially harmful content.’
‘The Catalog and web pages contain some content that may be harmful or difficult to view,’ the statement reads.
‘NARA’s records span the history of the United States, and it is our charge to preserve and make available these historical records.
‘As a result, some of the materials presented here may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions.
‘In addition, some of the materials may relate to violent or graphic events and are preserved for their historical significance.
‘The National Archives is committed to working with staff, communities, and peer institutions to assess and update descriptions that are harmful and to establish standards and policies to prevent future harmful language in staff-generated descriptions.’
The NARA says that some of the historical documents may ‘reflect racist, sexist, ableist, misogynistic/misogynoir, and xenophobic opinions and attitudes.’
The documents also could be ‘discriminatory towards or exclude diverse views on sexuality, gender, religion, and more.’
The new policy elicited fury online.
Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump administration official, tweeted: ‘What are we becoming?
‘Now the National Archives posts a “Harmful Language Alert” on its website when you pull up the U.S. Constitution?!
‘Are you kidding me?’
House Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado, tweeted: ‘The National Archives have now put a disclaimer on their website that our historical documents may include Harmful Content.
‘They even slapped this warning on the Constitution.
‘We tried to tell you the Left wanted to get rid of it!’
Mike Gonzalez, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, tweeted: ‘The National Archives has added a trigger warning to the Declaration of Independence.
‘Have you had enough of this nonsense yet, America?’
Another Twitter user commented: ‘The National Archives issued a blanket “warning” on cataloged documents, cautioning readers against “racist, sexist, misogynistic, and xenophobic opinions.”
‘The “documents” are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution….
‘Wake the f*** up!’
Another former Trump administration official, Tim Murtaugh, tweeted: ‘I thought this had to be a joke or a hoax when I first heard about it.
‘But, no, it’s true.
‘The National Archives has slapped a “Harmful Language Alert” on the U.S. Constitution.
Curtis Houck, a Washington, DC-based journalist, tweeted: ‘Today in “Why I hate Washington…”’
Cody Wisniewski tweeted: ‘This is directly from the National Archives catalog. A “Harmful Language Alert” overtop the U.S. Constitution.
‘This is what we’ve come to. I hope you’re paying attention.’
Dan McLaughlin tweeted that the nation’s founding documents were indeed ‘harmful’ – ‘harmful to tyrants.’
Former prosecutor John Malcolm tweeted that the move by the National Archives was ‘outrageous.’