by Bob Barr
If ever there was a federal agency supposed to be nonpartisan and apolitical, it would be the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), established in 1934 and with a current budget of nearly $370 million and more than 3,000 employees. During its existence, the Archives has been overseen by four presidentially appointed acting and ten Senate-confirmed archivists, many of whom served under successive presidents of both major political parties, reflecting the nonpartisan nature of its work.
The current Archivist of the United States is David Ferriero, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. Under his leadership, this once-apolitical entity designated to preserve the vital historic documents and exhibits of the United States has become a flashpoint for the same left-wing, racism-based ideology now coursing throughout the Biden administration.
The prime catalyst for this ideological crusade by President Joe Biden was Executive Order 13985, the very first order he issued on his very first day in office. The document declared that systemic racism permeates the entire federal government, and directed every Executive Branch agency to develop a plan to address it.
Some five months prior, however, in September 2020, Ferriero on his own had directed that a 35-member “Internal Task Force on Racism,” comprised mostly of Archives employees, would advance a plan to identify evidence of “systemic racism” and “White supremacy” that he apparently believes undergirds not only the work of the National Archives, but the “vast majority of institutions in the United States.” The Task Force was directed also to recommend ways to address current and future racism. Ferriero’s group accomplished this mission with a vengeance, as detailed in a 105-page report presented internally in April, released this Summer, and which recommendations now are being implemented.
The bizarre findings of this Archives Task Force included declaring that the magnificent paintings adorning the main floor of the Capitol Rotunda are deeply problematic and require “reimagining” because, as now presented, they “laud wealthy White men in the nation’s founding while marginalizing BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color], women, and other communities.”
Even more disturbing, however, are the numerous findings and recommendations of the Task Force on Racism relating to the National Archives Catalog. The Catalog is the vast digital compendium of millions of documents and other materials which the agency is charged by law with protecting; it is how citizens and non-citizens access and view our nation’s important records.
The Catalog includes such founding documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights and the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Task Force found that “[r]acism is embedded in the history and current practices of NARA . . . at every level,” and that “white supremacy is present in all American institutions and culture.” It therefore concluded that steps must be undertaken to ensure that current and future customers of this treasury of historical material be given fair warning of such dangers by use of mechanisms such as “content” and “trigger warnings,” along with “removable covers for sensitive content.”
Recommendations for future steps to ensure Archives Catalog items are to be viewed only through the racial lenses employed by Ferriero and his Task Force, include a state-of-the-art “find-and-replace feature” so that replacement or additional appropriate language could be inserted.
These practices constitute censorship by camouflage.
The truly Orwellian nature of this project, however, is perhaps best illustrated in Appendix VII where, among other things, the authors “recommend addressing not only harmful language that is present in the Catalog, but also the language that is not there.” You cannot make this nonsense up; it is there in actual printed words.
The insidious nature of this project lies in the fact that by declaring our founding documents and exhibits to be systemically racist and reflective of white supremacy, and by placing explicit and directive “warnings” impliedly probative of such perceived content, the Archivist and his Task Force obviously — and intentionally — are reaffirming their opinion that America is and always has been a systemically racist society.
What they are doing is deplorable and is an affront to our nation’s history and culture.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.