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Having cataloged and re-cataloged their stashes ten times over, and apparently lacking anything better to do, America’s archivists and librarians have found a new shiny bauble to be distracted by: combing through the accumulated detritus under their care in search of “offensive” or “harmful” language. The old card catalog in aisle 32B uses the term “colored person” rather than “person of color”? Say it isn’t so! Colonel Ellsworth Pratt of the 14th Battalion said something unkind about women in a letter to Lieutenant Roger Drake of the 15th Infantry Regiment? Oh, the horror! We must warn the poor dears! Amid the general wokification of 2020 and 2021, archives across the land quietly updated their websites with groveling “statements” apologizing for the sexism, racism, ableism, colonialism, trans erasure, xenophobia, queerphobia, fatphobia, islamophobia, arachnophobia, and sesquipedalophobia of their collections. “We must do better!” shriek the hostage statements in unison. It seems there isn’t an institution that hasn’t jumped on this bandwagon. Not even good-old Hoover:
Our collections deal in subjects that encompass a broad range of human experiences, including tyranny, genocide, displacement, and political conflict. To engage with our materials is to acknowledge that one may encounter content that reflects racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, and other forms of hatred and discrimination. In keeping with our mission, we believe that only through the retention and study of historical sources can the world hope to learn from its past mistakes and promote peace.