Finer Points of Distinction: Communities of Crossover

by J.J. El-Far

in Diversity & Inclusion,National Conference

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(This post is a part of the Diversity & Inclusion blog salon led by Online Curator Jacqueline E. Lawton for the 2013 TCG National Conference: Learn Do Teach in Dallas. This post was originally shared on Jacqueline’s blog, and we’re re-purposing it here as a part of the Conference conversation.)

TCG’s 2012 Young Leader of Color, J.J. El-Far, responds to Drew Barker’s question on diversity and inclusion.

“How do institutions and artists negotiate between sincere attempts at ‘bridge-building’ and creating productive ‘multicultural’ explorations without falling into the potential traps of audience pandering or cliché?”

J.J. El-Far: Well, here are my thoughts. I think this is a worthwhile inquiry. Certainly there is much to be gained in the compare/contrast method of cross-cultural or inter-cultural work. However, I think when we enter into these scenarios as “representatives” of a certain culture, it can be limiting at times because we assume the widest possible definition in order to include the most people. These broad cultural definitions are inclusive but also destructive of the finer pointed distinctions that make each group unique and textured as a people. In comparing Black and Jewish experience, certainly there are similarities, but I think in a way it trivializes each of these experiences by not allowing the full, diverse breadth of expressions of cultural identity that each person can experience. I would also be interested in looking at communities of crossover, Black AND Jewish, and how those layers both sync and wrestle with each other inside of one person’s experience.

-Written by J. J. El-Far

  • Jacqueline Lawton

    Thank you, JJ, for this great insight. It’s powerful to read and consider your thoughts as I’m in rehearsal for The Hampton Years; a play that explores that Black and Jewish relationship in the 1940s.

    In this blog series, we’re going to be expounding on these cultural definitions. We want to hear from you! Feel free to post here or join us on Conference 2.0: This is a great way to dig in deep to these conversations ahead of the conference and all year round.