Working Past Assumptions/Breaking Through Bias

by Malcolm Darrell

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, Malcolm Darrell, 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?”

Working Past Assumptions/Breaking Through Bias

First and most important, we begin by acknowledging that we (institutions and artists alike) have cultural, religious, gender, racial prejudices the moment we meet someone who does not conform to our prescribed world of comfort. I too as a black man with my liberal backbone and conservative tendencies, often check myself regarding thoughts and assumptions I make about people and their journey. To answer the question more specifically-

Institutions:

  1. BEGIN an honest conversation about what multiculturalism looks like. Art should be a reflection of the entire universe, instead, we’re allowing external influences, to dictate our tastes and point of view.
  2. Must STOP programming seasons of tokenism.  Institutional leadership must have the courage to offer audiences, donors, funders and other constituents, seasons that reflect our present human condition.  This does not mean you only produce or present contemporary work, but you take an earnest look at how the work you give the masses impacts how they will see the world when they leave your space.  I don’t care if your audience is 80% white, do they live in a world that is?
  3. ACKNOWLEDGE institutional racism exists and work to break down those barriers.  America has shown us that the longer you ignore the problem, the more you feed the tension that separates based on fear, racism or xenophobia.
  4. HIRE people of color to direct, design and stage manage works that are considered predominately white works.  If I can master the complexity of Wilson surely I can handle Brecht, Mamet, Albee or Kushner.

Artists:

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE your own biases or prejudices and work assiduously to eradicate them.
  2. Do not perpetuate institutional mistakes in your artistry.  BE BOLD and courageous and demand diversity in every step of your process.
  3. SPEAK UP for the unheard voices and tell those stories.  Do we really need any more works featuring stories about our society’s bourgeoisie fighting about their failed marriage or pontificating about their knowledge of Nietzsche?
  4. STEP OUT of your comfort zone to create work that tells the universality of the human condition.

In closing, like any change in life, it all begins with an initial step.  My hope is that after reading this the process has begun.

-Written by Malcolm Darrell