Having attended U.S. educational programs for the past few years, it became clear to me that in racial issues, this nation is completely upside down at a system level. I have never seen as much artificial, unnatural, forced, and pathetic effort to love, respect, accept, and include minorities as in this country. As if Americans, troubled and ashamed by their racist history, today wanted to compensate for the past by pushing ethnic minorities into the spotlight of society. As if standing in the spotlight of society was a natural and comfortable situation.
Orchestras are being blamed for not including enough female and ethnic minority composers in their repertoires. But you know what? Come and tell me exactly which piece of which composer you are missing, and I will include it in my repertoire because now we are speaking music. Come and tell me about racial statistics, and we are speaking politics.
Universities strive to hire faculty of color. Interestingly, they don’t strive to hire white material: that comes naturally to them. But is this minority-hiring hysteria really happening because white managements of mostly white institutions consider the contribution of faculty of ethnic minorities to be indispensable, valuable, enriching, and unique for academic purposes? Or do they want to hire minority faculty this badly because they want to comply with current political and institutional expectations? Recently applied to graduate programs, I read on each university website that preferential acceptance would be given to historically discriminated social layers over the guilty white. So are we trying to overcompensate for the past, or are we trying to grow natural at once in history?
While I don’t doubt the noble and good intention behind such compensational tendencies, I wonder whether forced acceptance and statistically prescribed social inclusion can be really called acceptance and inclusion. What I see is a nervous rush to satisfy system expectations and satisfactorily mark racial check-boxes on institutional task-lists. If we have 10% minority faculty, we are good to go. If we have only 5, we are behind. Is this acceptance? Is this social inclusion? Is this equality? Is this naturally coming love toward my peers?
What about hiring staff based on individual merit? What if 100% of my workforce is white because they were the best candidates? What if 30% of my staff is racial minority because they were the best candidates? What if 90% of my staff is native American because they were the best candidates? What if 100% of my staff is African American because they performed significantly better than their white or native American competitors? What about hiring whoever is the best instructor? What about playing the music of whoever composed the best operas? What about hiring students who bring the best results and show the most motivation, commitment, and potential for growth? What about starting to give to each individual what their individual accomplishments or needs deserve – regardless of race? Because race can be regarded in two ways: (1) If you are Black, you are automatically inferior so I don’t hire you. (2) If you are Black, you are automatically needed for my racial statistics so I hire you.
Both are racism, even though the second option formally and forcedly incorporates a few people of minority into mainstream social institutions. Telling to a group of people that they need to be institutionally protected, hired, micromanaged, and interpreted is telling them that they are different. That they are other, worse, inferior, and less capable than the norm. That they need the protection of the big system so that the herds of majority wolves wouldn’t devour them: “We, white majority people know that you are ethnic minorities, but be not afraid, the big white system will protect you and give you even rights.” Candidly, this type of “inclusion, acceptance, and protection” is a direct expression of white policy-making leadership, it is indirect racism, and continued oppression.
Whatever I do naturally, I don’t need to be reminded or institutionally forced to do it. I don’t need to be reminded to love my family, to call my friends, to go to work, to seek my benefits. If I need to be reminded to do something, it is likely because it doesn’t come naturally, and I need to force myself to do it. Social exclusion still comes naturally: that’s why we need to be reminded to include minorities.
Not everything is dark and hopeless, however. Perhaps the argument of education can be made here: if you are continually reminded to do something, you will eventually internalize it, and it will become natural. Hopefully, this is the case. While homosexuality was punished with social exclusion for a long time, today, it is accepted at the level of the institution of marriage, and the voice of those opposing the idea is weaker and weaker every day. Seeing a gay marriage is still surprising and novel, but people do already formally hold back – and eventually even forget – their reactions of surprise. And what does not surprise you is natural to you.
Similarly, racial tensions are still in the air, and our current system-level racial inclusion policies are, at best, a pathetic euphemism for a continued institutional white supremacy. But, hopefully, one day we will reach the maturity of human evolution where we will see the person, not the race, the candidate’s capability, not the company’s statistical requirement, the love of two human beings, not their genitals, and the brilliance of music, not the background of the composer.