David Pilgrim captures it best by noting that there's a "creative energy that often lurks behind racism."
Here’s something I recently learned: The carnival game we know as the Dunk Tank today was formerly known as the African Dip up until 1964. It ran for 55 years, putting its mark on the timeline of entertainment not as far away as we’d like to associate it with.
We cloak the evils of history by making it a game. Making it palatable and permissible.
I am a content creator whose work is playful by nature. If I curate an experience and offer it to ten people, it could be yield ten different outcomes. That’s the power of participatory art. Each participant’s encounter depends on their own mind’s Rolodex of experiences and attitudes.
Insidious natures being channeled in user-centric experiences is an ever-present risk, but by saying there’s nothing I can do about people who showcase prejudice and racism, I am affirming them through inaction. I recognize that there is a greater responsibility to be taken.
I commit myself to recognize that people with prejudice have the potential to warp the spaces I create. I commit myself to anticipate such occurrences.
What needs to be done is preparing a plan of addressing and extrapolating prejudice of any kind should it surface in the context of my work. This will be determined by bringing in people of varied backgrounds whom I trust to walk through my experiences as early into their development as possible.
As an individual artist, I commit myself to research the forms that inspire my work in specific efforts to determine whether or not they come from racist origins. If this is so, and the piece is not enriched through offering participants explicit education of the form’s history, I commit myself to changing the project’s form, or dissolving the project all together.
On an institutional level, I recognize that diversity, equity, and inclusion is often a virtue signaling tactic. Actions taken to represent BIPOC/POC voices are often rooted in tokenization and meeting an invisible quota. Efforts I support and would like to see implemented are more concrete succession planning and the offering of paid internships, a visual determinant of upward mobility within a company.
From a media standpoint, I have learned that the very basis of modern-day research echoes the ideology and systemically inequitable employment practices that reside behind the development of public search engines. Google, itself, commercially coopts Black identities, experiences, and communities via algorithmic oppression. Efforts I support and would like to see implemented are more funding of the following:
Interdisciplinary research and scholarship
Black/African media scholars
Dialogue surrounding the racism corporations that either willfully neglect or ignore racism within organizing behavior for sake of profit
As things stand right now, I utilize Google for aspects of my research such as image gathering and starting points. However, I commit myself to utilizing more academic means of information gathering such databases and journals, as well as more ethnographic-based research such as interviews and surveys. I believe that no one offer the most truth than a direct source, and even where personal accounts falter in accuracy, popular history is cemented by dominant powers; I believe people oftentimes hold more truth than accuracy.
For a theatrical standpoint, an effort I support and would like to see implemented is necessitating dramaturgs on every level of decision making. Not just productions, but season planning, board meeting, press, etc. What I have learned through my exposure to the emerging field of civic dramaturgy is that the dramaturg is a cultural worker that helps set the tone for an institution’s engagement with the community. The civic-minded dramaturg critically engages with contemporary social issues and the politics of society at large, and I think a required implementation of such a position on the institutional level will not only further the work of cultural research and criticism but will provide additional support for people placed in DEI positions; The more people sat at the table on an institutional level, the more fruitful and supported conversation that challenge systemic oppression can be.