One of the most important sessions I attended at this year’s Annual Convention was Salvador Acevedo’s talk on “How Changing Demographics Are Shifting Your Community.”
One of Salvador’s main points asked us to change our thinking from embracing “multiculturalism”—discrete ethnic identities that fit into neat census boxes—to “interculturalism,” a more broadly defined approach that invites people to define their identities contextually—and, to some degree, interchangeably.
Salvador cited research indicating the demographic landscape in America is rapidly changing. California is poised to become the first “minority majority” state, while several others already have collective non-white populations that outnumber the white population. Since half of all current births are non-white (or perhaps non-solely white), it’s clear a sea change is inevitable.
Salvador asked the audience in his “reverse Q&A” at the end of the session to talk about a time when we realized diversity was important to our organization. I talked about my participation on the Emerging Leaders Council (ELC) and how, just a few years ago, we released a slate of nominees for ELC election only to be criticized by our arts colleagues for releasing a slate of exclusively white candidates.
It wasn’t like we didn’t realize “diversity is important.” Of course we do. But the criticism pointed out a valid flaw in both our process of choosing nominees and the process inherent in populating the ELC.
Since then, the ELC has engaged in difficult, uncomfortable, and oftentimes unresolveable conversations about how we ensure our elected body is representative of the future of the field. Salvador’s talk provided a helpful context for thinking about the challenges we face in doing this. Read the rest of this entry »