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The Equity of the Culture Vulture

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The Equity of the Culture Vulture – American Thinker

April 23, 2022


Art is subjective. Saying with absolute certainty exactly what is “good” or “bad” is simply not possible.

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Opinions about art can also change with time. Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” literally caused a riot when it premiered in 1913. In 1940, Walt Disney used it in “Fantasia,” and it has become an integral part of the repertoire of multitudes of orchestras.

But as public funding for various artistic endeavors has increased (as opposed to past private patronage or the notion of having to pay its own way), one can look at the “culture industry” itself with a certain objectivity. In other words, while there can be different opinions as to whether or not a specific work is good or bad, discussing exactly how tax dollars are spent is a legitimate arena for public discussion, be it art or butter or guns.

Which brings us to the $28.9 million per year Mass(achusetts) Cultural Council and its “Racial Equity Plan.” (Note: pretty much every state has a similar organization so do feel free to check out your local version. For just one example, here are some thoughts about the California Arts Council.)

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Based on the idea that, like everything else in the world, art is racist, the Mass Cultural Council has created—and committed to quarterly updates of—a plan to end racism through a program involving safe spaces, diverse hiring practices, meeting agenda items, and lunch.

Executive director (and former DC-based children’s theater chief) Michael Bobbitt, who was hired last year, led off the FY2022-2024 plan update with this bold statement:

As a Black, gay, cis-gendered, able-bodied, educated, Boston-based male artist, married to a white man, and the father of a Vietnamese child, I believe that racial equity, anti-racism, decolonization, diversity, inclusion, access, and all the words used to describe these incredible social justice movements are acts of love. Through these actions, we are showing love to people who may have never been loved, or felt loved, by this country.

If you’re playing buzzword bingo at home, you just won, by the way.

The plan continues in this vein for, well, ever—but here are a few highlights (the full plan is here):

Mass Cultural Council is working to provide leadership to repair, heal, and build towards a cultural sector where racial diversity flourishes, decolonization is perpetuated, and inclusion is the norm.

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In order to fully unleash the power of culture, we are committed to:

  • Doing the ongoing and long-term work of being an anti-racist organization.
  • Making racially-equitable investments in historically under-invested communities.
  • Ongoing assessment and equitable improvements to our grants, services, and operations.

Racial equity and decolonization is the primary focus of this plan due to its connection with economic survival in this country and inequities deeply rooted in systems of education, health, home and landownership, disparities, etc.

Exactly what “landownership” has to do with art is a bit of a mystery, but fear not—an anti-racist glossary of terms is included:

But, in case even those definitions change, the Council is prepared:

For the purposes of this plan, we will use the term BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). We recognize that language is fluid and the intersectional justice movement is redefining terminology regularly.

Lewis Carroll—an artist, by the way—would be proud of this “fluid” approach to language:

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.”

Image: Humpty-Dumpty by John Tenniel (edited). Public domain.

The plan also addresses internal functions amongst the Council’s three dozen or so employees, all of whom, oddly enough, use standard pronouns to describe themselves, and of which about 20 percent are white men. The toplines include:

Intentional diversification of employees.

Expansion and investment in access programs and access to Agency services.

Creation and support of racial affinity group.

Work towards equal BIPOC/non-BIPOC representation in all levels of employment (Director, Supervisor, Manager, Officer, Administrator) as positions become available.

Work to achieve and maintain equal BIPOC/non-BIPOC representation of all contractors and vendors.

Create employee meeting norms that promote “safe spaces” for BIPOC and other employees from marginalized populations by Winter 2022.

The inexorable growth of the human resources industry apparently can never be stopped, especially when they have very crucial tasks, such as organizing anti-racist sandwiches, to perform:

…monthly internal anti-racism/racial equity lunch learnings/discussions, starting in Winter 2022.

Of course, the Council’s Board must be kept apprised of this effort, hence this stricture from the plan:

Include anti-racism/racial equity updates on every Council meeting agenda.

Forgive my cynicism, but as a person who has spent literally countless hours chairing and/or serving on public boards, councils, commissions, etc., I can only imagine exactly how that would go:

Council chair: “Okay, item 3-B—anti-racism report. Does racism still exist?”

HR staffer: “Yup.”

Council chair: “Okay, item 3-C….”

But not all the plan was pure ephemera and, indeed, one major practical success seems to have occurred: The Council received nearly $1 million for COVID recovery grant money for AAPI artists (Asian American and Pacific Islander, in case you were unaware that people from Tahiti, Hokkaido, and Calcutta were the same):

This one-year program, established and funded through a legislative earmark in the FY22 state budget, is intended to uplift and provide financial assistance to AAPI arts and culture organizations that have been economically impacted by the pandemic.

While the fact that these funds were not available until a few weeks ago may seem to lessen the program’s impact and/or necessity, one supposes that it’s the thought that counts because, um, racist COVID (Trump’s fault, probably).

One question that must be addressed is the public impact, or lack thereof, of the spending of public money to at least appear to be trying to do something about racism.  A simple way to answer the question of that impact and/or whether or not people really care about things like this is to compare the YouTube views of a variety of certain videos.

First, we have Shania Twain’s 2009 “Man!  I Feel Like a Woman.”  In the video, she supports proto-equity and “flips the script” on gender roles by dressing like a “man” (sorry if the nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc. are not correct) and by having “himbots” in the background, a direct satire of Robert Palmer’s video “fembots.”

The video has 296 million views – here it is.

And here is a video of paint drying, which has 1.1 million views:

And here is the Mass Cultural Council video discussing their equity plan – it has 381 views:

Through the looking glass, indeed.

Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter. He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at planbuckley@gmail.com. You can read more of his work at: https://thomas699.substack.com/

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