I went to a colloquium on diversity and inclusion within the arts last week and learned a lot about the changing world. Minorities will soon be the majority, the young are now the wise, etc. Well, during the last session, we were supposed to talk about the changes we want to make in our own communities. One lady said there was a problem with self-segregation in Indy. I'd never heard this term before. What the heck is self segregation? I guess it's pretty self explanatory - people of different races choosing to separate themselves from those of other races. I looked it up and it can also be called auto-segregation. The official definition is as follows: Auto-segregation or self-segregation is the separation of a religious or ethnic group from the rest of society in a state by the group itself. Through auto-segregation, the members of the separate group can establish their own services, and maintain their own traditions and customs.
I immediately thought about our arts scene in Indy. Is it auto-segregated? Is that OK?
I don't know that I see a ton of self-segregation within our arts community. There are separate events, racially separate happenings, but I don't think it's because the group of color wanted to be separate. I think it's because of the content of the art. Spoken word comes to mind. Spoken word, a contemporary way to deliver poetry, is huge in the black arts scene in Indy. I don't see a ton of open mic's facilitated by someone not of color, but I do know that if a white group were to have one, black poets would flock to it. Poets just want a chance to recite their work for attentive listeners. It isn't fair to assume that if a theatre or poetry group is started by a group of black people, that they did it to be separate from an existing white group. It's likely because one didn't already exist or the art is different enough to warrant its own organization.
I understand the definition and the thinking that people of color may want to be separate and not join another group simply based on race. Like if there was a Facebook Black... that would be self segregation. There doesn't need to be a new platform of the same thing that is only separated by the color of the people participating. I get that. I don't see that in Indy. The groups that seem separate are almost always organized as a way to engage more people of color into initiatives or happenings that already exist. For example, I've been looking into this bike club called Red, Bike and Green that began in Oakland, California. It's a black bicycle club. I'm positive there are bike clubs in Oakland already - why did they need a black one? Red, Bike and Green is an effort to engage black people into a city's culture and to promote healthy living. I'm chartering a chapter in Indy. With clubs like INDYCOG, CIBA and even the Indy Cycling Meetup - why do we need a black bike club? Well, couldn't all of those other groups be called "white bike clubs?" Red, Bike and Green works because the invitation is different. It works because there IS an invitation. Often, people of color don't feel invited to (what they may view as) white clubs. Red, Bike and Green is not exclusive. It's not anti-anyone else or private. It's an intentional effort to get black people comfortable with riding and with exploring a city.
It's the same idea with the arts scene. First Fridays has not gone mainstream within the African American community. Concerts in the park, gallery openings and "big" performances at our organizations may have no relevance in other segments of the community. The fact that we don't see the need to market to diverse audiences is a problem. And that IS self segregation. Maybe we're looking at it the wrong way.