By: Zoë Muntaner
“Diversity”and its sister “Inclusion” have hit critical mass of awareness.
I have always wondered about the true meaning of diversity and its role in a community and a nation at large. It always seems like it’s the right thing to say when you wish to garner votes (except Donald Trump) but in the moment of truth communities vote for projects that disenfranchise the poor (where diversity is more apparent) to open way for less integrated neighborhoods. Is Santa Monica one of those communities?
Is that time of the year, the word diversity is coming to the forefront. We have a presidential election and candidates want to bask in their diversity credentials. The President visited Cuba this week and with it the hope that the embargo will be lifted soon.
Do you remember the Arab Spring? So much hope and possibility that things could change. That Spring came with a short-lived revolution, and for a moment, the Arab people felt their voice and power rise to the occasion. No flower blooms in the dessert. I was there, I witnessed the regional change while living in Dubai during those turbulent times. It provided me with an understanding of diversity within the Arab, Persian, Pakistani and Indian people. It was an adventure and I am glad to be safe at home. I love my flawed democracy.
Edelman Trust Barometer
A couple of weeks ago, I went to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer presentation at Santa Monica’s Cross Campus. The Trust Barometer is an annual global study that measures the amount of public trust in institutions, including business, media, NGO’s and government.
For more information, visit www.edelman.com/trust2016.
As I walked into the room and scanned the prestigious panel and audience, I could not find the diversity that a global study on TRUST should reflect. When we reached the Q & A portion of the event I was allowed to ask a question and BOOM! The SILENCE that comes after an awkward moment. Oops, did I make anyone, uncomfortable? Sorry, not my intention but I was really curious why there was an all white male and female panel that talked about the gospel of trust in terms that do not reflect my experience. I was given the glossed over PR answer that included the “importance of having the conversation”, not before hearing from one of the panelists referring to diversity as minorities. WOW! Really? Seriously? YEP, we have not come a long way, babe! Not in this crowd. Two years before I came across important data and metrics that I assumed was common knowledge. Beatriz Acevedo (Founder of Mitu) presentation at SMWLA showed Latinos over index in all categories hence the success of her company. Click on the link below to examine the data:
A week after the Edelman Trust event, Social Media Club LA had a panel event on the topic of Diversity in Social Media, examining diversity and the need to be inclusive of gender, culture, sexuality and race. I hope that by now we all agree that diversity is beyond people of color and encompasses what the world looks like outside your door, at least if you live in a city like Santa Monica, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago…. you get the point.
Bergamot Station & The Human Race Machine
Art always supply a good point of departure. The Bergamot Station Spring Fling last Saturday had two exhibits at the ROSEGALLERY and one at Earth WE that blew my mind in regards to diversity, challenging the audience to examine the issue and provoking us to engage in the active participation of life in the 21st century.
If your world is not diverse, you are not alone. Do not panic, there is a help, I will provide resources with each piece in this blog to explore and integrate you into normalcy & the real world if you are not watching Shonda Rhimes’ roster of shows on ABC on Thursdays.
Betsy Clark’s “The Exiles” are portraits created by her imagination that look as if they are from another country and era. Says Clark: “ I imagine these women have had really hard times, yet they are all so proud and dignified and have put their best outfit on for some special occasion or party, where they might not really fit in…” I had a lovely time chatting with Clark on Saturday, she is real, authentic, enjoys deep conversation and is a lot of fun. My kind of gal. Although Clark’s comes from a privileged background, she brought to life what I consider one of the seeds of diversity: Exile. The exhibition runs until the end of April.
Nancy Burson’s timely new work “What if He were: Black-Asian-Hispanic-Eastern Indian” is a large-scale five-part image of presidential candidate Donald Trump that challenges photographic truth at the birth of digital manipulation. About the work on view Burson says: “This project was a commission for a prominent liberal magazine, which ultimately decided not to publish it. My interest in creating this work was the desire to know what Donald Trump’s reaction might be if he saw the images. Current research shows that experience of oneself as another produces an empathetic response within the mirror neurons of the brain. The question in my mind was whether Donald Trump’s brain would be affected by an emphatic response to viewing the work.”
Hillary Clinton’s neoliberal brain might also benefit from a journey through the Human Race Machine. Imagine the woman who bows to AIPAC and votes to go to war on Iraq becoming an Iraqi or a Palestinian or a Libyan or a Honduran, since she supported destabilization in those countries, as well as Iraq. (Can you tell I’m a Bernie Sanders’ supporter?) Yesterday, Ms. Clinton honored Santa Monica with her presence for a $2,700.00 ticket fundraiser. I am confused about her campaign-finance reform ideas, is there a machine for that?
How it all began . . .
Nancy Burson’s pioneering work in morphing technologies began with age-enhancing the human face, enabling law enforcement to locate missing children and adults. The Human Race Machine is Burson’s best known public art project, originally developed as a commission for the London Millennium Dome in 2000. What would you look like as another race? Human Race Machines have been changing perspectives on racial diversity since 2000 and have been used on college and university campuses as a diversity tool to discuss issues of race and ethnicity since 2003. Human Race Machines have been featured in all forms of media including segments on Oprah, Good Morning America, CNN, National Public Radio, PBS, and Fuji TV News, as well as countless local TV channels in the USA. Prominent articles featuring the Human Race Machine have appeared in The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Houston Chronicle, and Scientific American Magazine to name a few.
It occurs to me that bringing one to Santa Monica as part of the 2016 Compassionate Santa Monica calendar could be an interesting proposition. Bring students of the Santa Monica-Malibu School District and Santa Monica College to experience it, have an essay contest whose winner will be published at one of our media partners. Even better have the Santa Monica Police Department experience the Human Race Machine as part of mandatory training to improve social relations and minimize the exposure to litigation the city has experienced in the past couple of years. What about our city employees? City Attorney’s office? Residents? Our City Council? Maybe a permanent installation of the machine is in order. We need to raise funding. Volunteers?
The concept of race is not genetic, but social. There is no gene for race. In 2005, there was a gene that was identified for skin color, but that was only skin deep. Skin color is simply a reflection of the amount and distribution of the pigment melanin and humans are all alike underneath their skin. This newly found gene involves a change of just one letter of DNA code out of the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome — the complete instructions that comprise a human being. We are, in fact, all 99.9% alike.
About this project Rose Shoshana of the Bergamot ROSEGALLERY observes: “Art serves many functions, such as addressing issues of current politics. One role of an art gallery for the community it serves is to make known possible controversial creations that may have no other venue. It is an honor to fill the breach and make Burson’s new work available for public consideration”.
Burson’s installation compliments the ongoing Japan’s Tomoko Sawada exhibition: Facial Signature, not to be missed. Trust me, just go before it ends on April 9, 2016. Both artists focus on the ever-changing form of the human face in diverse ways.
The Arts get it, they always do. One of the reasons to support and advocate for your local arts community and have your local government subsidize it.
Coming this Fall, I will be hosting a fundraiser event exploring themes of Diversity, Trust and Authenticity. Top Tier executives from diverse fields will present engaging explorations of the themes, potentially developing an annual Symposium on the subject. We will be streaming the event globally to all cities involved in the Charter for Compassion. Compassionate Santa Monica, much-needed funding will benefit the Urban Counseling Project to serve the homeless population in Santa Monica. Subscribe to our mailing list to be informed of more details.
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW
Before you disqualify the premise of the blog, consider that two days ago the HBR published an enlightening piece about the subject. Women and Minorities are penalized for promoting diversity. Read the credentials of the authors. I rest my case.
You might claim that Santa Monica is exempt from this diversity issue because we have a black female Chief of Police, a Latino Deputy Chief of Police and a Latino Mayor (who was not elected but appointed in a political move by the rest of the City Council). The optics are designed to deceive and disguise a little ( actually, is not that little, is pretty BIG to me) dirty secret that carries shame. The Nile is a long river. I can’t believe that at this day and age we still have to witness the racial obscenity of the mural in our local city hall, for the mural honors the colonizers and depicts a white entitled community. A city whose latest park — Tonga Park — named after the indigenous Indians nearly wiped out when the colonizers arrived — carries an obviously rich heritage. Yes, the City of Santa Monica, the first city to sign the Charter for Compassion in LA County, should know better and reflect the values and the statement of The Charter for Compassion who garner a unanimous vote from our City Council on 2013.
Spring Equinox at the Community Gardens
Sunday’s Spring Equinox brought me back to the Santa Monica Community Gardens on Main Street, where I used to have a spot. I met with Ramey, the first friend I made in LA, who is responsible for me living in Santa Monica. We met after many years apart, now she is married to a Puerto Rican (enhancing her bloodline) who could not join us as he left for Cuba with The Rolling Stones. They have a gorgeous daughter and witnessing three generations celebrating Spring in the garden was lovely but bittersweet. Ramey’s mother arrived in Santa Monica from Savannah, Georgia in 1967 and brought her mother and brothers with her. Sadly Ramey had to move to the Valley, as the rising costs of rents are pushing a long time residents out who could no longer afford to live in the city they love, reason enough for me to explore the topic of Diversity and Affordable Housing in one of my next posts. Until then, have a blessed week and enjoy the city while you can, for you never know when you’ll have move out; that is not laughing matter.