Where is the art that opens a dialogue about race? After the post-9/11/Bush years of silencing all dissenting dialogue, I had expected this flourish of art that would challenge assumptions, assess where we had been and were going. More importantly I had expected artists to do what they do so well: stimulate dialogue on difficult and oft avoided topics.
Despite news reports to the contrary, we are not in a post-racial era. I measure our progress by the number of times shortly after President Obama was elected that my white counterparts let doors and elevators close in my face. I measure it by the length of a drive- to a meeting in Bridgeport the day after the election that I took with a corporate vice president- during which every topic was discussed save the one at hand- the election. I measure it by the Connecticut schools and workplaces that had outright bans in place on watching or listening to the Inauguration Ceremony. I measure it by the vitriol that I hear on a daily basis with regard to “that one,” “this is what happens when a black is president,” the evils of socialism, or referencing of the President simply as “Mr. Obama.” I measure the need for art that challenges us to stand and speak on difficult topics- which we shy away from save with the like-minded- by the veritable silence and mournful tone of my office the day after the election.
A fundamental truth has died regarding the ability and intellect of non-white Americans. Mistakenly it seems that many had long thought this belief to have been overthrown by the deeds and achievements of careers, lives. Hidden hatred and prejudices are bubbling to the surface, and to tacitly say we are past race seems a dangerous game of denial.
I ask again: where is the art that will force us to grapple, see, and progress? Can we as a community and nation afford to remain silent? May brushes and musical notes, lens and keystrokes soon compel us to speak and argue, but invariably see one another.