It has been just over a month since “the NAfME situation.” Droves of people from many spaces in the music profession responded intensely by posting their frustrations, opinions, and concerns on social media. Some went so far as to constructing letters, individually and collectively, urging national, state, and local organizations to rethink their approaches toward diversity and activism. Outside of those responses, I speculate that many individuals voiced their concerns by speaking with trusted colleagues and friends within disclosed spaces. People were upset and perplexed and not without cause. But, I believe that we have arrived to a familiar place—silence. While it’s been only a short time since the incident, I haven’t seen or heard much from individuals, institutions, or organizations about their future plans to act. Have we reached a cease fire? Even more so, I ask, is this business as usual? In addition to the silence, I have recognized characteristics that are common with social media engagements—self promotion.
Whether we are confronted with unethical and racist statements or we are energized by incredible conference or festival presentations (musical, research, etc.) decorated with attractive Prezi, Keynote, and PowerPoint nuances, our energy or motivation to act beyond those perimeters often diminish. It’s like, we get fired up to make an impact, to change our world, or to shake things up, just to revert back to. We backslide into silence or passive aggressiveness. In the words of Jay-Z, it’s “On to the next one.” We keep it moving. But, why? It seems to me that we wait for opportunities to get things off our chest, to be inspired by the words and works of others, or to express our frustrations only when the mood is right. I’ve witnessed countless speeches and presentations where those listening are beautifully motivated and enthused to go out and do, to change the world, their world. But, their energy quickly evaporates shortly after they return home, not just to their place of residence, but to their respective places in the world, in education and the profession. The notes and handouts collected are placed on a shelf next the notes and handouts acquired from previous years without ever being implemented or integrated. This process is repeated over and over again. Why does this happen? I mean, is our attention span that short or are we just faking the funk? For those of you who are sports enthusiasts, I see this situation as that of a football or basketball game. As long we are “winning,” we tend to stay on “the ship,” but when the climb or game gets rough or we began to experience setbacks, we “jump ship.” Or, for many of us, we take a quick hike to the concession stands. Are we really that hopeless? Or is this business as usual?
After combing through previous posts just on Facebook, I found there to be some really interesting posts with useful information regarding diversity, culture, race, and racism. Many posts were accompanied by data, some of which I retrieved for my own use. After all, social media, the internet, and other communication platforms were meant to enhance access to information and promote a sense of community and sharing. Social media can also be used as a self-promoting or -branding tool, just ask Wal-mart. But, I’m not sure whether or not all the responses towards the issues above were genuine. Were these posts meant to inform others, were they publicity stunts or small doses of narcissism? I don’t know. It’s amazing as to what a simple ‘like’ button can do! I mean, it’s true that we’re all human and at some point we, including myself, want or need to feel validated. But, to use important issues to promote self and massage one’s ego is wrong. What I am attempting to highlight is that it would be great if people could share some of the ways in which they arrived at social change and what steps they took to achieve such in their own spaces. Basically, do we even believe in what we are putting out? Are we actually incorporating our discoveries into who, what, and how we teach or share with others? Or is this business as usual?
I promise that these issues of diversity, race, racism, and marginalization will not go away or become weakened unless we put forth an honest effort. Do you ever wonder why we’re still talking about race and racism in the 21st century? Well, we just didn’t put in the work required early on. So, in turn, we gave those issues as well those who benefit a passing nod. In so many words, we said, “Oh, racism?! Come on in (insert welcoming gesture). Make yourself at home!” As I have stated in a previous blog, the NAfME situation is mere child’s play compared to what lies beneath it or in front of it. Yes, the former CEO’s alleged comments were inappropriate and disgustingly offensive. But, are those comments really all that different from other articulations (audition and admission policies, one-way curriculum approaches, and recruitment and retention initiatives toward diversity that are at the very least shifty) that we express time and time again? Absolutely not. In many ways, the latter is far damaging. As history teaches us, discriminative practices don’t have to be overt to inflict inequities or inequality. They just have to be present and of course with a few co-signers. In order to take the best step toward influencing and changing our profession, I believe that we must look to our own backyards with a critical eye because that is where the most effective work can take place.
While I make it a point to welcome all voices into discussion and action, I must express without pause that we don’t need more individuals masquerading as theorists, philosophers, policy ambassadors, and glorified game changers. We need serious people who are committed to doing the work. No more silence and no more self-promotion. This can not be “business as usual.”