Artists Mapping Racism

From left to right: Etta Cetera and Bekezela Mguni

“So, just by our own knowledge as a group, I want us to create a list based on this question. What is Structural Racism?” Yeah…. That  huge question was asked to us by Bekezela Mguni at the meeting Mapping Racism in the Arts ran by Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. My mind went on a frenzy, and based on the steam dripping from the earlobes of practically everyone else in the room, my assumption was that we all were wondering “ummm, exactly what does she mean by this.” Of course Bekezela Mguni wasn’t going to help us out any and neither was Etta Cetera our other facilitator. It was obviously up to us to just figure it out right? Ok so, I got the racism part, but that other word. Structural. Well structures have to be built right?

As I’m working out the genes of what was created to be a very simple question, one brave soul starts off the list with a very safe guess and a hope that it will lead to more clarity to the question. “many variables? I mean, It seems like there are so many different ways that term can be used”

“Got it! Many variables!” and that started the bullet on the bulletin list, as they looked around for other assumptions.

“pervasive?” Written.

“Learned?” Written.

A little bolder now. TAUGHT! Which lead to a series of interested mumbles and then the list seemed to just spout out: Cradle to Grave, Systemic, School, Unknown, Ubiquitous, Invisible, Fear, Does not question itself, Normalized, Violent, Industrialized and finally I blurted out Historical! Phew, that was a tooth pull if I ever witnessed it.

To have this question asked to ANY group of people is interesting, but it wasn’t just asked to anyone, the target was artists and anybody else tied to the art world. The fact that the question was presented speaks volumes to the impact art has on society especially to tackle such a topic as racism. To see a group of artist/activist trying to make a commitment to understand racism and how to tackle it, made me (not that I’m any father, of any number of importance) proud. I’l get to my “pride” at a later date however! Anything to add to the list? Btw what IS structural Racism? What does Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council feel about the impact artists have on such an important topic? Is there even a point in fighting racism?

From Left To Right: Tiffani Wilhelm and Jonathan Reyes

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