Pedro A. Rodriguez (1992)

There is definitely a backlash in this country regarding cultural diversity, also sometimes known as multiculturalism.

Most recently, as part of this backlash, I read that multiculturalism is going to eclipse our society in much the same way as Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. They add that we will crumble from ethnic strife (“America’s Balkanization”).

Never mind the myriad of real causes that brought down the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, such as bankruptcy created by a continuous military buildup, an immense and unwieldy bureaucracy, and others. If any lesson is to be learned from that experience, it is that ethnicity doesn’t go away that easily. Multiculturalism is already an undeniable factor in American society.

Some feel that Western European culture in the U. S. is at risk, threatened by those of us who want cultural pluralism to receive support and acceptance. A famous arts patron from Texas has given millions to an Eastern university to establish an academic center for the preservation of Western European culture. I guess he feels that it is necessary to save Eurocentrism.

If cultural diversity is so successful, if it is so threatening, then “why ain’t we rich?” as the adage goes. Why are cultural centers of color having to compete with mainstream institutions to get funding for the very programming that only cultural centers of color were doing just a few years ago? Why are art organizations of color having to struggle so hard to survive?

The truth is that Eurocentrism is not in danger. What is in danger is multiculturalism. It is in danger even before it has had the opportunity to take a firm hold on society. This danger, real as it may be, only seems to stall the inevitable. One need only look to South Africa for a trenchant example. South Africa has resisted the inevitability of multicultural society. This is hardly the kind of good will that makes for a smooth transition to the sharing of power.

Sharing is precisely what mainstream institutions are hard pressed to do. Let us all keep in mind that for far too long disenfranchised communities of color were powerless and were denied their share of resources. The day is coming when this sharing has to take place. In the arts, it is crucial that the leadership adopt an enlightened stance to make way for progress and transition.

Return to: Looking Back: Contributors