When Does Representation Stop Mattering? Amy Fung, δημοσίευση Hyperallergic [18/11/2022]
OTTAWA — Shortly before the pandemic shuttered museums and galleries around the world, the Mellon Foundation released its nationwide survey on the ethnic, racial, and gender makeup of art museum staff across the United States between 2015 and 2018. Understanding diversity as quantitative data via binary categories of men and women, white and POC, the survey tracked an increase of diversity hires from 26 to 35 percent at surveyed institutions. While representational change was most visible in education and curatorial roles, the facts and figures confirmed on paper that museum leadership was comparatively less dynamic in executive roles, where turnover is low and change comes slowly.
Percentage-point analysis of identity politics can only tell so much of the story. In considering the spike in museum leadership changes and the overt discourse on diversity and equity since 2020, I find myself asking at what point does representation stop mattering if the end goal of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is not liberation?
What’s missing in this current moment of hiring underrepresented groups are the rates of retention and exit interviews of minority staff in predominantly white institutions. How do their workload and expectations to perform “diversity” differ from their colleagues’ roles? In both the museum world and academia, the rush to hire underserved groups is not accompanied by adequate support systems. Blatantly harmful patterns of exploitation and tokenism run amok in these institutions under the banner of solidarity. In many circumstances, the onus has fallen on new and outnumbered diversity hires to “fix” the institution, but, in Sara Ahmed’s words, “When you expose a problem, you become a problem.”
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