As you know from my previous post, I am currently working on my thesis about ethnic minority heritage values and U.S. historic preservation significance public policy. Its first chapter, “Defining Diversity,” really made me have to think hard about what we think of as American culture and how it is changing due to demographics. By 2050, there will be a minority-majority shift and the U.S. will be a plurality nation, with no ethnic-racial group being more than 50% of the population. Wow.
One thing about being a member of an ethnic minority group is realizing “Wait, how do I explain being a member of an ethnic-racial group and what we value?” It’s my life? You just are, you know? Well, in finding out more about the demographics and what each group valued and how they viewed preservation has been eye-opening in many ways. Unexpected commonalities emerged and there was validation of commonalities that were expected. I learned so much that I didn’t know and get the feeling that I will certainly learn even more before this process is all over.
How will this affect our field? I have said over and over again that as preservationists and historians, we must tell the stories and histories of underrepresented groups. As our field evolves, this demographic shift will also change how we see ourselves and the history being told. Our field must be responsive to this shift in order to be relevant. That simple.