I’ve had that look on my face before.
When you have a colleague question if something is relevant to “everyone” or a noted historian deem a chapter in a book too “ethnic” or a guide makes an insensitive or misinformed statement during a historic site tour. It tends to strike a chord, make an eye twitch, rankle your soul way deep down inside–that sort of thing. “So why make a big deal about it, Elle?” Well, I might as well be honest and get this out of my system now and let the chips fall where they may with this simple answer: “Because it IS. And the future of our field depends upon it.”
I’ve spent a lot of time (and writing) over the past year thinking about these issues. We can not ignore the fact of the upcoming 2040 minority-majority shift. Or the need to recognize places that have significance to an underrepresented community that may have been overlooked and how those places are interpreted. I am often surprised (yet not surprised) at certain assumptions or omissions. Diversity can’t be lip service, but an absolutely integral part of our mission going forward. We have to actively make sure that it happens. Inclusion does not mean exclusion, a point that is not always understood and causes me to do this a lot too:
One thing I recognize is that I am what would be considered a preservationist “of color.” I was the only African American in my grad school class and was one of two historians of any ethnic minority at my former job. Even while out and about at sites or meetings, it makes for interesting “moments” that cause me to shrug sometimes and sigh. A lot. I recognized and accepted this possibility going in. I already had an undergrad history degree and loved architecture. Now I have a graduate degree in historic preservation too. I truly love and I am passionate about what I do and I am so glad to be a part of this field. When I first started my grad program I realized the breadth of what was possible. That I had a voice to be heard and could try to act as a liaison for others. It’s a huge responsibility. I can’t speak for everyone, but my perspective and insight can be added to an overall understanding within our field–and hopefully help other underrepresented groups and communities to have a voice too.
Whew. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I can start telling you more about those insights…
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