Tear off the veil on diversity regimes

Opera music

Racial preferences have been almost impossible to dislodge because their human costs are usually hidden. College admissions officers do not notify rejected student applicants that they have been turned down to make room for diversity. An HR office doesn’t tell job seekers or the company’s own employees that they haven’t been hired or promoted because they wouldn’t add anything to the company’s diversity metrics. Rejected applicants may suspect that they did not get the desired job due to racial preference, but they can rarely be 100 percent sure.

The off-stage nature of these tradeoffs allows preference advocates to deny that diversity decisions involve a zero-sum calculation. In 2019, a U.S. District Court judge upheld Harvard’s racial admission preferences after a lengthy trial. In his opinion, Justice Allison Burroughs insisted this breed is only a positive factor, and never a negative factor, in the Harvard admissions process. Such a statement is specious. The only reason institutions implement racial preferences in the first place is that there are not enough qualified applicants among non-Asian minorities to obtain a racially proportioned student body or workforce in the workforce. framework of a meritocratic selection system. Hiring a diversity candidate on a preferential basis almost always means not hiring a more qualified non-diverse candidate. The gain of the first is inevitably the loss of the second.

Today, a British classical music organization has inadvertently ripped off the veil of arithmetic of diversity, and the consequences can be far-reaching. Earlier this month, the English Touring Opera told nearly half of its orchestral musicians it would not renew their contracts for the 2022 season because it has “prioritized increased diversity in the orchestra” . In other words, as a bunch of whites you have to be eliminated so that we can increase the collective levels of melanin among our musicians. Your talent doesn’t matter; your skin color does.

Finally, there are the concrete and publicly identified victims of a preferential regime. The reaction was swift. Since Sunday opening hours broke history, the English Touring Opera was put on the defensive. Arts Council England, a government funder of the arts and principal patron of the opera company, backtracked on its aggressive promotion of diversity after the company claimed it was only following Council mandates by firing white musicians. It turns out that the public has little stomach for watching the diversity of sausages being made.

The English Touring Opera has been a valuable addition to the British classical music scene; it devalues ​​the battle horses in favor of a less overplayed repertoire. Recent seasons have offered a strong representation of Renaissance and Baroque composers, including an oratorio by Giacomo Carissimi (an obscure 17th-century Roman composer); madrigals and motets by Carlo Gesualdo, Guillaume de Machaut and Josquin des Prez; and Purcell’s short opera Dido and Aeneas. ETO travels across England, bringing top-level performances to places that otherwise wouldn’t have access to such eclectic live music.

So far, ETO has not established itself as particularly ‘awake’. His staging is elegant and not revisionist. He does not seek to deconstruct the alleged misogyny and colonialism of opera. But in a letter to ETO’s licensed orchestral musicians, artistic director James Conway belatedly warned that the company “will experience significant changes over the next few seasons” – all, apparently, related to diversity. Conway cited the appointment of ETO’s new musical director, conductor Gerry Cornelius, as a factor in these changes. ETO trumpeted Cornelius’ mixed Sri Lankan and Irish parentage when she hired him. Was Cornelius chosen only for musical reasons? May be; his resume is impressive. Thanks to the diversity regime, however, his status as a “BME” (Black or Ethnic Minority Person, British version of POC) cannot be ruled out as a determinant.

To increase diversity in the pit, ETO organized orchestral auditions this summer, breaking with its traditional practice of rehiring its independent instrumentalists from season to season. The auditions were overseen by Chi-Chi Nwanoku, one of Britain’s foremost champions of racial equity in classical music. Nwanoku leads the Chineke! Orchestra, composed mainly of black and “ethnically diverse” musicians; in her advocacy for color-conscious hiring practices, she is the British version of Afa Dworkin of the Sphinx Organization. ETO ignored a press request asking if its recent auditions were blind (i.e. with the musician’s identity hidden behind a screen) and what the winners’ race was.

ETO makes two arguments to defend the elimination of its former players. Its orchestral musicians are freelancers, working at will with no contractual expectations of future employment, he says. It’s true. In practice, however, an independent orchestra is little different from a permanent ensemble. As one British conductor explains: “You are loyal to your usual players, and they are loyal to you.” Some musicians eliminated to make way for diversified recruitments had worked for ETO for more than 20 years. They naturally anticipated a return to employment, especially after the economic difficulties of the Covid closure.

ETO is also claiming a mandate from Arts Council England. “This [action] conforms to the firm guidelines of the Arts Council, ”Conway wrote to the licensed players. But Arts Council England, which distributes nearly £ 600million a year in taxpayer and lottery income to arts organizations, was quick to postpone ETO’s assessment. “We did not ask the English Touring Opera to send this [termination] letter, ”said the Council, as stated in the Daily mail. “We are now in conversation with ETO to ensure that no funding criteria have been breached.”

The Council’s denial is undoubtedly correct in a literal sense: it did not require this particular letter. But ETO can be forgiven for thinking that a rapid escalation in its diversity quotient is in line with the wishes of its benefactor. The Council publishes turgid reports of a hundred pages cutting and dividing a dizzying array of diversity measures of its beneficiary organizations. These reports reduce Britain’s major classical music ensembles to a multitude of racial identities: The London Symphony Orchestra: only 4% BME; the Royal Opera House: 11% BME; Birmingham City Symphony Orchestra: 3% BME; the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society: 3% BME; Welsh National Opera: 6% BME. Even the shining star of the British cultural firmament, the Royal Shakespeare Company, shows up for diversity at just 3% BME.

Council funding decisions are driven by the imperative to ‘reflect the diversity of contemporary England’. It means wasting taxpayer dollars subsidizing commercially viable pop music, like hip-hop and rap. The board brags about funding the American tour of a British rapper. Grant applications should detail the steps grantees will take to “broaden the diversity of their workforce and governance”. Recipients who fail to meet their diversity goals “will lose their funding,” according to a recent document. While conveying Britain’s art and beauty heritage is a concern of the Council, it buries that concern deep under his populist ‘we can all create diverse art’ cheerleader.

The Board did not respond to a request to explain how recipient organizations are expected to improve their diversity profile without prioritizing diversity in their contracts. ETO almost certainly did not violate any “funding criteria” by firing its players; the Council is not concerned with maintaining the excellence of an ensemble or protecting the expectations of its members. That the Council insists, in fact, “We meant diversity, but not by those means ”is dishonest. Once you unleash the ideology of diversity, it will cut through everything in its path.

Almost as fallacious is the Music Union’s exasperation over ETO’s layoffs. The union said it was “horrified” by Conway’s letter. But the union, too, is throwing verbiage on diversity in the workplace. It advocates the collection and publication of data on diversity, quarterly training on diversity in musical organizations, a lower importance given to white European composers in music education and a minority quota of 20% on new union memberships. ‘by 2024. He says “performance” is the key to orchestral success. In fact, a desire for classical music on the part of the audience is the only thing that will keep classical music alive. Teaching audiences to see this music and its performers through the prism of race is a sure way to kill such a desire.

It is telling that supporters of diversity strive to distance themselves from the consequences of their ideology when those consequences are made public, revealing identifiable victims. Dismissing someone from a job may seem different from not giving the most qualified candidate a job in the first place. But in either case, someone is deprived of an advantage gained on the basis of the irrelevance of race. Every institution that practices preferences creates invisible losses; any exhortation to racial engineering negates merit. Those who give the exhortation are secure in their own positions; ETO director Conway hasn’t resigned to make way for a BME leader. But the next time an institution celebrates its diversity practices, we should remember the ETO Saturday Night Massacre and understand that something similar is happening in this institution and countless others. Maintaining our cultural heritage depends on awareness of these realities.

Photo: Sergey Nivens / iStock