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Getting Beyond Platitudes

Anita Walker, Executive Director

Let’s take action to dismantle systemic racism and the legacy of white privilege.

New Paths, by Bedelyn Dabel, creative youth development alum of RAW Art Works.
New Paths, by Bedelyn Dabel, creative youth development alum of RAW Art Works.

Statements of commitment to racial justice are plastering the media sphere from corporate America to our nonprofit world. Is this another missive? Another testament to solidarity? I hope not. That is not my intent.

We need to get past the platitudes and excuses. “Our board is made up only of white people because we can’t find anyone else to serve.” “We need high net worth people on our board for their financial support.” “We advertise for staff members but no people of color apply.” “We have a statement on diversity on our website.” “We have a free day once a month.” “We do an annual exhibition by an artist of color.” “We celebrate Martin Luther King Day.”


It’s time to get real. You want to diversify your staff? Stop hiring all white people. You want to have a diverse board? Get out into the community and build honest, authentic relationships with people of color. You want to diversify your programming? Amplify diverse voices in everything you do.

This has got to be more than “We hired a consultant and took the training.”

Because this is more than “exclusion.” This is racism.

We have made progress on the path to inclusion at the Mass Cultural Council. Our staff is more representative of the Commonwealth than it’s ever been, and diversity, equity, and inclusion stand as a pillar of our strategic plan.

​This is not enough. We need people of color occupying more positions of power, on the Council and in the Agency. We need to make more investments to raise up those who have been marginalized. And we need to push. We need to push our well-intentioned allies to make real change.

The protests will fade. The solidarity will subside. The attention will shift. But we can still do the work.

We all know what we need to do. And at Mass Cultural Council we are building the systems to hold ourselves accountable. All of us.

Every day our work involves applying the power of culture to improving lives…revitalizing cities and towns, transforming opportunities for youth, increasing health and well-being, enriching experiences, and building community. The power of culture is also a potent tool for addressing injustice. For calling it out and dismantling it.

As we enter a year focused on a field flattened financially by the pandemic, we have an incredible opportunity to rebuild, recover and renew the cultural landscape of Massachusetts. As we rebuild, let’s rid our organizations once and for all of the legacy of white privilege. If your house was damaged in a storm you wouldn’t re-install the rusty old plumbing. Renewal means relinquishing the power exclusively held by generations of white leadership and truly making the cultural landscape not just reflect, but actually be, the face of the Commonwealth.

This is our collective task. Not one that is relegated to our colleagues of color, but one that we tackle together.

You’ve put out the statement. You’ve made the commitment. Let’s do the hard work and unleash the power of culture.

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