I believe that excellence has no color. Six months ago, I didn’t even bat an eyelash when applying to work for a minority-based arts organization. Having worked in the arts for a few years, the organization I was applying to for employment had a reputation that was well known to me, and I was excited that they might consider me for a place on their staff.
For more than thirty years this African-American based dance company had beat the odds and thrived when larger, better known companies could not. These mainly African American dancers are consummate artists that anyone would be proud to be associated with. But, as I began to share about my excitement at the prospect of using my experience to support this impressive organization, I was not prepared for the responses I received. “Isn’t that a Black company?” people would ask, and then a follow up question spoken before my shock from the first question had worn off – “Are there any other white people there?”
Knowing what excellence in dance means is somewhat of an insider thing, I have to admit, and to an untrained eye, many things can look good, but my mind was confused by the questions, and my heart was saddened by the ignorance. The excellence of this organization was not even considered compared to the fact that the majority of people involved with it were African Americans. Why is it that we are afraid to break cultural boundaries and continue to segregate ourselves into a boring category such as color? For color wheels and paint swatches, it may be necessary, but as human beings, we should be bound together by far more interesting and enlightening categories. Instead of Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics, why can’t we be grouped with titles such as Achievers, Helpers, Seekers, and Givers?
It was my good fortunate that they did, indeed, take me on, and what I have learned on the inside about this amazing collection of people is that there is even more to them than the audience can see. The excellence that is continually demonstrated from this company originates from the fact that all of the dancers are highly-trained, degreed individuals, chosen from an incredible talent pool. These are people who are committed to high standards not only in their careers, but in their personal lives as well.
I believe color as it relates to excellence is a nonentity. I am happy to be color-blind when it comes to seeing the value in people.
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