Changing the Culture

Changing the Culture

ARC Toolbox, a monthly email that provides tools to make change.

Rinku’s Message

As many of you know, the city of Dallas will be hosting Facing Race in November 2014. For several months, ARC has been contributing to a range of social change efforts in the build up to the conference, including on-site racial equity trainings for various groups in the Dallas area. The first of those took place a few weeks ago, when 30 practitioners of local arts and culture organizations came together for two days of training.

One of the best exchanges we had was during a session on racial histories led by former ARC staffer Tammy Johnson. Tammy put out a timeline of key racial policies and events over some 200 years, and participants placed their own histories in that context. Looking at the chronology, you can see how the plays we write, theater, painting, and literature both reflect and change the culture and politics of their times. Later in the week, I read a reflection on the character Apu, the Indian immigrant corner store clerk from The Simpsons who is arguably the most important Indian American character in the last 20 years of television. Apu has been the bane of Indian American life, and undoubtedly fueled the contributions of great Indian American comics like Hari Kondabolu and Aparna Nancherla.


Any attempt to win transformative change solely through policy change is doomed to fail over the long term. A political strategy without a cultural strategy is simply inadequate, and that is why it was so important to start our Dallas offerings with a cluster of arts organizations. The ARC staff spends a lot of our spare time (yes, we do have some) generating, consuming and commenting on art. It’s not just because we like it, although we certainly do. It’s also because we know that art is key to crafting an inclusive vision of racial justice, and to strengthening the community of people willing to fight for that vision.