JUST when we need it comes a hopeful word on race relations in the United States. Writing in the New Republic, Jan Breslauer, who covers culture and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, describes how the politics of separatism is disappearing from the L.A. artistic scene. We can hope that development is a harbinger for the rest of the country. Here is an excerpt:
"It was probably too much bad performance art that did it -- just about pushed me over the edge. After years of watching multicultural solos and theater pieces ad nauseam . . . I've arrived at a point of exquisite ambivalence. on some nights, after seeing some of the most provocative stage fare of my career, I'm a beaming Jane Alexander [head of the National Endowment of the Arts]. On other nights, subjected to yet another shotgun marriage of identity politics and the arts, I'm a snarling Jesse Helms.
"These days, however, I'm not the only one snarling. Deep in the heart of hippest Los Angeles, where Southern senators fear to tread, an emerging generation of artists and artsy types are fed up with it, too. And I don't just mean white people. These post-multi-culturalists are L.A.'s new wave. Numerous and various, they are men and women in their 20s and 30s who come from a variety of cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds and run the educational and class gamut. As a group, they have three salient features in common: their age, a shared interest in the arts and an attitude toward race that is casually, yet staunchly, integrationist. Race, they'll tell you, is pretty much a non-issue. "You wouldn't know it from the overblown coverage of campus nationalists, but college-age L.A. isn't dominated by tTC placard-carrying separatists sporting Mexican flags or brim-to-the-back X caps. Back off from this high-profile minority for a minute and take a look at the bands, theaters, dance companies and video groups populated by this other group of twentysomethings, and you see a different picture. There, in the clubs, coffeehouses and galleries, you find a diverse group of artists and others who are working and hanging out together, indifferent to the cultural tensions that supposedly divide them. Identity politics have gone the way of gangsta baggies. . . ."