I'm wrestling with this, and thinking aloud. I'm looking forward to the conversations.
This is not about the individual qualifications of the folks on the panel--we have keynotes for that. This is about putting together a few bright, thoughtful folks in front of a room of bright, thoughtful folks to see what can develop.
Despite our polite protests to the contrary, color matters. Conversations alter when those people enter the room. Sudden tight smiles. Broken phrases. People get careful.
If the point of a panel is to allow an amalgam of authentic voices, then we need diversity. But here's a problem--if we think we are fixing anything by "allowing" voices of color on a panel, by making sure "everyone" is represented, when everyone in the room knows the default power position is white male, we've not only made open discussion much less likely, we've devalued everyone's voices.
We already know what the folks running the show think. We know what those in power have historically done and continue to do. I suspect that the presence of any white man on a panel can alter the discourse in subtle and destructive ways.
This is not to say that there are not phenomenally thoughtful, bright, generous white men who could help make any panel shine, but until folks are truly color blind (not going to happen in my lifetime), then a white man's presence on the panel will alter the discussion by virtue of his perceived position in our culture.
|I'm sure this panel was enlightening....|
The problem is not just too few people of color on the panels--the bigger problem is the pervasiveness of the dominant culture in spaces that need change.
If you already have a pale male on the panel, one more is not going to help.
The voices are out there.