With their major institutions founded on white European models and obstinately focused on the distant past, classical music and opera have been even slower than American society at large to confront racial inequity. Black players make up less than 2 percent of the nation’s orchestras; the Metropolitan Opera still has yet to put on a work by a Black composer.
The protests against police brutality and racial exclusion that have engulfed the country since the end of May have encouraged individuals and organizations toward new awareness of long-held biases, and provided new motivation to change. Nine Black performers spoke with The New York Times about steps that could be taken to begin transforming a white-dominated field. These are edited excerpts from the conversations.
The first step is admitting that these organizations are built on a white framework built to benefit white people. Have you done the work to create a structure that is actually benefiting Black and brown communities? When that occurs, diversity is a natural byproduct.
Why are they erasing white history? White people invented and performed classical music for centuries.
By this logic, we need to do something about rap and reggae, since it’s nearly all black performers.