A 2012 study found that access to college and university professors for prospective students is broadly, measurably inequitable. Not alleging that professors are ‘bad people,’ mind you, just that as a group they are among the (conscious or unconscious) perpetuators of systemic social inequalities. The study created well-written email requests to meet with a professor to discuss possibly applying to graduate school. These requests were sent to a variety of departments at a wide range of universities. The researchers changed just one thing about the email—the name. Changing the name from something white-seeming to something that was associated with black, asian, or latino people significantly changed the response rate of the professors receiving the request. In addition, there was also clear gender bias matching traditional gender roles.
There was, however, one exception to this weary-sigh-worthy phenomenon. Fine arts departments—visual art, dance, music—did not demonstrate a preference for white men. In fact, they were skewed slightly in favor of diversity and inclusion. What could explain this? My life experience has taught me that creative effort is inextricably bound up with clarifying our thinking, improving our discernment and intellectual independence, increasing our craving for variety, and (dare I suggest?) improving our character.
So, maybe, one of the things we can all do in order to understand our place in the world, understand our challenges and privileges, understand how we can be of service to others, is to consciously cultivate the independence of mind intrinsic to creativity.
This work is in service to that objective.