The Zoot Suit Riots were a dark moment in the history of L.A. and West Coast race relations. But unlike later riots in the city, they say less about the justified anger of exploited communities and more about the strict homogeneity of American culture at the time. Status quo anxiety left little patience for the perceived garishness of nonwhites during wartime, and discrimination eventually gave way to prolonged physical violence. It’s an attitude that persists today, if less tangibly, in certain fashion-based preconceptions of minority youth who dare to present themselves as being at odds with the dominant culture.
Nothing has forced myself to reckon with what is important to me more than talking to people who disagree with me. I would challenge designers to talk to people who challenge them. People who don’t look like you, people who don’t think like you, people who make you angry and confused. It’s fucking hard but you can do it, or at least try*. For me, that may mean writing personal letters to trump leaning relatives. It is only because of the great progress we have experienced in the past decade that the thought of it being reversed is so anxiety inducing. And honestly, the past eight years were good but we we’re just getting started.
And there are other people who defend the results of design competitions by repeating the mantra “as long as the work is good the competition is fair”. This is what everyone says but that’s where the bias lies. It’s not nefarious, it’s not an organized effort. To paraphrase Jim Datz, New York Times Op-Ed Art Director, in the thread mentioned above, “Design, by it’s very nature can be subjective… aesthetics are defined by race, culture, and class which create zones of exclusion without consciously trying. So of course this bias that exists in design competitions is not unique, it also occurs in society. It’s simply amplified in concentrated environments where aesthetics are judged and the applicant pool is self-limiting.”