Only one out of 100 members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is black. Yet, ASO president Stanley Romanstein had the cynicism to claim, “We want the stages of the Atlanta Symphony, whether here, Verizon (Wireless Amphitheatre), or Chastain Park to reflect the diversity of Atlanta.” However, the stages of ASO are racially homogenous. I can’t think of a single workforce I’ve seen in the city of Atlanta that is as non-diverse as the ASO.
If the ASO had done to adult employees what they did to the Walton and Lassiter chorus members, ASO would be facing a lawsuit.
In response to the furor over their decision not to invite the largely white choruses back, Melissa A.E. Sanders, ASO’s senior director of communications, had this cacophony of illogical duplicity to share: “It is against our policy to share the race and/or ethnicity of our musicians, so I am unable to share that information.”
It’s not ASO’s policy to share the race of their musicians, but it is their policy to publicly chastise mostly-white choral groups for being non-diverse and to make dishonest, self-righteous pronouncements about how much they “want the stages of the Atlanta Symphony ... to reflect the diversity of Atlanta” — a goal which the ASO is manifestly not serious about reaching for their own musicians or staff.
While it is not their policy to diversify their own staff, it is ASO policy to maintain a website where interested members of the public can see for themselves exactly what type of diversity is practiced by the ASO, which is none. According to my count, which anyone may verify, the ASO has only one black member. This count includes four conductors, 15 first violinists, 3 section violinists, 12 second violinists, 10 viola players, 10 cellists, 8 bassists, 14 woodwind players, 16 brass, five percussionists and three keyboard players. Also, one out of the three ASO librarians is black.
The ASO’s insincerity and elitism here are absolutely shocking. And this is not just a fluke. Walton and Lassiter students will face the same racial politics and racial favoritism when they apply to college. Elite institutions in America seem to exist by the motto “Enforced diversity for thee, but not for me.” This astonishing double standard applies at all levels of our society, from school admissions, to the ASO, to hiring for government jobs and contractor positions.
Not only do racial preferences cause reverse discrimination, but groups throughout society are casually condemned for not being diverse enough. Whether it’s a choral group, a whole school, a Tea Party rally or a whole political party, without fail liberals conflate non-diversity with discrimination against minorities. In fact, there is a whole area of the law called “disparate impact” liability premised on the notion that an organization is blameworthy for not being diverse. The chorus members received their first taste of disparate impact logic.
If anyone wants to know why the choral groups are non-diverse, it helps to understand why the symphony itself is non-diverse: 87 percent of musicians in U.S. symphonies are white, according to a 2008 study by the League of American Orchestras.
It’s not a problem that the ASO is non-diverse. It’s a problem that they’re managed by hypocrites who criticize others for not meeting a standard that they themselves blatantly fail to meet.
John T. Bennett has a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a juris doctor degree from Emory University. He lives in Decatur.