Diversity Is Weakness—Even At State Fairs
Over the last couple of years, in
an important but unheralded win for our side, the annual
California State Fair, which ended September 5, has
abandoned its "cultural days."
Think of it: the year`s biggest
function in California has given up multicultural days!
Without fanfare, gone are the
special days dedicated to Latinos, Asian Pacific
Islanders and Blacks.
Said Norb Bartosik, General Manager
and CEO of the California Exposition and State Fair
The harsh reality is quite a bit
less happy. Ethnic days at the state fair, whose
"Big Fun", had become anything but.
An outing at Cal Expo should be
highlighted by typical fair activities like riding the
Ferris wheel or eating cotton candy. Instead, on a
cultural day, a fair-goer had the distinct possibility
of having his
car vandalized, witnessing a
gang stabbing or being randomly punched in the face.
Black Culture Day was the most feared. One
journalist, David Klein classified it as "somewhere
between `melee` and `riot.`"
Efforts to minimize the risk of
violence by closing the fair early on its last day, and
imploring the youth to
"Cool It Down",
failed abjectly. ("Violence
at Black Culture Days Must Be Addressed," David
Klein, Metropolitan News-Enterprise, September
The overriding reason to end
cultural days certainly revolved around the safety of
the attendees. As someone who
regularly attends the fair, I find it easier not to
have to check what "Day" was being celebrated
before I made my plans.
But someone on the state appointed
Board of Directors must finally have realized that
it is bad business to designate one day for a particular
ethnicity, thereby dramatically reducing the chances
that anyone from any other ethnicity is going to show up
on that same day.
California took about twenty-five
years to wake up to the foolishness of cultural days.
But will states just beginning to
see large increases in their ethnic populations learn
from our mistakes?
Or will they, as is more likely,
forge blindly ahead on the path to headaches and
The recently ended
Indiana State Fair seems determined to emphasize
cultural diversity even though, according to fair
officials, attendance reflected the state`s
88 percent white; 8 percent black and 4% Hispanic.
Nevertheless, fair spokesman Andy
Klotz [send him
email] said that he is eager to attract more
Klotz pointed to the presence of
Mexican pop star
Jennifer Pena at Hispanic and Christian Contemporary
Music Day as one example of the state`s efforts to
attract a more diverse audience. ("Hitting
the Right Notes for Cultural Diversity," Tania
Lopez, Indianapolis Star, August 15, 2005)
Since attendance was down at this
year`s Indiana fair, I can almost hear the
"We have to reach out; we need
multicultural attractions. That will help us sell
more tickets," the thinking will go.
But that`s a mistake. Valid reasons
completely unrelated to the lack of cultural events
account for this year`s smaller turn out in
record gas prices and the bad news weather
combination of high heat and rain.
I asked Cheree Calabro, Porter
County Director of
Indiana Federation for Immigration Reform and
Enforcement what she thought the prevailing attitude
in her state would be toward "reaching out."
IFIRE, which has lobbied
successfully against use of the Individual Tax Payer
Identification Number to
allow illegal aliens to get home mortgages, is the
Indiana Chapter for the
("Bank Calumet Opens Home Ownership to Illegal
Immigrants," Keith Benman, Northwest Indiana Times,
August 17, 2005)
Calabro told me:
"Things are getting
worse in the sense that the number of illegals is
increasing and greedy
businessmen and politicians are getting more brazen
in their law-breaking. But things are better in the
sense that there is a groundswell of Hoosiers who are
finally waking up and fighting back."
irony is that a debate about the validity of cultural
days at state fairs isn`t necessary.
In her Indiana Star story cited
above, reporter Lopez wrote that Klotz identified the
fair`s main mission is
"To highlight issues in
agriculture and educate the public about them."
Why dilute the "main mission"—especially
if it creates conflict?
Another Indiana resident added to Calabro`s comments.
Edwin Rubenstein, offered this analysis:
"Most Hoosiers are
still idealistic regarding immigration. Hispanics
constitute a rapidly growing but tiny percentage of the
population. California, however, has seen Indiana`s
future, and it doesn`t work."