“I am a racist.”
When Scott Palmer introduced Spinning Into Butter to our creative team at the beginning of the rehearsal process, it shook me. Even before we all shared our thoughts and perspectives on the piece, I was surprised at how quickly Scott threw us into discovering our own racism by admitting his own — which is possibly the first step for all of us to take toward deconstructing the systematic, predetermined, and formed racism that affects our world today.
Rebecca Gilman first produced Spinning Into Butter almost 20 years ago at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, IL in an attempt to shed light on an important issue and an important perspective. To see how Spinning Into Butter relates to our world in 2017, all one must do is simply turn on the TV or open a newspaper. Racism is still alive and strong today in our country. It is systemic, woven deeply into the fabric of our society.
Why? And how? Population trends and demographics of the US in 1999 (when Gilman was writing this piece) give us a little glimpse into possible answers. Geographically, African Americans were still strongly segregated into the southern states, and according to the US Census Bureau, “…the poverty rate for Blacks (24%) remained about three times higher than the rate for White non-Hispanics (8%)”. In terms of education, the percentage of the population aged 25 and older with at least a high school diploma for White citizens was 87.7%; 77% for Black citizens; and 56.1% for Latinx citizens. The percentage of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was drastically different, with White citizens at 27.7%; Black citizens at 15.4%; and Latinx citizens at 10.9%.
Gilman’s play addresses these troubling statistics along with our perceptions — those of racists, of white “allies”, and of those who are targets of racism — asking more questions and giving few answers. Her play invites us to engage in our own situation, our own city, our own current social and political climate, silencing our voices of privilege and listening to the voices of the people of color in our midst as we take the first step toward a solution.
Tiffany Rousseau, Dramaturg
Spinning Into Butter plays at The Vault September 7 – 24.
Visit Bag&Baggage’s website for more info.