3 September 2004
How diverse are we?
Well, I'll tell you: we are so diverse that... but never mind. Nobody is buying. Oklahoma City, though many paths intersect here, is still widely perceived as being all of a piece, and it's a piece of white bread with the crusts cut off.
Four months ago, I came up with this:
Dr Richard Florida, guru of the Creative Class movement, was here this spring, and if I'm reading him properly, we can't really buy ourselves a Creative Class: we have to attract one, and that requires not only sprucing up the locations but the local attitudes as well. This doesn't mean we have to do a political 180, necessarily, but it does mean we have to come to grips with diversity in its truest sense: not something imposed from on high, but something that grows from the ground up.
There are now signs that the power structure is actually starting to pay attention to this sort of thing. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce has begun Project NEXT, which seeks to "make Central Oklahoma attractive to educated and talented individuals and the most successful businesses," a task which they admit will require seeking "input from the entire community, including people that may or may not be [our] traditional partners."
I'm not quite sure the Chamber really has a handle on this yet. "We've got all the main minority groups American Indians, Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, gays," says Chamber spokesperson Drew Dugan in apparent "See how hard we're trying!" mode. Still, they are trying, and that's something they wouldn't have done forty, or even four, years ago.
Next Thursday, representatives from "all the main minority groups" will descend upon the Cox Convention Center to tell the Chamber what they think needs to be done. It should be interesting, to say the least.