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The Friday Conversation: Rinku Sen, Helping Dallas Face Race

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Rinku Sen. Photo:

How can North Texas make discussions about race and racial equity more productive? And can the arts play a role? Rinku Sen, the president of the Applied Research Center (ARC), and publisher of, is working on these issues in Dallas.  Next year, her organization hosts a national conference here called Facing Race.

And she’s working closely with Dallas Faces Race, a forum funded by The Embry Family Foundation and the Boone Family Foundation, that helps organizations collaborate to make change around racial inequity.  Dallas Faces Race recently held a workshop for its partners in the arts, and future workshops will address issues in the philanthropic and education communities.

  • My chat with Sen aired today KERA FM’s “Friday Conversation”. Listen to the conversation here:
    • Rinku Sen is one of four panelists speaking during lunch at TACA Perforum: A Conversation to Advance the Performing Arts on Monday Oct. 28.  Others include Alan Brown, Principal WolfBrown, San Francisco; Rha Goddess, artist, writer, poet and social activist, Move the Crowd, Oradell, New Jersey, and Monique Martin, Director of Family Programming, CityParks Foundation, New York. For details, call TACA at 214.522.3930.

    Highlights from our conversation:

    On the role arts can play:

    “Arts and cultural activities are really important  to helping people build the courage that is required to enter into a conversation about racial inequity and discrimination in Texas today, in Dallas today and  in the United States today. I work nationally and there isn’t one community in the country that feels like it’s got this right that doesn’t have more work to do and that isn’t nervous about how to get that work done.

    “We understand that the notion of not seeing race is intuitively attractive, but  it has not actually closed the racial gaps. So I think that the arts and culture sector has a really important role to play in reframing that debate and in helping to  build   the spiritual resources that Dallas residents need in order to take up  these challenges.”

    Trying to ignore race, or put it behind us, isn’t the answer. But neither is playing “who’s the racist?”.

    “In today’s world it is possible to have terrible racial impact without an identifiable racist at the center,” Sen says. Conversations can be more productive when they focus on desired goals – education for our kids, access to healthcare – and examine the institutional and structural barriers to them.  The Applied Research Center has tools and  strategies to help analyze the impact, or potential impact,  of policies and procedures to identify or prevent racial inequity.