Being Black and an emerging writer resisting Trump’s America presents interesting challenges. You’re rising in an industry that claims to value your voice, and want to incorporate your narrative in a bid for diversity and rebellion, yet refuses to employ you.
It’s not a secret to Black writers — both radical and tame — that Editorial and Publishing is secretly thrush with covert corporate racism. You can actually count on a single hand how many writers of color at all are discovered before they’ve built their own platforms to an extent they very likely do not need the assistance of publishing houses who knock at their doors for a handout. Black Writers are seldom employed to use our nuance and navigation of our complicated lives and the translation of our bodies across the human experience — we are mitigated to a specific seat on specific staffs, many without more than one or two faces that look like ours.
Recently, many companies have made a bid for individuals to speak on POC and Marginalized Community-related politics, but rather than being a challenge to involve voices that aren’t heard, we find that unless we have a specific following behind us, we cannot even get a seat at the kiddy table, let alone an entry-level position with very little income.
I had the irony of sitting in the backseat of an LYFT with a woman who had the fortune of working for a Big 5 Publishing House, one I’ve recently been rejected from for whatever reason. She had very little to say about her previous place of employment that I have not heard about many similar places who pay crumbs and ashes to the POC working amongst them while glorifying the pursuits and agendas of whiter, straighter counterparts.
I didn’t propose that this reflects on the BIG 5 publishing house not employing me, because honestly? It could be that I didn’t fit their no qualifications necessary bylines on the job description, and somehow me — a supposedly radical black queer writer with strong feelings on social justice and politics — didn’t fit their search for a writer who feels strongly about “marginalized communities, politics, and social justice).
However, this conversation on experience in writers is ridiculous in itself, because in a community that voices the problem amongst media being that it doesn’t give POC representation of our narratives or stories in any format, how is it that a Writer of Color is able to have any experience?
How do you have experience when you’re not able to be employed?
Quite easily: by working for free. By allowing yourself to be taken advantage of like this is a greasy Motown recording studio, and you’re looking for sounds that can “Cross-over” without that nasty glorification of the dark-skinned talent who made this art.
Black Writers have not had the opportunity to contribute the substance that we deserve to be able to contribute in this new age of digital content. There are platforms, but it’s limited and niched. And if we audace to self-publish: we are punished fo rit by those same Publishers; called not “good enough” for literary pursuits. That’s not to say that it was any better before — that’s to say that the current environment is just a different head of the hydra.
I wish I was the only writer of color — the only BLACK Writer with this issue, but I have counted 15 peers who have hit the same roadblocks, and we have all found our defeat at the hands of a Starry-Eyed White Girl with the Mid-West with a Sylvia Plath button on her backpack and a can-do spirit she wants to impart to the “Poor Blacks” she’s read all about on her friend’s blog.
Your NYU/New School Admission Letter and Democratic Party sticker doesn’t make you better than any of us. It makes you more privileged and it makes you more palatable to the audiences that the Publisher and Editors want money from.
Ergo, it makes you almost as bad as the Gentrification you’re likely contributing to.
And Yes. I do come off as angry or wrathful in this particular piece/excerpt/chapter about the issues of marginalization I encounter. Maybe, it’s because I’m angry and wrathful, Lindsey?
At one point, I had dreams of working for GQ. As a Fashion enthusiast, a menswear advocate and a lover of a good fashion blog, It thrilled me to find a magazine that fit my personality. It became the thing I marked my career trajectory with.
I had dreams of also working for Marvel, and writing for the X-Men gave me hopes of sharing something with my father who gave me my first comic despite losing him to a mutation of his own genes. I had many other aspirations of becoming an editor — or becoming a content creator — or a novelist. So many things, but each and every industry has found its way to slam its doors closed at Black writers!
And the few journals and magazines catering specifically to Black writers, or writers of color, are so congested with writers fighting for their voices to be heard, that it’s a mound of talented individuals clawing at each other to get to the top.
This is not the fault of Black Writers trying to be heard in a world that has silenced us since the Harlem Renaissance: this is the fault of the major companies and corporations who do not want to admit their inherent biases enough to realize that their Diversity initiatives have turned Black writers and creators into TOKENS.
I invite you to prove me wrong: search any of the Big 5 Companies — hell, search any editorial staff that isn’t Blavity or LATINX. Count how many Black Writers are on staff. Expand your search. Count how many Writers of Color are on their board.
Now, look at all “diverse” stories they’ve published. Will you notice a consistent trend among what’s being published?
Will you notice that the diversity initiatives by these companies are heavily white washed or place a glorifying eye onto whiteness in a way that makes them seem “troubled, but by golly — they don’t know any better!”
The particular Blackness depicted in all of these stories and narratives are structured counter-culturally against the issues and culture of poverty and class. You will never find a story of ghetto, slum or hood lifestyles, or even symmetrical comparisons — because the elitism being pushed forward heavily leans to drowning specific kinds of blackness and uplifting the more “tolerable” versions of it by the fault of the publications.
Refer to my Motown metaphor, you will notice a recurring theme in the performance.
Diversity is just the newest incarnation of the Mainstream Cross-Over culture of the 1960s — it’s not that original. It’s saying we can only be accepted by an artform when our art matches a certain tone. It’s saying we can’t all make it, so only the ones that they can accept will do it.
It’s troubling, and unless these companies are willing to confront this directly, they are hypocrites.
And there is very little as disgusting asa liberal hypocrite.