“One ever feels his twoness-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” – W. E. B. DuBois
Me: I’m thinking of shutting down the blog.
Me: I think it’s hindering me from getting a job.
Me: Yeah. You know white folks aren’t comfortable
talking about race, or dealing with someone who
*writes* about race all the time. My blog is called
Writing While Black for goodness sake.
SO: Yeah, you’re right. But don’t shut down the blog.
Blacks in America unarguably face challenges unlike any other racial group in this country. Furthermore, non-blacks who don’t know and understand the history of blacks in America, will probably never fully grasp our plight. Professionally it is no different.
The majority of blacks in America have two identities, this same double consciousness DuBois spoke of in 1903. On the one hand there is the person we are naturally- around friends, family and other black people. The other identity is reserved for the work force, higher education institutions and the company of white people. We are the masters of code switching- speaking “professional,” enunciating every word, adding a higher pitch and chipperness to our voice when we are at work and in professional settings. Around people we trust we would never try so hard to conform to the standard of whiteness. However, it is necessary due to the stereotypes associated with blacks automatically. Yes, it is unfortunate we have to do this. But it is necessary in a society where in 2010 people are still surprised black folks are articulate, and think it is a compliment to tell us so.
It is only natural that I would arrive at this point.
For the past two months I have been in New York searching for a job in the journalism/media/book publishing industries. With a depleted economy, high unemployment rate and journalism forever changing, I knew even with an MA in Journalism, it would be tough. Especially in New York.
I learned quickly networking was the key. I had the education. Have the clips. Have phenomenal references. And I have the talent. But so do several other people. I know that only 25% of jobs are filled with people who apply through the job websites. The majority of jobs are landed from promotion within the company, through people you know in high places or people who know people that know you. The other characteristics are a bonus.
One day I was meeting a fellow black writer at Au Bon Pain for a quick meet and greet. We discussed the magazine industry as a whole. During our conversation she said,
“The magazine industry is small. The black magazine circle is even smaller. You’ve already pigeonholed yourself in an even smaller market by only writing about black issues. You’ve got to get out of that.”
Initially I was annoyed. But she had a point. I replayed our conversation repeatedly in my head. I even talked to other writers about it. The other writers however, dismissed and disagreed with her, and suggested I keep writing wherever I could. One woman who was a former writer for many magazines, now a PhD candidate, even told me, “As black writers we will be pigeonholed no matter what we do or write about.”
So here I was thinking if I ever want to write for Cosmopolitan or Elle, I had to branch out from Clutch and Essence. Yet black publications are oftentimes the only ones to give upcoming black writers the opportunity to be published. Let’s be real, journalism as a whole (the magazine industry included), is and has always been, dominated by white males. According to the American Society of News Editors, there are only 13.36 percent minorities in newsrooms across the nation. There are very few black writers employed at white magazine publications.
What’s a young woman to do?
My blog has always been about showcasing my writing, but it has mostly been for the purpose of engaging dialogue about issues I am passionate about. Yet because of the provocative subjects, even the name of the blog, I don’t list it on my resume. I guess when starting the blog I should have taken a Branding 101 class and I would have come up with something different.
Because I write about black issues, are prospective employers equating that with me lacking versatility? I am left to wonder, when I have informational meetings with Managing Editors and MVP’s of television networks who all seem to be highly interested in putting me in contact with others in the industry, do they Google me and discover my blog? If so, do the highly opinionated topics about interracial dating, racism, sexism, turn them off? Do they then think I’m too radical to fit into a work environment of predominantly white people?
Unfortunately, these are all questions I’ve had to ask myself as a black female writer. Have I unknowingly placed myself in a Pandora’s box of sorts? It is sad as black people we have to play this game in the work force because of the many cards already stacked against us, but life is unfair.
Someone suggested I start multiple blogs to prove I’m versatile. Who has time to run multiple blogs? And why should I have to? If a white person only wrote about white celebrities, white fashion designers, white…wait that happens everyday, no one would suggest they go to other measures to prove anything.
I wish I could change this double consciousness blacks have to live everyday. I wish writing about race and going against the status quo wasn’t viewed as “too militant”(which even some black folks seem to think is a bad thing, smh). Hopefully in the end, content, skill and being authentic will get me further than the ability to shuck and jive for the sake of playing the game. But right now I got to eat. And maybe I should just play the game for the sake of success.