If All the Journalists of Color Quit Because of Racism, There’d Be None Left

I was going to write about black hair today, but there was a much more interesting piece in The New Republic that  deserves my attention. Rebecca Carroll, an accomplished author, journalist, and news producer, says she’s leaving journalism because of the systemic racism she endured in her career. It’s a damn shame: a quick Google search reveals a consummate professional who never shies away from telling the most interesting stories in black culture. If she’s serious, I’ll certainly be sad to see her go.

Her complaints in the piece, while uncomfortable to read, are not new. This paragraph in particular struck me as all too familiar:

At the start of each new job, where I was almost invariably the only black editor on staff (unless it was a black publicationI have worked at a few), I would be heralded for my “voice” (and the implicit diversity it brought), until that voice became threatening or intimidating, or just too black. My ideas were “thoughtful” and “compassionate” until I argued, say, that having white journalists write the main features on a new black news venture sent the wrong message to the black online community. My editors disagreed.

Like Carroll, I’ve usually been one of the few (if not the only) nonwhite faces in the room either on editorial boards or in writing jobs. I’ve also been commended for my invaluable voice. But I knew how to avoid the confrontation that would arise from making observations that Carroll did. I found ways to diplomatically phrase my ideas so as not to incite ire. But I still bumped against a glass ceiling, and I finally realized why. I was black enough to add diversity, but not quite enough to fulfill the fantasy of having an exotic, oppressed other on staff to give the appearance of being “well-rounded”.

I’ve had plenty of liberal friends, co-workers, and employers who aren’t racist. But I’ve encountered a persistent, widespread belief that racism doesn’t exist above the Mason-Dixon line, and it galls me. The idea that racism can’t exist in cosmopolitan cities and is reserved for those Bible-thumping, Republican rednecks who think God created the world in seven days is as prevalent as it is wrong.

But that’s the crux of liberal hypocrisy: everyone is welcome except for those who don’t agree with them. God forbid you happen to know open-minded Southerners or think that the affordable housing crisis is due in part to bureaucratic mismanagement. People in New York who disagree with the fundamental idea that government always makes things better for everyone generally call themselves “independents” because they don’t want to be associated with people like Rand Paul.

When I’m Rebecca Carroll’s age, I want to be able to look back feeling satisfied about the trajectory of my career. That’s partly why I became a conservative. I was given a platform on the Right, instead of being pigeonholed as a black and Hispanic writer. At the beginning of my internship at The American Conservative, my editor warned me not to box myself in as a “black writer”. I listened to him, and wrote pieces on a wide variety of topics, from foreign policy to Washington politics and women’s issues in the workplace. I still wrote about race, and got the most feedback on those pieces, but I wasn’t just a race writer. I wasn’t defined by writing about race, and it was freeing to be able to write about an aspect of myself while exploring other topics that interested me. My editor’s advice that carried me through my internship and will likely remain with me through the remainder of my career as a writer.

Race in journalism is a complicated issue, and requires insight, wisdom, and keeping a cool head because of the intense emotionalism that inevitably arises. Being fed up with racist bullshit is a very understandable feeling. I’ve encountered my share of it, and I’m only just starting out. But it’s also part of the job. Whether you’re a rocket scientist or a doctor or a stay-at-home parent, if you’re a minority, racist bullshit is a part of your existence. You can either lament it, fight it, or rise above it. My hope is that as a conservative writer I can do a combination of the latter two things, and motivate others to do the same wherever they are.

See you all on Friday.

Monica, Hair, and Dear White People

Happy Monday, everyone!

This week’s posts are going to be on the lighter side because I’m getting ready to go to China. Today’s post is about what it’s like to be a woman on the Internet. Wednesday’s post will be about natural hair, and Friday, God willing, I’ll have a review of “Dear White People”. So here we go.

Monica Lewinsky is back. She gave a speech earlier today at the Forbes 30 Under 30 summit where she called herself “Patient Zero” of having her reputation ripped apart on the Internet. She might be right, but the point isn’t that it happened; the rancor against women on the Internet has not only continued, but intensified. It started with Lewinsky, but the ire that rages agains the female victims of Gamergate to the point where the women have to leave their homes from the amount of death threats is inexcusable.

I’m not defending Lewinsky’s decision. But Americans love to pick the bones of a pariah long after the carcass has rotted, and the Internet allows cowards to harass women with little legal recourse.

I admire Lewinsky’s courage to speak out today. But I’m not sure what her strategy is to “end cyberbullying.” How do you defeat bullies in real life, let alone the ones you can’t see? Clearly the laws need to change, and the attitudes that accept attacking women needs to change. But how do you regulate and enforce protection laws on the Internet?

A Response to the Twitter Cabal

Hey, everyone.

This past Friday I was too exhausted to do a round-up, and I have no one to blame for that for myself. I spent too much of Friday–and too much of last week in general–on Twitter having discussions with people that took up too much of my energy. I also have other projects that I’m working on outside of this blog that I’m not at liberty to discuss yet, and those deadlines are coming up very soon. Additionally, things with my visa are finally loosening up, and I should be on my way to China by the end of the month barring any further delays. I’m still learning how to balance all of this, and I appreciate your patience as I continue to learn how to manage my time.

In a way the Twitter discussions have been a very good thing. I like engaging with people and having them visit the blog so they can get more than 140-character snippets of my ideas. I also appreciate support from accounts like Black Republican. They do an amazing job of showcasing rising conservative talent in the blogosphere. I’m not talking about myself here: writers like Chidike Okeem and blogs like Hip Hop Republican get their day in court thanks to Black Republican, who take the time to make sure everyone gets a moment in the limelight.

But being on the Internet so much has also been emotionally draining. When strangers call you names and project their own assumptions about you behind the safety of an avatar, you feel it’s a lose-lose situation before the round even begins. You can’t change anyone’s opinions of you, and it’s disappointing when people resort to dumb rhetorical tactics like ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments because they don’t know how else to react when their worldview has been challenged.

Let me be clear: I’m not going to stop blogging because the Internet is full of idiots. What I am saying is that I’m going to blog smarter and and stop getting involved in discussions that aren’t productive. This week has been good for me in terms of stats and comments and I want to keep that going without feeling like I’m swinging blindfolded at a piñata.

I didn’t blog Monday, Wednesday, Friday but I did do three posts this week, and I’m happy with that. I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow with a new post.

Best,

Marjorie

Does Speaking Standard English Dilute Blackness?

“Are you white?”

The enquirer was an eight-year-old boy at my summer day camp fourteen years ago, who had stared at me for a solid minute before launching his query. His question unsettled me. The same week a fellow camper, with whom I did not get along, excluded me from a conversation with the phrase, “This is black people’s talk.” I realized at the tender age of eleven that my blackness (or Hispanic-ness, for that matter) was less defined by the color of my skin than by the way I spoke. In that scenario and many others, speaking standard American English around black people was an affront. It was perceived as both distancing myself from my heritage while attempting to ingratiate myself with a group of people that were responsible for the marginalization of my comrades. Not having African-American argot as a default linguistic setting was both a betrayal and a rejection of my community.

My inability to code switch–speak African-American argot around black people, standard English in formal settings–has been the most salient quality that has brought my blackness into question over the years. I’ve gotten comments ranging from, “your college application reads like a white person’s” to “you talk like a white girl, but you ain’t white.” I can recognize the expression of muted surprise when I open my mouth, but I’m so used to it I barely notice it anymore (it’s also 2014, and there are a lot of articulate brown people, thank goodness.)The piece in Slate today is a belated apology of sorts: we’re sorry that we’ve judged and stigmatized black people for speaking a dialect of English. But the truth is, no matter what the color of your skin is, dialects of English, whether from the South Bronx or Appalachia, aren’t welcome in mainstream America. When it comes to public speaking, job interviews, or career advancement, speaking standard English is a cultural expectation and a professional requirement. That’s not a normative statement; it doesn’t mean that there aren’t working people who speak with accents or that we should discriminate against people who don’t speak standard English at home. That’s a separate issue altogether. I’m talking about whether or not speaking standard English as a black person detracts from your blackness. And if you see blackness as a cultural identity as much as a legal or hereditary one, then it seems to. But this wasn’t always the case.

Both of my parents were raised in working-class homes and spoke standard English in their respective households. I suspect that it is because although none of my grandparents were wealthy, all of them believed speaking standard English was a way of respecting yourself and others. We don’t live in that world anymore. An allegiance to a dialect is now more important that appearing to be a sellout. Speaking standard English is not a measure of my intelligence; it’s a measure of my education. And my education is not a betrayal of my heritage. I don’t lose “blackness” because I speak Standard English. My melanin concentration isn’t contingent on correctly placed modifiers.

But, unfortunately, that’s not how a lot of the black community sees it. If you like Taylor Swift, read “colonialist” history books and “talk like a white girl”, then your blackness card is revoked; at minimum, you’re on probation. It’s sad to see a population that endured so much hatred and exclusivity practicing the similar tactics on members on their own community. Too much of blackness today is dependent on the music you listen to, the clothes you wear, and the way you speak. The same intolerance of non-standard English in the boardroom is practiced in the ghettoes.

There’s a line between celebrating your heritage and championing ignorance. My grandparents moved to New York from the South and Puerto Rico to give their children a better start in life, and that included speaking English well. My allegiance is to them, not  fitting in with hip-hop culture that has become synonymous with blackness.

What do you all think? Should we be accepting of other dialects of English in the workplace and other places? Is speaking standard English a betrayal of the black community?

Of Tainos and “Tragick Mulattoes”

Last night on Twitter some people descended on my timeline to inform me of my colonialist ignorance. It’s not something I haven’t dealt with before, in person, but the Internet with its anonymity has a way of making people feel brave enough to call strangers things they’d only say during bar brawls and prison riots.

So what happened?

In response to an earlier tweet that said one million Tainos are still alive, I pointed out that the Taino died out, but their descendants are still around, mixed with African and Spanish blood.

The reaction was immediate.

She kept going.

And going.

And going.

Others joined in.  

I was shown this picture to show me the error of my ways.

Naturally, this picture was unsourced, and could easily have been a bunch of actors in costume. Attaching a Wikipedia article to my tweets to back up my claim did not go over well.

The response?

This is how you know you’re having an argument on the Internet, when a picture takes precedent over something that has actual fact. Bad Dominicana evidently wasn’t done, though.

Another young lady, who accused me of being illiterate, later tried to engage me in a conversation to get me to admit I was wrong to say I was black when I am in fact mixed.It goes with out saying ze offered no evidence to support hir claims other than to point out I was wrong. Apparently, by saying a historically true fact (descendants of Tainos are mixed) precludes me from saying I’m black. I guess it does, maybe? But who cares? According to Plessy v. Ferguson, it doesn’t matter if I’m even an eighth black (and I’m more than an eighth), I would still be subjected to “separate but equal” laws. Back in the 19th century, I still would have been a slave, bought and sold just like my darker-skinned brothers and sisters. My life would have been no different, (and is no different), except in addition to the remnants of cultural and institutional racialism I deal with, I hear things like “high yella”, “mullatto”, or my personal favorite, “she think just ’cause she light skinned she white.”

None of the earlier vitriol bothered me much, but this comment she made stung:

If you keep reading this girl’s timeline, she talks about the hardship of being mixed. Sigh. Sometimes you can’t win. Really, the argument is simple. Aren’t elephants descendants of wooly mammoths? Do wooly mammoths still exist? The same applies for populations of people who are (all but) extinct. It’s sad. I wish it weren’t the case. But there it is.

The Taino culture isn’t dead, and I never claimed it was. But 90% of Tainos did die as a result of disease and abuse of the Spanish. That’s a fact. Spaniards married Taino women and had mestizo children in an attempt to whitewash the gene pool and establish their dominance in society. Puerto Ricans and Dominicans are descended from those mestizos and African slaves. These are all facts. They can be a bit uncomfortable, but if we never confront the things that give us discomfort, we will never learn.

At the end of the day, race does not exist; people exist. I am descended from African slaves, Taino Indians, Spanish colonizers, and German immigrants. But this is not who I am in totality. I am a beautiful human. And so are you.

Peace and love to all of you.

I’m Back (Where I’ve Been)

Hello, everyone.

I had two impacted wisdom teeth removed last week. My dentist was excellent and did an amazing job, but losing two teeth in a week has subjected me to pain that I had never experienced before. I had surgery two years ago, and after a couple of days on Percocet I was fine. But last week, at its worst, the pain extended from my right temple to my chin. It also crawled into my ear, down my throat, and wrapped around the back of my neck. I couldn’t sleep. I ate apple sauce and pureed carrots. I took morphine and codeine (not simultaneously!) and sat in front of the television while writing sentimental messages to my friends on Facebook. I took extensions on my graduate school assignments.

And then, two days ago, the pain subsided. I caught up on my graduate school work, and am now ready to get back to regularly scheduled programming. I’m still in some pain, but I can take Tylenol or Ibuprofen and can function normally, thank goodness.

Now for our Friday Wrap-Up:

Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Kailash Satyarthi. I’m relieved to read good news; the constant Ebola coverage has been a persistent emotional drain. There is speculation that awarding the prize to an Indian man and Pakistani woman will help improve relations between the two countries.

There’s been another shooting in Ferguson. Tensions have been brewing under the surface: protests have continued, and another black teenager was shot sixteen times. Police and eyewitness reports conflict: the police say the suspect had a gun, while others say it was a sandwich.

Unsurprisingly, the Hong Kong government canceled talks with the protesters today. The protests seem to have wound down, but this new development has reignited demonstrations.

Guys, if you’ve been looking of an excuse to save on the engagement ring, here’s your vindication: a study published by two economists at Emory University argues a positive relationship between expensive engagement rings, lavish weddings, and divorce. In other words, if your bride-to-be is materialistic, lose her. Marriage is about commitment and sacrifice, not elaborate floral arrangements. Gracy Olmstead at The American Conservative goes into further detail. It’s a terrific article and worth the read.

Have a great weekend, everyone! See you Monday

Marjorie