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.

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