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.

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?

Friday Wrap-Up

Hello Friends,

First things first: thank you all for your support this week. As I mentioned earlier, Monday’s post generated a surge in traffic, and I picked up about 20 new Twitter followers. It was one of the most controversial pieces I’ve written in a while, but the response has been positive and encouraging. It’s meant a lot to me, and it was the push I needed to start posting regularly. So thanks again.

Secondly, if you like this blog, consider making a donation to my journalistic alma mater, The American Conservative. They’ve had a great deal of influence on my thoughts and writing since my conversion to the dark side, and helped me make the decision to cut ties with the Democratic party in the first place. They provided me with a platform that reached a lot of people, and remain a publication committed to open-minded thinking that defies any party line or doctrine. Freedom of speech isn’t free, and it’s made possible by readers like you. They deserve to keep up their good work.

Lastly, a few housekeeping things. Starting next Friday, you’ll be able to subscribe to this blog by email, so every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you’ll get a new post in your inbox if you want. In addition, this post will be reserved for news highlights domestically and abroad. I considered writing a bit about the Scottish independence referendum, but I’ve got no real opinion on it and the news coverage has ranged from understated to underwhelming (short story even shorter: they’re staying with the UK). But I have a good deal of interest and experience in foreign affairs, so keep an eye out for internationally related posts.

Enjoy your weekend,

Marjorie

The Winds of Change

Hello friends,

The last couple days have been hectic on this blog. I got a lot of new Twitter followers and many new folks stopped by to read Monday’s post. Since Monday evening it was republished twice, and the response I received has generally been positive. I anticipated devoting today’s post to an apologia, but it seems that that won’t be necessary.

The winds of change are upon us. The growing consensus in Ferguson is that the local Democratic politicians are not cutting it. In a town-hall style meeting in Clayton earlier today, many frustrated black citizens voiced their concerns, and the charged atmosphere suggested that it was only the beginning. Black people everywhere are looking for an alternative that is truly relevant and lasting. I think we can expect an exodus of large numbers of blacks from the Democratic party within the next several months leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

So, what does that mean for this blog?

It means I have to write more. People of color (black, Asian, Native American, what have you) need to know there is another way besides the liberal narrative of the left and the myopic aggression of the right. There is a community of conservatives of color out here, and we need to be more visible so that those who are wrestling with internal conflict need not feel so alone. It’s important to connect with like-minded individuals to move the debate forward. Black Republican did it for me, and it’s only right for me to pass it on.

I will be posting, from here on in, three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This is a way for me to be accountable to you, my new audience, and a way for you to know when to check this space for new posts. It’s time for me to step up, and it’s time for you all to get decent, consistent content. I look forward to interacting with you all on here and on Twitter. In the coming weeks I’ll continue to tweak the blog and set up a commenting policy.

Yours in political arms,

Marjorie

The Liberal Narrative and Black Victimhood

Happy Monday, friends.

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, and now the time has come.

Over the summer, a young teenager named Mike Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police. That event sparked weeks of protests and protracted violence that was extensively covered by the news. Yesterday a black actress was allegedly mistaken for a prostitute, and, according to her, wrongfully detained. Nearly every week there is a story about a black person being oppressed, or unduly suffering through poverty, police brutality, lack of education, and diminished economic opportunity. A spate of thinkpieces periodically pops up with the expected hand-wringing and the question, what is to be done?

Rarely do I see pieces written by black writers that suggest solutions for the deep-seated problems that plague the black communities in America.

The surface reason for this is somewhat intuitive: blacks are not only a minority in numbers, but also in professions such as journalism. There are exceptions such as superstar Ta-Nehisi Coates, but generally speaking there are few black voices, and even fewer who outline practical solutions. You can’t have a solution to a problem when it’s never your fault.

The second, deeper reason for this, I believe is the mentality of black victimhood. Though oppression of blacks was not perpetrated by blacks, I think that blacks buy into their own perceived helplessness and do not do enough to make waves that cause actual change.

What do I mean by this?

I’ve found black movements, on the Internet and in real life, to be largely reactionary. Every time a young black man gets shot, an outpouring of rage follows, accompanied by sympathetic editorials by white authors, and then everyone gets bored and moves on, until the next shooting. And the next.

But Marjorie, I hear the voices protesting, you just don’t understand black people.

Don’t I? My father is black. I’m from Brooklyn and Washington Heights. I’ve worked for members of Congress in Harlem and I’ve campaigned for black candidates. I’ve also worked low wage jobs in East Harlem where the whitest things in the store were the sweaters we were folding. My perspective doesn’t come from safe within an ivory tower. It comes from living among black people, and living with a black man who practically had a weekly special on How the White Man Tried to Screw Me Over and That’s Why I Can’t Get a Regular Job.

I’ve had black people tell me that they don’t vote in local elections because only the presidential elections are important. I’ve listened to college-educated black Democrats tell me that the reason why they and other blacks voted for Obama is because of the color of his skin. I’ve watched black parents spend money they don’t have on clothes and sneakers and gaming consoles and then complain that their kid can’t get a decent education. I’ve seen black women dress like backup dancers in hip-hop videos to job interviews and wonder why they can’t get an office job. I’ve seen flyers in offices commemorating the death of Biggie Smalls, a rapper who lay down some tracks, rather than for Malcolm X, who laid down his life for his beliefs.

And then when injustice strikes, as it inevitably does, it’s because of racism. No. Black America has its head up its ass. This does not make the tragedies anyone’s fault, but it is why I believe nothing changes.

Racism exists, but so does the power of community and personal responsibility. The immediate generation after slavery saw incredible prosperity in the black community and the establishment of the black middle class. Was there incredible racism? Sure. But somehow, blacks were more dignified and prosperous in spite of it. More on that in another blog post.

Ditch the television. Save the money on the sneakers. Stop complaining. Vote every chance you get. Every school board election, primary race, state senate race, mayoral race. There is strength and solidarity in unity. Don’t beg for justice. Expect it. Demand it. Teach your sons what their rights are when dealing with police. Teach them to behave better than the racist bigots. Help them to finish school and/or get a lucrative skill. Encourage the men to marry the women they have children with. Teach your daughters that they are worthy of a commitment before they bear children.

Oh, there goes another compassionless conservative, blaming the victim, the voices say.

Is that so? In Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations“, he quotes the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, a black man, and a Democrat, telling young black men to pull up their pants and stop making babies they can’t afford. Coates dismisses this quote, because it doesn’t fit into the liberal narrative that blacks are being screwed over at every turn.  But the fact remans that three out of every four black children are born out of wedlock. The statistics speak for themselves: children who are born to married parents, regardless of color, have better lives. The parents don’t even have to be educated. As long as the parents have finished high school, are married to each other, and wait until after marriage to have children, the kids have a two percent chance of growing up in poverty.

Coates is a truly gifted writer. There is no disputing that. I do, however, dispute Coates’ ability to run a city. My guess is that Coates is not willing to consider that the long history of black underachievement has not only to do with racist policies, but also the ignorance and defeatist attitude that plagues the black community.

Personal responsibility knows no party. If black Americans want change, we have to fight for it. Is it fair that we have to fight? No. But the alternative is living as we are now: blaming everyone else, and watching helplessly as black men ages 16 to 40 are killed and imprisoned, further destroying the black family and unraveling the fabric of black society.

Tentative Beginnings

Hi.  I’m Marjorie, and this is my blog.  It’s about politics and conservatism and stuff.

I’ve been circling around the edges of conservatism for a while, and I decided to finally take the plunge and wrote my preliminary political manifesto, “Why I’m Leaving the Democratic Party”, which debuted on PolicyMic yesterday afternoon.  It’s gone viral (in a minor capacity) and has garnered a lot of interesting and thought-provoking responses.  I’m awed and grateful by the experience, but I see that it’s time for me to head back to the library.

The move, while planned, was a bit premature.  Normally I do a hell of a lot more research, planning, and thinking before I submit something to PolicyMic, but sometimes life requires moments when you trust your gut and step off a ledge.  I was glad I did–The American Conservative, a publication I deeply respect and that I cited as one of my reasons for defecting, retweeted my article as a “very good read”.   I wasn’t a Political Science or philosophy major in college, so while most people in this field are armed with their Machiavelli, Stiglitz, Friedman and Hegel, I’m better equipped to get you through a busy market in Beijing and discuss the implications of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.  So I’m embarking on this journey without a real idea where I’m going, which is not how I roll, but weirdly, feels right.  Will I register as an Independent?  Officially become a Libertarian?  Run back to the Democrats (prob not)?  Join me and we’ll see.

I’m going to use this space to react to political thinkers I read, foment debate, challenge the status quo, and comment on current events as they pertain to conservatism.  Come one, come all.  I’m new to this.  I need your help.  Challenge my thoughts.  Point out my logical flaws.  Just be prepared for me to challenge you back.

Oh, yeah: I should probably mention something relevant to the title.  Yes, I’m Latina.  (I’m also African-American with some German mixed in there somewhere.)  No, you’re not going to find recipes on how to make authentic pots of rice or whatever.  Yes, I speak Spanish.  No, this blog is not bilingual (though I may resort to swearing in Spanish if something annoys me).  Yes, I am immensely proud of my heritage.  No, you’re not going to find those self-involved essays about what being Latina means to me.  I don’t struggle with my identity as a Latina.  I embrace it.  Cool?  Cool.  Now, let’s get cracking.

And if you want recipes for authentic pots of rice, I’ll link you over to my mom’s blog.  She’s a great cook.

I look forward to meeting you all.