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February 18, 2009

An Appeal To The Anti-racist Hive Mind ...

... and especially my POC out there.

I'm working with someone who is my superior (I'm freelance, so pretty much everyone is my superior). This is a regular arts writing gig and I'm the only person of color who writes there regularly. All the other writers are white, and most are male. So the writing that gets done here covers primarily white artists. No, not primarily ... almost exclusively. Most of the writing about artists of color comes from me (it's about 75% of what I write.

And let me just say here that I don't mind writing mostly about artists of color. I don't feel like I'm missing out on some essential experience by not writing about white artists. But I resent like hell being the only one.)

It's Black History Month--it's more than half over, in fact--and the only piece on black artists so far is mine. In fact, all of the other pieces so far this month are on white artists, with one exception: an Asian American artist who collaborates with a white artist. I've already had an email exchange with this superior about how we're not covering enough black artists in Black History Month, but he chose to misunderstand me, saying I could switch out one of my assignments to cover a black artist if I want to.

So it's time for me to write him a serious email about how he needs to diversify ALL the stuff that everyone writes and that effort needs to come from him--being the superior. He needs to request more pitches about artists of color from the other writers, and to hold them accountable if they don't do it. But before he can do that, he needs to change his own attitudes.

Other details: our communication is by email. I've had an exchange with him about this before and thought he heard me, but he seems to think now that because I'm the only person who seems to care about this, that I'm the only one responsible for bringing diversity to this situation.

So are there any POC out there who've been in a similar situation and have SUCCESSFULLY advocated for greater diversity? Especially if it was with a superior who was reluctant and had a bad or laissez faire attitude at first but ended up changing their mind and doing it? Any success stories out there you tell me that will give me a model for how to approach this guy?


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Wow. That's a tall order. Let me get back to you on that. :) Hopefully, you'll get some good responses on this one!

thanks, bryan! you can hit me up here or on FB.

Dang! That would so p*ss me off, having someone assume that because I'm the minority person I must do minority reports. Talk about tokenism! -C

i don't actually mind doing minority reports and leading the way on that, AS LONG AS i'm not the only one expected to do it.

the sad thing here is that i don't even think that's why i was hired. i think covering artists of color is so off their radar that my doing that on my own initiative is just a plus, not a necessity ... insofar as they're interested in diversity at all.

I'm a white girl and little late to this confab, but I thought I'd share one of my own strategies on a matter similar to this. I used to have to put together cast lists for movies I produced at an independent film company. The general rule of thumb was, "stick to white actors because people in foreign countries don't like to see people of color on the big screen." Gross, I know. Now, my ace in the hole was the fact that the head of the company was an older gentleman who wasn't really aware of who the hot new actors were. So I used to stuff my cast lists with actors of color and just not tell him they were actors of color. It sometimes worked. Couldn't you propose pieces on artists of color and simply not state anything about their race? Your editor would have to be a special kind of jerk to reject a piece after he found out the subject wasn't white. Sometimes being sneaky is the best solution.

the problem isn't him rejecting MY pitches on artists of color. he doesn't. the problem is him not asking for greater diversity in the pitches the other writers give. as a result, the only writer of color on the staff (me) is also the only one writing about artists of color.

i'm trying to get HIM to realize that HE needs to step up his OWN efforts to diversify the coverage, otherwise he's not really doing his job. sigh. woe is me.

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