Diversity in is such an annoying word. It basically exists as proof of how White people like to tout their achievements in an arena that they’ve ruined for life.
Back when I was a novice writer in the nineties, mailing query letters — and waiting a whole month or two to get that rejection envelope — it quickly became apparent that being a young Black woman with the ambition and drive for excellence wasn’t going to guarantee a fulfilling outcome.
It was bloody hard to get both feet in the door, and stay in long enough to plot the next step to the top. My naivety was embarrassing, and when I look back, I’m often compelled to burst out in laughter when I recall how I actually believed that writing for Vogue Magazine was a valid possibility.
Years later, I was informed that only the clones of offsprings of movie stars like Candice Bergen’s Chloe Malle or burgeoning socialites like English-born Plum Sykes, are allowed to step into the splendorous pages and wardrobe facilities of an iconic brand, that still doesn’t bother with all the fuss about — diversity.
Before British Vogue’s former editor-in-chief, Alexandra Shulman bowed out to help usher in the history-making appointment of British-Ghanaian fashion sculptor, Edward Enninful, her departure interview for The Guardian was constructed to shame her for the impressive years of service, that was spent avoiding the manuscript of equality.
Shulman took it all in stride, and with heaps of honesty as she admitted that her reluctance to feature a Black model every other month was due to the fear that magazine sales would stagnate. The only Black covergirls allowed were — Naomi, Beyonce, Rihanna and Lupita — in rotation.
There was also the matter of the editorial team, and how the viral photo (thanks to Naomi Campbell), raised eyebrows because of the transparency of the “White Girls Only” affair at the Vogue offices.
Shulman admitted that she never anticipated the backlash that an all-White staff photo would garner, and expressed regret for not considering how it would be received by young Black and Brown women — who dream of those jobs, but have to contend with the reality of how White people prefer mostly White people, with a couple of non-White tokens, that keep quota systems — activated.
British Vogue may be in better hands with Enninful, but it’s hard to predict how flexible stuffy institutions are when it comes to deviating from the norm.
Speaking of the norm, it’s definitely time to accept the truths and untruths about the way diversity plays out in media.
When it comes to the entertainment industry, we’ve definitely witnessed the efforts being made to give the people what they really want, when it comes to rewarding Black creatives for being surprisingly creative enough to create hit TV shows, and direct blockbuster films.
But even those allowances come with a caveat, which is evident in the way that the award circuit is humping the hell out of Green Book, while giving the bitingly cold shoulder to Black Panther.
Green Book is best described as “a symphony of lies” that was produced against the wishes of the deceased subject, and with the additions of fabrications that help elevate the “White savior” narrative. Black Panther is a sprawling Black superhero movie, that shattered foreign and domestic records, and gorgeously enhances the themes of Black pride, Black love and Black power.
It’s never perfection when those in supremely powerful positions, happen to be White enough to make those decisions that benefit their questionable agendas.
This can also be applied to the avenues of media, and how another viral photo that was tweeted by a proud staffer at CBS News, remarkably hit all the wrong notes once it became clear that a major network had woefully failed to provide the basic requirements for their 2020 Election Team.
Mr. Ben Mitchell, innocently tweeted an announcement that he hoped would attract the kind of views that would be congratulatory with excited retweets. Whiteness does tend to provide the privilege of being blissfully ignorant of an existence where folks can barely find the level of representation that assures them of their worth.
Tons of annoyed users including media personalities, and other celebrities, voiced frustration over the widely condemned photo. Even frequent CNN visitor, Symone Sanders added more than her two cents to the heightened discussion. Ironically, her response exposes the blindness to the fact that CNN is also not a shining example of a uniformly diverse newsroom.
My all-time favorite journalist, who tells it like it is, and doesn’t hold back, regardless of the cost — Soledad O’Brien, used to be a staple at the news organization that President Trump wishes he could permanently shut down.
Those previous experiences have propelled her to keep a close eye on the activities of her former employer, which means she never lets up when it comes to exposing the hypocrisy and outright inefficiency, that’s on display almost on a daily basis.
The crippling relationship between mandatory diversity and the media, is how major outlets and cable networks like to pride themselves for doing exactly what they’re not accomplishing.
And the trick is working. It has to be, if someone like Symone Sanders can be oblivious to the blatancy of how she’s being invited to spew words of wisdom on platforms that are manned by White male anchors. Or White female anchors.
The weekly lineup of all-stars are mostly White men who’ve been at those seats for decades. The afternoon beat is driven by White women with guests that fit the description of variety, but they vanish as quickly as they appear.
O’Brien already knows what’s up and her tweets are gratifyingly accusatory, as she turns the tables on those who enjoy embodying the true meaning of “the pot calling the kettle black.”
CNN and CBS aren’t alone in the almighty quest to retain the dignity of newsrooms and newsmagazine shows with trusted White faces, that are viable enough to keep White audiences secure in the stoic delivery, that can’t ever be exchanged for versions that don’t live up to the ideal.
I’ve written a lot about the media’s “F” scorecard when it comes to making that effort to ensure that newsrooms are appropriately reflective of the evolving times.
The inflexibility plays out in the shittiness of MSNBC re-hiring former disgraced anchor of the NBC Nightly News Brian Williams, as chief anchor, despite his controversial departure from his prestigious post, following strong evidence that he knowingly provided fabricated details about his “harrowing” encounters, while covering the Iraq War in 2003.
It also plays out in the way that mainstream outlets reach out to Black writers like me, who’ve established a reputation as “race writers,” and therefore harbor the expertise to tackle the “race bait,” that we get asked to rationalize for clicks and traffic.
In the past, it made sense to allow editors at Huffington Post to re-post my articles on over-crowded pages for — no pay. And it wasn’t a big deal to get the DMs from globally-renowned outlets, that needed me to appear on radio shows to dissect why Black hair is more than just “hair” in the real world, and how Nappily Ever After attempts to explain that.
But then Huffington Post became HuffPost, and Black Voices employed mostly non-Black writers. These mostly White writers are getting paid to write about the Black experience with the same passion and fortitude as the Black bloggers who were abruptly dropped without warning.
And there was also the growing resentment each time the DMs and emails poured in from outlets that needed spoonfuls of my Blackness, until my time was up, and I was abruptly bounced. The meatier bits weren’t necessary because my voice of reason in the form of my racial makeup, and a couple of sentences — usually met the basic standards.
These organizations don’t want Black people on staff.
They don’t want to be champions of equality in the ways that count. They don’t want to disturb the force with interferences of talents of color, who will potentially have to unseat the “Wolf Blitzers” or “Anderson Coopers” or “Kelly Ripas,” of the universe, because that’s millions of dollars down the drain. They don’t want to painstakingly re-organize the hierarchy charts with new blood, who despite being non-White, possess the skills and work ethic that will endorse durability.
They would rather boot out Tamron Hall and prized staffer, Al Roker, for the purpose of hiring a revered White conservative bigot, who more than earned the $69 million payday — due to her popularity with White women, who will vote for Trump in 2020.
CBS News got it right with its newly-assembled Elections 2020 teamsters because that glowing image is the accurate representation of how the industry truly feels about an issue that has become a bone of contention — based on the reluctance to adopt a more progressive mantra.
News organizations only invite people of color to briefly drop words of wisdom, and then systemically throw them out when the segment comes to an explosive end.
It’s not justifiable to disrupt the flow with an homage to a trend that will eventually fade before the implementation phase is initiated.
We can keep gazing at the discouraging statistics at the beginning and end of every year, but that will do very little to inspire action from over-paid White CEOs, who are adamant about keeping White viewers glued to White anchors.
And even the lucky ones who get through the barricaded zones, and into the newsrooms that matter, have to fight like hell to preserve their dignity and strength against the nefariousness of the toxic White House, its imposing Frankenstein, and the glaring betrayal of White colleagues in the Press Corps.
It’s time to understand that White people in media, high and low, are hypocrites when it comes to honestly wanting to diversify the landscape, that they dominate with the authority that won’t let go.
Remaining in denial is a state of mind that breeds bitterness, and we don’t have time for that pathetic disposition.
The goal is to stick together and give those organizations that cater to the community — the glow up and endorsements that are required to function accordingly.