I sit by my computer, opening my Gmail – getting ready for the onslaught of rejection emails saying I’m “not quite what they are looking for at the moment.”
By now I am used to it. It’s a necessary part of the process. I give ideas, they reject. I give better ideas, they nicely reject. I give even better ideas, they reject once again --this time with feeling.
The rejection doesn’t really bother me. I understand that it’s just a part of the process. I’ll become tougher and my ideas will become sharper – its character building.
But in the back of my mind, I wonder if the rejections would stop if I took the plunge and wrote about race and gender. After all I am a black woman and I have been all my life. I need the exposure, I have to start building up some sort of professional portfolio, but something just doesn’t feel right.
I open a Google Chrome window -- think pieces on race and gender fill up my newsfeed. Issues of social justice are taking center stage, as they should. It’s great that people are discussing very real problems that affect so many people in our society --myself included.
Should I write like that? I could get a professional credential – a way to get my foot in the door.
The thing is I’ve tried and it’s not for me. There is this inner strength needed to keep going while dealing with the anger and sadness felt with every new story and every new hashtag. And on top of that you have to face the idiots that feel their voice needs to be heard even though they’ll never understand the nuances of what is really going on.
It’s hard and plays on your own well-being, which is something I can’t personally sacrifice.
But that’s what the media organizations want, right?
The Black Woman’s perspective...urgh.
That’s what people are interested in. Not even this black woman’s perspective.
I am speaking on the behalf of all black women everywhere. Do they even care to know if what I’m saying can be attributed to other black women? They just see the clicks from the articles. Diversity, that’s what sells. That’s what will get the reader’s to the site. That’s your meal ticket. They want to be progressive, they want to seem enlightened, tolerant and relevant.
With a few taps of my keyboard I have typed a full pitch about how I – as a black woman -- feel about the media narratives surrounding black women’s bodies, the importance of Serena Williams and the rise of Kylie Jenner and Iggy Azalea. I feel kind of ill. I know this pitch will get the green light. It’s exactly what they are looking for. I feel like I am commodifying my black womaness -- it’s horrifying.
But why shouldn’t I gain from this – white men have been capitalizing off of being white men since the beginning of time. For once, let me have a piece of the pie.
It just feels like in their eyes being black and being a woman is all I’m seen as – it’s all I’m allowed to be and I don’t want to play that game.
Yes, being black and being a woman are two fundamental parts of my identity that are weaved into everything I do -- but they are not the only parts. I, just like every other human on this planet, am a complex individual, with many sources of self that all play a part in my overall identity. Focusing on just these two facets is disrespectful to all the other components that make me, me.
I don’t know if this is all in my head, or if I’m creating a problem where there isn’t one, but it just feels like I’m being pigeonholed before I even start and it’s discouraging.
In all honesty, I just want to be myself and write about things from all the parts that make up that voice.
I just want to be free in the way my non-POC counterparts seem. Free from the assumptions that fall upon my shoulders. Free from the worries of acceptance based on my race. Free from all the angry black girl tropes and strong black woman stereotypes. Free to just imagine every version of myself without a moment of doubt of how it will fit into the societal concept of the "black woman."
I know that technically there aren’t any actual boundaries limiting me from any of this, but what I have been told, through comments and reactions tells a different story.
These limitations to what is and is not acceptable are potent and have cause me to spend many a night questioning who I am. It is something I have had to reconcile from within, a process that continues to this very day.
So as I try to find my voice, all I can really do is continue to write, record and pitch stories that showcase all the parts of me. I will do my best to ignore the pressure to focus on the race and social justice beat, but I will not shy away from speaking about racism and feminism if I truly feel passionate about the subject.
Because at the end of the day, all I can really do is try my best to makes stuff that I am proud of -- even if that means spending my mornings sifting through batches of rejection emails.