Editors: Now’s Your Time To Step Up

Here’s how you can uplift Black voices while not exploiting Black pain

Jacquelyn Gray
Jul 8, 2016 · 3 min read
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Philando Castile (left), Alton Sterling (right) Photo: Twitter

All I have been able to say over the past few days is “I’m tired.” Not one but two videos have depicted Black men unjustly losing their lives to police. And it’s tiring being constantly reminded that justice and humanity are two rights which aren’t extended to people with darker skin.

But this isn’t just about me, this about Black people. Black people that are tired. Tired of feeling less than. Invalidated. Black people that are tired of asking White allies to step up.

I also come to you as a tired Black writer. And I know of far too many accomplished and emerging Black writers that are tired of being given a platform only when it pertains to our pain. We deserve better.

Editors and the media at large: you bear a shit ton of responsibility in the whole thing. That’s why this writer is dedicating her first post on Medium to help you do better. I expect no money, no financial benefit. I just want this to change.

What I want is for the media, specifically editors, to understand that utilizing Black writers solely to push a narrative of pain is unacceptable. This Black writer is letting you know that she is frustrated with gatekeepers that are only accessible when Black tragedies occur.

These are tough times we are living in for too many reasons to count. Giving that struggling Black writer their first byline only because you want a firsthand account of how helpless it is to live in today’s climate is exploitative no matter which way you’d like to spin it.

So, I implore you to ask yourself the following questions:

Do I call for pitches from people of color when the topic doesn’t involve the victimization of Black people?

Do I forge opportunities for people of color outside of writing said stories?

Do I offer Black writers adequate compensation, understanding that many are expected to take on these emotionally taxing issues for cheap/free?

Do I prioritize Black writers’ thoughts and concerns when these events occur — and most importantly, allow them to cover these stories?

Is my newsroom diverse?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, please, consider doing better. In fact, media as a whole needs to, so you’re not alone.

But what can you do? Plenty. But I’m only writing this to get you started. This is the main thing I want you to realize this after reading this piece: Black writers have varying experiences and insights that have value and are deserving of a platform. But don’t only realize — do something about it.

And if you’re still unconvinced, I’ll leave you with some pieces proving for the umpteenth time that Black writers have a mosaic of stories to tell, whether it be heartbreaking, informative, compelling or uplifting. Allow us to do so.

Photojournalist Clarence Williams pays tribute to his late father in The New York Times

Pilot Viruet wrote about Black Exhaustion in 2015, because yes, we’ve been feeling this way for quite some time

Cameron Glover penned a piece for Harpers Bazaar informing the unaware that not every Black woman aims to look like Beyoncé

Youtuber and activist Kat Blaque detailed the issues with Performative Blackness in television

The Guardian’s Rebecca Carroll debunks the angry Black woman trope

For Bitch Media, Tamara Winfrey Harris gives Hillary Clinton some sound advice (which includes foregoing dabbing, but some other important stuff, too)

and Morgan Jenkins reveals in The New Yorker just how powerful a Black woman’s diary is

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