Keep Your Blackity-Black Black Stuff
I was excited like most people probably were at the announcement of The Undefeated, ESPN’s spin-off site that would focus on sports, race and culture — things that were invariably important to me. As an African-American man with a boatload of experiences and opinions, I envisioned this smart space connected to one of the biggest networks in the world would feature stellar, top of the line journalism.
As time went on, and the many stops and starts of the site, it began to dawn on me that this wasn’t going to be what I hoped for. Coupled with the fact that Jason Whitlock, a firebrand of a sports writer who has often rubbed me the wrong way leading the charge, the enthusiasm began to wane.
But it wasn’t Whitlock’s strong politics or bombast that cooled my jets. It was the fact that The Undefeated began to feel like the Black stepchild in a blended family where the dad was a white dude that had a pair of sons who excelled in soccer and hockey. Allow me to explain further.
While Grantland, the site formerly led by sports personality Bill Simmons, gained this reputation as a refined hub of culture, it still felt connected to the big ESPN machine. The Undefeated just felt like the corner ESPN created where the Negros would get to congregate and, you know, talk all smart and stuff. Maybe they’d get some really hip Latino and Hispanic writers, lots more women, definitely hone in on the (awfully boring discussion alert) connection between Hip-Hop and sports and the like.
I don’t know if I like “Black” anything, and I realize I sound like a hypocrite. I write for two major Black companies and I dare say much of the audience I produce content for is of color. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the companies I work for being largely Black-owned and created with the idea of dominating the online content space. Most importantly, I am proud to be Black and I love my Black family and I’m glad to say that when I walk into a room, there’s no mistaking my blackness.
That said, there’s a lot of “Black McDonald’s Commercial” going on in journalism and the Internet today. I can hear you saying “What’s this Black McDonald’s thing D.L. is droning on about?” Follow along.
You’ve seen it. You’re watching a show on a network airing a series with Black or leads of color and the commercial for the popular fast food chain comes on. Immediately, you’re assaulted with a Hip-Hop beat, a voice-over done by a Black person, and happy, shiny Black people looking fabulous and way too happy to be eating three-quarters of their daily caloric intake in one sitting.
It annoys the hell out of me. I don’t care if it’s McDonald’s, Chrysler, Dodge, any major company or brand. I’m not trying to come off as a snoot, but in the off chance I end up in a Mickey D’s, I’m not about to start pop-locking because the fries are hot. I’m going to act like I’ve been there before, order my food, and be out like any normal American.
The moment something is given a “Black” designation aside from its presumably white base of operations, there’s this sense of “See, we care about you and we even gave you a room with a roof this time.” Perhaps it shouldn’t matter and maybe the Black folks behind the scenes aren’t as sensitive to this. Perhaps we should just throw a party, exclaiming the whole time “YES! We Finally Belong!”
Having your name in the lights is rather important to writers and journalists. At a time earlier in my career, I really cared about that. Now? I just want my checks on time and I could care less if you know who a D.L. Chandler is or the fact that I’m a marginally handsome Black man of a certain age. The Black media space isn’t that even crowded, but it all feels as if there are a lot of cars on the highway all of a sudden.
People are now “brands” and host bullsh*t writing seminars, or sell themselves as “coaches” or whatever the hell. The Black media space is the ultimate come up for a hack that can fool the powers that be and paying customers that they have a special type of Negro scepter that they wave over their computers and laptops thus lending them a special place at the big white media lunch table.
To be succinct about it, there’s a lot of sh*tty writers out here passing themselves off as the torchbearers of a new brand of journalism and writing, and it’s really Blackity-Black and important and necessary and it’s OUR SPACE and nobody can take it from us and blah blah freaking blah. I get all of that. I’ve done 17 years of this, so I totally understand.
I don’t need another traditionally white media space making a special little Black clubhouse. Our content belongs on the main stage. My story, our stories, fits right alongside that awesome white kid from Indiana who has a severe handicap but is a beast on the baseball mound. Our stories are just as important as the mother who lost her family in a major tragedy, but runs a weekly 5K in their honor.
There has and always will be space at the larger publications, papers, websites and even blogs. Don’t just slap Black on it and make it feel like we matter all of a sudden. Give us the proper lane to express ourselves in that viable, global marketplace and tell our stories from major urban centers to small rural towns on the spaces that are ALREADY POPULAR AND WELL-ESTABLISHED. Don’t give us these cute little sidebar websites and say “Well, kids…if you get the hits, maybe, JUST maybe, you’ll be where we are one day so get that click bait ready!”
Blackness doesn’t have to be shined up and presented like a fresh, stork-delivered baby.
So keep your Blackity-Black stuff. Just give us fair space to play in the sandbox and don’t make it a handout. We belong. We deserve it. We’re here. Stop trying to pawn us off.
And with all that, I’ll be reading The Undefeated and all the other so-called Black spaces like I always do. Because I care. I really do.
Peace, Blessings and Salad Dressings,
D.L. Chandler, A Proud Black Writer Dude.