On Wednesday, my colleague at gal-dem, a magazine collective of women and non-binary people of colour (PoC) aimed at challenging the monolithic media landscape, received an email that threw the realities of our existence in a white-dominated environment into focus.
They were asked or some quotes, contacts, on the subject of “wokeness.”
As a fellow journalist I appreciate that it is sometimes hard, if not impossible, to say no to commissions given to us by our editors – and that there is an outdated mentality whereby editors think that white men can write about anything and everything, whereas black women comment and features writers, for instance, are only ever commissioned on the topic of race. Challenging that, even within an institution, can be hard.
But to ask the head of another media outlet for their contacts rather than doing research in this context seems shabby: an abuse of power in a time when it’s becoming clearer and clearer just how important it is for the voices of women of colour to be centred and our emotional labour respected.
To ask the head of another media outlet for their contacts rather than doing research in this context seems shabby
As the Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow said in the aftermath of Grenfell: “We the media report the lack of diversity in other walks of life – but our own record is nothing like good enough … We have to widen both our contact with, and awareness of, those who live outside and beyond our elite.”
So, you know, we should be widening the circle of people we contact about stories?
At gal-dem we are inundated with irrelevant requests for comment, advice and guidance from white people; and it’s tiring, these tokenistic faux attempts at diversity. Even as I was writing this piece I received yet another email from a journalist looking for a comment on a topic I do not care about. I have been asked only because I am a “black” voice, not because I have any expertise on the subject.
But we shouldn’t widen the circle of people we ask for comment about things.