Too political – By @rrachaelsimoess
Howdy! Your fellow hot young and ~urban~ creative writing again. How’s it going? Hope you’re doing yoga, taking breaks from the internet and drinking herbal tea(s). Let’s get into it, shall we?
Remember John Boyega’s online and physical support for Black Lives Matter when the movement was at its peak back in, like, May? The thing that stood out to a lot of people when he spoke was his side comment about possibly not getting hired again for speaking up. Now, after everything that has happened, and supporting black lives becoming a social trend that every brand has to get behind, what Boyega said may seem like an irrational fear. But here I am in all my glory to tell you why this fear is genuine and shared among Black, Asian and other POC students/employees (especially creative).
A year ago when I was on Commercial Break in a 1-to-1 feedback meeting with my mentors, I was told to “tone it down a bit”, “it” being my vocal comments on social (mainly racist and colonial) issues I saw in clients’ work or briefs. For context, I was 19 years old and had just come out of working with a radical community artist-activist. To say I was angry with my newfound understanding of the world around me is an understatement.
Depending on who you are, you may think Commercial Break was wrong in what they told me. But they’re an organisation that prepares young working-class (often ethnically diverse) people getting into advertising, so they may have been fine with my comments, but it’s safe to say that they knew the industry wouldn’t. I can also admit my comments were out of disgust rather than to come up with a solution (which is what they were paying me for).
Another quite embarrassing example of me running my mouth on social issues in the ‘wrong’ setting was at my end-of-course exhibition of a creative course I was on. The event was more of an anniversary for the organisation running the course than it was an exhibition for our work. The alumni were allowed only 2 invites, while it felt like the organisation’s sponsors poured into space. We still had a fantastic night and I’m still tremendously grateful for everything the organisation gives me. I was just upset that the people (my people) I wanted to see my work and to support me wouldn’t be able to. Long story short, I ended up telling someone who had mentored me (white) on the course that I felt there was “too many white people” in the space. I didn’t realise this wasn’t a concept white people would openly understand until after that conversation when my friend pointed out how uncomfortable the encounter was.
I tell these stories in a poor attempt to illustrate that my comfort is compromised in creative spaces of study and work. I’ve quite clearly learnt the hard way how to speak about things to do with race and other injustices that bother me to mentors/employers. Yet, while the previous two examples of times in my life where I’ve perhaps been “too relaxed” when speaking up and have feared for my professionalism being questioned after, it beats being 18 years old when I struggled to say I wanted Black/mixed people cast in my screenplay while on a film course, and later stayed silent when a peer used the term “half-cast”.
I don’t wish to make this SCAB any longer, so sorry for the abrupt end.
My point is, I often go into spaces of art to either be educated or paid and fear being seen as “too political” when navigating myself to carefully raise an issue that is burning me on the inside in order to not harm the potential white fragility of my employers/mentors around me and damaging my already slim chances (as a black-mixed genderqueer working-class individual) of obtaining a paid career in the creative industry in doing so. I know I’m not the only one.
Whewwwwwwww. Anyway, Portfolio Day is soon! Munraj and I are two very very hardworking, creative, sexy, ethnic minorities that’ll do your diversity numbers wonders!!! Hire us!!!