A veteran activist was kind enough to speak with me the other day about antiracist work and we both agreed that we were dissatisfied with what we saw as an overemphasis on education and training. Personally, I have long thought this was not an effective strategy – only useful if augmenting more radical changes that start with the people in the room and the power structure they operate within.
In this activists’ experience, she said she saw real change and empowerment when she shifted her focus from educating people about racism and finding allies to reaching out to the people most affected by racism, teaching them how to navigate racist environments and building a community of support.
It’s made me think a lot more about creative communities and the kinds of art we want to see.
To add to Leste’s thread, in my (highly limited) personal experience, prestige publications do not necessarily pay more despite commanding greater resources. And we know from examples like the Bon Appétit fiasco (which, btw, ripped off David Chang’s Lucky Peach, which in turn appropriated Black culture), that these companies can be less forthcoming with compensation when it comes to BIPOC.
I still see value in antiracist education and training and I still see immense importance in having diverse staff and creators in mainstream, corporate publications and other arts and cultural orgs. But representation only gets you so far when much of it is easily absorbed, white-washed, and only non-threatening work that plays to stereotypes makes it through.
There are different kinds of empowerment. It works in the interests of those benefiting from dominant power structures to convince you that the only valid kinds of power are the powers they can gatekeep and police. As well as to downplay, dismiss and denigrate the kinds of powers they cannot surveille and control. Like the activist I spoke to, I want to see more focus on building up those who are most marginalized instead of just trying to push a handful marginalized people past the gatepost.
Last week, my article, Rebranding Mary Jane: The Gentrification of Cannabis Culture in Lingerie was published in The Lingerie Addict. I wrote the pitch specifically for TLA because I knew from reading its articles over the years that I would not be asked to “tone down” the politics of this article. The editor of this site, Cora Harrington, is a queer Black woman who wears her politics on her sleeve. It was great to work with someone who understood where I was coming from and really wanted this kind of analysis not because it would add some diversity cred to her site but because she is always considering the intersections between apparel and social privilege.
The whole experience made me want to keep working with more publishers like this. I’m so grateful to the diverse editors I’ve worked with and publications like Loose Leaf Magazine, Leste Magazine, and The Lingerie Addict that keep building up communities from the ground up.