Hateration in the Biz
When I decided I wanted to enter the world of journalism, I had no idea what I was in for. People always ask if I knew this was I wanted to do as a child. "I wanted to be a lawyer," was my response. But after failing to prepare for the LSATs (the entrance exam to law school), I realized it wasn't for me. On the advice of a career counselor, I applied for an internship at a local TV station and the rest is history.
I've been in the biz for a while now, but it wasn't always easy. As a woman I found it extremely difficult to get a job, and being a woman of color made it even harder. Don't get me wrong, I'm very appreciative of the opportunities I've been given. I've worked hard to get here, and I'll continue to work my butt off. But, sometimes working hard isn't enough. This is a business that requires a lot of talent, but physical appearance also plays an important role. I remember applying for jobs every where across the country. I also applied to a local TV station in my native country, Jamaica. I remember being told by different news directors that I wasn't the right fit, I needed more experience, and my American accent wasn't acceptable. I understood not having enough years under my belt, but all the other reasons didn't make sense at all. You could be great at your job. But if you don't "fit" the station's look, your chances of being hired are slim.
It seemed as though getting a job was mainly contingent upon the color of my skin or my gender. It was evident when someone asked, "Why are you sending your resume to North Dakota, black folks don't live out there?" I responded, "I never really thought about that." I started to search the bios of various reporters across the country. I noticed that most stations only had one person of color. Sometimes that person was Hispanic or Asian, which narrowed the chances of me getting hired even more. To say it wasn't discouraging would be a complete lie. In all honesty, my confidence was a bit compromised. But, it didn't stop me from continuing my job search. I've been very fortunate to land all my gigs in New York.
I refuse to give excuses as to why I was hired. Instead I choose to believe that I was chosen based on my talents. The challenges of finding a job wasn't the only obstacle I faced. Making friends in the biz has been difficult as well. I'm not talking about the fake friends. You know the kind of people you'd see at an event and they give you the fake air kiss saying something like, "How have you been sweetie?" I'm talking about real friends who remember your name. The kind that will call you up and congratulate you on a job well done. The sort of person that will also call you to say hello, invite you out to lunch, and not dig for information about your personal life. I've met so many people. Some who have become true friends. I've also met those who haven't been so nice. Hey, it's the nature of any business. Some people feel if they have to throw you under the bus to get to the top, then so be it. I used to wonder why people could be so mean, especially women. But after all these years, I finally get it!
It goes back to what I mentioned before. I noticed that every station I researched had one, or no person of color. For instance, if a station only has one minority woman weather anchor, then the chances of hiring another would be highly unlikely. The lack of diversity often leads to competition among journalists which could cause tension. I've had the experience of someone not liking me because we were going for the same job. It made me a bit sad and uncomfortable. To be honest, I'd rather get along with someone than to have there be tension. Plus, I've always believed as women, we should support one another. Historically, it's been a long struggle for us.
Before women's suffrage in 1920, females weren't able to vote throughout the nation. Black men were given voting rights long before a woman could even check off a paper ballot. I don't mean to digress, but I often wonder why there's so much tension among women in the work place. Is it because some women feel like there's not enough room for all of us? Could it be jealously?
I try not to get caught up in all of that jealously or hate. Instead, I choose to focus on me. I see myself as my own competition. I find that if I were to get too caught up in what someone else is doing, then that's time taken away from achieving my goals. I'd rather be happy for someone who does well because I feel that it's better to congratulate than to spread hate.
As for the job situation, I must say that it's getting better. When I turn on the news here in NYC, I do see more people of color throughout the broadcast. But, I know we still have a long way to go. Just a few months ago I had a conversation with an executive from a syndicated entertainment program. He admitted to me that I didn't stand a chance hosting the program. He went on to say that they don't usually hire black women, they prefer the blond hair blue eyed type. He also added that if I resembled Halle Berry that would put me in a better position to become a correspondent.
Halle Berry and Tyra Banks. Whenever I saw women who looked like me, I got super excited. In fact, I still get excited to this day. I was actually glad that this person admitted to this insane bigotry.
Despite this fact, I would never give up my career. If one executive chooses not to hire me because I'm dark skinned, I'll just move on to the next station.
As I write this post, my intention isn't to bash anyone. My goal is to share my experiences. Maybe you've gone through a similar situation and can relate. Maybe this is something you didn't know existed. Or maybe you're a hater who finally sees the error in your ways. I encourage you to please share your stories, so that we can empower each other.
I know my baby girl may through challenges similar to mine, even though she does fall into the Halle Berry category. But, she may come across other girls who may feel she's competition. My Princess may even find it difficult to get a job because of her looks. She may even be the token person of color. My job as a mom is to reassure her that although people will hate, it's important to not succumb to it. If the roles are reversed and I find that Princess is doing the hating, I'll straighten her out.
To my little Princess:
You are beautiful and talented. Be who you are. Don't let society dictate who you should be. Treat others how you'd like to be treated. If you ever have doubts or stumble along the way mommy and daddy will always be here for you.
Labels: The Biz