From the Archives
In celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, today we bring you a Help Desk column that answers a question about race and voice. And as part of our ongoing commitment to sharing information and resources, we’d like to point readers to this page, which links to free PDF books on race, gender, sexuality, class, and culture. One of the best ways to honor Dr. King and the many people around the world who continue to fight for justice and equality is to educate yourself.
I am a writer and curator. I’m also a woman of color. While people think this may not be important, it is! We don’t live in a postracial society. What I find particularly infuriating is when I bring up race, gender, and identity—and then I’m questioned about my stance and my research; sometimes my words are edited to the point where it is no longer my writing. In a few instances, MY VOICE is almost eradicated. I’m upset, and the more I write about art, the more I realize how art institutions (universities, galleries, museums, and publications) have a LONG way to go before they actually showcase writers, art critics, curators, and creative professionals that are underrepresented and obscured. Yes, I understand there are shows dedicated to women and people of color to show diversity, etc., but I don’t care, I’m still going to bring up the question. How do I tell an editor that I’m entitled to my opinion—even if it brings up issues of race, gender, and identity—without being pegged as the “angry brown woman”?
In answering this question—which is really a few questions in one—I could write volumes about gender, editorial relations, and the misguided belief that tokenism can correct the problem of institutionalized race-based bias. However, this is a humble advice column and not the Help Desk Unabridged Encyclopedia of Advice, so in the interest of brevity I’ve asked some women who have experience with these matters, and I’ve sprinkled this reply liberally with links to further reading for people of all colors. In the interest of getting straight to the point, let me say: First, you need a mentor. You have to have someone you can rely on for guidance, preferably a woman of color who is in your field. A mentor can help you review various issues around writing and editing, critique your performance, help you define your goals, and bolster your professional community. Here are some tips for finding this person.
Next, I want you to focus on building conflict-resolution skills. This will be helpful for you and everyone else reading this column—no doubt every one of us will encounter myriad clashes in the workplace and beyond, and these skills take a while to master. Remember that conflict resolution is not just about mediating disagreements, it’s also about managing stressful situations. Start practicing now, before the world makes you crazy and bitter.