(BNP stands for BRITISH NATIONALIST PARTY. It is an openly racist party who believe that unless you are white you are not British and that non whites should be ‘sent home’)
John is an apologist for PDN’s descision to field a 24 strong all white jury for their annual photo competition. He doesn’t believe that the issue of racism deserves mainstream debate. Its easy to deny a problem when the only effect it has on you is positive (more money in your pocket hey John).
Perhaps he might like to reconsider after reading the following comment that was posted on A PHOTO EDITOR earlier today.
I just saw this post, information about the $1000 contest and the responses that came pouring in. Bravo for having this discussion in the first place as, much like APE mentioned, it is rarely had for obvious reasons.
As a person of colour in the industry let me say this, there are very few of us represented. It is unfortunate, because, guess what, many of are just as talented and insightful as many others in the industry who are not minorities. We would love to be invited to share our talents with others in the industry, but often we are not even considered. We are assumed to be ignorant, ghetto, submissive, difficult, unfocused, unable to grasp the bigger ‘whiter’ picture etc.
When I first started in the industry, I truly believed that talent and ambition was all that was required to succeed. If I worked hard enough eventually there would be rewards. I expected to have to put in the work required and I diligently set about doing just that. What I did not expect was the running commentary on my colour that would prevail over every aspect of my career.
Have I been told repeatedly about how well I speak? Yes.
Have I have been asked point blank why there aren’t so many people of my ‘persuasion’ in the business? Yes.
Have I been given a lecture about the political nature of blacks in the workplace as opposed to the mild mannered ‘mames’ of Gone With the Wind fame? Yes. Unbelievably, yes.
If you are white and reading this, try imagining yourself in my shoes. If you went to work tomorrow as a minority and wanted to do your best and faced those kinds of inquiries at every turn – how would you feel? Would you still believe that your work was being judged on the same scale as your white counterparts? Would you feel like you were being asked to assimilate to a culture that was not your own in order to pass the test on the path to success instead of being valued for the additional insights you might bring to the table? Do you think that you would be so surprised by magazines like PDN choosing all white juries?
I mean have any of you stopped to wonder why talented photographers, doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. with years of experience who immigrate from other nations end up as cab drivers in North America? Is that really what ‘the dream’ was all about or should we not be capitalizing on the knowledge that others who are different can bring to almost everything we do?
The truth is, as a non-minority, you will never face those kinds of issues and you will never know how ‘passive racism’ feels. It is invasive, like a cancer and it is the thing, as a minority, that you push aside so that you can just focus on doing your best at whatever it is you do – every single day.
I don’t expect the industry to change anytime soon and neither should any of you, but I can do my best to educate those I encounter to help them see the simple fact that I am just as equal, talented and entitled as they are to sit at the same tables they do – even if it is in solitary, looking over mediocre portfolios.