- Thandiwe Ntshinga
Anti-racism writing as a hindrance to gainful employment
Years ago, when I was a hopeful new honours graduate and research assistant, I attended my first conference. At this international critical whiteness studies conference, I presented my research on poor whites. The youngest presenter at this critical whiteness conference, I found out then about some challenges in pursuing research in critical whiteness studies. I learned that receiving departmental pushback for my choice of research subject was just the beginning of the difficulties faced by critical whiteness researchers.
Amongst a group of more veteran researchers, I found out that access to funding was a shared grievance. It was discussed that unless a researcher tweaked research objectives to conceal intentions in critical whiteness studies, funding is unattainable. This predicament, unfortunately, makes sense. Whiteness thrives in its “invisibility” therefore there is no reason for whiteness’ racist institutions, including academia, to pay for their own dismantling.
While I continued with my research on poor whites for my masters degree in social anthropology, I was again faced with lack of departmental support—this time at a different university. It became apparent to me that the workings of colonial anthropology still exist. The anthropological gaze is still fixed on the “Other” and so is its funding.
Unsure on whether I will be making the next step in academia or not, my commitment to critical whiteness studies remains and persists in informing most (if not all) of my current anti-racism/critical whiteness writing. For this, I have received support that I had previously not considered. A move away from academia’s ivory tower into the more accessible online realm has proven that much of what I write resonates well with people like me; Black people. Moreover, though my work is not intended for the comfort of white readers, I am pleased with responses from white people and other non-Black people who see my work as educational and informative.
That said, I am broke. Very broke. With a post-graduate qualification in hand, I am amongst the throngs of unemployed graduates struggling in the country’s very real employment crisis. The only thing that keeps me somewhat afloat is my writing and even then, there is no security in freelancing. While I was rewarded for my critical voice in academia, in the real world, I wonder whether I am cutting myself off to prospects of gainful employment.
I had a chat about this dilemma with an anti-racism writer, who writes under the name, The Ghetto Activist. The Ghetto Activist has a blog which is self-identified as “unapologetically Black” by unpacking the oppressive history of racism, particularly in the United States. Having written for The Ghetto Activist, I do commend his work and contributions to anti-racism education and social justice writing.
While conversing with The Ghetto Activist on ethical writing practices, he mentioned a story that spoke to my writing and employment fears. The Ghetto Activist explained that in the past he has missed out on employment opportunities due to his blog and its content. That is harrowing considering that even as a freelancer, many publications do not want to engage with racism as a social issue.
I am concerned about our country’s understanding of race and racism. Last year, YFM senior producer Camagwini Mavovana was formally dismissed based on a tweet where she wrote that the ‘Dros Rapist’ “Nicholas [Ninow] is representing his race well. Amnesia is something they’re good at, especially when they have to take accountability. Let the dog rot in jail and call it a day”. YFM stated that they “did not tolerate racist remarks and racism from anyone”. This is where the problem lies. Not everyone can be racist. That’s not how racism works. Additionally, collective white amnesia is theoretically backed, written on and openly discussed. Also, is it not fair that a Black womxn be outraged by the rape of a 7-year-old child? Why should he not be called a dog that should rot in jail? Because he is white?
It appears as though open critique on whiteness serves to threaten one’s employment and employment prospects. Where then, does that leave the anti-racism writer?