As a Black creative (or Black person in general), I have dealt with my fair of doubt not only from myself but from others who may or may not know how their words and thinking have affected my creativity.
Over the years, I have taken certain slings and arrows for wanting to be an artist. I remember being in high school and speaking with my art teacher about wanting to be a cartoonist. I was told that there was no money in it, and I needed to think about something more practical. That moment whether I realized it or not affected my self-esteem as a creative.
Fast forward to my college years where the matter came up again. Going to art school for undergraduate and graduate was a gift and a curse for me. While I found the work and comradery prepared me for the industry, some of the faculty weren’t exactly the biggest cheerleaders (but I love constructive criticism). The one thing that always stuck out was the underlying but subtle racism that went unchecked.
The worst of this subtle (really not so subtle) racism happened as I pursued my Master’s degree. I remember switching from animation to writing after feeling that some faculty were pushing me out from that major due to the look more than the quality of my work. While I admit I was a little rusty in my animation skills, I did feel a little animosity from some faculty (many I had cross paths with in my undergrad studies). I remember being asked my reasoning for pursuing my Master’s and being told I should be going to graduate school for the right reasons. I wonder if I were another persuasion would I have been told that. On top of the fact that I was one of four or five Black males in the program at the time.
It seemed the microaggressions got a little worse when I became a Writing major as the only Black male in the program. While I cherished and loved the chair of my department, the two white male professors were very so-so to me. One suffered from white guilt and was always trying to equate his experience with those of Black (eye roll). With this particular professor, I found myself more than once as the subject of his microaggressions. I was once told that I needed to choose between screenwriting and fiction writing after I turned in a hybrid-like work. He seemed more insulted that I tried expressing myself as a writer rather than fitting in a box. There were two or three more occasions where I had to almost defend myself as a screenwriter. He even kept the same energy when it came to my graduate review and thesis defense.
The other professor I only had one class with, but every time I spoke with or saw him the energy was friendly yet weird. Whenever we did talk, it was not really substantive but leaned more towards sarcastic, witty remarks. Everything seemed okay with him until my graduate review where he commented that one of my pieces felt more vindictive than telling an actual story. But that piece, in particular, was based on my experience working in food services. And of course, “white guilt” (who mentioned that was one of my strong pieces) chimed in and agreed with him. I love it when people who haven’t lived your life question your experience and culture.
It really hasn’t stopped as I’ve become a freelancer (or working a regular 9-to-5 job), but that’s another story for another day.
But while the world is filled with chaos, I will get back on my writing grind in the next week as I prepare to enter some more screenwriting competition. I also have some surprises coming at the end of the week as it pertains to my creative life.
Watch this space for more on my writing journey.