Mother Essence: Why Have Thee Forsaken Me?

| July 13, 2011 | 0 Comments

Essence

Well, it’s official. Michael Bullerdick has been hired into the position of managing editor at Essence Magazine.

For all of you who don’t know, Essence Magazine is a monthly magazine geared towards Black women, containing, amongst other things, articles and features about fashion, business, health, arts and entertainment, and politics.

So it surprised a lot of people–both members of the “diverse” media, as well as readers–when Essence made the decision to hire Bullerdick.

You see–Michael Bullerdick is a White male.

Now, with all due respect to the history of Essence Magazine, founded in 1968 by Denise M. Clark, Clarence O. Smith, Edward Lewis, and Johnathan Blount, I am dumbfounded as to how the mag could make such an unnecessary (and controversial) decision. After all, there is no want for qualified Black women in the media industry. To the contrary, there are many of whom who are pursuing precisely this kind of position. And, how, may I ask, can a White male, of all people, know and understand what Black women want to read?

Of course, the magazine’s new editor-in-chief, Constance White, has already attempted to nullify this concern, telling the blog, Journal-isms on Tuesday, that Bullerdick would have no involvement in Essence’s editorial content.

Sure. The magazine’s managing editor will have no involvement in editorial content. That makes a lot of sense.

Beyond Mr. Bullerdick’s inevitable involvement in what will constitute the future content of the magazine, there is perhaps, an even deeper issue: What message does this decision send to the scores of qualified Black women (and men) in the journalism industry–the women and men that, for the most part, do not have the same access to opportunities as their White counterparts? That NONE of them are as equally qualified? I mean, It’s sad when this message is inadvertently conveyed by “Majority” mainstream outlets. But when it comes from home–well, that just hurts.

Indeed, this is not the first time that Essence Magazine has made a controversial hiring decision. Last year, Ellianna Placas–a White woman–was selected to become the magazine’s Fashion Director.

This really makes you wonder. Would a Latino or a Jewish magazine select a Black American person to run its daily operations? Most likely not. So with all due respect to the media-seasoned Mr. Bullerdick–and all of those other Whites who have benefitted from an overzealous (and unreciprocated) desire demonstrated by certain Black media outlets to be “inclusive”–to the detriment of their readerships–and their people, I have only this to say to you Essence:

You might win some, but you just lost one.

Follow Drahcir M. Smith on Twitter: @rebel_witacause & @HipHopEnqMag

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