Why I’ll never work for a white man again
I’m a white woman living in South Carolina.
In January of 2017, I got the news that my employer had hired a black man to replace me as a publicist.
I felt devastated.
I’ve had to learn to live with that, and I didn’t like the prospect of going back to a place where I could never have the same privilege as the people I love.
So I did what any self-respecting white woman would do: I called my agent.
A month later, I called back.
And I got an offer: I would work as an editor at a prestigious German newspaper.
That was six years ago.
Since then, I’ve made my mark as a reporter and as a reader, but I’ve never been able to match my former colleagues’ standards.
So in January, I left the paper.
I’ll forever be grateful to my former employer for this opportunity.
I want to say that this isn’t an example of a journalist getting lucky.
I think I’m an exception.
I’m white, but in many ways, I’m still living a lie.
For the past six years, I have been living in a state of perpetual fear, a state in which it’s not even possible to be truly white.
That fear is so pervasive that, when I was interviewed for the role of the new publicist for the German newspaper Der Spiegel, I wasn’t even allowed to tell the story of how I came to this job.
I just said I was black.
But the newspaper wanted me to talk about my experiences of being a woman in America, of being black and living in Berlin and being a writer.
That’s the only time they ever interviewed me, and they kept me on the line for about 15 minutes, telling me about my life as a woman and how I’m “living my dream” and that I’m going to be a better person because of it.
I was shocked and ashamed.
But when the interview was over, I felt more than I ever have in my life.
And for the first time in my career, I was given a chance to be the person I thought I was, the person the people in the room thought I could be.
I realized that I’ve been in this position before, and that there’s no reason why I can’t continue to be so.
And now, in a world where I’m being discriminated against for having a different name, I think it’s time for me to start thinking about what I can do to help other white women.
I also want to share my story because it is one that is not only personal, but is also emblematic of the way in which people of color in America are still treated.
I have a name.
I don’t have a history.
I never went to a white high school.
I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood in Chicago.
I can speak German, and while I have had to work with a few people from the Afro-American community to help me understand some of their vocabulary, I am not an Afro person.
My family is mostly German, my father is German, but he speaks English fluently.
So when I hear a white person talk about me in a way that implies I’m not white, it’s hard not to think, “That’s my white privilege, isn’t it?”
And it’s even harder not to laugh.
There’s nothing funny about it.
And it hurts.
For months, I had been dealing with a constant fear that I was going to end up as the one black person at the paper, even though I had never said anything to the contrary.
The way I had described the experience in my interview was that I had become a “white woman living on borrowed time,” which made me feel like I had done something wrong.
And even as I thought about it, I could not imagine how that would have felt to a person of color, let alone a woman.
I wanted to believe that this was all in my head.
And after months of agonizing over it, though, I finally decided to tell my story to Der Spiegel.
The interview was just the beginning.
A few months after I told my story, I wrote a letter to the paper and got an email back.
It was from the paper’s general manager, saying that he had decided to hire me.
I asked him if he had ever heard of a black publicist before, because I had read that they don’t even look for them. But I didn