#25 Creatives and The Superiority Dilemma
Our desire to be the center of excellence creates interesting results
Hello beautiful bad people! It’s Black History Month ! I’m going to quietly join the conversation on creators, if you didn’t know… I opened my computer and was shocked at all that I saw this week. It is a delicate subject to partake in. As a former token still healing from 2016 I knew that I needed to jump on this.
On January 30th, the cut dropped this in their spring fashion issue The Promise of Pyer Moss it sparked a lot of discussion online.
I don’t think this was an expose or an attack, I have a lot of empathy for those that had to endure harm working for the brand, and I can hold space for Kerby Jean-Raymond as well, a designer that has been through many trials in life, I think it opened a discussion on how Black creators are expected to carry their art, community, and culture at the height of success. I also believe it centers around how we’re not allowed to create passionately due to capitalism, because our art, our words, and ideas, have to sell. Creating must come with external validation, it must come with getting something in return. When we create something and if it doesn’t garner fame or traffic, we as an audience believe it isn’t worthy and as creators, we’re left with the internal thoughts of what was the point of making this thing. Right? What I’m saying is:
We tend to put our creators on pedestals, it’s so high up that if it is one day reached, it’s at a height very far in the clouds that you cannot see anything below you.
Once our egos are stroked especially by whiteness we tend to desire their wants and then search for a place with the bourgeois. We easily get trapped in chasing capitalism and visibility.
I know from experience once you make a hit the big scary anxiety monster screams:
“ You better not stop! Create anything to keep going!!”
Our true creative innate gifts are overridden by having to be excellent, having to be on top. We usually have a hard time accepting Black creators as creators who just happen to be Black. There are so many things that I want to write about that I want to create. I have even tested it out here on Substack, and have noticed that when I do not discuss race, it isn’t well received. Have I put myself in a box? Have I promised essays on race and identity only? Most likely.
The demand wants me to bring up racial injustice when I’m writing personal stories about myself, yet we forget that anything Black creators interact with involves race and gender because my experience is a Black experience. I don’t have to mention the contrast between me and the fictional character Rachel Fleishman ( if you haven’t read this do so now I’m very proud of my vulnerability here) it is obvious if you add context if you add creativity. There should be context when I discuss personal stories where I don’t mention my Blackness. If I see my story in a fictional character think of my story 10x worse than because I’m Black and because the story is told by a Black person.
I’ve said this many times to steer away from creative endeavors that I have been asked to participate in. What I’ve said is: I shouldn’t have to write about Black pain to gain visibility to sell a book. I am already Black everything I do my Blackness will be centered. If I write about bathtubs I will be a Black queer woman writing about bathtubs and someone will intellectualize it because this must mean something deep for me to be a patron of it.
There is pressure to carry representation to carry a culture that has been disenfranchised from accessing spaces like fashion, and publishing. ( Whose fault is that? Take a wild guess. Cmon you know the answer!)
When one of us enters the space, we do feel obligated to carry our community and represent them, there are times it is indeed genuine but it isn’t always handled with care, and it is a major responsibility that can be very heavy to carry especially for those that do not have the range and for those that only used the community for white adjacency.
There are rules and avenues and responsible imagery to uphold when you’re a Black person who creates.
We demand Black creators to give us more than just their artistry, what are you going to give to the community in return for having these talents?
But here’s the thing, I have worked hard to see myself in the artist who painted someone who looks like me sitting in a chair.
I see myself in the Black writer describing their romantic getaway and the novels they read on the beach and how it was so cold but they wanted to see how long they could focus on the pages while ignoring the sand finding its way up their shorts.
I respect the creators that aren’t promising change but promising art.
I applaud the creators that are promising change, yet I am nervous about the pressure they apply on themselves as well as the demand for them to produce radical art.
Things I do not applaud, Black excellency as that leaves a majority out, when we are building our art around chasing fame, we can't see anything around us because we’re trying to see how high we can go. White consumption or Black elitism being consumers of our work doesn’t just stroke our ego, it places us in a box that we won't be able to escape without some bruises because once the veil is lifted and kicked out of the space, (because who can really keep up ya know?) we realized we made no real connection with anyone outside of whiteness and the Black elite social clubs.
Listen, there's nothing wrong with artists who portray their experience or culture in their art. I live for that! I think the issue is when we expect it and when we demand it. It leads the creator to promise something they may not have the range to deliver to an audience. It’s irresponsible as a creator to pursue an avenue you aren’t carefully handling because that can lead to harming the community you supposedly were meant to uplift with your craft and platform.
And as a Black person ( in case you didn’t know) I don't feel that everyone has the range or can take on the responsibility of representing and giving back to the Black community.
Because the problem is we are allowing moments of performative design and creativity which can lead to the exploitation of one's own culture.
You can be an outstanding writer, who is Black but that doesn’t mean I need you to represent Blackness. Just write. But with pressure leads to demanding one to be excellent.
Black excellence in every way whether we want to admit it or not has everything to do with whiteness. ( thank you white people you’ve made it into the story once again)
The stakes are way higher for Black creatives, when you have a taste of what could become of something, you cut corners to get to the top, and you want power because we don’t have it in our everyday life. At times consumption comes with fame and money. Two things that I’m cool with but not at the expense of the exploitation of a marginalized group who is desperately looking for their messiah in art.
We continue creating inaccessible work, or typing academic word salads so we can separate ourselves from a class we no longer want to connect with because we want ascendancy in a field that we forget is exclusionary.
What we all want from Black creators is radical symbolism and that isn’t fair nor is it possible in this era.
When we fetishize white supremacy and use ‘Blackness’ to gain power, I mean what can I truly say? It is bold. Because then we’re viewed as a community workers or an activist it scares me y’all I am spooked! Many people have made social justice their muse, and sometimes it works… but when it doesn’t, the fall is rough, because the community you used to get to the top, is not going to be there to bring you back home.
We are rushing, only creating for instant success, dominance, and fame. I’m worried our art will be heavier to manage than the world we are already forced to carry.
Thank you to the artists, the writers, and the brands that handle the community with care, that handle our stories with thought before intellect. I see you.
Currently listening to track 4. Give it a listen.
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