[My white mentor's] friends were very nice and helpful. They seemed surprised and delighted by my work. They critiqued it and gave me great tips, advice and references. They thought I was very talented and deserved a foot in the door, just not their door. There were no openings I was told. And then with a smile, they would ask, "Have you tried Burrell?" I was very familiar with the African-American agency down the street. You wouldn't believe how many general market agency people asked me that. It almost became a mantra.That's Edye Deloch-Hughes on her blog Black Copy. In this particular post, she's explaining her first attempts to get into the business way back in the, uh, early '80s -- you know, after the first storm following the civil-rights movement and the first New York City Commission on Human Rights investigation fizzled away and was forgotten by all those people who promised to do better.
The post also touches on the pigeonholing that happens to black creatives after they work at an African-American shop. As Edye writes, "Not only did I do the non-respectable thing -- write advertising for black folks -- but I wrote hair care advertising for black folks."
And there's more. In 1,400 words, she manages to touch on almost every complication there is when it comes to race in this industry: problems getting in; issues of being typecast; the psychological comfort of working with people like you vs. the desire to work at a general-market shop; the cyclical nature of the "outrage." Not only that, but the first comment on the post -- which urges Edye to do her own thing rather than seeking work at a general-market agency -- brings up something that often goes unmentioned in these debates: the number of people who quit to start their own businesses. It's a great post. Here's hoping Edye writes more. Now go read.