Dr. Boyce Watkins; Essence Magazine, and the White Male in Charge… : ThyBlackMan.com

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Dr. Boyce Watkins; Essence Magazine, and the White Male in Charge…

July 12, 2011 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Sista Talk, Weekly Columns

(ThyBlackMan.com) Essence Magazine has made the interesting and controversial decision to hire a white male as its managing editor.  I cocked my head to the side when I heard about the move by Editor-in-Chief Constance White to let Michael Bullerdick, a white male, run the day-to-day operations of a magazine which prides itself on being a voice for African American women.  Constance went out of her way to do damage control on the decision by stating that Bullerdick would have no say on the editorial content of Essence.

He has no involvement in editorial content of the black women’s publication, the new Essence editor-in-chief,” Constance White, told Journal-isms on Tuesday.

Do I buy White’s statement completely?  No.  It’s hard to imagine that a Managing Editor would not have an impact on which voices are reflected and how they are presented.  That’s like Clarence Thomas saying that his wife’s conservative activism has no impact on his decisions as a Supreme Court justice.

This is not the first time Essence has gotten attention for putting a non-black person in a powerful position.  There was some degree of public concern when Ellianna Placas was selected as the Fashion Director for the magazine, overlooking scores of seasoned and talented black women who can’t get jobs at other magazines.

I thought long and hard on this one, to ensure that I didn’t say anything that would be unfair to Bullerdick, a man who surely worked hard to earn his opportunities.  At the same time, there must be consideration for the long list of talented black women who may have wanted this job, but find nearly every door to be shut in an industry that is owned by white folks.  I’d love to see what lies in Bullerdick’s background that makes him a stronger voice for black women than black women themselves.   Perhaps a group of black women should be used to make serious editorial decisions at Essence, rather than allowing the Editor-in-Chief to simply hire her professional friends.  There is too much at stake for Essence leadership structure to be defined by cronyism. 

To summarize my thoughts, I recorded the video below.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. For more information, please visit http://BoyceWatkins.com.


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Comments

8 Responses to “Dr. Boyce Watkins; Essence Magazine, and the White Male in Charge…”
  1. Fine1952 says:

    back to slave mentality…him will be o’er seer. SMH!

  2. Aaron says:

    One case where affirmative action backfired?

  3. Damelle Harper says:

    This should not be surpurising. Essence has not really been afrocentric for a long time. When it was sold, everyone should have known the outcome–if you don’t own it, you can’t control anything. The Overseer has arrived to take care of the field folk! Anytime you have a magazine that is supposed to uplift AA women which has a two page Revelon spread featuring white women at the front of the magazine, it’s time to let it go (and, I did). I wouldn’t spend a dime on Essence–it’s a superficial rag!

  4. K says:

    As a black woman magazine insider, I have to weigh in here. I really do understand the visceral reaction to the notion of a white man “running” as RJ says, Essence. Actually, the managing editor in a situation like this is absolutely a workflow position. For those of use who create magazines, the reaction to a white male managing ed at Ess has far less to do with any fear of his hand in editorial content and everything to do with the psychological power of the managing ed. This role is classically the one who “cracks the whip,” the ME stays of top of how money and time is spent. They make sure the mag goes to press on time. Consequently, it is typical that folk walk on eggshells around ME’s, regardless of sex or race. They are the “slavedrivers” of the office, the GET IT DONE NOW police force.

    So really what is at issue here, is not so much the matter of “Will Joe Whiteguy be picking covers?” but a real issue of power of concern to the black women who work under him and who will be ‘policed’ by him issue to issue. If yall wanna beef about him being there, take it from the perspective that his hire is a clear statement from Time Inc about who is capable of “running” not the editorial, but the women who create the editorial.

    It’s a head trip for those sisters for real. Also, to Watkins’ point about the women who he knows are fluent in all matters Black women, keep in mind that the ME is NOT traditionally a creative position on a masthead. The women he cites might make lovely senior or deputy editors, but not so much managing eds per se. That a whole ‘nother skill set most creatives shy away from. Total bad cop. Just a few points of clarification to inform the discussion.

  5. harryo says:

    The people at Essence/TimeWarner must thing Black people are stupid if they think that Black people are going to believe that a white Managing Editor is not going to have any editorial input in running the magazine. That’s like hiring an recovering alcholic as quality control chief at Jim Beam and saying that he’s never will take a sip of the product. In most newsrooms Managing Editor is the number two position and fills in if the editor is on vacation or sick. This is the latest from Time Warner, a company that just announced its fall CNN lineup that included no Black prime time anchor or show hosts.

    The same company just produced the Essence Music Festival with an empowernment session featuring NeNe Leaks and Shaunie O’Neil. That’s what happens when a Black owned media company sells out. Look at BET. Bob Johnson said that Viacom executives promised changes for the better at BET via the resources of Viacom’s Paramount and CBS divsisons. BET is just as bad before Johnson sold out. How many Black owned radio stations are out there…not many…in Pittsburgh Black folks sold all four Black owned stations to whites, and they were quickly converted to religious stations.

    Now there’s word that J.P. Morgan has bought a “substantial” share of Johnson Publishing stock. Look like Cathy Hughes and Earl Graves are the last media folks standing, and will it be a matter of time before Hughes sells her 50 Black stations?

  6. Ok now this is really crazy.

    How can our Black girls and young ladies look up to a magazine that is supposed to be for them and a White man is now in leadership?

    There are so many negative images now about Black women or women of color what can a White man offer?

    As an Educator and parents it is a constant battle to keep girls of color self esteem high with all the negative media about Colorism, Blackness, etc, not to see this…

    Black people what is the excuse now?? As stated above where are those Black women who are highly qualified and talented, where they even considered or did White privilege and Whiteness win again??

    Is the format going to change now that the lighter you are the more beautiful you are and if you are dark skinned you should expect to be unloved, unmarried, unprofessional, and unhappy??

  7. J.J. says:

    This is beyond disappointing. It’s bad enough that black women have to contend with the definition of beauty and images imposed on us that for years has kept us for fully seeing ourselves as beautiful. Now, we have to deal with this? What in the world?! Just as I wrote in my thesis, ‘the only people who can define who and what they are are those who are a part of that particular experience.’ I can’t tell a man anything about being a man because I’m a woman and vice versa. Have mercy. How completely disappointing and to think I renewed my subscription. “Essence”? The essence of who? There is no longer essence, but rather indications of something that WAS there. Wow!

  8. RJ says:

    There is really nothing that can be said. If Essence is suppose to be about Black women how is a White man running it. Black people would never have a chance to run anything Asian nor Jewish yet we seem to be down when nonblack people over take once black owned businesses. I will never be down with one-sided diversity. All of these so-called professional black women high up in “majority” owned companies and not one was interested in taking charge of a black woman magazine????

    We have Asians and Whites gladly taking over black businesses seemingly with no problem. At some point this may make sense to me but I doubt it. Where are these strong black women who are so prideful of their corporate successes and how on earth not one or a several could join forces to own a sista mag? Are these black women happy with 6 figure plus incomes with empty titles within the white corporations?

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