Essence magazine is, like, Glamour for black people. It is a completely bland and inoffensive publication. Still, given the racial politics in America and the general dearth of big black media outlets, Essence's moves are scrutinized through a more sociopolitical lens than Glamour's would be. Which makes everyday office scandals all the more entertaining.
Two years ago, Essence hired a white woman as its new fashion director. Huge crisis and uproar! Some people thought Essence should not have hired a white woman for that culturally sensitive position. Others thought it was fine. Others thought others who felt opposite were racist. It was a big thing. And, perhaps counter-intuitively, it was a good thing, because these sorts of squabbles, even when they appear to be over petty issues like the hiring of a fashion editor or a 30-minute weekly HBO show, are some of the only times that the issue of race in popular culture is really discussed.
Anyhow, Essence followed that hiring by hiring a white managing editor (a position with "no involvement in editorial content") named Michael Bullerdick last year. There goes the neighborhood and other ironic sayings! And before you dismiss this all as posturing, you might be interested to know that Bullerdick turned out to be kind of a racist right wing prick. What a poetic turn of events!
Richard Prince grabbed a screenshot of Bullerdick's Facebook page on which Bullerdick posted some hilarious racially tinged right wing items such as a caricature of Al Sharpton entitled "MSNBC Race Pimp." Run of the mill stuff at Sports Illustrated, I bet, but not at Essence. Now Bullerdick has been canned. (Clarification: The official statement is, "By mutual agreement, Michael has accepted a position in another division.")
Is there any lesson to be drawn from all this, apart from everyone loudly proclaiming that their own specific biases—whatever they may be—have been confirmed? Well, look: sure, white people can work at black magazines. But considering how white the media is already, it just makes god damn common sense for the few powerful black media outlets out there to try to give jobs to black journalists. Essence, a black woman's magazine, should probably have black female editors, unless there is some strong, compelling reason to hire a white guy.
This is not a reason for anybody to start hollering about reverse racism. This is a simple acknowledgment of the racial situation in America. You'll know we finally reached that "Post-Racial America" promised land when all black media outlets, black schools, black churches, black cultural organizations, and other black institutions collapse into nothingness, because they are no longer needed, because black people have been fully integrated into the American power structure and share fully in all of its benefits and therefore have no need to create separate institutions to cater to their own community.
Until then, Essence might as well hire black editors, all other things being equal.