I went to work in 2014 for a public affairs firm that professed to be “Center Right,” but must have had slanted floors or something, as the longer I was there, the further to the right the politics lurched.
I contributed monetarily to opposition campaigns to salve my conscience, and to pay my bills and keep the lights on, but a lot of damage got done, some by me personally, in the name of “keeping the lights on” and justified by “but they paid me.”
Its a fraught relationship I’ve had with employment in this country as a Black man, under scrutiny because of a concentration of melanin, an inability to consistently get anywhere on time, likely due to some un-diagnosed and plastered over mental health or cognitive condition, in and out of closets due to being Gay, and trying to stay employed when most of the folks making the hiring choices don’t like Black people, definitely not Black men , and if willing to live truth openly as a Gay person, not getting called back, so for years, I got used to masking, stuffing myself into an acceptable mold, smiling, observing, keeping my head down and giving the fuckers what they want.
Our team won National awards for designing a campaign that got the Trump tax cuts passed, by selling lies with images of babies and puppies to assholes on the Hill who have never had to make the hard choice between filling up a gas tank, or getting their prescription filled and whose babies are props in a campaign, or paid for each month with checks to spouses they rarely see.
Eventually I intentionally priced myself out of being hired full time to that firm. Their name was on Rachel Maddow’s lips. I really couldn’t continue pretending that donating a hefty chunk of my salary every week to their opposition was enough.
It was time to leave.
…so I kicked around for a few years, hustling part-time gigs, driving groceries, running little side hustles to barely pay the bills, to sharpen my craft, trying to figure out social media, and to develop valued friendships, watching companies I worked for close because we did our job a bit too well, and the Government doesn’t always want you to continue to exist once you’ve helped fix a problem like the backlog in security clearances, for example.
…and then after almost two years of interviews and dealing with the surprised looks when I arrived for the interviews, the “but your so well-spoken” backhanded compliments that were code for “but we thought you were White. You sounded White.” and the polite rejection letters that followed saying “we were impressed by you weren’t quite the right fit.” or the smiling White women who knew they wanted another White woman whose smile never rose past her nose for their team, and not this old Black man who for reasons they could not fathom was somehow “scary” so they hired me to clean up the accounts, fix the bad design, to build “templates,” and then moved their friends into the now easier job while slowly decreasing my workload in hopes that I’d get the message.
That happened too often for it to be a coincidence or paranoia on my part.
After two years of interviewing, I got called into a contract, working for a business 10-15 minutes from my front door. The business is Black owned, woman owned, centered on providing health care access to the under-served communities. They set up vaccination and testing clinics in Black and Latino neighborhoods ignored until a pandemic came along and enough essential personnel died or was disabled, Governments could no longer blithely whistle past the body bags and freezer trailers full of the victims of their neglect.
…and because Obamacare makes the insurance companies cut you a check if they don’t spend 80% of their revenues on your care, and if you aren’t using your health insurance, it has a major impact on their ability to claim they provided care for the money they collect from you.
We cajoled and wheedled people via phone calls and social media ads I designed, into signing up for subsidized health insurance policies and then got people to go see a doctor instead of the usual wait-and-see, hoping the aching would stop, the lump would get smaller, the dizziness would end.Yes, lots of folks do that because the reality of going into the doctor and having them drop an expensive slice of truth on you when you are already struggling sounds easier than just “wait and see” and too much of this “Great” country is doing that.
You know, the unspoken thought of “perhaps I’ll die before it gets too painful and that would be a relief” running under the struggle to survive.
That’s a lot more common than you’d think.
They’re hiring me full time, direct on January 2nd.…and paying me a decent salary, though we’re still working out the details of what that looks like with benefits, and working from home, etc.
What that also means is this is the perfect time for a break.
I’m walking away from this app for at least a month, and if not being on her for a month feels right and is workable, I’ll keep extending that absence.
Rich White tech dudes get value from our attention, our clicks, our likes. Valuable data is sold to the highest bidder and used to push demographics to do things.
To buy things.
To vote or not vote for people in countries, globally, often based on psychological profiles and misinformation designed to deceive you into making bad choices.
I sacrificed my safety, security and well-being to stop being in service to people who meant to hurt my country, the planet, and me, but continued to be in service to essentially the same people by writing content for free on Facebook and other apps.
Its time for me to see what life looks like when I stop doing that, and go work for people who see my value, appreciate my talents, and are a stand for me growing as a person to be my best self, fully realized and no longer hiding, or justifying to “keep the lights on.”
Its also time for me to start taking a look at my mental health, my financial security, and to move from survival mode to a place where I can build financial security, perhaps even equity, since where I am grateful to the friends and folks who have provided me shelter, its long past the time I start building my own wealth and security, and not sacrificing myself to pad someone else’s financial stability.
I’m lucky I can do this and grateful. It has been a delight (mostly) chatting with you all and maybe I’ll be back, but frankly, I hope not.
Here is hoping that 2023 brings us a year where accountability continues to be a leitmotif, but that the main melody of what threads through all in 2023 is justice, and where others may try to create discord, the end result is harmonious joy for all who fight for it, and frustration for all of those who block the path toward light and joy, and I wish comforting darkness for those who do not prefer the light for there is a place for both in this world.