alison roman & the unbearable whiteness of being
Writers mock the idea of personal branding on social media. Artists scoff at other artists selling their work. As one semi-famous writer said on a panel I attended, “I’m not trying to be successful. I write what I want. If people like it — great.” This effortless approach suggests it’s silly to care about money, business, or ambition and suggests that success comes when you stop trying. Sure, that view is valid, but it also lacks an understanding of how less privileged groups might navigate success.
For people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, the “money is bad/I don’t care about success/business is stupid” narrative just doesn’t hit the same. When you grow up with generational poverty, as so many immigrant families and marginalized groups do, you don’t have the luxury of not giving a shit about money. When you’re a Black woman whose attitude and words are constantly under scrutiny, you may not have the privilege of being too cool to care. When I read Roman’s interview, I wasn’t so much offended for Kondo or Teigen as I was frustrated for every person of color who has worked themselves silly only to be viewed as a sellout or spoiled or privileged, especially if that work included navigating discrimination — and it always does.
Alluring as it is to be an absolute creative mess who takes risks, bucks the rules, and does her own thing, it is also a highly privileged way to approach life. The reverse snobbery of looking down on ambition is disingenuous but worse, it’s tone-deaf. It’s easy to suggest that selling a product or building a brand or making money any other way is selling out when you’ve not had to deal with the unique challenges that come with being a person of color. Many of the systems you’re fighting against — whether it’s a business, a line of cookware at Target, or just generally having your financial life together — are viewed quite differently depending on your racial, ethnic, or cultural background.
- "Alison Roman and The Problem With Not Giving A Fuck"