I’d love to be involved in niche projects on the web. My life experiences – from mental ill-health to living between multiple cultures, and never belonging entirely to one or the other – lead me to sympathise, even (dare I suggest) empathise, with those whose place in society is assigned, defined, marked and limited by both unkind as well as unfamiliar hegemony.
I’d assume, then, if I’m not speaking out of a privilege which blinds me to another set of realities, that if you saw my inside, you’d assume I was a minority.
Yet people who see my polite, deferential, sometimes excessively servile exterior – who are only capable of seeing upper-middle-aged privileged white male – conclude that’s all I am.
The servile comes more out of uncertainty than cowardice, I have to say.
Yesterday, I attended the second part of a three-part interview process. It’s for the job of proofreader at a newspaper. The Internet connection didn’t work; Adobe Reader wasn’t installed; an email profile wasn’t set up on my workstation; and, in any case, the paper didn’t appear to have its own intranet.* So I had to leave my work on the desktop in a folder I created with the shortened version of my name.
There’s a story and a half in that, too. All my life I’ve been explaining the strangeness of my name. In the end, ethnocentric abilities weigh down on one: I revert to telling people to call me “Mil”. And even then, they often get it wrong: they say “Mel” or “Bill” or “Neil”!
It’s very tiring, wearisome to a huge degree, to have to repeat over and over again the prime marker of one’s identity.
Having to shorten it is – in a sense – having to shorten one’s identity.
So you see: on the outside, very white; on the inside, unhappily black.
Anyhow. I went into the second stage very positively: I love proofreading almost as much as I love writing. I think, however, my writing is quite second-rate. Given the right environment, my proofreading is better than my writing by far.
When you proofread, the topics are chosen for you.
When you write, you run the risk of making the mistake of writing about the wrong things.
I’m not sure that yesterday the environment was right. There were a lot of people talking in a small space; another person doing a test too. A lot of chatter which a proofreader doesn’t need. But maybe that’s the curse of open-plan offices. Maybe that’s the same for any professional who needs peace and quiet. If you want a job, if you want to work, if you need the money, you just learn to deal with it.
I need the money and want the job.
I want to learn how to work in a newspaper; I want to be able to contribute to making a newspaper better; I want to be surrounded by people who are better than me so I can become better myself …
Is that too much to ask? Probably not.
But the web is a niche environment.
And I am only black inside.
A clear case of #firstworldproblems?
* A couple of other things surprised me, whilst we’re on the subject: the paper copy of the newspaper doesn’t appear to include the address of its physical location (though there is plenty of information which pushes us to social networks where the address does appear). Also, a massive disclaimer absolves the paper for all responsibility for opinions, and even facts, which may be published. I wondered last night if this is actually a legal position to hold. They must know what they’re doing, surely. And yet … I still do wonder.