Elaine Welteroth and Vanessa K. De Luca On the Importance of Centering Black Women’s Stories
One of the first featured stories from Zora, a new Medium publication that centers the narratives of women of color, contains an excerpt — with an included audio version — from Elaine Welteroth’s new book More Than Enough. In it, Welteroth describes experiences that made her feel like “the Black Alice in an all-new corporate Wonderland” and offers insight into the ways in which race, gender, and power intersect and impact her work and life.
In the excerpt, Welteroth asks whether or not “opening doors for our own”, given the ways that white supremacy has disproportionately and negatively impacted the upward mobility of marginalized folks, should be considered nepotism or just leveling the playing field. With more Black, Brown, and Indigenous people in leadership roles across different fields, decision-making is in the hands of people from underrepresented groups more often than ever before. Welteroth notes that this creates an “opportunity to level the playing field in a world that has for generations been rigged by the dominant power structure.” A dominant power structure that has historically been ruled by people who are cis, white, male, and not disabled.
When Welteroth describes a moment with a colleague, a white woman, who said that what took place in a business meeting “would never happen for a white girl” like her, she highlights how layered and complex issues related to gender politics can be. Welteroth remarked that her colleague’s comment felt like it “reduced all the years of hard work [she] invested into building [her] career from scratch — and this early success in [her] new role that directly benefited both of [them] — to the color of [her] skin.” She went on to comment that her colleague “benefited from her fair share of race-based privilege in America throughout her entire life.”
Audrey Lorde once said the following: “Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.” While Welteroth’s piece in Zora doesn’t describe the fears mentioned by Lorde, both women address the fact that race impacts our experiences as women. Given the ways that patriarchy and white supremacy work together to perpetuate cultures of oppression, Black women and women of color face challenges and obstacles that are unique and deeply impacted by a violent history of marginalization on the basis of race. When you take into account other factors like class, sexual orientation, nation of origin, disability, parenthood status, and other identities that impact lived experiences the plot thickens.
Zora provides a space for women of color to “write and read pieces that encourage us to speak our truths and remain resilient in spite of the challenges we face” according to a welcome address from Zora’s editor-in-chief Vanessa K. De Luca. In Welteroth’s piece, examples of those truths and of her unwavering resilience are showcased and they highlight the need for spaces like Zora. Spaces where the unique and multi-dimensional experiences of Black women and women and color can exist in narrative form. When Welteroth explains the importance of engaging with other women who have “faced similar trials and slayed similar dragons” she points to the importance of acknowledging the different lived experiences of women, and people of other genders who are not men, that are impacted by race.
Like Welteroth’s important work, Zora is a part of a “new seismic shift in the media zeitgeist .” For the next generation of Black women and women of color who want to share their truths and join a journalistic movement rooted in integrity and fueled by justice, Zora offers a space that is unapologetic. A space that is ours.