Phi Beta Cons

‘Your father must be very light-skinned’

Loni Steele Sosthand — who, I am about 99 percent sure, is the daughter of Shelby Steele — has an amazing piece at Salon about her attempt to get hired for a “diversity position” as a Hollywood comedy writer. Read the whole thing, but here are the parts I found most interesting:


When I told my agent that my father is black and my mother is Jewish, he said, “You mean the man you call your father.”

“Yes, well, I call him my father because he is my father.”

“Your biological father?”

“Yes. As far as I know.

. . . 

For those unfamiliar with TV staffing, the networks have initiatives that require most shows to set aside one staff position for a writer of diverse descent. The diversity hire is often the only writer on staff whose salary does not come out of the show’s budget, but is paid by the network (provided for by the diversity program itself). Producers are more likely to take a chance on an untested writer when it’s not on their dime.

. . .


Because I have lived with this disconnect between my looks and my racial heritage all of my life, I foresaw trouble. I was right to worry. Here is what mostly happened: My agent pitched me on the phone as a diversity candidate, but once at the meetings my appearance confused people.

“Your father must be very light-skinned,” one executive said.

When I told another that my paternal grandparents were interracially married in the 1940s, having met as founding members of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), she said, “So really, you are only a quarter black. You have more white blood than black blood.”

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