Essence Magazine Has Lost Its 'Essence'

Actress Viola Davis and former Essence Editor-in-Chief C.R. Constance White (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Actress Viola Davis and former Essence Editor-in-Chief C.R. Constance White (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

In a blog post at Black Blue Dog, Dr. Boyce Watkins weighs in on the recent announcement by former Essence Editor-in-Chief Constance C.R. White that she was fired because of clashes over the way her bosses wanted to represent African-American women. He says that Essence lost its "essence" a long time ago. 

The revelations by former Essence Magazine editor Constance White both intrigued and concerned me. Not to say that I was surprised, but I admittedly long for the days when my friend Susan Taylor stood at the helm of the magazine, and Essence represented something black, extraordinary and authentic. There was a time when we fully understood that the power of media wasn't just for making money, it was also for shaping minds. In fact, [Adolf] Hitler once said that if you want to control a group of people, all you have to do is control what they read, watch and hear.

For much of my life, when I thought about Essence Magazine, I thought about black women. Now, when I think about Essence, I think about what white people want black women to become. The mind can be under occupation in the same way that one colonizes a foreign country, and in the space of African American media, it's difficult to argue that we're not a conquered and imperialized group of people.

The pressure to assimilate is overwhelming when I look at how most of the radio stations our kids listen to are owned by big corporations like Clear Channel, who don't care that commercialized hip-hop music is teaching young boys how to grow up and become murderers and r*pists. Television Networks like BET seem to believe that it should once again be illegal for black people to learn how to read. Even TV One, the "good version" of BET (a network that most of us respect), is 49% owned by NBC Universal, implying that they remain officially black-owned by a mere technicality.


Read Dr. Boyce Watkins' entire blog entry at Black Blue Dog.

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