Daily Show's Jessica Williams: Stop Telling Me to Lean In

Jessica Williams absolutely needs to believe in herself and her talent in order to advance in her career. Not wanting to host The Daily Show at 25 isn’t an indication that she doubts herself. It’s an indication that she knows what she wants to do right now. Maybe the reason she’s so damn good at her job is because she has an incredible degree of self-awareness when it comes to her abilities and experience, and goes after jobs that are exactly perfect for her at the time, that will allow her to excel, shine, be challenged, and grow. Maybe she understands her career trajectory better than we do. In fact, it’s offensive as hell to assume that she doesn’t. And taking the perspective on this situation that because we want her to host The Daily Show means that she should do it, for that reason, is the most deeply problematic part of this entire issue: It speaks speaks to a sense of ownership over this person, this young Black woman. And make no mistake: Her identity as a Black woman has EVERYTHING to do with other people’s feeling of entitlement to tell her what’s best for her, and what she ought to do. If she were a man, or even a White woman, and she opted to walk away from what was perceived as a highly coveted job, we would call it “brave” and “interesting” and celebrate that person as someone who clearly has other plans and is self-directed — basically, we would frame that decision in any number of positive ways if the celebrity in question was anyone other than a Black woman.



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