Like the rest of the deathcore band of Americans who live with perpetual nimbus clouds of trepidation over their hanging heads, I watched CNN’s presidential debate. I was hoping (which is a rare thing for me) that there might be a thin wisp of a silver lining tucked somewhere in the thick, dark gray. There was none, only a thunderclap followed by a streak of lighting. A tempest was brewing—its cumulonimbus wings spread wide open, blocking out the sun. The two most powerful men in the free world ended the night debating their golf games. At that moment, anyone without a penis, white skin, a country club membership, or an investment portfolio needed to run and take cover: storm’s a-coming.

I got my umbrella when the one who was twice impeached and is now a convicted felon (no, I didn’t make that up) said: “They’re taking Black jobs now, and it could be eighteen, it could be nineteen, and even twenty million people. They’re taking Black jobs, and they’re taking Hispanic jobs, and you haven’t seen it yet, but you’re going to see something that’s going to be the worst in our history.”

By “they’re,” he meant immigrants crossing our southern border. By “Black jobs,” he meant… he meant… activists and artists? Maybe he meant writers? Could it be this felon believes immigrants are coming to our country and taking the jobs of Black organizers, advocates, writers, filmmakers, historians, painters, photographers, journalists, dancers, and musicians? Because when I hear “Black jobs,” the only explicitly Black jobs I know of are the ones that only Black people can do: nurture, cultivate, and affirm the existence of Blackness.

To me, a “Black job” was what James Baldwin did on The Dick Cavett Show when he showed up fully Negro, capital N, cigarette smoke whistling between the gap in his teeth, to do his job explaining the Black experience to a Yale philosopher professor named Paul Weiss who cried out to him, “Why must we always concentrate on color, or a religion, or this? There are other ways of connecting men.” Baldwin answered, "I’m not interested in whether a person is white or Black or green or yellow. I’m talking about the force of the state, which at this moment is oppressing Black people all over this nation…”

But Baldwin doesn’t get to finish his sentence, because the professor interrupts with “Not all,” and Baldwin works overtime: “The force of the state is oppressing every Black man in this nation.”

But his words fall on white ears.

The professor asks, “Is Black getting in your way of being a writer and author? I’d like to know how things like that get in the way of your being in the world.” The white studio audience gives the first smattering of white applause, and the Yale professor sits up a little taller in his seat.

James Baldwin didn’t get paid enough to do his “Black job” of loving us enough to speak our language to a room of white folks who frankly just didn’t get it—but, like the professor, are fans of Baldwin’s Black work. For them, his work is the silver lining tucked within the funnel of racism swirling above the country. They figure if they can allow this dark-skinned, coarse-haired, wide-nosed, thick-lipped, capital-N Negro to take up space, there’s nothing but clear skies up ahead, and Baldwin was just a chicken-licken, running around, causing a panic over a tiny acorn, exclaiming, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

The professor tells Baldwin, “You’re a distinguished novelist.”

He tells Baldwin, “You must’ve had time and freedom, and someone must’ve paid attention,” and “You must’ve been reviewed objectively as an author—not as a Negro.”

He tells Baldwin, “Nobody gave a damn whether your great ancestor had been bought or sold,” and that his literature and work were treated “in its own terms” because that’s the way Baldwin “wanted it.”

He tells Baldwin, “That’s where you had it. That’s where you’re having it now. What are you criticizing? What are you objecting to? There are terrible injustices, everyone admits, but you’re generalizing it. You’re rigidifying it. You’re solidifying it… as if there’s no way out.”

He tells Baldwin, “You’re an exhibition of the fact that there’s a way out.”

Baldwin asks, “Am I?” And the professor tells Baldwin he’s not just the “incarnation of Blackness,” but he is “an author.”

Way back on May 16, 1969, sitting on a midcentury sofa placed in the center of a nest of whiteness, James Baldwin proved the existence of “Black jobs” during a debate about Black autonomy with a Yale professor of philosophy on The Dick Cavett Show when he answered his own question, “Am I?”

He said to the listening audience, a cloud of witness spreading across the generations:

“I beg your pardon. I am also the oldest of nine children—all of whom are Black. I am one of the few survivors of my generation. All of whom the people I’m speaking of are Black—every Jimmy Baldwin or every Sammy Davis, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier. There are a whole lot of people you’ve never heard of who are at least equally talented—perhaps more talented—who did not manage… “

I take it back—maybe James Baldwin didn’t prove the existence of “Black jobs” but the existence of white ones where Black folks aren’t expected to outshine the white overseers. Perhaps the convicted fraudster presidential candidate forgot that his job was once a Black job, and the man he was debating was hired by a Black man who also enjoyed a nice game of golf.

Baldwin ended his debate with a striking difference between a Black job and any other job, saying, “Once you turn your back on this society, you may die—you may die—and it’s hard to sit at a typewriter and concentrate on that if you’re afraid of the world around you.”

When I first published my book, I had 170K Instagram followers. Most of those follows blew in on the the Racial Reckoning squall of 2020. Posting and writing about racial injustice and colorblind toxicity in the American church, my job had never been more “Black.”

It was as Black as Blackness could get when my editor told me I needed to change the name of my book, Black Coffee with White Friends (named after my Instagram handle), because it sounded too much like another book they’d published, All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep, written by a Black male author.

My job was Black as hell when she told me the sales team wanted to release my book four months earlier because, according to my editor, there were too many BIPOC books releasing that April, including one highly anticipated one by one of their other Black female authors.

My job was as Black as James Baldwin when she told me my book might sell better if we moved up the release to the end of January so they could promote it during Black History Month.

I know for a fact that when the criminally indicted challenger said: “They’re taking Black jobs…” he wasn’t talking about my Black-ass job as a writer. And he damn sure doesn’t know that he and all his book-banning, DEI-dismantling, CRT-discrediting, 1776 Commission–writing kinfolk and skin-folk are the only ones whom I’m worried about coming to take my Black job.