This article is Part II of a two part feature on Augusta native Nita Wiggins and her journey as a black woman growing up in the South and finding her place in a challenging world. For Part I, see here
When Nita Wiggins is asked why she is writing her book, she relates a story from the NBA Finals in 2011. Wiggins’ adopted sports town of Dallas, where she was a sports reporter and anchor for ten years, had just seen the Dallas Mavericks win the NBA Championship. Wiggins’ contract had ended two years earlier but she was still interested in the teams. Following the win, Wiggins tuned to the Dallas station covering the team to watch post-game coverage and the celebration. There were seven people covering the win. Every one of them was white.
Another reason Wiggins gives for writing her book involves a girl named Marley Dias from New Jersey. Marley, an 11-year-old black girl from New Jersey, made some national news in 2016 regarding her love of reading. Dias was a committed bibliophile but began to notice that nearly all of the books she was reading were about “white boys and their dogs.” Dias ultimately started a campaign called #1000blackgirlbooks that set out to even the ratio. Wiggins hopes her book can be added to the list. “I write this book so that young Marley Dias and her generation can add my name to a group that is distressingly small: black female protagonists about whom they can read and for whom they can root,” says Wiggins.
Wiggins also hopes to “demystify television journalism and sports journalism for those who do not have access to the hallowed realm.” Wiggins spent her childhood “devouring statistics” and two decades of her careers interviewing athletes of all stripes, from all sports. Her experience gives her a unique position to explain what is happening behind the scenes.
But there are more reasons for Wiggins writing her book.
“There are two more reasons. They are not simple. They are not pleasant.
I write because it matters to me that I spent 20 years pursuing a goal that would have been easier, I am sure, if I did not look the way I look in America: Black. And female.”
These reasons are understandably the most personal for Wiggins. “Others with hair and skin similar to my Afro-textured hair and pecan-brown complexion nurtured the same career longings. Sadly, many did not make it. I did. This is my story. While it’s one that includes milestones of success, it also describes minefields of career-ending attitudes and practices around which I had to step in order to survive professionally. Doing so eventually became an emotional burden that nearly broke me,” says Wiggins.
When her contract ended with the Dallas station, Wiggins says she didn’t care to stay in broadcasting. She was looking for a change and found it in France teaching. But she knows her story could be an inspiration for others still trying to break in and fight a system that is loaded with conscious or accidental biases. Wiggins acknowledges that sometimes these biases are due to laziness or conventional thinking as much as sexism or racism. But that doesn’t make them any less difficult for those confronting them.
“My book illustrates how I, as a person of color and a heroine-in-the-making, confronted an entrenched system, managed my emotions and my actions against daunting odds, and conducted deep introspection to decide whether I fit into the world I had chosen. I was born a journalist; would TV journalism and sports journalism let me in?”