Adding voices and viewpoints to the blogosphere
June 3, 2007 12:19 PM   Subscribe

rsspect and AfroSpear -- both bringing more Black voices of the blogosphere to our attention. Rsspect is a growing collection of feeds, and AfroSpear a group blog. The loss of Steve Gilliard of the NewsBlog this week has caused many to rightly question why more minority voices aren't as visible or prominent online.
posted by amberglow (66 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
A couple of my favorite POC bloggers have been forced offline from both online and offline harrassment. Sadly the same behavior of privilege and racism we see offline often carries over onto online behavior. Also add in the number of sites which don't moderate racist behavior, and a lot of people of color become highly selective about where they interact and if they "out" their ethnicity.

A lot of times it seems to mirror women bloggers and death threats.
posted by yeloson at 12:30 PM on June 3, 2007


"Visibility" and "prominence" aren't rights. Everyone has a right to speak, but there is no right to have an audience.

"Rightly question" makes it sound as if you feel there's some sort of injustice, or perhaps even some sort of conspiracy. There isn't.

A lot of smart people have thought a lot about this, and the best explanation seems to be that this is an emergent result of certain normal social processes, which result in power law distributions.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:40 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


That's terrible, yeloson. Maybe we can help by showing support? When female bloggers are attacked, people rally round and go after the attackers and spread the word--why can't that happen with racist attacks too? (I realize tho, that it's a much larger society-wide problem--CBS actually turned off comments on things that mentioned Obama because it was too much--they should have just moderated)
posted by amberglow at 12:42 PM on June 3, 2007


"Rightly question" makes it sound as if you feel there's some sort of injustice, or perhaps even some sort of conspiracy. There isn't.

A lot of tributes to our friend Steve Gilliard have mentioned the fact that there aren't enough African American voices in the blogosphere. ...

If there are enough, but they're just not linked or blogrolled or mentioned or quoted or interviewed ever, that needs to be remedied--no matter why it is. Rightly questioning the present situation is a question that actually has easy answers. I've presented 2 of them here.
posted by amberglow at 12:49 PM on June 3, 2007


So far, POC have been making cross connections such as Erase Racism Carnival online and privately moderated closed safe spaces, but I don't think there's really much you can specifically do when someone is getting death threats and has kids, family, career, or just life to worry about.

The sad truth of it is, violence against POC is vastly under reported and I can't blame anyone who'd rather be safe than become the next "isolated incident".
posted by yeloson at 12:50 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Orcinus has been chronicling the rise of overt racism in our society and media for a long time now -- i guess online is no different, tragically?
posted by amberglow at 12:59 PM on June 3, 2007


Minority voices are not visible because voices make sounds not sights.

[I'll be here all week BT Broadband permitting]
posted by srboisvert at 1:02 PM on June 3, 2007


"Visibility" and "prominence" aren't rights. Everyone has a right to speak, but there is no right to have an audience.

Yeah, the free speech zone is what it's all about.

How about the free press. When I distribute the photocopies of my underground newsletter, are you going to have people go around to pick them up?
posted by nervousfritz at 1:10 PM on June 3, 2007


don't overlook BlackProf (a site run by leading black law professors).

Many a charged thread and not for the faint of heart.
posted by pwedza at 1:27 PM on June 3, 2007


Some links (which I hope don't simply become klanbait to shut down):

Women of Color blog (link to relevant post on internet racism)
Feministing (link to "Blogging While Black" post)

The Silence of Our Friends
Racialicious
Addicted to Race
Alas, A Blog
Reappropriate
posted by yeloson at 1:38 PM on June 3, 2007


How about the free press. When I distribute the photocopies of my underground newsletter, are you going to have people go around to pick them up?

Of course not. I'll just ignore it if someone tries to hand me a copy.

You have a right to try to distribute your handouts. I have a right to refuse to read it. And so does everyone else. If you can't find an audience, them's the breaks.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's not about rights, Steven, but about differing viewpoints and expanding beyond the usual sources--and that it enriches all of us.

Thanks for those links pwedza and yeloson! I'll throw in Pam's House Blend, but she's well-known already i think.
posted by amberglow at 2:04 PM on June 3, 2007


For Gilliard:

.
posted by maryh at 2:06 PM on June 3, 2007


Amberglow, are you suggesting that I have an obligation to read things I'm not interested in? That if I don't, then someone should force me to do it?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:17 PM on June 3, 2007


Yes, Steven, I'm sure that's what he's getting at. I see you're getting a lot of use out of that Broadsword of Wilful Obtuseness (+2 attack against strawmen)

On a slightly more constructive note, that CBS/Obama story was an eye-opener. I'm not (that) naive, but exactly when did Klansmen develop the opposable thumbs necessary to get on the internets? Now that's news.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:28 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think it's reductive and disrespectful to try to turn Steve Gilliard's death into a political issue or referendum on race on the internet. He wasn't respected, admired, and loved because he was black. He earned his renown through his passion, intelligence and strength. I never met him, just read his weblog most days, but these tributes by people who knew him give you an idea of the person he was.

.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:36 PM on June 3, 2007


The law, in its majestic equality, permits Rupert Murdoch as well as myself to seek an audience for our opinions.

With apologies to Anatole France, of course.

They don't call it the "marketplace of ideas" for nothin', you know.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:42 PM on June 3, 2007


Steven: The more blogs are marketed, the more likely it is that people will start reading them. A bunch of people think it would be better if black voices were more widely heard, and so they are giving they are trying to market them. No one's forcing you to anything.

It would also be great to have some alternative voices out there for "the black community" besides guys like Jessy Jackson and Al Sharpton, that's something I'd think even you would support.
posted by delmoi at 2:54 PM on June 3, 2007


You're damned right that they don't call it "marketplace of ideas" for no reason at all.

Justice Holmes used the marketplace as an analogy for a very good reason: in a marketplace there are winners and there are losers, and it is consumers who decide.

Joe Lisboa, I was not trying to set up a strawman; I was trying to make this point: if you are not willing to compel me by force to read the things you think I should be reading when I don't want to, then you have to tolerate the fact that I won't be reading them. Millions of people like me are going to decide for themselves what they want to read, and they won't necessarily choose what you think they should choose.

I may decide that I'd rather spend my time reading about something stupid and trivial like anime instead of reading socially conscious blogs written by Persons Of Color. The Person Of Color's total traffic level will be the emergent result of millions of similar decisions by millions of people like me -- and it probably won't be as high a number as you think it should be. But without using compulsion, how can that be changed?

Well, we can scream and moan about it. Which may make us feel virtuous, but won't really affect anything. We can try publicity, but that's unlikely to make much difference.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:03 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


You're damned right that they don't call it "marketplace of ideas" for no reason at all.

Justice Holmes used the marketplace as an analogy for a very good reason: in a marketplace there are winners and there are losers, and it is consumers who decide.

Joe Lisboa, I was not trying to set up a strawman; I was trying to make this point: if you are not willing to compel me by force to read the things you think I should be reading when I don't want to, then you have to tolerate the fact that I won't be reading them. Millions of people like me are going to decide for themselves what they want to read, and they won't necessarily choose what you think they should choose.

I may decide that I'd rather spend my time reading about something stupid and trivial like anime instead of reading socially conscious blogs written by Persons Of Color. The Person Of Color's total traffic level will be the emergent result of millions of similar decisions by millions of people like me -- and it probably won't be as high a number as you think it should be. But without using compulsion, how can that be changed?

Well, we can scream and moan about it. Which may make us feel virtuous, but won't really affect anything. We can try publicity, but that's unlikely to make much difference.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:03 PM on June 3, 2007


Sorry about that; I don't have any idea how it happened. (Mods? Delete one of them, and this too?)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:04 PM on June 3, 2007


The more blogs are marketed, the more likely it is that people will start reading them. A bunch of people think it would be better if black voices were more widely heard, and so they are giving they are trying to market them.

That sounds fine to me. I used to do something like that, when I was about #45 on the Technorati Top 100. I kept a short blogroll, which only linked to low traffic blogs, and I changed it completely every four months.
A few of the people I linked to (maybe 4 or 5) ended up with lots of traffic; how much I contributed to that is anyone's guess.

But let's keep expectations in check here: the marketing idea you're talking about is unlikely to make very much difference.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:08 PM on June 3, 2007


bunch of people think it would be better if black voices were more widely heard

I don't disagree, but I feel that the occasion of Steve Gilliard's death is a time to mourn his passing and celebrate his life. Another tribute.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:22 PM on June 3, 2007


Millions of people like me are going to decide for themselves what they want to read, and they won't necessarily choose what you think they should choose.

And that's all kinds of groovy with me. The day I broke from Catholicism was the day in grade school I learned about the Index Liborum Prohibitorum - and that it still exists! Well, shortly thereafter at any rate. Point being: I don't want mandated / forced-selective consumption of ideas or texts either, believe me. But I suspect the market metaphor (and I have nothing but respect for Ollie Dubs) not only serves to mask a questionable ideology but leaves us at a fairly superficial level of analysis w/r/t the effect that gross disparities of wealth can have on the pursuit of truth (assuming that's what the marketplace of ideas is "designed" to facilitate).

Obviously it's a tricky, complex issue, but that's my point: invoking the market metaphor immediately shifts the conversation to the sort of talk like: "No one's gonna force me to read stuff I don't wanna read" instead of talk like: "Is the market really the appropriate / most useful image to employ in describing things like the dissemination of ideas?"

I didn't detect anything approaching the "forced consumption" of ideas you allude to above either in amberglow's post or hissubsequent comments, which is what led me to suggest you were tilting at John Stuart windMills. I apologize if I was mistaken. I just don't see how questioning the paucity of minority voices on the internet = such forced consumption. Just as you're free to ignore bloggers of color, the rest of us are free to associate and collaborate to rectify what we see as an unfortunate vacuum.

Then again, that sort of cuts to the quick of this for me: (numerical) minorities are, by definition, at a disadvantage in terms of "market share," which is perhaps why the market metaphor is either beside the point here or compounding the problem. I'm sorry to all if this contributes to a derail or the like, I'll bow out and get back to Scrabble.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:39 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I mean no disrespect at all to Gilliard--i read NewsBlog every single day and loved it. Many of the tributes to him have raised the issue (as a way of broadening out, or precisely because he's one of very very few known minority bloggers, or for those who didn't read it maybe?). Even bloggers who are focused on racism like Orcinus brought it up in their tributes--Gilliard wasn't just a wonderful strong voice, but was maybe also an access point to something different from the other voices around. I know Pam is seen that way by some too--for being gay also. Whether it's because there are so few known bloggers of color (or gay ones either, etc), some are seen as go-to on certain topics or for certain viewpoints, etc. I missed Gilliard's voice during the whole Imus thing, for instance--He would have been on fire. He was always on fire about everything of course, but it would have been great to see what he said about that too, and it wouldn't have been what many other bloggers said, i'm betting, because he has a different experience of racism.
posted by amberglow at 3:48 PM on June 3, 2007


the marketplace of ideas has been turned into a flea market
posted by Postroad at 3:49 PM on June 3, 2007


.

If someone is repeatedly referred to as a POC blogger (silly term, guys), then don't be surprised when people who are not "of color" are often not reading. This is what happens when you pigeonhole people.
posted by dhammond at 4:09 PM on June 3, 2007


dhammond: I read a lot of women's blogs, though I'm not a woman.

The internet lets you learn about people who aren't like you. Imagine that.
posted by yeloson at 4:20 PM on June 3, 2007


I read a lot of women's blogs, though I'm not a woman.

Me too, and I'm sure everyone's impressed by how unsexist we are. Now, I hope you're reading them because their good blogs and not because they happen to be written by women and you've filled up your tolerance quota.
posted by dhammond at 4:22 PM on June 3, 2007


Thanks for the strawman. How does that connect to what you just said previously?

Good quality is good quality, yes? Why should bloggers have to hide their ethnicity or at least "not be referred repeatedly by a silly term" in order to get read?

Women don't.

That's my point. What's yours?
posted by yeloson at 4:32 PM on June 3, 2007


I am unconvinced that there is a nefarious reason why certain "POC" bloggers are not more widely read. There are any number of blogs out there, from outstanding to mediocre. I can only speak for myself, but a blogger's race or gender doesn't have anything to do with why I might read them.

Am I less likely to read a woman (let's call her a femblogger, why don't we?) who blogs about contraception and abortion? Probably. I also don't read NASCAR blogs. Am I going to question (or even wonder) about the gender or race of a blogger who's funny? Absolutely not. I can only speak for myself, but I bet most of the people you and I know are similar.

By the way, what is a "POC" blogger anyway? Does this person have to talk about race in more than a passing way?

I don't want to sound like I am attacking you or anyone in particular. It's just that I am not convinced that this is a nefarious situation that needs a remedy.
posted by dhammond at 4:44 PM on June 3, 2007


The only two nefarious trends I see (and pointed out, above) are:

a) the higher level of harassment aimed at POC
b) the lower level of protection in moderation for POC

Is this a Giant White Conspiracy? No. Is it a still an expression of racism? Yes. In the same way no single person organizes work related discrimination, housing discrimination, etc. But that doesn't mean it's not a problem.

And these 2 things DO contribute a lot to how people of color choose to interact (or more importantly, not interact) online. If you have less people writing online, that's that many less to be read. See the history of literature and people of color, women, queers, etc.

Personally? If there wasn't those 2 things in action, and no one's reading? That's fine. At least they'd be getting fair treatment in having a voice.

When you don't have that, you can't even talk about a "marketplace of ideas" in any equitable sense.
posted by yeloson at 4:55 PM on June 3, 2007


When it comes to the web, "neglected and ignored" is the norm. That's how it is for nearly all bloggers. That's the significance of the power law distribution. It doesn't have anything to do with racism; that's how it is for nearly everyone.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:08 PM on June 3, 2007


Stupid discussion. It's just that no-one cares about these things on the web - I could be black for all any of you know.

If you ask me, trying to positive-discriminate in favour of black bloggers is way more racist than just not knowing or caring in the slightest what race people are when you can't see them, as I wager 99.9% of internet users do.
posted by reklaw at 5:24 PM on June 3, 2007


Stupid discussion. It's just that no-one cares about these things on the web - I could be black for all any of you know.

If you were, you probably wouldn't say that. I notice who's straight and who's not online. I notice that the overwhelming majority of bloggers who are straight don't usually speak of issues that relate to that. I notice that most straight white guys don't notice those things, nor do they blog about them or about racism or about sexism, etc, until there's some giant incident like Imus or Rep. Foley or the Duke rape case, etc, that forces it on everyone's attention. And if the most popular bloggers are all straight white guys, there are all sorts of things we're not hearing about or reading, so maybe knowing of other voices can help.
posted by amberglow at 6:18 PM on June 3, 2007


Reklaw, there's a lot of truth to that. One of the anime blogs I read regularly is written by a guy living in Singapore who is ethnically Chinese.

But I don't read it because he's Chinese, and he doesn't write about the plight of the Chinese. I read it because he posts pictures he's taken of figurines in his collection, and because I enjoy his reviews of shows he's watched. What he's writing could have been written by anyone, of any race. The only reason I know he's ethnically Chinese is that he's posted pictures of himself and some of his buddies.

There are probably a lot of blogs out there being written by non-whites without any of us knowing it. Perhaps some of them have gotten popular. But the reason we don't know it is because they don't write about race; they write about other things. And they don't write about those things from a racial perspective.

"On the internet no one knows if you're a dog." UNLESS... you spend a lot of time baying at the moon or chasing your tail.

The blogs our fellows here are concerned about are not simply those written by "persons of color", they're ones written about that subject. The real concern here isn't racial, it's ideological.

Note that no one so far has mentioned La Shawn Barber? She's very successful. She's a black woman.

She's also conservative, which means she cannot exist. It violates the laws of physics for a black woman to be conservative, so our friends don't refer to her, even though she is precisely the kind of success story they're claiming doesn't exist. She's built up a big audience the usual way: writing a lot of good stuff, posting every day, and sticking around for a long time. (As it happens, I'm not a reader, but that's beside the point.)

Our friends are going to try to spread the word about blogs written by "persons of color". But only those which write about a particular range of topics, and approach those topics from a particular ideological point of view. That's why I'd bet big money that La Shawn won't be one of the bloggers listed.

And if there were a black guy out there with an anime blog, it wouldn't end up on the list either -- quite possibly because none of us would even know that the blogger was black.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:25 PM on June 3, 2007


I notice who's straight and who's not online. I notice that the overwhelming majority of bloggers who are straight don't usually speak of issues that relate to that. I notice that most straight white guys don't notice those things, nor do they blog about them or about racism or about sexism, etc, until there's some giant incident like Imus or Rep. Foley or the Duke rape case, etc, that forces it on everyone's attention.

You're using circular logic. You're assuming that if a blogger doesn't write about homosexuality then they must be straight. But maybe they're just gay and don't feel like writing about that. How would you know?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:28 PM on June 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


You are very right, Mr. Den Beste. There is no lack of gay (or female, or black, or gay female black and one-legged) bloggers - it's just that being whatever doesn't mean you have to write about being whatever. Maybe you just post pictures of trains instead.

I have no doubt that the world is full of bloggers of every colour (how could it not be?), and we probably all read them every day without even knowing it. That's the way of the web.
posted by reklaw at 6:36 PM on June 3, 2007


I don't see what's wrong with being exposed to people that are different than you in that they may be black or women or gay if you happen to be a white straight male.

If you want to become well rounded and actually capable of joining in the discussion that people are having about different points of view, you really have to get out of your comfort zone a bit and just listen. Walk a mile in the other man's shoes as it were.

Otherwise joining in here to tell people that you don't have to care is both a waste of your time and their's. No you don't have to read anyone's blog, the question is should you think about reading someone's blog if you want to talk about their ideas .
If you took the time to comment here, why not take the time to read up on what your commenting on? Is it incumbent upon you to know what people in the minority think and feel? If you're goal is to be a member of society I think so.
posted by nola at 6:47 PM on June 3, 2007


Stupid discussion. It's just that no-one cares about these things on the web - I could be black for all any of you know.


as a regular reader of the late Mr. Gilliard, I can say that until the lawn jockeys and crude photoshop treatments would come out, very few casual commenters knew that he was black... at least until he came to be known as the guy who race-baited Armstrong Williams and Michael Steele.

of course it isn't race-baiting if it's your own kin and kind.

oh yeah, here is Steve Gilliards take on this thread.

and here is his take on LaShawn Barber, somehow he ridiculed regularly...
posted by geos at 7:52 PM on June 3, 2007


Nola, then I take it you are a regular reader of Townhall and Powerline?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:07 PM on June 3, 2007



.

for Gilliard.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:32 AM on June 4, 2007


"On the internet no one knows if you're a dog." UNLESS... you spend a lot of time baying at the moon or chasing your tail.
As someone who often strongly disagrees with Steven, he is spot-on throughout this thread.

yeloson, you might want to read a community of blogs written in the style of Dave Winer crossed with a 'mommyblogger' (but about minority racial identity politics) — but most of us do not.
posted by blasdelf at 5:32 AM on June 4, 2007


Of course race mattered, even though Steve didn't spend a lot of time talking about it. When he criticized international adoption--white Americans adopting Asian kids,mostly--I disagreed with some of his comments but read him anyway and took his words extra seriously precisely because he was black. He had more authority than us white folks do on certain matters. I didn't read him because he was black; I read him because he had many things of value to say, some of which were influenced by his race.
I will miss him a lot.
.
posted by etaoin at 5:51 AM on June 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


The blogs our fellows here are concerned about are not simply those written by "persons of color", they're ones written about that subject. The real concern here isn't racial, it's ideological.
No, it's both, because human beings usually don't hide who they are, and they usually blog about thngs that matter to them. Very few bloggers ignore their own lives and experiences and interests.

For some it's figurines; for others like Malkin, they use their own status, and are used by others as a token to advocate xenophobia and racism and exclusion.

and here is his take on LaShawn Barber, somehow he ridiculed regularly...
And that counts toward your point how? It's explicitly Gilliard knocking Barber--very explicitly, and using his race to do it more effectively. It actually proves what i'm saying. -- And your position here is very similar to Barber's quoted there. The Poor Man's and Gilliard's words more accurately reflect what some have been saying here--we all come from different places and heritages and levels of knowledge and stupidity--some appalingly limited and wrong like Barber, and some not. All of that goes into most people's blogs, and we're all richer for that. Barber and Malkin use their race and ethnicity and gender all the time.

The knowledge and experiences and attitudes bloggers bring to their blogs is not colorblind -- because our society is not colorblind -- at all. Gilliard never stayed quiet about who he was, nor did he refrain from topics that touched his life.
posted by amberglow at 8:11 AM on June 4, 2007



yeloson, you might want to read a community of blogs written in the style of Dave Winer crossed with a 'mommyblogger' (but about minority racial identity politics) — but most of us do not.


Then maybe if you're not interested, you'll stay out of a thread discussing them, no?
Steve too. This is not just disinterest being expressed here, but hostility and mocking toward the entire premise. Why is that?
posted by amberglow at 8:19 AM on June 4, 2007



as a regular reader of the late Mr. Gilliard, I can say that until the lawn jockeys and crude photoshop treatments would come out, very few casual commenters knew that he was black...


picking any month at random from NewsBlog belies what you say, Steve and others. In the range of posts you see what he as a person cared about, and thought important or funny or insane or hateful enough to post about--all informed by who he is. That's most often how it is. Other bloggers weren't connecting Justice Sunday with the rise of the Klan in the 20s. None were. Other bloggers weren't speaking of South African Apartheid in connection with the rise of Blackwater and our use of mercenaries, or the CIA in Africa, or Ferrer losing almost all Black support in NYC, or how there were "no Jews or N*ggers Allowed" at a rightwing conference in Atlanta, etc.

Perhaps it's what he says here about having a personality or being a persona: ...accused me of having a persona, ala someone we know. Well, no. I have a personality, not a persona. The difference is simple: everything I do, well, I do because I do them. I'm not playing at having a bad temper or liking soccer. Or liking food. The difference between a persona and a personality is that one is created, the other is you. Personas are dangerous things, because you can be trapped by them. ...

When you play at being something you're not, for effect, it only hurts you in the end. Because real people are mutli-dimentional. They can be kind and cruel in the same breath. But you can ask Jen if the things I say and do here are for effect or just part of my personality. I don't have the energy or the ambition to be a persona. If I did, I'd be a Republican and making gobs of cash. ...

posted by amberglow at 8:46 AM on June 4, 2007


"blogosphere"

*cackles, slaps knee*
posted by quonsar at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2007


This is not just disinterest being expressed here, but hostility and mocking toward the entire premise. Why is that?

I don't think this post proves your point. At all. For instance, you wrote "many to rightly question" in your post, but didn't link to anything to back it up. And the link provided by geos is straight from Gilliard, who essentially refutes the entire argument.
posted by dhammond at 11:50 AM on June 4, 2007


digby, orcinus, and other tributes linked to here all mention it. I wasn't about to link to 700 tributes to him, since that's not the point of the post--it's the question arising in those tributes that's the point.

straight from Gilliard, who essentially refutes the entire argument.
No he doesn't at all, since he makes it clear that it's about whether they let you know what they are or not--he always did--most bloggers do. Unfortunately the default position online is that people are white males unless they state otherwise. For that not to remain the default, more diverse voices should be recognized and brought to people's attention.
posted by amberglow at 12:05 PM on June 4, 2007


Unfortunately the default position online is that people are white males unless they state otherwise.

They assume bloggers are white, when they have no evidence that they are, like you would assume John was white if you hadn't met him. Because black people aren't supposed to do these things.
posted by dhammond at 12:50 PM on June 4, 2007


...There is simply no way to know what people are unless they tell you. Some of the people you're assuming are white, definitely are not. Now, Kos clearly doesn't look white, he's dark and small, yet Rabb didn't even stop to figure out a basic, self-evident fact.

I think people assume a lot and reflect their own biases, not reality. They assume bloggers are white, when they have no evidence that they are, like you would assume John was white if you hadn't met him. Because black people aren't supposed to do these things.

There is simply no way to know who a blogger is unless they let you know. And I'm betting, from my own experience, that there are black people who are blogging, being read, and no know knows their color or cares.


Steve always told us, in all sorts of ways. So do these bloggers. I don't know why anyone has a problem with that. Steve acknowledges that people assume white male until shown otherwise, and that media attention is pretty much closed to most who aren't.
posted by amberglow at 2:31 PM on June 4, 2007


Steve himself, quoted in one of the tributes: ...Indeed, the ready use of the trope that "nobody knows your color on the Internet" by white liberals routinely, even if unwittingly, sends a very real message to many Black bloggers new and aspiring (as it did to me, at first) that our true perspectives are simply not welcome. That the uniqueness of a third eye perspective, or voice may indeed be a strike against us, particularly if our perspectives don't line up with the orthodoxy that passes for progressive thought on the 'Net these days. It's the ultimate message, which bluntly most of us already get in the real world anyway: if you want survive, and succeed, you must be prepared to be absorbed into a Black-less Borg and become "the default". You aren't really Black, anymore. Or at least, you'd better pretend you're not.

Steve himself knew that, and made plain what he felt about it:

But there's something more pernicious than that. The assumption many people make is that I'm a white man. Now, people have done this in other cases, but in this case it's well, pretty fucking stupid.
What white progressive or liberal would feel free enough to make fun of a black man by putting him in blackface? No one. I can't imagine one doing so. Just the art alone would indicate I wasn't worried about being seen as racist, and hint, hint, I might be black.
But why do people assume I'm white? Because many people simply cannot imagine a black man blogging, much less expressing his opinions on a range of topics. It isn't what they are trained to think. Sports, ok, but politics, nope. It amuses me some days, but it does get other people in trouble

(From Tim Kaine is a Coward, 10/27/05)

At some point, it became crystal clear more than just folks like me that Steve Gilliard was, in fact, a proud Black blogger. Because Steve himself made it plain. ...

posted by amberglow at 3:08 PM on June 4, 2007


Indeed, the ready use of the trope that "nobody knows your color on the Internet" by white liberals routinely, even if unwittingly, sends a very real message to many Black bloggers new and aspiring (as it did to me, at first) that our true perspectives are simply not welcome... you must be prepared to be absorbed into a Black-less Borg and become "the default". You aren't really Black, anymore. Or at least, you'd better pretend you're not.

What bullshit. I run across such people a lot, the kind who think that if you're in some way "unusual" - black, female, gay, vegetarian, whatever - you have some kind of duty to talk about it incessantly on your blog, or else you're selling out to the man and letting the Establishment stifle your unique viewpoint or something.

Not everything is about identity politics. Full stop.
posted by reklaw at 3:18 PM on June 4, 2007


reklaw: Not everything is about identity politics. Full stop.

On another board, my username is trebuchet, and I talk about math and science a bit, everybody - everybody - assumes I'm male, even when I specify otherwise. Because girls are bad at math and/or don't like weaponry, one presumes. It's just self-evident that I must be male. I don't bother to correct anybody, because why derail? It's still annoying. There's a reason I've stopped using gender-neutral usernames.

Imagine if that happened all. the. time. If I point out I'm female, then am I making the discussion about identity politics? Or did that happen when other people assumed I was a guy?
posted by joannemerriam at 4:22 PM on June 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


what joanne said.

I find it's pretty much only straight white guys only who have a problem with the whole idea. I still don't know why.
posted by amberglow at 6:47 PM on June 4, 2007


I find it's pretty much only straight white guys only who have a problem with the whole idea. I still don't know why.

Come now, I'm sure there we can find some gays and latinos that have a problem with specious reasoning!
posted by dhammond at 8:08 PM on June 4, 2007


Imagine if that happened all. the. time. If I point out I'm female, then am I making the discussion about identity politics? Or did that happen when other people assumed I was a guy?

Well, people assuming I'm American happens all. the. time. all over the web. I understand that it's not any great slight on me - it's just that a large portion of the web is made up of Americans, just like a (presumably very) large portion of math/science forums is male. If I go join the forums at handbag.com or whatever, I'm sure they'll keep referring to me as 'she' - but it's hardly malicious. It's just because English lacks a decent gender-neutral pronoun.
posted by reklaw at 3:07 AM on June 5, 2007


We're responding to your GYOBFW framing of your FPP, amberglow, not Steve Gilliard.
posted by blasdelf at 9:13 AM on June 5, 2007


We're responding to your GYOBFW framing of your FPP, amberglow, not Steve Gilliard.

No, you're not--you're not allowing the question to have any value at all. You're denigrating that people do question this stuff, and you don't see what others see--that it's rightful and valid to question why there are so many straight white male bloggers who are prominent, and so very very few minority and female ones.

If you weren't a straight white male, you'd realize that every single day, as those of us who aren't straight white males do. We notice it online and off. We notice it all of the time. Gilliard was one of the very few prominent Black progressive voices, and that's wrong. Bringing more of them to people's attention and questioning why there are so few is not a GYOBFW thing, but a humanity and society thing. I'm sorry you don't understand that, but it's clear you don't and would rather attack instead.

posted by amberglow at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2007


(kill the ital on that)
posted by amberglow at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2007


You're not getting it, amberglow, I like Gilliard's writing (though not the mostly warblog subject matter).

I'm objecting to your framing this as "…caused many to rightly question why more minority voices aren't as visible or prominent online". What you see as prominent varies widely between online communities. The prototypical livejournaler is likely female, and likely one or more of: goth, teenaged, furry, fandom, russian, etc. The prototypical warblogger is white, male, and suburban. But so what?

Why do we have to bring our class, gender, race, nationality, etc. to internet communities, especially when that meatspace baggage isn't the subject matter? I don't really think about that shit unless the writer argues from authority.

The color of a blogger's skin is the least of the matter — would you rather have more Malkins and LaShawn Barbers (though she's not as bad as she used to be), making vapid shills on the authority of their race… or would you prefer more terrific voices of any or no color?
posted by blasdelf at 5:20 AM on June 6, 2007


I think it depends on the topics--What aren't we hearing because there are so few? What is getting lost in the shuffle? What viewpoints aren't being heard? What's valued and what's not? ... I prefer more voices--of all sorts and of all qualities--i want more information, different information, different takes on the same information, etc...

I really don't mind Malkin and Barber--they both (sometimes at least) have specific viewpoints that other rightwing bloggers don't have specifically because of who they are as humans and their specific experiences. That's true on all sides. Hearing FOX daily speak of "white Christian males" and how they're under attack, or "speakchuckers" and "tarbabies", or mistaking Conyers for Jefferson just now (because they all look alike??), etc--these things affect (or more usually--don't affect, since they're not mentioned or blogged about) TalkingPointsMemo or Ezra Klein or a Powerline or a LGF or Captain's Quarter or whoever, differently from the way they affect a Gilliard or a Pam or Liza or an Orcinus, who can more readily connect it both to their own experiences and/or to the long history of the mainstreaming of racist rhetoric. In fact, there's much that isn't blogged about, and should be. Adding to the diversity of voices on all sides can only help--whether it's left or right or center. The most prominent and linked-to voices online are still overwhelmingly white and male and straight.

Americablog and Pam's House Blend and Petrelis and Direland and Blogactive, etc, all blog about things that aren't usually found on most big blogs. That's because they care about different things--because of who they are as people. There's enormous value in that, and their voices add more, and add difference and diversity. Stating that it's the least of the matter (when it's not ever--online or off) is not a solution, but simply hides a problem, and ensures a lack of diversity. By stating that the net is colorblind (when it's not, just as life is not), you ensure the continued dominance of white straight male voices because they already are dominant. It forestalls growth and minimizes different points of view.
posted by amberglow at 4:55 PM on June 6, 2007


Why do we have to bring our class, gender, race, nationality, etc. to internet communities, especially when that meatspace baggage isn't the subject matter? I don't really think about that shit unless the writer argues from authority.
When isn't it the subject matter, especially when blogging about things in the world? Blogs are written by people, with their own interests and agendas and concerns and likes and dislikes. People always bring their sex, race, religion, and orientation with them online in varying degrees--sometimes solely in the topics and news they choose to blog about -- or not to.
posted by amberglow at 5:05 PM on June 6, 2007


Related: a new category at the Koufax Awards: Best Human Equality Blog
posted by amberglow at 6:36 PM on June 10, 2007


Afrospear has just started Pageflakes--a wonderful roundup of feeds on diversity, race, gender, sexuality, civil rights, etc...
posted by amberglow at 4:33 PM on June 22, 2007


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