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September 13, 2003

The Mystery of the Black Blogger

What does it mean to be a black blogger?

I'll start with the number of black blogs I have on my blogroll. There is a discernable disproportion of black bloggers on my blogroll to the percentage of blacks in America and presumeably the blogosphere. That's 15.2% for me.

As far as I know, I am the only Republican black blogger and everybody who carries at least one link to a visibly black blogger goes after Oliver Willis (who needs no introduction or links from me). So the simple answer to the simple question is, you get more recognition from other black bloggers than from non-black bloggers, unless you are Oliver Willis. Since Willis is clearly a big liberal wonk there's a similar deal with liberal blogger recognition vs non-liberal recognition. What's it like to live in the shadow of Oliver Willis? I don't know because I don't read his blog.

There is a deeper question implied by the black blogger question. But that devolves back to the simple question: What does it mean to be black and stand up and say what you believe? I'll get to that after I dispatch with a few other things.

The Blogosphere Itself
There is certainly the matter of its own echo chamber effect but that is the nature of the beast. There are two things to note in that regard.


  • Power Law Distributions distort the importance of popular blogs. Since I know this, I have solicited a link from Glenn Reynolds. I still haven't done much link whoring at all, but on the other hand I have not really made that an issue or an effort.
  • Blog amplification introduces distortion. The purity of ideas get lost as they propagate. They may become more interesting, but they destroy consensus.

Real Black Issues
Am I satisfied that black opinion is sought and found in the blogosphere? Not really. That is a function of how much needs to be said that is considered 'black' and that differs widely depending on whether or not you are. You see everything I write comes from a black perspective, because it's my perspective is black and I'm 100% (like Dozer in The Matrix) born and bred straight from source. So when you come to Cobb and read my stuff, you are getting a black perspective whether or not you acknowledge it. The question is loaded because it depends entirely on the behavior of non-black folks.

I know that behind 'what does it mean to be a black blogger' are three important questions which are implied.

  1. Do whitefolks depend on their own preconcieved notions of what a black issue is or is not?
  2. Do whitefolks seek out authentic blackfolks views when informing their own opinions?
  3. Do blackfolks use the blogosphere the same way whitefolks do?
(this argument is in black & white like a hitchcockian clarity, don't get bent out of shape)

To the first two which may or may not be related. That is to say, the second question may be taken independently of the context of the first. In either case I believe that folks have to have some extraordinary motivation to figure in their choice of connections. The blogosphere will eventually expand and dumb down just like the rest of the internet and we will be talking about average people soon. Average folks will do in the blogosphere just what they do in real life, so the predictable answers will be yes and no. But for the moment, while the blogosphere consists of extraordinary folks, the egotistical nature of blog exposition seems to be the primary dynamic of most blogs who are not doing a joint authorship thing.

So from that perspective, if you're Oliver Willis, you can be a meme bandit and suck all the wind out of black diversity just the same way Glenn Reynolds and Atrios do in their perspective ideological solar systems within the blogosphere. The alternative is to create a joint authored portal like Volokh or Crooked Timber or OxBlog. I have Vision Circle and there is the ever excellent Negrophile. For the moment I'm not complaining. I do think, however there is a significant question on whether the blogosphere needs a joint blog of color. It begs a lot of other questions too.

In the meanwhile, If I want to write about something and I think it's important, I'm going to blog it and link around it until the meat of the subject matter is covered to the extent I think it deserves. So I don't think you'll often hear me complain that a black issue (from the supply side) is not being covered by the blogosphere. You're more likely to hear me piss and moan about my exasperation at the intransigence of idiot bloggers who don't heed wisdom from the source. That gets back to questions one and two, so what's so special about bloggers anyway?

On question three, I think that there is something of a disconnect on choice of media. I got into this question earlier this year with Art McGee and others notable in the black internet world. The consensus seems to be that a self-fulfilling prophesy may be working. The blogosphere status quo is arguably white and male. In the way that smoke filled rooms still smell of smoke long after the backroom dealings are done, the 'masters tools' have evolved to favor a kind of atmosphere which may not be appropriate for the types of communications people of color and women want or need.

I am 100% convinced of the value of the blogosphere in the sense that it is an operation of individualism that allows for greater expression than was possible in web based fora like Salon, Cafe Utne, Abuzz ect. We have extended the credo of The Well "You own your own words" to a much larger universe of people than The Well could ever accomodate. So in the blogosphere I see more possibilities for black expression than ever before. In light of Power Law, we need a different kind of critical mass however, and I don't think that is quite established. Negrophile is the place to watch.

Blackness Itself, Again
So to the big question about what does it mean to be black and stand up and say what you believe. That depends on whether or not the subject is racial. If the subject is racial then see Diminishment below. If it's not, then Americans will try to pretend that it doesn't matter that you're black. They co-opt the subject. This is not always a bad thing, but it can be very annoying.

Diminished Standing & Racial Subjects
Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, I rehashed this last week. So you basically have Bells Rules & Blogcritics. I covered that here and here. The long story is Cyberspace My Black Ass but that's the stuff I did as boohab and I'm not going to retrace my steps here.

Posted by mbowen at September 13, 2003 02:59 PM

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Comments

DC Thornton usually votes Republican, although he prefers to say he's independent. Baldilocks is a proud Republican. Both are black. If you don't know Swirlspice, she's moderately political, kind of vaguely conservative although she doesn't like Bush. If you don't know them, you'll find them all on my blogroll.

You aren't on my blogroll partly because you've never asked, and partly because any time we've talked about any issues, we've disagreed without much in the way of back-and-forth, and didn't seem to have a lot of common ground. Since you didn't make any other efforts to get to know me, send me articles you think I or my readers might like, and have just left a few comments here and there disagreeing with me, well, that doesn't offend me, but doesn't put me in a "Damn, I need to seek out Cobb and see what we have in common" frame of mind.

And I'm not just saying that so you'll know how to get a link from me. You may not want one. But my insight is that MOST bloggers work this way. It's not about whether you agree with me; I got people I disagree with all the damned time on my blogroll, because they sought me out, or we somehow otherwise developed a form of mutual respect. Hell, Ara Rubyan's a Middle Eastern Jew who disagrees with me all the damned time, we never agree on anything much except maybe music. Rick DeMent, I have no idea what the guy's race is but we always disagree. But he gets links from me. Why? Because he's friendly, he's willing to debate with mutual back and forth, and because, frankly, he's not afraid to say once in a while, "Hey, I have something here I think you might like." Or even, "I have an article here that says why you're full of it, I dare you to link it." (Well no, Rick never did that, but Ara has. Whatever. You get my point.)

Now, you might be saying, "Why is this idiot telling me why he hasn't linked me? Who said I wanted him to?" That's not the point. What I have discovered is that MOST bloggers work this way, because it's human nature. And it's not just blogging either, it's how most human relationships work. You've gotta find some way to be noticed in order to get noticed, and have to use multiple tools in your arsenal to do it.

There's about three ways to get links:

1) Leave a lot of comments on a blog and develop a relationship with that blogger that is based on mutual respect. That's a hard one, but worth it if you find a few good bloggers you really like.

2) Actively seek out bloggers whose work you respect--not necessarily agree with, but respect--and offer to blogroll them, if they'll do the same for you. Some will say no. Some will ignore you. Some will say yes. As long as you aren't a pest or a whiner (and I know you are not a pest or a whiner, Cobb, you're the exact opposite) you'll start getting some links.

3) Just start asking people for links to articles you're proud of. This wrongly called "link whoring." That's bullshit. Most bloggers are always looking for content, and will be flattered at such a request. Of course, they may link it and say, "Man, Cobb is all wrong about this and let me tell you why." But you got the link. Or maybe, "Damn, I agree with all this, and here's more I have to say about it." But you got the link. And people will start to see your name floating around, and they'll start to check you out.

It seems like you've settled merely on #2, and not real aggressively so. You've further limited, for whatever reason, along a mostly-black axis. Why not ask some Indians, some Jews, some Pakistanis, and some white people for links? That's not begging. The better bloggers all do it, because they recognize that hey, it's all about promoting each other.

I have Indians, Iranians, blacks, women, Jews, Cubans, Italians, Spaniards all on my blogroll. I never once thought, "Man, I gotta find me more Jews! I need more women! Not enough blacks! I need a Pakistani in there somewhere." I just offered to trade links with people I saw who caught my eye. And a lot of the time, it was because I just got a nice note saying, "Hey, I like your blog. Would you consider looking at mine and, if you like it, link to it?" Man I've done that tons of times. Now I get at least one request a week on that, and have reached the point where I'm having to turn people down. But even when I do I always try to be nice about it, say something encouraging, tell 'em to maybe ask me again later. And sometimes, they do.

I wrote a lot about this here, and you might find it helpful:

Instapundit vs. Asparagirl: Peddling Cool Stuff For Free.

All bloggers want readers. Most are happy to share their readers. It's networking and sharing that builds traffic for everyone.

Good luck.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at September 14, 2003 06:24 AM

Someone once told me, you never know how what you write will affect people. I think this is a perfect example.

My blogroll is a curious thing. I used to call it the blog maki, because it was handrolled. Originally, I put it together like my blogfather's, the Agonist. I thought it was cool to break folks down into clever categories. I didn't use blogrolling.com code. Now I do. Although I use the ranking to keep vague categories, it's not so disciplined as it was when I only had 20 or so links. The primary reason I changed was not because of categories but because of the (RSS?) thingy that lets me know one of the folks has written something new.

As I mentioned, I did go out of my way to get a mutual link from Glenn Reynolds. The only person I wanted a link from and didn't get one was MacDiva, and I haven't really said 50 words about it to her or anyone.

In general, my marketing of Cobb sucks and I really don't pay much attention to it. For me it's all about the content, as it has been for 10 years. Cobb is one of several websites I have put together. I want what's here to work.

Something happened last week. The Agonist mentioned my comic. I generally get about 50 visits a day. I began to get 30 an hour. It was a pleasant surprise. Then Begging To Differ included me in their comic anthology. I have yet to measure what the effect of that is, but I expect it will be pretty good. Since this is about my one year anniversary, I am pleased, but I must say.

So for me, the blogosphere is not a popularity contest. I want readers just as much as the next guy, I'm not trying to turn them away. But it's really more important to me that what I'm saying makes sense. If I had nothing but three assholes who kept correcting me on every nit... OK maybe not, but you get my drift.

Now that's the personal end of it and I don't think it has anything to do with me being a black blogger. I'm not saying I don't appreciate your idiot-proof primer, it's just that mutual linking has never been a high priority.

But let me say this, if I could I would get links from the following blogs: CalPundit, Dan Drezner, Matt Yglesias, OxBLog, Dean Esmay, Brad DeLong, Boomshock, RogerLSimon, ThePoorMan and the chick who shoots guns in Texas, I'd be a bit more satisfied than I am.

I am especially proud of my links to Jack Balkin, Tim Burke, Unfogged, Head Heeb, AllAboutGeorge, Prometheus6, Formica, and well everybody who links here.

Since I just made up a blog icon, the idea of purusing links has occurred to me. I just haven't thought about reasons why or tactics how. It just hasn't been important. I guess I prefer the happy accidents or something that comes out of a trackbacked discussion rather than the conspiracy of mutual linking.

Being a black blogger is something of a market share thing, I don't really know how the black bloggers feel about their visibility. As far as I know, this is the first major discussion of it. I hope it continues because I want to know what my set of favorite writers say about the visibility of black bloggers and opinion. That's the closer to the real question here.

Posted by: Cobb at September 14, 2003 09:41 AM

This is curious. I didn't know how political this "blogrolling" was and how affected people get by it.

I had one issue in which I de-linked someone and announced my reason, which caused a shitstorm but otherwise, my linking and how people link to me has never been a big concern.

Maybe I'm in the minority. Wouldn't be the first time.

I've never solicited a link from anyone. I don't think I've ever even sent a link to something I wrote to someone in the hopes that they would link it. George Kelly and Lynne Johnson often send me articles but, other than that, that's not how I interact with people online.

At this point, though, I don't really feel like an active participant in the larger community and only sort of active in the smaller black, or the term I like, afrofuturist community.

So, maybe, I just don't know what the hell is really going on.

But I like the conversations Cecily has started. I like that people are considering their identity versus their anonymity online.

Posted by: Jason at September 14, 2003 12:53 PM

I'm basically a link whore.

OK, well, let me qualify that. I've never asked anyone to blogroll Begging To Differ... wait, that's not true. I asked Instapundit, and so far that hasn't happened. OK, forget all qualifications - I am basically a link whore.

On another subject, we don't really have any idea how many black bloggers there are. The only ones we know about are the ones who are publicly black or white or Indian or Asian or Inuit or whatever. (Truth be told, I am not aware of a declared Inuit blogger).

Some bloggers exist without race - because their races are unknown, race does not factor in the analysis of their words. That's not necessarily a great thing, and certainly it's not for everyone.

All I'm saying is that you might have more black bloggers on your blogroll than you think.

Posted by: BTD Steve at September 14, 2003 07:32 PM

If I don't know whether a blogger is black or not that rather defeats the purpose of looking for a black perspective doesn't it? If it's not worth it to you to say you're liberal, for example, then I can't assign you a credible liberal opinion. So if I disagree with you as an individual what significance does it have? None.

If the blogosphere is representative of American politics, people should show their partisan colors. Otherwise it's just a bunch of blowhards blowing hard. That blows.

Posted by: Cobb at September 14, 2003 09:14 PM

Have you run into Iain Jackson yet? He's a "twofer"; he's black and he's gay (and yet he's more or less "conservative", or as much so as someone who's black and gay can be).

I'm sitting here realizing that I've run into a lot of black bloggers over the course of the last couple of years, but I'm not sure I can easily make a list because it isn't something I mark. (But I do remember "Uppity Negro"; how could one forget that name? And recently I ran into this fine lady: . There's also a guy named George but I'm wracking my brain for the name of his site and I'm not coming up with anything. Maybe it will come to me later.)

I don't generally care too much about someone's race or lifestyle; it's interesting, but I don't think it's important, which is why I'm having to think hard to even separate people out this way. I don't usually think in those terms. National origins can be interesting to the extent that they cause people to have quite different points of view, which is why Kim du Toit is fun to read. He is a genuine "African American", in that he's a white immigrant from South Africa who is now a naturalized citizen. (If he ain't an African-American, who is?) He has quite a different point of view on some things than I do. (For instance, he owns an AK-47.)

All I'm really interested in is whether someone has got something to say that's worthwhile. If they do, it doesn't strike me that it somehow gains extra points if it turns out that they're commenting on a "black" issue and are indeed black; why should that matter?

Iain's been on my sidebar for more than two years, but not because he's black (or gay). It's because he's interesting, and because he helped me out when I was first getting started.

We all got opinions. That's what this medium is made out of. (at least for those of us who concentrate on writing rather than linking). One of the reasons why a lot of bloggers "pass" is because they want to be seen as themselves, not as what they look like. (In fact, there are some bloggers out there whose gender I'm not even sure of.) Does the value of someone's words change because of the color of their skin? Or whether they're old or young? or based on their sex? Not for me.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 15, 2003 12:27 AM

Sorry about not closing that tag. (oops).

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 15, 2003 12:30 AM

Ah! Here he is: "All About George"

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 15, 2003 12:33 AM

(blush) and now I see that you already had a couple of those on your list. I didn't have Javascript enabled and didn't see them. My apologies.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 15, 2003 12:35 AM

No problem.

I think some clarification is in order. I'll start with myself. I said - "So when you come to Cobb and read my stuff, you are getting a black perspective whether or not you acknowledge it." This implies that everyone, including myself, is passively 'colored' by some experience or expertise. It would be correct, given that impression, that every blogger is representative of something in the same way I am representative of black opinion. But I don't want my statment to be taken that way. As Feynman said, "The simple that somemone one has lived their entire lives under the effects of gravity, does not make them a particle physicist." I am speaking of active representation.

What I mean to express is the value of bloggers who seek out the experiences, ideas and politics of people who are, of necessity closer to certain issues, and of the bloggers who take pains to represent some consistent theme and discipline in their work. It would be foolish, for example to feel completely informed about the recent overturning of the Texas sodomy law without checking what Andrew Sullivan might have to say about it (or even what people who read him say about what he said). He doesn't just 'happen to be gay', it makes a difference, a difference his readers and those who are aware of him would rightly respect. The mystery of the black blogger is not whether or not there are blacks who blog and get exposure, rather as I suggest in question 2 way above, whether there is some identifyable expertise that is used in a productive way.

This is of particular concern when it is clear that there are material and substantial arguments that go unheard because black opinion is not readily available, sought or considered. These may or may not be racial issues.

Sometimes, however the matter is direct. Take this post for example.
http://www.rachellucas.com/archives/000369.html

Popular blogger Rachel Lucas asks, probably facetiously, something of blackfolks 'on behalf of all white people', which is a general guideline as to what constitutes a racially offensive comment. Even if it was a tongue in cheek rhetorical question only meant to get a rise out of her captive audience, one should ask whether the blogosphere is functioning properly if nobody really knows where the black bloggers are who might have some expertise in the matter. The thread died long before any notable black blogger was able to respond. Maybe nobody cared. Do we know?

I am not at all trying to suggest any strict discipline on the matter is required, and I'm not trying to prescribe what those issues of interest/consequence might be. Nor am I trying to suggest that there is something unknowable that always requires a black presence. Rather I am trying to underscore the value of knowing, and determine whether there are barriers to seeking out such a presence. Furthermore, I am asking black bloggers specifically whether they feel that they are getting the exposure they believe their expertise merits. And I already know P6 says hell no when it came to the issue of identity politics in the wake of Bustamante/MEChA. I felt the same way.

Part of the reason I blog here is to represent that thing I call the Old School. Granted, I do so in a more expository and responsible way (I hope) over at Vision Circle, but I'm still the same person here. In representing the Old School there is implicit competition between young and old, between classes and between left and right within African America. I don't expect everybody to be able to walk into my favorite church and fall into easy conversation with an Old School brother like myself. But I do expect that you can easily link to my blog.

Posted by: Cobb at September 15, 2003 01:41 AM

Rachel Lucas, always and forever it seems, makes my head hurt.

That's all I'm going to say right now.

Posted by: Jason at September 15, 2003 09:16 AM

Personally, I'm wondering (having stumbled onto this argument in the most roundabout way) in what context are you putting your query of the state of black bloggers in the blogsphere? Are you focusing on certain type of content or a general parameter of what it means to have a blog? It seems like you have a very specific idea of what kind of site you mean and I just wanted to clarify that it is intentional. I am a black blogger and I can think of a network of people I know with sites like mine -- touching everything and nothing -- but our sites are yours aren't intersecting. Not that I'm asking them to really because my blog is about me and my subjective corner of the world. It's just something that's interesting to me. Is your call for a group blog a idea to make a gatekeeper of what would be the black blogging standard?

Posted by: Candicissima at September 16, 2003 10:09 PM

I'm not trying to establish a standard. I'm trying to see whether or not black bloggers (anybody of any persuasion who wants to self-identify in that manner) feel that they get the exposure they feel appropriate to matters of concern.

i'm obviously political, so i'm interested the political end of things. I'm on something of a mission to integrate and reshape the Republican Party through what I call the Old School of African American culture and values. I've talked at length for many years about the intersections of race, identity, culture and politics on the web - so that's my concern as well. That's just me. Let me give you a hypothetical to illustrate what I'm talking about.

Let's say that in your black corner of the universe where we have not intersected, you are particularly interested in the state of the black church. Let us say further that you come from a long line of Southern Baptist ministers in Florida.

One day the most prominent bishop of the Southern Baptists in Northern Florida, in fact a friend of the family, is murdered by a rival minister. It hits the news as a 'black on black crime'. A political discussion erupts because Jesse Jackson and Jeb Bush get into a pissing match about the significance of this crime. Atrios and Instapundit start bloviating about Jackson, Bush, 'black on black crime' and a lot of snide remarks are made about the Southern Baptist Church.

My question is this. How capable are you of bringing intelligence and light to the discussion of 'black on black crime' given your intimacy and depth of understanding of the situation? What are you going to tell the blogosphere that we don't already know, or think we know? When does your reality and your understanding of the truth intercept all the bullshit posturing? Or did you just think OJ was innocent like the rest of them?
Oops. Didn't mean to go there.

As a black blogger, do you honestly believe your word will be sought and respected? That is the question.

My point is that you know something. I don't know what it is, but you know it very well. And it seems to me that if 'black' means more than just the color of your skin to you, and finds expression and meaning in your writing, then that in itself is valuable.

Is there something about the blogosphere that dilutes or distorts that meaning? How confident are you that what you need to say gets heard?

I'm repeating myself.

Posted by: Cobb at September 16, 2003 11:09 PM

Yes, you are repeating yourself, but you're on my blogroll now anyway. ;-)

Posted by: Dean Esmay at September 17, 2003 01:52 AM

I think it's a matter of what function you feel your blog has. I haven't made mine to be a go-to place for a definitive opinion on anything but what I was thinking at the time I posted. If it is my intention to be a sort of a spokesperson for what it means to be a young, educated, neurotic, eclectic black woman from New York City, then I think I am doing that very well. Occasionally I may weigh in on national/local interests, but mostly I'm blogging about my personal experiences and the feedback I get shows me that people are acknowledging it. So in my sphere, yes I think I am being heard in the manner that I intend.

Posted by: Candicissima at September 17, 2003 07:34 AM

Cobb - I'm not following you. As I read your hypothetical, the "intelligence and light" comes from the writer's being from a long line of Southern Baptist ministers in Florida, not from being black. Presumably a white person who knew the parties and/or were an expert on "black on black crime" would be able to shed some light on the situation, as well.

I suppose you're saying that in general terms, we ought to seek the opinions and insights of people who have a clue what they're talking about. Fair enough. I wonder, however, if the range of insights arising exclusively from one's skin color is more limited than you seem to think it is. I'll readily acknowledge that black people know what it's like to be black. As to the Southern Baptist church, the sociology of crime, and personal rivalries among ministers, I do not see where one's race confers an advantage in insight. Off the top of my head, I can think of several black people who nothing about those subjects.

Generally, I'm with Den Beste - there are lots of bloggers whose races I do not know, and it doesn't matter to me. If I assign "extra credit" to your views on certain issues because you're black, doesn't that entitle me to discount your views on other issues on the same basis?

Isn't race consciousness the whole problem?

Posted by: BTD Steve at September 17, 2003 08:32 AM

Steve,

Isn't race consciousness the whole problem?

Which problem is that?

Posted by: Jason at September 17, 2003 08:37 AM

Which problem is that?

Basically, the problem of racism. Or put another way, the problem of making unwarranted assumptions about people on the basis of race.

Posted by: BTD Steve at September 17, 2003 12:54 PM

A great deal comes from being black because being black is a *verb* not a noun. It's not about what you are, it's about what you do. There's identity at the back of it and that's important too, but it's nothing that can be explained in 500 words or less. The simplest explanation I can say is Negroes decided to *become* black so that they could *do* things that Negroes couldn't do. I'm one of those folks who believe that whitefolks have to becomes something else so that they can do things that whitefolks can't do.

I am convinced that if African Americans weren't willing to do what they did politically and culturally between the end of the Great Depression and the mid-80s, that this country would be a lot different. I'm trying to distill those values and flip the script of the Republican Party. So my reading of 'black' has little or nothing to do with skin color, but with the ways and means blackfolks have invested their energy and wisdom in this nation. Some of that, inevitably has come from the Southern Baptist Church, that's why I implied family history.

If race-consciousness is a problem, ask yourself why you are white. If you can't write a 1000 word essay on what it means to you to deal with the racial identity you accept, I have to say you're out of your league. Nothing personal, but there has got to be a reason. Dealing with me can be difficult because I've been writing about the subjects for many years. But you can always read James Baldwin; he's a far better writer than I. Doing for me is writing.

DenBeste suggests that Kim DuToit is a 'true' African-American which is a naive claim that I give him a pass on for not being an American himself. Kim DuToit is a white South African expatriot which is something completely different from what 90% of the thoughtful world thinks of the term 'African-American'.

As for the Southern Baptist story, I say that in parallel to Arnold Schwartzenegger, or GWBush for that matter. What gives them 'extra credit' that we might take them seriously? Who are they that we should listen? What does it mean for Arnold to be an immigrant? What does his citizenship mean to him? How does he participate in civil society? These are questions that are materially different for blackfolks and I think you'll find that if you really are interested, *really* to look at the content of people's character, then you are going to find a lot goes on beneath the surface.

So let's not just talk about what your black college roommate said, let's talk about what George C. Wolfe said. Let's talk about what Zadie Smith said. Let's talk about what Dick Gregory said. Let's talk about what Michelle Wallace said. Let's talk about the books on your bookshelf and the outspoken bloggers on your blogroll.

I'm trying to get us past the Fungibles.

Posted by: Cobb at September 17, 2003 01:25 PM

Yeah. Let me just say it that way. I'm trying to get us away from the Fungibles. Nobody in the blogosphere has any excuses to ever again utter the phrase 'black leaders'.

Posted by: Cobb at September 17, 2003 01:35 PM

I am intrigued by your concept of blackness existing separately from skin color, and I wonder if you would elaborate on it or point me in the direction of other helpful writings.

Can a white person (noun) "be black" (verb) according to your view?

Posted by: BTD Steve at September 17, 2003 03:33 PM

Sure, there are none so famous as Eminem, well, Bill Clinton was popularly known as the first black president (don't believe it fully). But seriously I don't expect whitefolks to try to emulate black culture and existentials to a ridiculous extent. The influence is already clear and present. I hope whitefolks give up the little white man in their head that keeps them from developing a constructive politics and a multicultural pluralism. I expect them to fight racism not out of guilt or shame but out of a shared committment to improving society. I expect the same of everyone in that regard. I don't believe it's particularly difficult.

To a certain degree, whitefolks cannot be black in the same way that blacks can even though blackness is a cultural and intellectual concept. That is because it grew out of a certain historical context. Just like Civil War re-enactments can never be real though they can be authentic and heartfelt (or shallow and stereotypical). I don't beleive my children will be black the way I am at all, nor do I encourage them to consider themselves black, rather brown keeping it at the visual. Still there is no doubt that they will learn the best of black culture. Who wouldn't want to learn?

I think a somber appreciation for black culture and politics is part and parcel of growing as an American, and I don't believe you get that just because you're African American although you probably have a headstart. ('African American', as I use it is racial/demographic, 'black' is cultural/political/identity). Can (do) whiteboys have soul? Of course. That's the kind of brotherhood I expect, and again I don't think that's hard. It can be forged in any number of contexts, professional, military, religious, as well as cultural. But as I just mentioned in the 'Pulling Out' comments, I'm going to tend towards the highbrow end of culture anyway. So when somebody nominally white starts telling me about Sonny Stitt... Well, I'll just point you to Bill Benzon and I think you'll catch the flavor.

Posted by: Cobb at September 17, 2003 05:11 PM

I've been following this debate for a while, and I figure it's about time I added my own two cents.

Let me begin by saying that Cobb is right: there does indeed seem to be a disinclination on the part of many in the blogosphere to seek out the voices of those who actually are participants in those communities about which they often pontificate.

It seems to me that the problem only gets worse for those black voices that happen to deviate from the standard left-wing party line - the "liberals" see them as dupes at best and uncle toms at worst, while the "conservatives" tend to regard them as aberrations to be ignored, if they fail to aver that everything black is always bad, and that black people are always entirely to blame for any of the ails that befall them.

The end result of this discomfiture on the left as well as the right is that such voices tend to fall between two stools, so to speak. People want voices they can use as propaganda for their own ideological stances, and recognition of complexities gets in the way of such utility. To be a black liberal is easy, and to be a black conservative in the Shelby Steele mold is easier still: what is difficult is maintaining that, yes, racism does indeed still exist, that it does need fighting, that it is indeed responsible for many of the problems blacks face today, but that not everything can or should be laid at the white man's door - that just messes up the script for everyone looking for a nice little token.

As for the realities of "race" vs. "culture" - I'll freely acknowledge that there's no simple identification between the two; to draw on my own personal circumstances, I probably know more about European art and classical music than most white people I'll ever encounter. Nevertheless, this does not mean that I can agree with the notion that "culture" is all - how can it possibly be, as long as one has to deal with others whose attitudes to one will be based on one's perceived racial background?

Let me clarify what I'm getting at by putting this in another context; if in 1935 the Germans said you were a Jew, then for all practical purposes, you WERE one, regardless of what your background was or how you felt about the matter. So it is with being "black" today. As long as there are women who clutch their purses and cross the street, in broad daylight, even though you are dressed in a suit and on your way to work at an investment bank*, then there are going to be things you can bring to a discussion that no white person can, however familiar or unfamiliar with "black" culture that person may be.

I'll close by saying that the notion that Kim du Toit, author of the execrable "Let Africa Sink", could ever be regarded as "African-American", is utterly ludicrous.

*This is no urban legend - it actually did happen to me, and in Manhattan to boot.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite at September 18, 2003 07:09 AM

There's a lot of great thinking and writing going on here, but for my benefit, can we keep it simple for just a second? Here's where I agree, and what I still do not understand.

Where I agree: Racism still exists. It manifests in the daily real-world life experiences of blacks and other racial minorities. It affects economic opportunities. It causes pain and fear, and also senses of identity, community, solidarity. On some level, non-black people cannot understand what it is like to be black. There are cultural as well as racial aspects of blackness.

There's probably more, but that's a start.

What I still do not understand:

Why is it necessary or desireable to evaluate a person's thoughts or words in the context of that person's race? In the blogging context, and considering a race-related issue such as affirmative action, what has a blogger's race got to do with the substance of the debate? If Shelby Steele, Ward Connerly and Clarence Thomas oppose affirmative action, but Colin Powell, Carol Moseley Braun and Charles Rangle support it, why would anyone believe there is any such thing as a generalized "black perspective" on the issue?

Posted by: BTD Steve at September 18, 2003 09:01 AM

First of all, there are several generalized Black perspective.

Second, you take a person's race into consideration when evaluating their ideas for tha same reason you'd take their education or the pace they were raised into account…because it impacts the way they came to their conclusion, as well as what they're likely to do next.

Posted by: P6 at September 18, 2003 10:05 AM

I see your point. There is no black monolith of opinion. As far as I'm concerned that is just another reason in favor of soliciting black opinionS on racial subjects. This is part of my point specifically on the blogosphere. People need to stop eliding the opinions of blackfolks they have direct access to and stop talking about Shelby Steele. I use myself as a perfect example. Because a number of my close friends are blacks in the academy, I've known for over a decade that Shelby Steele has a twin brother named Claude Steele, and that Claude has been more successful in academia than his brother. So I've been listening to whitefolks all this time using Shelby Steele's anti-affirmative action arguments to beat blackfolks upside the head about meritocracy! If they actually talked to real blackfolks instead of the Fungibles, they'd be better off.

Secondly, not everybody is making a point of their race or their blackness on a consistent basis. It's like being a man. You're not always pointing to your biceps. But there are things men experience, like football, that women don't. And there are many metaphors for life as well as many life lessons to be learned from football. So if a man hears a bunch of women talking about football, and they don't even bother to ask his opinion, something's wrong. Sure you can find men to say "football sucks" or "I don't know the first thing about it and I don't care." But are you really getting closer to the truth about football?

It's funny that I bring up this analogy because I can recall certain business situations, especially at a certain socialistic japanese corporation, in which it is considered impolitic to use sports metaphors. You can't say stuff like "we can really score a touchdown on this one", or "it's fourth and goal" because this is considered to be 'coded speech' that excludes women. I have known several women managers that ask that no sports metaphors be used in meetings. But let's not get off on a tangent.

My point is that if you are not engaged with people directly, which is the whole power of the internet, you're not going to understand what they know. On a practical basis that means occasionally asking "as a black person, what do you think of...". And unless they tell you "I don't consider myself black and I wish you wouldn't ask me questions about that", you're likely to get some interesting answers.

Which brings me to the last bomb to toss on the fire which is the ethics of colorblindness that would prevent you to preface any question like "as a black person what do you think if..". It's so 70s. It's just as limiting as the injunction against sports metaphors, and ultimately insures that women *can't* understand football. So here's a snappy answer to a stupid remark for your bag of rhetorical tricks. The next time somebody tells you "It's a black thing, you can't understand it", why don't you tell them, "Maybe it's an English thing, and you just can't explain it." You'll get an earful either way, but it's better than silence and guessing.

Posted by: Cobb at September 18, 2003 10:15 AM

I think when people say, "It's a black thing, you wouldn't understand," a lot of times they mean, "It's a black thing and I don't want to explain it to you."

I know that when I was doing diversity/multicultural programming in college, there were many black folks who felt tired when discussing race in mixed company. They felt like they had to explain certain basic things over and over again and got bogged down in things that they didn't feel were important to the real conversation.

Maybe it's a lack of common language when we discuss race. Despite integration and diversity training and all of that...I think that a lot of the time when we sit in the same room and hear the same words, see the same phrases, get the same information, we process it all so differently.

I think we do that naturally as individuals but I also think we do it naturally as racial groups in America.

If I wasn't about to leave for lunch, I'd link to an uppity-negro.com post from way back in which Aaron metaphorically discussed exactly what I'm trying to say here.

But...pancakes are calling.

Posted by: Jason at September 18, 2003 12:39 PM

Interesting - that's the first time I've been encouraged to ask black people to speak "as black people." On one hand, I am drawn to your implicit call for frank discussion of racial matters. On the other hand, in my work (representing employers accused of discrimination) I have learned that many blacks consider such questions patronizing, if not racist per se.

An illustrative anecdote...

My freshman year in college, I worked with two black students in a work-study financial aid job. As a curious lad who considered himself enlightened on race issues (making a big deal out of being "against racism" and so forth) I regularly attempted to engage my co-workers in exactly the sort of dialog you describe. They were black - I figured they could help me with some things I'd always wondered about black people.

One day in particular, I asked them why black people tended to drink Sprite, while white people tended to drink Coke. This is a phenomenon I observed during a summer I'd worked at a corn dog stand in a southern amusement park. Over the course of countless thousands of transactions, I'd noticed that black people were FAR more likely than white people to order Sprite with their corn dogs. I wondered why. I thought maybe it had something to do with marketing, but really I had no idea. I still don't.

My co-workers hemmed and hawed and averted their eyes and basically didn't answer. I figured the question made them uncomfortable, so I dropped it, though I regretted being unable to have a straightforward discussion about what I considered an innocuous subject - what could be controversial about soft drinks?

Fast forward three years, to my senior year in college. I'm walking toward class. There was a gathering/protest/speak-out type event for the airing of grievances related to the university's treatment of its employees (similar to the current fracas at Yale). An undercurrent of that debate was the argument that Duke was essentially a racist institution, and as I walked by the gathering of protesters, I heard a woman on the microphone describing an incident in which a white student actually had the gall to ask her why black people all drink Sprite.

I almost fainted. There I was, Mr. Enlightened, lover of all things non-discriminatory... some of my best friends were black! (Ba-dum, crash! But it was true...) There I was being held up (though thankfully not by name) as an example of the racism in my university.

In retrospect, I think she objected to my assuming she should be a spokesperson for her race. Since then, I've seen it a million times in my job. An employee mistakenly assumes that a black co-worker listens to rap music - racist. Another asks his black subordinate what he thought of the OJ Simpson case - racist.

In a previous post in this discussion, you challenged me to write 1000 words on what it means to be white. Maybe I should, but in the meantime I hope this post serves to illustrate one aspect of whiteness as I experience it - that is - trying SO hard to handle race the "right" way, wanting SO much to be one of the good guys, and continually being told that I screwed it up somehow, that I just don't get it.

You're telling me to solicit the opinions of black people as black people. I'm telling you I've tried it and had my head bitten off. Here again we see positive proof that there is no monolith black opinion.

And so I'm back to asking - why not just forget it? Be black if you want - I have no problem with that. Regardless of what we say here, each of us will make our own decision how much to factor race into the credibility equation. (By the way, I'm not arguing race is irrelevant across the board - just that it should be quite low on our list of credibility-conferring priorities).

At the same time, don't judge me too harshly for declining to seek out your opinion just because you're a black guy. If I seek out your opinion (and I will) it will be because you are brilliant and/or well-informed and/or (dare I say it?) articulate. Scratch that... eloquent.

If people's thinking in racial terms bothered me, I'd spend all my life being bothered. Don't let it bother you if I refrain. Or try to, anyway. It's progress of a sort.

Posted by: BTD Steve at September 18, 2003 12:42 PM

i gotta run right now, but i just had to say, your post had me cracking up laughing. i mean that whole sprite thing was like a saturday night live skit. i'll get back to you.

Posted by: Cobb at September 18, 2003 01:05 PM

"One day in particular, I asked them why black people tended to drink Sprite, while white people tended to drink Coke"

Here's a plausible explanation for you - we acquire our tastes partly by imitation of those around us, and it only takes a little initial bias towards a certain brand for it to eventually acquire market dominance as one person influences another. The initial difference might have started for entirely random reasons, but if the two groups don't have exactly the same distribution of acquaintances, as (semi)-random drift progresses, their preferences might drift ever further apart.

Not the simplest of explanations, but at least it isn't a hysterical reaction of the sort you experienced ... From my own personal experience, everyone I know actually prefers Coke, and I'm the odd Sprite drinker out of the whole bunch, so maybe the pattern isn't even a real one, statistically speaking.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite at September 18, 2003 01:35 PM

Not to ignore the rest of your post, Steve, but the Sprite one can be pretty well dealt with.

Since it's inception, Sprite has been marketed very heavily, and almost exclusively to a black market (or those watching "black", "hip-hop", or "basketball" related media). Sprite, as a part of the Coca-Cola franchise, is one of it's "blackest" arms. I went to a Sprite Marketing Campaign Launch Party and everyone I met that worked for Sprite, for the Marketing Team, and for the business side of the product, was blackfolks.

That particular campaign was pretty whack and didn't last very long but Sprite's target marketing has been one of coke's biggest successes and is part of the reason why it has launched similar campaigns in the last year with Coke to reach the niche, upper-middle class "neo-soul" or "afrofuturist" if you like to be hip, market.

Also, that lemony tang of Sprite is so much better than whack ass Coke.

See also Orange Soda, Strawberry Soda, and Mountain Dew's summer product "Livewire."

But, really, we'd rather have an iced tea.

Carbonation is wack.

Posted by: Jason at September 18, 2003 02:34 PM

And now to the rest of what you said, Steve...

I think a lot of it has to do with what we hear when different things are said. I know that I personally, whether it's accurate or not, often feel as if "white people" already have an answer in their head that I'm going to respond with when they ask me a question that has to do with "race" or "race-based culture." I'm not a defensive cat so I'm usually okay with answering but I'm still judging where those words are coming from.

Which, I think, is also why black bloggers(and, of course, I'm generalizing) on the net feel it's important to put their race out there and also, which we haven't talked about in this discussion, want to know the race of who they are reading, who they are talking to, and who is commenting on their sites or posts. I know the racial and basic cultural makeup of just about every person that comments regularly on my site. It doesn't affect how I think about them but it gives me a safe framework to work in.

This is the context of race that I think we work in in the virtual and real worlds. In the real world, in conversation, a black person can say to me, "This nigga..." or "You know how niggas act..." and I'm not going to get defensive. I can disagree with that person. I can agree. I can continue the conversation because I'm not feeling threatened by his words, I don't feel attacked or judged unfairly.

White person says the same thing and the defenses are up. The context has changed. The cultural currency might not match. My best male friend in the world is a white cat...I'm not sure we will ever be comfortable enough that him saying some of the things that blackfolks say to each other won't hit me differently than if homeboy down the street says it.

All because our skin color is different. All because our history is different.

All because the context for black and white americans is different.

That really basic trust isn't there for a lot of people and, for a lot of blackfolks, we need the context of race to know where you stand and where we stand.

I wish it were different.

But wishing and being are different thangs.

Posted by: Jason at September 18, 2003 02:48 PM

But wishing and being are different thangs.

Fair enough, but the counterpoint is that only in being will your wish become real.

I say let's imagine how the world should be in 100 years, and act that way now. Some say this is to deny present-day reality, but I think it's exactly the social machinery that gets us from here to there.

Of course, this inevitably leads to opprobrium, so you never quite know if you're a visionary or a tool. Such is the existence of a would-be colorblind white guy.

Posted by: BTD Steve at September 18, 2003 04:09 PM

Steve, your comment suggests throwing out all of the history though and it suggests that I would want to be colorblind.

Not what I want. It is important for me, as a black person, to acknowledge the significance of my blackness. It has been ingrained in me. I don't see it negatively and don't want to be rid of it. Colorblindness, at least as it is presented by those who prefer it, suggests throwing all of that out.

Rather than me giving up my blackness, I'd rather average whitefolks acknowledge their whiteness in a way other than self-deprecation. Acknowledge what about being white affects how they view varied topics as I acknowledge what about being black affects my views on things.

In the same way that I my being from southern california affects the way I see things, the same way being a man affects the way I see things, the same way being college educated affects the way I see things, the same way working in the entertainment industry affects the way I see things.

What I see more often than not is blackfolks saying that their blackness is as important as those other things while whitefolks say their whiteness is irrelevant.

And, to me, that's bullshit.

Posted by: Jason at September 18, 2003 05:47 PM

Steve:

If the goal for 100 years from now is that I should be as Black as I choose to be, no more and no less…

And you should be as white as you choose to be, no more and no less…

And neither of us are stressed by the othe about it…

How should we act today?

Posted by: Prometheus 6 at September 18, 2003 06:56 PM

I do see what you're saying, and perhaps we do not disagree as much as it seems. "Colorblind" is an unfortunate term because it implies a denial of the existence or importance of race. Clumsy word choice. Sorry about that.

I have no problem acknowledging an identity of whiteness. I agree race is a piece of the identity puzzle, like gender, religion, upbringing, geography. I still think there is extraordinary value in considering words and thoughts without reference to ANY of those things, but maybe we can talk about that another time.

We started out talking about the importance of seeking out "black opinion" in the blogosphere. Perhaps our disagreement is simply a matter of focus. Cobb and others seem to suggest that blackness is something we should value - I'm saying blackness is something we should not de-value.

I'm not saying race is more irrelevant that gender, religion or geography - I'm saying it's equally irrelevant. If you have something interesting to say, I don't care if you're from Michigan or Mississippi. I don't mind if you're a Muslim or a Jew. I don't care if you have kids, if you like cars, or what you had for dinner last night. I won't use your biography as an excuse to ignore you.

Setting aside the philosophy, and speaking only in practical terms, it's a mistake to rely on biography in the blogosphere for the simple reason that people can lie. The ease with which is can be faked is reason enough to reject identity credentialing on the internet. For example, check out the next post.

Posted by: BTD Steve at September 18, 2003 07:37 PM

Speaking as a black woman, I agree with everything Steve says.

Posted by: Black Woman at September 18, 2003 07:39 PM

Black Woman - thanks for your support.

P6 - good questions. I'm attracted to your statement of goals for 100 years from now... I suppose we ought to be going about our business, doing what we do, engaging each other and explaining ourselves to each other in a spirit of good faith and mutual respect.

And I think that's what we're doing. Do you agree?

This is truly a mind-expanding discussion for me - sorry to babble on and on, but race has fascinated me since I was very young. I sincerely appreciate the effort many of you have made in this discussion, even though I'm sure you've all plowed this ground a million times already. You're causing me to reflect deeply on these matters and reconsider longtime, strongly held opinions.

I thank you for that.

Posted by: BTD Steve at September 18, 2003 07:52 PM

I think we should value blackness because of what it uniquely is, and that is very different from not devaluing blackness from an egalitarian standpoint.

That difference is significant. It's the difference between Steven Spielberg making 'Minority Report' with black characters who aren't stereotypical, and Steven Spielberg making 'The Color Purple'.

You can be colorblind and not devalue blackness, greenness, purpleness and all the other idiotic things some people say. But you cannot write a book like 'The Color Purple' or make a film about it without coming to grips with some fundamental things about the value of black people, their culture and lives.

Posted by: Cobb at September 18, 2003 08:18 PM

Interesting discussion, Cobb. And by the way, glad to have discovered you - you have an good weblog to read.

I'm not a blogger at the moment, although I have plans to start one - if only to keep from having to soak up Misha's bandwidth with my essays. ;) I am however a writer, and have been a forum pundit and article writer for several websites [under a number of psuedonyms].

I'm not going to denigrate the value of crosslinking: afterall, it was a link from Oliver Willis that led me here.

As a reader, I do think that you have a key in your earlier statement of "But it's really more important to me that what I'm saying makes sense". As a reader, it doesn't matter to me who links to you, or what ethnographic or demographic info is provided: if I follow a link, it leads to someone who isn't interesting to read, or who doesn't have anything thought provoking or intelligible to say, then I won't be back. That's a "one hit wonder" link for them. On the other hand, if I find that I'm interested in the persons writings, then they'll go into my collection of bookmarks, and I'll visit periodically to see what they have to say. If they write in a specialised area, when there's a controversy going on that touches on their viewpoint, I'll visit to see what they have to say on it.
But if their writing's not interesting to me... I won't.

I'm not completely certain about race as a selling point for a writer. Hear me out a bit...

In any lengthy discussion or topical [especially autobiographical] writing, it generally shouldn't take long for a reader to realise that I'm half-cherokee, and that that shapes me and some of my viewpoints to the point where I consider myself at least a semi-traditional tsalagi. Or for that matter, that I'm a Texan, and that that shapes me and my viewpoints. If one is a good writer, and one is doing autobiobraphical first person style writing - which blogging is - certain elements of your background come though. It's inevitable.
However, I'd be a bit appalled if someone looked at that in my writing and assumed that I was therefore representative of Tsalagi or Texans in my opinions and outlooks, because I'm probably atypical in any number of areas. I don't presume to speak for other Texans or other Tslagi, or other half-breeds for that matter - my opinions only presume to speak for me.

In another sense, it's somewhat irrelevant: the internet is a pecuiliarly colorblind medium. Not only can you or I state that we're whatever we wish to present ourselves as - and back it if we're skilled - but, there's nothing that says that we actually are that in this medium, and no real way for casual readers to verify. Very little way for me to know that anyone I'm reading is really who/what they say they are.

And it doesn't matter much to me. It's the insights and opinions of a Steve Den Beste, the humour of a Frank J, the ecomonic insights of a Jane Galt that I'm looking for in relation to a particular topic.

There are areas, naturally, where race, location, origion, or background matter: in lending a bit of weight to someone's views on a particular topic. An Iraqi living in Iraq I'm likely to weight a bit more heavily in insight on Iraq today than I am a NYTimes writer. A reservation sioux in South Dakota is likely to get a bit more weight talking about Nations politics in that area than a reporter from Dallas. A combat troop is likely to have more weight with me talking about tactics and weaponry than a civilian.

Even then, their political leanings, agendas and experiential backgrounds also get a significant weight [where they're acertainable] when I'm reading their viewpoints on a number of topics. All too easy for a writer to slant to a perception they wish to create, regardless of their background, IMO.

Hope that any of that made sense, from a readers perspective.

As I said, good blog, good discussions. I'll be back to read from time to time.

Posted by: Ironbear at September 19, 2003 04:25 AM

Cobb - If we value blackness for what it uniquely is, aren't we also permitted (or required) to devalue blackness for what it uniquely is?

Lots of metaphors... double-edged sword, two sides of the coin...

The deal I'm offering is that I won't lock my car doors or cross the street when you come my way, and I won't assume you possess the steely resolve, the warm-hearted family tenderness, and the simmering resentment of Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple, either.

On an individual basis, I'll engage you as a human being, not an archetypal composite. This is not inconsistent with valuing the positive aspects of blackness in a group sense.

Posted by: BTD Steve at September 19, 2003 07:47 AM

side note: Were there black characters in Minority Report? I remember an awfully white Washington D.C.

...maybe I'm wrong.

Posted by: Jason at September 19, 2003 09:02 AM

Steve, yes the sword cuts both ways. For every 'Color Purple' there's a 'Boyz in the Hood' and a 'I'm Gonna Git You Sucka'. Sophisticated appreciation is not always serious or uplifting, it can be blisteringly critical or hilariously satirical. But it has to be based in truth, not rumor.

Ironbear, I hear you, and you are right of course. If Salaam Pax wasn't a good and occasionally fun writer, it wouldn't have mattered much that he was on the ground in Iraq. No amount of identity cookies gets one around the fact that this is fundamentally a medium for good readers and good writers. It is within the context of a body of writing that the authenticity and perspective of the writer comes through, and that cannot be quickly assessed by a label.

As I wrote in the metablack thread, I don't even want to be the 'race man' in my blog. I can't deny it because I spent years doing it purposefully and I bear the discipline of that experience. But that's not what Cobb is about as a blog. Thank you for your kind words.

Posted by: Cobb at September 19, 2003 09:03 AM

Yeah the number two guy in the temple was the black guy from 'the practice'.

Posted by: Cobb at September 19, 2003 09:06 AM

Steve Harris...right.

Posted by: Jason at September 19, 2003 04:09 PM

For me it boils down to nothing more spectacular that you happen to say some pretty interesting, unpredictable, original shit with a pretty high degree of frequency. Now it so happens that a decent amount of that interesting material concerns race and blackness in some way, and blackness is both of professional and intellectual interest to me. But like everything else with my own online journal, what I put in the blogroll is done by hand--it's really just a mobile bookmark or reminder to myself of things I ought to read. I wouldn't put anything in there because I looked at my list and said, "Damn, I don't have enough left-handed Zorastrian pipe-welders".

It's kind of the basic problem with pointing out the whiteness of any public space or discourse. It's an accurate observation and yet one knows that the first thing that's gonna happen is every self-conscious white liberal desperate for validation from black folk is going to scramble to genuflect and apologize and make gestures of "inclusiveness". The thing to do, it seems to me, is just go about your business and write interesting stuff.

Posted by: Timothy Burke at September 19, 2003 09:08 PM

Great Job! You have been a encouragement to me just to see you out here.

Thanks

Posted by: Lee Floyd at October 14, 2004 05:35 PM