Choking on Whiteness

BFP has a great post up about the blogger lunch with Clinton in Harlem. Does anything strike you when you look at the picture?

Where were all the people of color? The fact that the crowd was lily-white was explained by the fact that the people of color who were invited couldn’t attend. Well, I guess that was easy to check off on the to-do list: “Inivite some nonwhite people. They can’t make it. I’m done. After all, there are only a few bloggers of color.”

When one woman of color challenged the whiteness of the picture, she was savagely attacked as a worthless stain on the blogosphere.

Unfortunately, this is a typical response from a white person who is challenged to think about race and racism. In fact, there’s even a typical response pattern:

1. Immediately invalidate the charge of racism:

“See, Liza’s pissed because nobody invited her to lunch with Big Dog. But, instead of coming right out and saying that, she’s seizing on this opportunity to try and generate herself some publicity by insinuating that there’s some kind of racist agenda at work.”

2. Accuse the person of color of a selfish motive:

“Sure, lack of minority bloggers is a problem, but that’s not really Liza’s real agenda here. She’s using this as an opportunity to call attention to herself and climb up on the cross. (That last nail’s a bitch, innit?)”

3. Attack the person who dared to point out white privilege. Attempt to drive said person into the ground. Repeat.

A separate issue blew up over one hateful woman’s attack on one of the women in the photo. The feminist blogosphere mobilized and rightly tore the woman’s comments apart. That’s fantastic. But the comparison is painful: a white woman is attacked based on her appearance, and there’s an outpouring of outrage and support from white bloggers. A woman of color is attacked for daring to question why Clinton was only meeting with white people, and there’s very little outrage and support from white bloggers. The attacks on both women were vile, hateful, and extremely personal. Both attacks should have been condemned by a large number of bloggers.

But where is the outrage from white bloggers over the fact that Clinton didn’t meet with a diverse group of bloggers? Where is the outrage that this meeting was swimming in white privilege? Why is the vast majority of outrage coming from people of color?

Hey, white bloggers, I’m talking to YOU!

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23 responses to “Choking on Whiteness

  1. Renegade Evolution

    White blogger (more or less) reporting…it is awful there is no repesentation of people of color, even if there ARE more white bloggers! I have been out of the loop this weekend when this whole shindig went down…and am just now catching up…but you know me…keeping quiet? NOT my strong suit.

  2. RE-That’s what I love about you!

    And to be fair, there are bloggers who don’t post about big political stuff. I don’t. But it just seemed like lots of “big” bloggers had plenty to say about the attack on Jessica, but ignored what happened to Liza. That really pisses me off.

    Those “feminist” liberals who care so much just ignore anything they don’t want to deal with. Apparently firedoglake is a really big blog (Yes, I’m that out of touch), and the way people at that blog talked about her…just disgusting.

  3. Give me some time to read the two respective blog posts and see what’s going on here and I’ll post about it on Neural Gourmet.

    Please don’t jump on me, but (and this is from my first impressions only), I don’t know if this is so much a problem of race as it is a problem of class. For obvious reasons, blue-collar and other lower class people tend to be under represented in the blogosphere plus they tend to be invisible to middle and upper middle class bloggers.

    It’s hard to say about these things. Another area where we have a problem with women and minorities being under represented is in the skepticism movement. Here it’s a historical problem and hopefully one that will change as younger people are recruited but I do think we need to make a conscious effort to recruit from under-served groups.

    Am I making any freaking sense whatsoever?

  4. Spotted-e, I should say too that you are always welcome to post about what you feel is important at NG. Remember, you’re a full contributor there and we very much value your voice. Even if you just want to cross-post something you’ve posted about here to get a bigger megaphone.

  5. tng-Yeah-that invisibility is exactly what I’m talking about. The guy in charge of invitations apparently invited a few poc, and when they couldn’t make it, that was it. What, no other poc bloggers exist? That invisibility is the problem, which leads to business as usual.

    And true, that class is an issue. But blogging has taken off among poc. Someone argued that, well, they just wanted to invite really big bloggers. Arrrgghh. There’s a reason why so many of the “really big bloggers” are white!

    Also, posting at TNG intimidates me. I don’t know why-you’ve made me feel very welcome-it isn’t you. Just a scary feeling I get like I used to get with public speaking. *sticks head in sand*

  6. Aww you shouldn’t feel that way. NG has evolved to be a solid group of B class bloggers and we have a great following for which I am continuously amazed and grateful but on a good day I only have about as many visitors as PZ Myers gets in an hour. And compared to dKos or HuffPo, NG is a pimple on the backside of a flea. Besides, if I can go on radio shows and podcasts sounding like a cross between George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger and Forest Gump then you shouldn’t be nervous about posting at NG. Besides, we *like* you. And tell Mr. Spotted-E that applies to his twisted ass self as well.

    Anyway, after reading both posts I’m confounded. I know Peter Daou is big but I’ve never read his blog that I recall (not surprising since I don’t read very many political blogs lately — too depressing — and stick mostly with the sciency stuff). Frankly he comes off as an asshole and his reaction to Liza’s admitted (and apologized for) remark is disproportionate. While he did make an initial effort to include poc, when his first efforts fell through I think he should have redoubled those efforts for an event which could have reasonably been expected to be noteworthy by the media. Is that an example of me being politically correct. Probably not. I’m about as un-PC as can be. But I think we have a responsibility to positively influence society through the media and as political bloggers we should know better.

    On the other hand, perhaps Liza was crafting a mountain out of, if not a molehill, then maybe a sand dune. She probably could have handled it better and my impression is that she understands that and apologizes for her inflationary rhetoric while standing behind her points, which I agree with.

    And per usual for the blogosphere the comments at Firefoglake were frighteningly obnoxious. Another reason you shouldn’t be timid about posting at NG. I don’t stand for that. If people aren’t capable of being respectful in a public space then they shouldn’t be allowed in public.

    Ugh. Some form or the other of these half-baked thoughts will appear at NG within an hour or so. Sorry to use your blog as a mental scratch pad (or litter box depending on perception).

  7. i was thinking the same thing! i mean, buttloads of bloggers rightfully stood up to defend jessica over “boobiegate” but so many more have remained silent on the race issue regarding the same event.

    to be honest, i’ve remained silent on both fronts because i figure it’s been covered extensively by better bloggers than myself.

    i do think it’s interesting how progressive/liberal/feminist/etc can identify sexism easily and can see great harm and discrimination “in theory”, but when it’s right in our faces it’s glossed over, excused, condoned, etc. “it was an accident.” “don’t take it personally.” “you’re being defensive.” etc. etc.

    these are the times when i just think, “white people.” and shake my head in disappointment.

    xoxo, jared

  8. I was off the computer for most of the weekend and don’t know if I would have heard of this regardless. I avoid political blogs out of disgust, mostly. After reading the posts, though, I agree with TNG. I think she went off a little soon, but with good points, and yes, when certain bloggers of color were not available they should have tried for some others. It was held in Harlem after all. And, even if Liza was completely off base, there was no need to attack her so viciously. It almost felt like those commenters were looking for a reason to be vicious rather than disagreeing (respectfully) and calling her on her inaccuracy. Ugliness abounds in the blogosphere once again.

  9. Look what I missed!! I didn’t realize how much this was blowing up!!! Geeze, I want my hard drive back.

  10. Okay, I looked at the other posts to get a handle on this, and one thing struck me.
    At FireDogLake, they guy who posted was quick to point out the others who were either (black) or (latino) or (gay).
    That seems mighty racist to me. I tend to avoid trying to point out “oo, look, I know a black person! Yay, me!” And spelling and grammar? I am all over that, but am also aware that most people, when typing something, do not do it perfectly, even if they have english degrees.

    And, I agree with Juliemora. Why the hell were they meeting in Harlem? Sigh.

    Though, truth be told, I am not much into political blogging. I know people who have much more savvy about it than I, and I ask them about things. I’m not big on being political, so it’s just me.
    But I thank you for posting this, and helping to spread the awareness, because I wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise.

  11. Thanks for this post SE. My white-priveleged self didn’t even notice there were no people of colour in the photo. Much to think about.

  12. Sorry folks, but I couldn’t let this one go unanswered.

    On the other hand, perhaps Liza was crafting a mountain out of, if not a molehill, then maybe a sand dune. She probably could have handled it better and my impression is that she understands that and apologizes for her inflationary rhetoric while standing behind her points, which I agree with.

    Neutral Gourmet, I’m confused. I fail to understand why anyone would even entertain the notion that Liza was off-base or “could have handled it better.” What? How could she have handled it better? Am I missing something here?

    What the hell did she do wrong?

  13. I don’t think she did anything wrong or bad, I just think she could have done it better. By her own admission she didn’t check the facts out beforehand and I would have chosen less inflammatory rhetoric but that may be a stylistic preference. I still think she made some solid points though.

    But Peter Daou’s reaction, and the language used by his commenters was way over-the-top and offensive. Seriously, I’ve seen better behavior from third graders. And the charges about publicity seeking where just unbelievable. I think he forgets how the blogosphere works. We’re all publicity seekers. That’s one (not the only) reason why we do what we do, why we comment on other people’s blogs, why we have blog carnivals, etc. And why the hell shouldn’t Liza have the right to say what she wants on her own site?

    No, I don’t think Liza did anything wrong. I just think she could have done it better just as I don’t think Peter Daou did anything wrong but he certainly could have done his job as organizer better. Daou should certainly apologize to Liza though for his comments which I think were just awful.

    Hope that clears it up and of course you’re free to disagree.

  14. I don’t think she did anything wrong or bad, I just think she [Liza] could have done it better.”

    And that is exactly the problem. It’s not your place to judge how Liza should have “best” criticized the racism, nor is it your place to lecture a woman of color on “proper” responses to oppression. This notion is in itself white supremacist. Do you understand what I mean?

    White supremacy is a scourge upon humanity. Any way that people can resist this monster is correct and necessary. Liza’s (very fair) criticism should be defended, as should anyone else’s rebuke of systemic oppression.

  15. I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

  16. This may be a stupid question, but how on earth does one know wether a blogger is white or coloured? Most of them have funny pictures instead of a photograph on their blogs and even if there is a person in that pic, it can be anyone. I wouldn’t necessarily assume that SE has got a pale skin with red dots.
    Beside that I could not find a person in a wheelchair on that photograph, nor could I spot anyone with a white cane or a guide dog. It may be possible that one of the persons was Deaf and another person was his/her interpreter, but I wouldn’t bet on that either. There seems to be more than one group left out.

  17. Mone-You’re spot-on as usual. I didn’t think about this issue (smacks head on desk). All the bloggers appear to be able-bodied. No stink raised over that. At least, none that I’ve seen-you’re the first to raise the issue.

    Many bloggers do use silly pictures. But, the person doing the inviting seemed able to tell which bloggers were liberal/Democratic, and which bloggers were running the “big” blogs. It wouldn’t take much effort to determine race. I write about racism, but usually put the caveat in that “hey, I’m white, so consider that when you read my analysis”. And when I write about people of color, I don’t say “we”.

    So it would take a little work to determine racial makeup of the bloggers, but they were willing to work to determine politics and impact, so they don’t really get a pass on this issue, or on their ableist perspective. Thanks for pointing that out.

  18. Mone — excellent points.

    I wonder if there were any atheists in the group?

  19. Being in the UK I’m asking myself if it’s fair to comment but, as a person, this:

    So it would take a little work to determine racial makeup of the bloggers, but they were willing to work to determine politics and impact, so they don’t really get a pass on this issue, or on their ableist perspective. Thanks for pointing that out.

    is my point of view. It only takes a little work, surely?

    Gods. I know a lot about the people whose blogs I read just by looking at the ‘about me’ bit. It’s not exactly hard work.

  20. witchy-woo-Your opinion is always encouraged and welcome here!

    Yes, it would have taken such a small amount of work to find more bloggers. So much about a blogger comes through on their blog regardless of whether they put up personal posts or not. It’s one of the things I like most about blogging (how else could I have gotten to know you being on this side of the pond?) There’s no excuse for not trying harder to find bloggers of color.

  21. Thank you for posting this. I’ve been following it since it first blew up all over the blogosphere. The one thing I do take issue with is this:

    a white woman is attacked based on her appearance, and there’s an outpouring of outrage and support from white bloggers

    because POC were supportive of Jessica too, including myself.

    It’s kind of hard to comment without knowing a few facts. The first is that Peter Daou was hired by Hillary Clinton because he is not only a blogger but a networker. I found out only after the fact that he invited bloggers he had known and met personally. So yes, he definitely would have some idea of the race of the people he was inviting.

    But for those who think that the internet is color-blind. Not really. POC tend to write about things in a racial context, or at the very least are less afraid to raise the issue of race on occasion. Although the most popular POC blogs rarely raise the issue, Daily Kos comes to mind. In other words, if a minority wants high traffic, he or she will have to write what white people are interested in and avoid subjects they are uncomfortable with.

    The internet does tend to be self segregating. Whatever your race you are going to read and comment on the things that interest you. Racism generally is of low interest to whites and high interest to POC.

    I’m sure those who write on issues of feminism will agree, their readership tends to be women. You can’t know this for a fact, but it seems to be intuitive (although you may be able to guess from the commenters). And the majority of writers about feminism will be women. And you will notice that one of the most popular blogs run by a woman, Firedoglake, has many male readers, but doesn’t write much or often about feminist issues.

    The other fact is that for many POC, the reaction to that picture was anger first. You might think that Liza’s post was harsh, but I know she had to be thinking, “NOT AGAIN! One more time we are left out!” because that is what I thought.

    Since you are a bit late to the party, I think you may not know the full facts about TRex’s post either. He edited it. At first it said, “before you go assailing your betters“. Woooo Boy! Using racist language is definitely not the way to calm the waters. TRex brushes that off by saying that if we see racist baggage in that language it’s our problem. Since he is from Georgia, I have a very hard time believing he has never heard a white person say to a black person to mind his betters. Who the heck uses that word, betters, in normal conversation? Racists when speaking to POC is the only one I know of.

  22. triplej63 said…
    “Since you are a bit late to the party, I think you may not know the full facts about TRex’s post either. He edited it. At first it said, “before you go assailing your betters”. Woooo Boy! Using racist language is definitely not the way to calm the waters. TRex brushes that off by saying that if we see racist baggage in that language it’s our problem.”

    See, now that changes my whole opinion of Liza’s initial post. What I thought was slightly (emphasis on the slightly) out of proportion was actually more than justified. I still wish she had gotten all the facts first, but that’s not to minimize why she felt outrage and as it turns out I didn’t have all the facts.

    And even assuming that “your betters” was not intended as a racial slur it’s still disgusting language.

  23. triplej63:

    “The one thing I do take issue with is this:

    a white woman is attacked based on her appearance, and there’s an outpouring of outrage and support from white bloggers

    because POC were supportive of Jessica too, including myself.”

    Ah-point taken. I wasn’t trying to imply that poc/woc were not supportive of Jessica. I was trying to contrast the white bloggers good response to what happened to Jessica and their pathetic response over what happened to Liza. Sloppy writing on my part.

    “Racism generally is of low interest to whites and high interest to POC.

    I’m sure those who write on issues of feminism will agree, their readership tends to be women.”

    Agreed, but, oh this has to change! White people need to be dealing with racism and men need to be dealing with sexism. Small numbers in each case are getting involved, but it’s not enough.

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