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Sunday, September 21, 2003  

Blogospherics: Race, partisanship and the blogosphere

Greg at Begging to Differ drew my attention to a discussion of 'identity politics' started by Michael Bowen of Cobb the Blog.

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.

Cobb's main point, if I understand him correctly, is that race has as much to do with how people perceive issues as partisanship. Therefore, both should be a part of a blogger's identity. Greg extends the idea from the individual to the milieu.

. . .Certainly, none of us wants to be pigeon-holed and would prefer to think of themselves as free thinking individuals who approach each issue rationally. Fine.

But our system of democracy depends upon partisanship and defining the boundaries of left and right. To an extent, the same can be said about race. (And here, I'm straying into an area where I don't have a lot of depth.) Certainly, we are each defined by our racial (and ethnic, religious, etc.) backgrounds, though the effects are differing and complex. Colorblindness, like the presumption of innocence, is a useful legal fiction and a laudable ideal, but it's not really a way of life.

I believe that recognizing distinctions, both political and racial, ought to be a constructive part of political and social dialogue. Instead "race" and "partisanship" are often presented as derogatory concepts that ought to be shunned. And I think that's a shame.

I think something more complex and nefarious than mere 'shunning' of discussion of race is going on in Bloggersville. Three facts of life in the blogosphere shed light on what is occurring.

Several white self-declared 'leaders' of the liberal blogosphere have set themselves up as policemen of minority bloggers. They have declared whatever they say about race is received wisdom and that minority bloggers who don't agree with them are to be ostracized or abused. It is not clear to me how or why they would be the arbiters of racism, something they don't experience and the folks they are telling to shut up do. However, many people don't stop to ask such questions. They just do what they're told. In fact, among some liberals, one can almost hear a sigh of relief when the likes of Lisa English or Jim Rittenhouse gives them their marching orders. Now, they know what to say and do. If lack of a spine was a crime, they would all be locked up. Cobb asked: What does it mean to be black and stand up and say what you believe? In the blogosphere, it can mean having to withstand the puerile assaults of people like these.

On the conservative side of the blogosphere, there is little pretense at any enlightenment in regard to racial matters. Large blogs such as Cold Fury and Silflay Hraka regularly post material that reads as if it issued from a time warp in the 1950s. Hardly anyone dares to disagree with support for neo-Confederates or efforts to cleanse the Ku Klux Klan's reputation. I don't know whether that response is because of genuine agreement with the sentiments expressed or because there are also enforcers of a line to take on race in the Right blogosphere. Both, perhaps.

Greg's perspective, though mainly accurate, misses a movement toward centralism in the blogosphere. It is championed by longterm Mac-a-ro-nies ally Rick Heller of Smart Genes, among others. The centrists attempt to chart a course between liberal and conservative orthodoxy. The result is a mixture of opinion that can be characterized as liberal, moderate, conservative or progressive at different times. Among the topics treated thus is racism. For example, Heller recently supported David Horowitz in a dispute with the Southern Poverty Law Center. I consider Horowitz to be a contributor to bigotry, at the very least. However, Heller is usually on the side of the angels when it comes to racial discrimination, unlike the hypocrites of the liberal blogosphere, who are part of the problem, not ameliorators of it. And, he is honest enough to clearly state his positions and how he arrives at them.

In summary, race is a topic that reveals Bloggersville at it worst. The liberals are far too much under the thumbs of a few white 'leaders' with rather obvious personal problems with racism themselves. The conservatives largely ignore the multi-racial reality of 2003, preferring to dwell in a world of white hegemony, circa 1950 or so. The only ray of hope appears to be the centrists, who can at least be counted on to bring ideas to discussions of racism that are not pre-packaged and pre-approved.

Note: No, I am not finished with the Portland Seven . . . Six . . . Five . . . Four. I am discussing the case(s) with some people who know more about the inside story. An update will appear as soon as I've absorbed the new information.

2:27 PM