Funny, you don't look like a dog
Bloggers of color underrepresented by mainstream media
by CHRISTABEL NSIAH-BUADI
Special to the AmNews
Originally posted 5/11/2005
....But the most prominent bloggers, the ones who are regularly invited to provide this “alternative” voice, are overwhelmingly white and male.
Some people say that the bloggers who appear on TV and radio are the best of the crop and choose not to question the lack of diversity. They justify this theory by claiming that blogging is democratic in nature – people can publish what they like and people can read what they like. So the best writers will naturally gain more prominence.
But surely not all the best bloggers are white and male? When asked why there is so little diversity, members of the bloggers network www.brownbloggers.com agreed that the lack of non-white representation was the result of a lack of media control and because, as one respondent put it, “White America thinks that what brown bloggers write about doesn’t apply to them.”
Abhi Tripathi, co founder of Sepia Mutiny (www.sepiamutiny.com), a blog that takes a look at the world from a South Asian-American perspective, also suggests that the failure by the white dominated mainstream media to reach out to other cultures has contributed to the poor representation of bloggers of color in the mainstream:
“Journalists seem to perform the bare amount of work necessary to report a story nowadays. This seems to be because it is more difficult to try to understand people of different cultures than it is to understand someone like them.”
Chris Rabb, founder and chief evangelist of Afro-Netizen, takes this point further. He argues that the “blogosphere” reflects and in fact amplifies the inequalities of our society. He also says that the inability to include different people is more of a problem for liberal white America:
“There are highly visible non-white conservative bloggers, La Shawn Barber, Michelle Malkin, who is Asian-American, and then there is Black America’s Political Action Committee … (but) you only have a few non-white bloggers – who are not politicians – who are given [mainstream media] access. Ron Walters and Donna Brazile. There are few others. And when you look at who is receiving contracts, very few are issued to African Americans that anyone is familiar with.”
Rabb has been subjected to this attitude himself. As one of only 37 bloggers invited to be part of the press corps at the Democratic National Convention last year (and the only credentialed blogger at the DNC whose readership was primarily Black), Rabb sought advice on how to raise the profile of his blog, www.afro-netizen.com, from Markos “Moulitsas” Zuniga of “Daily Kos” fame. Rabb said Zuniga “looked at me like I was crazy. He had no interest in the world to help me. He never extended himself; that speaks volumes.”
OK, her is Kos's response
Christabel Nsiah-Baudi writes, "Chris Rabb, founder and chief evangelist of Afro-Netizen, takes this point further. He argues that the “blogosphere” reflects and in fact amplifies the inequalities of our society. He also says that the inability to include different people is more of a problem for liberal white America".
This point is absolutely ridiculous. Daily Kos, the largest blog of any political persuassion in the world, is run by me, a Latino. Out of the seven guest bloggers I've employed the past two years, two have been African American, two have been Latino. One of those, NYC's Steve Gilliard, has his own extremely popular blog at stevegilliard.blogspot.com. Oliver Willis's self titled blog and Jesse Taylor's Pandagon.net are two more highly trafficked, extremely popular and influential blogs run by African Americans. Taylor, by the way, was also invited to the Democratic National Convention.
Far from amplifying inequalities in society, the blogosphere is a great equalizer. While low-income people are generally underrepresented in the medium, it has given people of color the ability to operate in something akin to a true meritocracy. I wouldn't have been able to rise to such prominence in any other media given my immigrant background and lack of connections in the ol' boys networks that dominate print and television journalism. And I'm not the only blogger to benefit from what has become one of the most color-blind media today.
OK, if Chris Rabb had asked me this question I would have replied: write better. So many fucking people think there is a key to success besides hard work. If there is, I'd like to know it. Because you can't deliver blowjobs over the Internet. What was Kos supposed to do? Network him? It isn't his job to help anyone. Because he was worried about the wrong thing. It's not about "rasing profiles" but writing things people want to read. If you are interesting, word will get around. If you are not, it won't. Why exactly do you want a larger audience? To make money? To get noticed?
Has he read Barber and Malkin? They're jokes, bad jokes at that.
Look, the old joke is that no one can tell if you're a dog on the internet. Well, the same applies to race and even sex. Unless you mention it, people will not know if you're black or white or whatever. People had no idea that I was black. Especially Jonah Goldberg, who embarassed himself because of that.
Kos is right. Unless you go to the right school, kiss ass or are simply relentless, the major media is pretty much closed. Once upon a time, being a reporter was a working class job, a step up from being a cop or a firefighter or teacher. Now, it's filled with neat, well groomed kids from the 'burbs who never missed a meal in their lives. Obviously, this attitude is rampant among some younger bloggers as well. They want instant success. Hell, I spent four years on NetSlaves before I did this blog. No quick success there. Kos was a consultant. We put in a shitload of time before what little success we have.
To say the blogosphere is dominated by white males is not untrue, but not accurate either. When I was at the Tank last year with Kos and Atrios, the room looked like any newsroom with a bunch of young white guys and a few women. BUT, that doesn't mean everyone blogging was white and male. And that doesn't mean they're the most successful either.
John Lee is a friend of mine. He is an old school hacker who was the only black person on the cover of Wired. Now, people who know the name, know exactly how smart and talented he is. But if you didn't, you could think that only white people had the interest or the skill. You wouldn't know what he looked like, if you only saw his work. As far as I know, John has never bragged about being a super smart black guy. He could, but he doesn't. His work and his intellect speaks for itself.
Now, blogs work the same way. 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.
posted by Steve @ 12:10:00 AM