March 18, 2006

the white-black middleman

Just awesome that we have footage of the BWB revisited panel from SXSW. I watched the whole thing, stuck like glue to the great questions, comments, and answers. So many points interest me--more than a few I want to write about.

I've been thinking about what Tony said as he talked about the way he's a kind of liaison between black and white readers in the blogosphere, a more subtle black identity stop along path of racial exploration, especially for bloggers beginning to read from white to black.

Do you get it sort of? He says it better. Watch.

My first instinct hearing Tony's comment was, man, if I were on the panel I'd be pissed at the implication that there is a need for some kind of culturally relevant halfway house for white readers.

I'd be like, whoa, what's so freaky over here that white folks can't open a browser and read us without taking a trip past black-light over at the bus blog first?

My second instinct was--Tony's right on the money. That IS happening. In the context of expanding the diversity of who we read, the bus blog has become a well-traveled stop on the route to expanded diversity, especially among a-listers and the buzznet base.

A light-complected black man who has lived, by his own admission, in mostly white communities all of his life, Tony embraces his roots without apologizing for his preferences. Good for him.

Why this fascinates me is that I also get a lot of mail when I write on race, ethnicity, and diversity (i.e. the need for more) in the blogosphere. Most of my comments on those topics come from white readers (while most of the links come from black bloggers).

In some way, by virtue of being a white (not counting the Sicilian -- ha!) woman in a mixed marriage of 20 years raising a multi-racial daughter, I'm another one of those nodes on the diversity net -- different from Tony but also not quite here or there, similar but a different variety of liaison -- on pathways that run along the black-white blog spectrum.

Why this MATTERS to me is Jenna. First, foremost, and everyplace in between, I'm a mom who is raising a woman-to-be, and she will be a woman of color. Every relationship she has, her marriage, and the next generation will have a racial identity that is mixed. And at once, that has always astounded me in its complexity while it has moved me in its simplicity.

So here's what it all comes down to: One day I can shut up. One day I won't need to challenge and share and provoke new thinking and new attitudes on how we handle -- maybe even embrace? -- diversity in the blogworld. One day I won't have to ask "How white is your blogroll?" and have folks pretend that they don't know.

I'll be able to be quiet NOT because I think things will ever be "all better," but because I hope that one day my daughter will be here too, and she can pick up the discussion, bringing a new authenticity, HER OWN, shaped by all the things she still has to go through, by her extra-ethnic identity, by her identity as a woman of color, by who she is period.

That's when I can retire from this topic. Not until.

I worked with a black woman about 10 years ago who told me that her son would never marry a white woman because she wouldn't have a white woman raising her grandchildren. That same woman said she was surprised after knowing me for several months to find out how smart I was, because every white woman she knew who was married to a black man was either an airhead or a drug addict.

I worked with a white woman about 15 years ago who said it wouldn't be fair for me to have a child in a mixed marriage, that the children suffer so, they are never at home, they don't belong -- that she didn't think it should even be legal.

These were real world people--there are others like them I've met along the way.

I hope for more from the online world because this is the place that many of us have come to with a goal of understanding our world and one another better. It may not happen. We may fail here. We may get back up and keep trying too.

And if I can be a watering hole as people wander through the web of diversity, offer a cool drink, some food for thought, and a kick in the ass, then I can't think of a better thing to be doing.

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