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He Had a Dream

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August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King, Jr. shared a dream with his fellow Americans.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

It has been over 40 years since that speech and Americans are still debating race relations, focusing on the importance of ‘diversity’ and fighting their way towards a ‘colorblind’ society.

Dr. King would be disheartened.

See, I don’t believe that Dr. King ever promoted colorblindness. He knew he was black and was proud of his heritage and of his personal accomplishments.

And I don’t believe that Dr. King would have promoted racial diversity. He believed that people should be judged by who they were, not what they looked like.

What Dr. King promoted was the idea of equality, the idea that as an American citizen a non-white person should be accorded the rights, privileges, opportunities, and responsibilities that a white person would be accorded. The diversity Dr. King promoted was the diversity of thought, not of color.

If Dr. King was right, which I believe he was, then why are so many people today still focused on the racial aspect of diversity? Do those people really think that two med students from wealthy families, one white and one black, would prove to be more diverse than one med student and one inner city kid who were both black?

In August of 2004, on XXBlog, Antigone posted “The African-American Blogging Thing,” which was meant to be a satirical post based off of “The Woman Blogging Thing” on BOPNews.com.

The posts were almost identical in language. I believe this was meant to show how many of the reasons women weren’t present in the blog-o-sphere were the same for African Americans.

Here I am going to focus mainly on Antigone’s post. Antigone wrote:

It’s obviously a whites-only club (with select Blacks who act like in specifically stylized ways allowed). For instance, my style of blogging is very white – I feel like I have to conclude everything, which leaves less room for the more deliberative communication patterns I find among African-Americans.

Please excuse me while I channel a little bit of Julia Sugarbaker.

#1 – Just because you come to a conclusion, it does not make you white (or male). I think that Dr. King, W.E.B. Dubois, Thurgood Marshall, Dred Scott, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, and many other African-American writers, orators, and leaders who I, a white male, look up to would flat out reject such absurdity.

#2 – You claim that the political blogosphere is “obviously a whites-only club” and yet one of the most popular political blogs out there is Markos Moulitsas Zuniga’s blog DailyKos. As Kos once wrote to his readers:

My family settled in a nearly all-White suburb of Chicago when we immigrated from El Salvador in 1980. Not only did I speak very little, and heavily accented English, but I looked different than everyone else. Throw in the fact that I was woefully skinny and looked years younger than my real age, and it’s easy to see how I was the target of every invective known to man.

Just because you aren’t African American it doesn’t mean you are white.

#3 – You claim that exceptions to the all white club are “select Blacks” who act in “specifically stylized ways allowed” (which we can safely assume means they are ‘acting white’).

I ask you, in all sincerity, how in the world could you tell the color of a person’s skin by the content of their blog?

To that point, Halley Suitt, a speaker at the Whose News? conference at Harvard, asked the conference attendees to start promoting non-white male bloggers on their own sites. One site, Hypergene.net, did just that by posting “15 non-white male blogging voices” on his/her blog. In the post HyperGene wrote:

As we said in the comments to her post: We’re happy to do this. But it will take a few days to figure out the race (and sometimes gender) of the blogs we read. We’re usually only interested in the ideas presented on a blog, not the demographics of its creator.

In fact, I don’t know whether you, Antigone, are a male or female, black or white, gay or straight, American or foreign blogger.

I guess the thought is that by declaring your ethnicity and gender you gain street (or blog) credibility to speak on certain issues, but as almost anyone who has ever tried to date on the Internet can tell you – what people tell you about themselves online does not always accurately reflect the person you meet offline.

And another thing – as a gay male I live in a world of similar labels. Instead of ‘acting white,’ I hear many of my gay friends talk about ‘acting straight’. For some reason many people feel the need to act differently in different situations for fear of being rejected by whatever group they are with.

Of course, I do understand the need to articulate a thought or message in a way that whatever group you are with will understand. However, if you are never yourself around these people, you may end up spending the rest of your life trying to figure out who you really are.

Both the BOPNews and Antigone posts went on to say:

Guys/Whites don’t really feel comfortable saying ‘I don’t know’ or just going through inconclusive cognitive exercises.

Well, as a male who is white, I could easily respond to their question of why there are so few female and/or non-white bloggers with a simple answer: ‘I don’t know.’

But by doing so I would be acting neither ethnic nor like a woman; I would be acting ignorant and lazy.

The fact that they don’t see that distinction is less a reflection of how racist/chauvinist the blogosphere is and more a reflection of how far from Dr. King’s dream we really are.

Edited: bhw

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