This is a guest post for swpd by A. Smith, who writes of herself, "I write a blog that is hard to explain except to say I write what's on my mind. In the real world, I'm a recent college graduate who's had enough of DC and its politics and is ready to go back to school, for a different, albeit familiar, kind of politics. I'm also a black woman with 23 years of experience in this race thing..."
I don’t know if any of you frequent other blogs run by a white person that attempt to do what swpd attempts to do, but I don’t. I don't because I haven't found many. Any that I have run across are run by a PoC (or, at least, a person pretending to be a PoC). Blogs like these take on a whole different spin when they are run by a white person. However, I’ve also noticed that such places don't tend to stick around very long.
When Macon developed a list of rules for commenters, the comment section, as usual, lit itself on fire. One comment in particular from Randy caught my eye. Randy said here:
how is this blog, this whole thing, not just yet another example of a WP being in charge of a space for and about PoCs? however deferential, reverent, polite, well-intentioned, well-informed macon d may be; it's still a WHITE MAN'S place. because he owns it. he controls it. it's HIS own weblog. and he-not any black person-can pull the plug whenever it suits him.
how can all you razor-sharp fanon's out there have faild to confront and critique this (sic)? sorry folks, but it appears that we whites just can't damn help ourselves from taking over, from dominating, from setting the terms, from RUNNING THE SHOW-however benignly.
you all are constantly in a blither about ambient white supremacy...yet you don't see it RIGHT HERE.
I actually had been doing a lot of thinking about swpd and how the commenters interact on this blog. I appreciate the work macon puts into it, and Randy’s comment made me ponder other well-meaning, well-intended “spaces” (we’ll use “spaces” to refer to any place, online or real-world, where race relations is the primary topic) that don’t ever quite pan out. The most prevalent sort of spaces are blogs/websites that discuss interracial dating. Many such blog authors quickly find they spend more time defending their opinions than discussing anything of relevancy and ultimately shut down their blogs.
There seems to me to be a presumption white people make that they can singlehandedly change people’s minds, while never really being ready for pushback, and never being ready or prepared to create a space that offers PoCs and white people the opportunity to honestly and openly express their opinions.
It’s a shame this is the case, because as much as I wish that I, a black woman in America, could create a successful space, it would take a lot of work and a lot of passivity (that I’m not prepared to give) on my part.
Why, you ask? Because white people are scared to talk about race with PoCs. Some of that fear is understandable, while a lot of it is absurd. We can’t talk about or come up with ways to combat the problem without white people being honest and open, but above all else present, in the conversation. Unfortunately, the history in our country has led to a situation where more often than not, race conversations begun by PoCs in a PoC space do not attract white people who don’t already at least “get” the problem and will simply echo what we say (and never follow the echos with action).
One thing that was established early on at swpd is that white people are a necessary part of this conversation. In fact, commenter Jara said here:
The responsibility for improving race relations in the U.S., for example, falls on white people's shoulders because they are the privileged group.
It’s become my opinion that we need more spaces created by white people where we can have these open and honest race conversations so that one day we make enough progress where who creates and controls the space doesn’t matter. Some of us may consider this a necessary evil, while others of us take it at face value and go. Either way, there aren’t a lot of white people who are ready to take the flack (some deserved, some not) they receive for attempting such a thing. Wonder what type of flack I’m talking about? Most swpd comment sections will show you.
Anyone who is a part of a real race conversation, especially with people from different perspectives, and actively searches for ways to lessen racism's effects and to ultimately eradicate it altogether, is helping to blaze new trails. To do so via the internet with relative strangers is an area that has yet to be fully examined, and so it takes a lot of trial and error.
It’s easy to want to be a part of the solution, to feel like you do things that others might benefit from knowing about; it’s harder than it looks, however, to share those things about such a contentious topic. Too often well-meaning white people set out to help, but end up with their feelings hurt and their tails between their legs. I hope that as we all have a hand in writing the how-to book on handling race relations, more people step up and are willing to create more spaces for these conversations to happen.
There seems to be an assumption that if white folks would simply do as they’re told, everything would be fine. I see such sentiments expressed on this blog regularly; however, the fact is this is a learning experience for all of us. White people need to be ready to use the privilege they’ve enjoyed for hundreds of years to fix the problems it has created. I firmly believe that it is the job of the PoC community to point out the cracks, and that it's the white community’s job to fill them in, even if that means losing things they’ve become accustomed to (I use a crude analogy, but I think simple and crude is better than complicated and palatable).
Randy made some valid points (that he later expounded upon). One of them is the irony that swpd may in fact be everything we all say we don't want. A space like swpd isn’t perfect, but it is a good example of what I mean when I say the white people fix the cracks PoCs point out. In almost every post, there’s one commenter who trips the wire and the alarms start blaring, and someone lets them know that they are exemplifying exactly what shouldn’t be done. More white people need to be willing to “be that kid” (as I like to say). More white people need to be willing to take the criticism to not only learn from themselves, but also to teach others.
There are things PoCs should do, but this blog isn’t called “stuff people of color do.”
A few questions:
1) What about spaces created/run by PoCs scares away potential white contributors?
2) Despite a white and male moderater/blog owner, swpd lacks a strong (or even noticeable) white male presence. What might be the reasons for that?
3) Swpd also lacks a significant black male presence. Might the reason(s) for that be the same as the lack of a white male presence?
4) Every blog has its lurkers, and every lurker has his or her reason; however, it’s hard to imagine that there haven’t been any posts that draw a few lurkers from the crowd (aside from the post that specifically asked lurkers to comment). It’s also fair to assume that there’s something specific about swpd and its topic that keeps people in the shadows. What might those things be?