Tag Archives: race

On Being A Writer: The Jezebel Epiphany

18 Jun

Photo by Tara L. Conley 2008

Photo by Tara L. Conley 2008

Now we reflect.

One of the most important things I ever learned in graduate school was that a sistah always needs to reflect, if not only for herself, but for our collective consciousness and for our worlds around us.  Call it the Humanity Sustainability Project, if you will.

A few days ago I sent a personal email to the Senior Editor of Jezebel.com about a recent post, Tracie Egan, a Jezebel blogger wrote entitled “Why Is Mary J. Blige Working With Chris Brown?”  This was the first time I ever felt the need to email a website Editor expressing my concern about one of their posts.  Needless to say, the Senior Editor never wrote back but the author and her Managing Editor did (although, I’m inclined to believe that the Senior Editor was certainly privy to all of the “intense” correspondences).

If you’re on Facebook, then you can read all about the drama HERE, along with some incredibly insightful responses from friends and readers.

Without rehashing the entire scenario, what basically happened was I called out Tracie’s last few sentences of her post because I felt she, along with others at Jezebel, put themselves in a dangerous position by perpetuating (and therefore enabling) incendiary rhetoric created by crappy websites that rely heavily upon speculative rumors simply for “clicks.” Basically, Jezebel gave credence to a website who’s in the business of starting shit so there will be shit.  Good for some, but in my opinion, not a good look for Jezebel.

Needless to say, Tracie said she was “offended and hurt” by my complaints (even though I never directly accused her of being culturally naive about African-Americans like she said in the email) but I did apologize for writing to her Senior Editor instead of her, first.  The Managing Editor, with her fine word-smithing, basically thanked me for the email but ended up giving me the virtual and subtle talk-to-the-hand motion and moved on.

Remember people are at different places.

If anything, I hoped to open a dialogue, despite feeling admittedly defensive at first.  Hoped that at least the gals over at Jezebel would’ve updated (not erased or deleted) the original post by including links to other perspectives, or inserted qualifying language so that those of us who felt slighted by the borderline dangerous assumption could in the very least appreciate Tracie’s intent.

Remember people are at different places.

Now that all of the internal screaming has simmered (because, like it or not, I chose this battle), I’ve had time to do some reflecting.

Photo by Tara L. Conley 2008

Photo by Tara L. Conley 2008

And in reflecting about this ordeal, I learned a few things – even if no one else did.

I learned that I’m a helluva nit picky reader.

I learned that as careful a reader I am I have to be even more careful as a writer.

I learned that it’s so important to cite, not just accurately, but responsibly.

I learned that while others assume, so do I.

I learned that apologies are necessary because as we know from the David Letterman/Sarah Palin fiasco, Letterman’s apology said more about our country’s consciousness than it worked to ignite Sarah Palin’s seemingly calculated defensiveness.  It helped the Cause for a more ‘just’ society than Palin’s misguided faux feminism shtick ever would.  It indicated what progress perhaps looks like.  As in maybe our culture is graduating from lame 12-year-old “ya motha’s a slut, ya dawta’s a whore” jokes – and has actually developed a more sophisticated sense of humor and appreciation for irony.  See, I was hoping that the Jezzies, like Dave, would understand that acknowledging your errors is characteristic of progress.  No, it’s not a cop out, no it doesn’t make you look foolish, and no it doesn’t mean you lose your feminist-leaning-cool-liberal-website card because you got called out on your own assumptions, rhetoric, allies, and privileges.  It just means you’re wrong, but being wrong can be orgasmic if you let it.

I learned that being empowered is a pretty awesome feeling, even if it means showing my balls (or my ovaries?) when calling out another female blogger with whom I like for the most part.

I learned that I’m pretty lucky to have all this time on my hands to complain, write, and then think about what I just complained and wrote about.  Imagine if we, the Manys, had more time to develop our minds, rhetoric, and visions.  I think that in our little worlds, we’d single-handedly save ourselves from ourselves.

I learned that dialogue works much better than defensiveness.  After posting what happened on my Facebook page, I found the comments from women of all colors and backgrounds were profoundly helpful in that it made me understand what developing perspective is all about.  This is what I was hoping for when I requested that the Jezebel writers update the post about Chris Brown and the “other woman.”  The pot of ideas flow when people with all type of perspectives and experiences find that their words are acknowledged in a public space.

In that same vein, I learned this, with the help of Arvind, Aura, Melissa, Patricia, Brenda, Carla, Courtney, Necole, and Leopold:

Being a thoughtful and visionary writer is not simply about being a mindful spell checker, or fact checker, or even word smith.  It’s about being able to express yourself with a developed brevity that relies upon always rethinking our assumptions, rhetoric, allies, and privileges.  Because in the end, we must always remember that people are at different places.

Hopefully the Jezebel gals agree.

(The italicized words aren’t my own but from Aura, Courtney, and Patricia.  Thank you, ladies, and all the other FB commenters for helping me develop my on-going and ballsy perspectives).

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Women of Color in an Obama Era

4 Dec

From Huffington Post.

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Today, like I do everyday around noon, I moved my car from one side of the street to the other as directed by the Culver City parking limit sign. While waiting at the stop sign, a block from theBrave New Films office (my employer), I watched as three Latina women crossed the street strolling along three white children. The women appeared to be related, la abuela, la madre, and the daughter following closely behind. Three generations of Latina domestic workers pushing three white-raced children in a stroller along the pristine streets of Culver City, California – what else is new? This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen Latinas walk white-raced children around the streets of this liberal-leaning city. Fifty years ago, those Latinas would probably have been African-American women – the faces have changed, but not necessarily the situation. 3035695957_00e14567b3

All this got me thinking about women of color and where we fit into this new Obama era. While I don’t believe any politician is ever more powerful than the will of the people, I can’t help but wonder how Obama’s power as President will address the myriad of low wage-(or no wage)-earning, care-taking, health-insurance-lacking, poverty-stricken women of color (WOC) in the United States.

African-American women still comprise over sixty percent of the labor force among women. Women of color in general are much less likely to hold managerial and professional jobs than white women. Women of color are more likely to be poor than white women, and with the exception of Asian-American women, WOC are considerably less likely to hold a BA degree or higher than white women. WOC earn less than white women with the same education level. Asian-American and Native American women in particular share in the highest proportion of female suicide deaths across race, ages 15-44. African-American, Native American, and Asian-American women are significantly less likely to than white women to report being a victim of sexual and domestic violence. Among women, Latinas/Chicanas are the least represented at the highest levels of education.

I thoroughly respect Obama’s National Security choices, including Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Janet Napolitano. Placing these women at high leadership positions symbolizes a societal transition toward forward thinking shape-shifters. Yet, just as we aren’t in a post-race era, we certainly haven’t transcended gender discrimination and economic and health disparities among women and men – especially as it relates to women of color.

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My African-American mother is the sole caretaker of my white-raced father, a 78-year-old veteran, suffering from heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and severe emphysema. She, like many other WOC who take care of sick and dying family members, is also unemployed – and not necessarily by choice. Despite the fact that she has chosen to go back to school and finish her Bachelor’s degree, there aren’t many options for a middle-aged black women (with a plethora of work experience) in this day-in age.

But my little familial anecdote isn’t any different from, say, that of women in DC living with HIV, wherein 90% of them are black. Nor is my story any different from the Latina domestic workers in Culver City, or the large majority of Native and Asian-American young women struggling with depression, and taking their own lives as a result. We have progressed as a nation, and while we all can take great pride in our future First lady and First daughters (Michelle, Malia, and Sasha), the problems WOC collectively face in the U.S. are significant in comparison to that of white women and men. In other words, we still have work to do.

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Issues concerning women of color span economy, education, health, poverty, and popular culture. While the problems that arise within these multiple modes of society vary, the fact remains that the struggles we face as women of the growing minority are compounded by race. The implications of an Obama administration upon the lives of women of color is yet to be seen. Though we understand that policies and legislation which positively influence the conditions of WOC can, in essence, impact the entire well-being of U.S. society. If women of color suffer, we all do – because we are the workers, the (First) mothers, the (First) daughters, and yet still, the struggling and dying many.

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Right: Friend, Kami Fletcher, and I at Obama rally in Dallas during the Texas primaries.

Many thanks to Smita Satiani and Axel Woolfolk for contributing insights and editorial suggestions to this essay.

Sources:
Institute For Women’s Policy Research
Eliza Noh, Ph.D., California State University, Fullerton
National VAWA Survey