Be a Digital Warrior!

As you may all know, the use of blogs can be many: they can be like diaries, a personal journal, news oriented, imaginative, and commentary which can be categorized under hundreds of different topics. In other words, they can be anything you want them to be. They are a space where each one of us can say what we want. And blogs are ubiquitous now. Major media have them, human rights organizations utilize them, and your everyday people record their thoughts on them. Original reporting is not a characteristic of blogs- yet. For the most part, blogs are commentaries which rely on mass media and other media outlets that have already done the original reporting.

Bloggers are as diverse as the purpose of blogs are. Some bloggers are your average Joe Schmo. Others are people who care about certain issues and seek to inform. There's another cadre of "elite bloggers"- those who are professionals and journalists, the gatekeepers and opinion makers. But for the first time, you can create a network or "community" of bloggers based on mutual interests that crosses oceans and borders. Blogs can be powerful, and bloggers can wield immense influence (for those who have access to the Internet and are able to read them). For the optimistic, blogging is the ultimate democratic tool: we can all be "citizen journalists" now.

A while ago, I came across a blog that talked about "white ethnic blogging." That post powerfully resonated with me, because I've realized that I do not read some of the popular blogs in the US (see our own blogroll). Some of these blogs talk about issues in such a way that I can't relate to them. Most of the well known bloggers are white- but they don't consider themselves as white. The operative assumption here is that white is the default, and anything outside of that is "ethnic blogging." Allow me to reproduce the aforementioned post because it perfectly captures my sentiments:

White Blogging as Ethnic Blogging

There are a number of blogs, which shall remain nameless, that I have quit reading in the last year or so. I quit them (I do know how to quit you!) because they were so damned white.

What I mean is that the blogger/s were white, but the blogs didn't acknowledge this in any way. The blogs themselves were grandly themed and very popular, and purported--either explicitly or implicitly--to represent the ethnically non-differentiated world of that particular theme. And yet all the people they talked about, all the bloggers they linked to, all the issues discussed, were white, white and white.

Sure, of course they'd occasionally find something from a person of color or from another country, but days, weeks, occasionally even months would go by without this happening. The blogs were clearly by and about whites. That wasn't what disgusted me, though. What disgusted me was that the blogs were sincerely and truly not just for whites. I'm sure the bloggers hoped and dreamed (once a year, or maybe decade) that nonwhite people would come and read their blogs too. They sincerely thought that they were pursuing a topic rather than pursuing a white topic.

In the meantime, bloggers of color--who are always aware when they are being ethnic and when they are being general or nonethnic--have blogs which openly acknowledge the ethnicity or raciality of their points of view, and are attacked for it.

Okay, I'm not the first blogger to make this complaint, and no, it doesn't interest me anymore, either, although it still angers me. My point here is that I was reading a white friend's personal blog today, which is very popular and read and linked to by a lot of peeps in our skiffy tribe (don't think you know who I'm talking about because you don't!) and it hit me like a pile of trolls: this is an ethnic blog!

Well ... duh.

It's an ethnic blog because my friend, and all my white, blogging friends whose blogs are popular and considered a destination for a certain interest group, all of my white blogging friends who deal with "culture" and "arts and literature" and other unacknowledgedly cultural products, are doing it about, from, and for the white cultural sphere. Period.

Including poc and foreigners occasionally is nice, especially if the inclusion arises from genuine interest and admiration. But the blogs are white blogs, not just blogs. They are white book blogs, not just book blogs. They are white writing blogs, not just writing blogs. They are white blogs of interesting things, not just blogs of interesting things. They are white political blogs, not just political blogs. They are white art and film blogs, not just art and film blogs. etc. I think you get the picture.

It seems obvious now, but this is America, and the most obvious things are hidden in plain sight. George W. Bush, for example.

Now that I've had the realization, I feel differently about these white blogs. Everyone has a right--nearly a mandate, almost an imperative--to explore his or her home or group culture, to examine it, to illuminate it, to critique it. I love this about black, brown, and yellow ethnic blogs, and now I love this about white ethnic blogs as well. I no longer need them to change. I no longer have to fight down long emails to each blogger telling them how white they are and that they need to be more inclusive. They don't need to be more inclusive, any more than Cute Overload needs to blog about Iraq.

All they need to do is acknowledge that they are blogs written by white people from a white perspective about white culture. All they need to do is admit that they are white ethnic blogs.

Think that'll happen?

No, I don't think that will happen anytime soon. Yes, the majority of popular blogs in the US are white. But as a daughter of immigrants who has always lived on the margins of the multiple layers of society, I've always firmly believed that it doesn't have to be that way. We can change that. We can make a space for ourselves. We can use the power of the pen, so to speak. And blogosphere is changing; more and more people are speaking for themselves rather than being spoken of or having been spoken for.

Bloggers are making headway all around the world. There are some incredibly bright people out there- smart, incisive, sharp, thought provoking, entertaining, and witty. These people make me think about an angle that never occurred to me. They might bring to attention an issue that I never knew existed. They have the ability to take the mundane but make it fresh for the readers. And then there are those rare blogs that actually provide a window to what is going on in their world.

There are those who are actually doing the work that journalists are supposed to do- they muckrake. They write about the conditions of civil liberties, rights, and government abuse. Remember I said at the top of my post that most blogs do not do original reporting? That is changing. Slowly, but surely. And these bloggers who are doing original reporting, criticizing their own government, and exercising the freedom of speech are a threat to the powers that be. It is no surprise that bloggers in various countries have been jailed, harassed, killed, and tortured. Freedom of expression on the Internet is feeling the wrath of governments. All the more that bloggers are valuable and essential. One can only hope that 1) they have access to the Internet; 2) they can set aside time to blog; and 3) they fearlessly soldier forth, courageously voicing the things that others are too afraid to.

So, are you interested in being a cyber dissident and warrior? If so, read this handy handbook published by Reporters without Borders. It gives information ranging from: the simplest things that can be useful to a novice such as setting up a blog, the more sophisticated methods of maintaining your anonymity and most importantly, the ethics and principles that must be adhered to.

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No, I don’t think that will

No, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Yes, the majority of popular blogs in the US are white. But as a daughter of immigrants who has always lived on the margins of the multiple layers of society, I’ve always firmly believed that it doesn’t have to be that way. We can change that. We can make a space for ourselves. We can use the power of the pen, so to speak. And blogosphere is changing; more and more people are speaking for themselves rather than being spoken of or having been spoken for.

Hello? Economics? Digital divide? (ugh i hate that phrase)

Hello? Economics? Digital

Hello? Economics? Digital divide?

Duh, that is why I stated in my post:

Blogs can be powerful, and bloggers can wield immense influence (for those who have access to the Internet and are able to read them).

One can only hope that 1)they have access to the Internet; 2) they can set aside time to blog; and 3) they fearlessly soldier forth, courageously voicing the things that others are too afraid to.

DesiItaliana, I can see why

DesiItaliana, I can see why you found this idea so striking-- I do too. I think I hit on some variant of this idea right around the time I stopped rebelling against my hometown and roots for being so damn white-bread and started realizing that I'm 'ethnic' too. White Americans, at least outside the South, aren't brought up with the idea that they have a culture that is distinct from other cultures. Their culture is dominant in the media-- they turn on the TV and their lives are reflected in just about every show, and they skip right past BET and Telemundo and don't ever have to think about it. They do not realize that they are different, that there's a world out there to be different from. At least that was my experience growing up in an all-white, working-class town.

Then I moved to New York, and I realized that there's actually some really interesting stuff hiding in my Pittsburgh and North Carolina roots-- stuff worth exploring. Living among a mix of other cultures and having friends who are mostly from different cultures than my own made me realize that, wait, white is not the same thing as a blank slate, any more than a northern American accent is not 'no accent'. That, I think, is the distinction you're asking 'white bloggers' to acknowledge, and rightly so.

Interesting post!

Then I moved to New York, and

Then I moved to New York, and I realized that there’s actually some really interesting stuff hiding in my Pittsburgh and North Carolina roots– stuff worth exploring.

I love the Pittsburgh city museum (I think it's named after Heinz like everything else :). When I was there they were screening a film on immigrants and Pittsburgh from the early 20th century of a woman wearing traditional clothes from some Baltic country (I think it was Lithuania or Latvia). At first I thoguht it was quaint and then I started thinking about the sari, which my mom always wears, and how that will be gone within a generation in the U.S. without new immigarntion. And since it's disappeared in urban india among the profesional classes anyway, maybe even then.

But personal comfort comes first :)

At first I thoguht it was

At first I thoguht it was quaint and then I started thinking about the sari, which my mom always wears, and how that will be gone within a generation in the U.S. without new immigarntion.

1.saaDi

2. Can't find the link now, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. So far, 1-gers still outnumber the 2-gers, thanks to US immigration laws, the labor market, and supply and demand.

Hello Sarah, Their culture is

Hello Sarah,

Their culture is dominant in the media– they turn on the TV and their lives are reflected in just about every show, and they skip right past BET and Telemundo and don’t ever have to think about it. They do not realize that they are different, that there’s a world out there to be different from. At least that was my experience growing up in an all-white, working-class town.

It's not so much that it's dominant, it's that it's the standard and default. It's normative. I've always felt that way, and I still continue to feel that way. Think of how we say "ethnic" clothes, "ethnic restaurants" "ethnic music," and "ethnic" everything. Yet we rarely say, "white" clothes, "white restaurants", "white music." What South Asians do do is that they insert "western" where "white" would be ("western films," "western clothes," etc).

Behind this, though, is an entire consumerist industry. I'm almost certain that consumption, exposure to consumption and mass marketing feeds and strengthens this notion of "ethnic"- which is clearly not the default, the standard, and the "normal"=white.

white is not the same thing as a blank slate, any more than a northern American accent is not ‘no accent’.

Many people think all whites are simply one big homogenous mass. That idea quickly changed within me when I was in Europe.

And really, there are distinctions between whites that people make. Like, "white ni#$%$" which was used against the Irish and Italians in the US. Or, "white trash." There are socio-economic dynamics interweaved into these distinctions- "white trash" are folks that live in trailer parks; "red trash" are those ignorant lower class and/or ranch folks, and so on.

And because we tend to focus so much on race, and use that as a category to understand/study issues of inequality, injustice, and so on, we miss all the things in between the cracks. Take for example the Appalachians (sp?). They are not "racial" minorities, but yet their situation is effed up. No one hardly ever talks about the amount of oppression and injustice they have had to endure from the rich folk.

That is why it's important to look at both socio-economic status, race, gender, and everything else when we think about these issues: racism, "ethnicizing" people, the definition of "normal" and "average", poverty, and so on.

I’m almost certain that

I’m almost certain that consumption, exposure to consumption and mass marketing feeds and strengthens this notion of “ethnic”- which is clearly not the default, the standard, and the “normal”=white.

Absolutely! I've found that the term 'ethnic' is also sometimes used when people want to include non-normative or immigrant white groups in the set of people they are comparing with 'normal' American-born whites. So, for example, Russians and other recent Eastern European immigrants are 'ethnic' but white.

This is an interesting distinction in Pittsburgh, which experienced its biggest wave of immigration during the industrial boom in the late 19th century. Immigrant groups, most of which were white, were differentiated and often discriminated against: Irish, Italians, Pole, Slovaks etc. The neighborhoods and social clubs still exist today, although a new wave of immigration is bringing Indians, Mexicans and Vietnamese, among others, and changing the old ethnic boundaries.

And really, there are distinctions between whites that people make. Like, “white ni#$%$” which was used against the Irish and Italians in the US. Or, “white trash.”

Totally. I'm living right now in a Philadelphia neighborhood that's mostly Irish Catholic and known for being 'tough'. There's a distinct culture there that's ridiculed in most of the rest of Philly. And yes, 'white trash' is a big deal-- in my town (outside Pgh) it was 'trailer trash'. Also, a lot of the poor whites who get classified as 'white trash' get that label because of their association with African American culture, or with actual African Americans. Dating a black man or identifying with hip-hop culture at all would have gotten you that label, although it looks like things are finally starting to change...

That is why it’s important to look at both socio-economic status, race, gender, and everything else when we think about these issues: racism, “ethnicizing” people, the definition of “normal” and “average”, poverty, and so on.

Right on. It's so complex, and I think you've hit on a less-discussed aspect of it in this post. (Although there are now some academic 'whiteness studies' programs that look at these issues...)

There's a book my husband really enjoyed, although I haven't read it yet... How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev.

You should also try The Wages

You should also try The Wages of Whiteness by David Roediger. I only read a little of Ignatieff (liteerally a page or two) but I preferred Roediger.

I did read Roediger a while

I did read Roediger a while back, actually, during my aborted semester of grad school. It's an interesting book, but I disagree with his contention that white workers ultimately benefit from racism. There's validity to the idea of the 'psychological wage' accorded to white workers-- the idea that racism gives white workers a feeling of superiority-- but I don't think that's ultimately a benefit, because it's hollow, and it only masks the real economic costs of racism to white workers. I'm not arguing that working class people of color aren't more oppressed-- they are, no question. But I think Roediger largely frames the argument in moral terms without looking at the larger political-economic picture, in which racism functions as a tool to divide and conquer workers of all races. (But then, I'm a Marxist...) Definitely worth reading if you're interested in these questions, though!

I did read Roediger a while

I did read Roediger a while back, actually, during my aborted semester of grad school. It’s an interesting book, but I disagree with his contention that white workers ultimately benefit from racism. There’s validity to the idea of the ‘psychological wage’ accorded to white workers– the idea that racism gives white workers a feeling of superiority– but I don’t think that’s ultimately a benefit, because it’s hollow, and it only masks the real economic costs of racism to white workers. I’m not arguing that working class people of color aren’t more oppressed– they are, no question. But I think Roediger largely frames the argument in moral terms without looking at the larger political-economic picture, in which racism functions as a tool to divide and conquer workers of all races. (But then, I’m a Marxist…) Definitely worth reading if you’re interested in these questions, though!

Well the subtitle of the book is something like "Race and the Making of the American Working Class" so it needs to be read as a historical work. There are contemporary analyses that switch the tool of division from race to immigration status that would probably be more compelling.

As for whether it's ultimately more beneficial for a group of slightly better off workers to side with the elite rather than other working class people or poor people--well it's really arguable isn't it? That's the essence of the liberal state--take care of our own, get their consent (tacit or overt), and do whatever the f@#k we want outside.

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