Letter from the Editrix

by Latoya Peterson

So, here we are. Another editor’s letter. And wow, how things have changed in such a short period of time. Since I have a lot to cover, I’m going to go into the semi-bad stuff first, then flow into the good, and then flow into what’s coming up.

(This is a long one, grab a snack…)

The Semi-bad

I will get everyone on the bus

Recent comments have prompted me to remind everyone that reads here that if your racial/ethnic group is not represented, I am working to fix that. If you want to volunteer, drop an email to team@racialicious.com and let me know what you want to do. In the meantime, I am following about 26 bloggers who I would eventually like to invite to write here. Some of them I am currently trying to entice over. Some you will start seeing more of in a few weeks. But I know that black and asian issues are overrepresented here, that Latin@/Native/Indigenous/South Asian perspectives are underrepresented. I know that queer perspectives (from all angles) are drastically underrepresented. I know that there are many different things we do not discuss enough (issues of ability, class, etc.)

So here’s something you’ve heard before: We’re working on it.

And here’s the follow up to that statement: It will be done. It will not be instant. And it may not be in the way that is expected. But hopefully, by the time this year is out, we will be up to about fifteen regular contributors and have a contributor network that is 100 strong. We already have six, and I am hoping to add two more very soon.

A note about the writers

This brings me to the *why* it is so difficult to find new, regular writers for this site. As you all look around Racialicious, you should notice something – aside from Carmen’s New Demographic pop-up, there are no ads here. No one is paid to contribute here. But what my correspondents are looking for is community. Which they find in the comments. A lot of the writers I like to approach initially write for Racialicious because they like the blog and our readers. Whether they choose to continue to contribute is really a function of the comments section.

Now, I work with writers to make sure that (1) the information they present is factual and correct, (2) easily understood, (3) accessible and engaging. They bring to the table their own experiences, ideas, and news from their communities. However, what no writer wants is to feel unfairly attacked.

The Memin Penguin thread got really ugly for those of us on the back end here. One of my writers was accused of not knowing anything about a subject, and making up a factual and well documented event. These kinds of accusations are easily dealt with, but they tend to make writers wary of covering something they see outside of their own community – even if their information is correct and they present a very honest take.

Another contributor was called “self-hating” though she was not even the author of the piece. That was unnecessary and uncalled for. I am not sure if that contributor even read that thread (and I am damn sure not bringing it to her attention) but I would be concerned that that person would no longer want to contribute here because of those kinds of comments.

Think I am overreacting?

The Interracial Dating series is four pieces short. There were four separate contributors I approached to handle pieces around very provocative topics of conversation and they turned down the opportunity. Why? Because they didn’t want to deal with people in the comments. And that bothers me because those are four conversations that we will not have. And since these pieces relied heavily on personal discussion and personal anecdote, they ultimately chose not to share.

Which is a pity, because so much of racial interaction happens between other people, in the conversations we have and how we relate to each other. If we can’t share these things, our conversation will be limited.

To illustrate this, let me go to a piece that I wrote way back when, where the comments made me re-evaluate how much I wanted to share here:

Race Preference or Race Fetish

In this piece, I explored a lot of different dimensions of preferences versus fetishes in sex and dating. In one example, I used the example of one of my good friends, who revealed to me he had a slave fetish. I asked him if this, subconsciously, was why he tended to prefer white women. Then I went on to another example.

The comments section for this one was interesting, as commenters had a lot of opinions on his proclivities.

They wanted to know why, what it meant, and what it means to harbor that kind of fetish. (For those of you interested, my friend actually came to the thread and responded close to the end, under the screenname Hedonism, starting at #59.)

Now, let me break it down a bit.

I was NOT offended by people being creeped out about a certain fetish. You are in your full rights to express that and everything isn’t for everyone.

I was NOT offended at people who wanted to explore the ideas around the fetish – how do you develop an urge for something like that? Why would you want to introduce that kind of racial dynamic into your bedroom? All good questions.

I WAS offended at the assumptions one or two commenters drew from two paragraph’s worth of text. One person even went so far as to say that my friend (who I have known for about a decade) is disgusting, sick, twisted, and should be put into a mental institution for what amounts to a fleeting sexual desire. Not only that, but it was obvious that *I* was mentally damaged for hanging out with such an individual, because she couldn’t possibly see how that wouldn’t work its way into every aspect of his life.

Now, hold the fuck up.

Number one, you can’t make these huge, major assumptions about someone else’s life or friendships based on one line of text. This is all, I, as the writer have chosen to show you. What aftermath happened, I may have chosen not to share. Maybe Toby got a white girl to beat him a couple times, and now has moved on to swing play. Maybe he and his white partner had a discussion where she revealed she could never be comfortable with that kind of play, and he respected her wishes. Maybe he joined the Mandingo circuit, and gets his rocks off that way. Who knows?

And two – how many of us know all of our friends sexual proclivities? I know what my two best friends like to do just because we talk like that. But I’m not digging up in everyone’s background. One of my friends might like to get pegged by his woman. One of my friends might like to get choked and spit on. But how the hell would I know – I’m the friend, a person who is not fucking them. What goes on behind closed bedroom doors is their business, not mine.

But the point is, I shared the story to illustrate a particular point, and someone focused on one part of the piece and ran whatever they thought the truth was.

Now, I am a little more blogosphere grizzled so I don’t really care anymore. (That’s why I am about to play the bad guy on the Interracial Dating posts – someone has got to bring that stuff up.) But I am cognizant of how things affect my writers because I remember being there. And I remember wanting to take a “break” from the blogosphere because of reactions like that which attacked my friends.

Wendi Muse went through something similar here. And she drastically reduced the number of her posts in the wake of that. I don’t want this to happen to the writers here, particularly the people who I am recruiting who are developing their voices.

Feel free to critically engage with any *ideas* put forth here. Just don’t attack the person, or make value judgments about their friends. And I will be watching for this. That’s not how we roll here.

Where are the men?

For those of you who missed it, there was an interesting comment from drispe on the Special Correspondents thread.

#

drispe wrote:

Is it just me, or is there a feminine slant here? The “staff” seems to get on without regular male contributors. Since you constantly examine race, I would think that both halves of the world’s population could get in on the act.

Posted 28 Jul 2008 at 2:39 pm ¶ (Edit)

#

Latoya Peterson wrote:

@drispe -

Yup, the feminine slant is intentional. I spent the entire weekend surrounded by the fabulous femmes of the Women’s Media Center and the stats for women on op-ed pages, television, in major positions within the media and in most of our chosen fields are abysmal.

It’s not even close to the kind of representation we should deserve – 3% of media higher ups are women, though we are 51% of the population. Women are more likely to be one time only contributors to talk panels, are only 8-15% of contributors to the op-ed section (even on WOMEN’S ISSUES, which are still dominated by male voices) and are still seen as optional, irrational, or shrill in most sections of the media, both new and legacy.

So, just like this is a predominantly PoC space, it will also remain a predominantly femme run space. While we have wonderful and talented men who comment here and contribute (did you forget about Luke Lee, Sewere, and Merq?) as well as blog buddies who we quote and cross post from, with things the way they are, I’m keeping it girly.

Now, let me ask you this – how many comments have you posted in predominantly male spaces asking where are all the women?

Posted 28 Jul 2008 at 2:48 pm ¶ (Edit)

#

drispe wrote:

Latoya,
Whatever Luke Lee, Sewere, and Merq might have contributed in the past isn’t evident in the home page’s available posts(going back several days). First impressions… I just find it ironic that people who would otherwise strive for diversity rein it in to right the wrongs they’ve suffered. It’s refreshing that you at least admit to it, though. During my regular visits to sites comprised of contributions by both genders, I don’t notice one outweighing the other. Sorry I can’t help with the “gotcha”.

Posted 28 Jul 2008 at 4:36 pm ¶ (Edit)

Latoya Peterson wrote:

@drispe -

First impressions… I just find it ironic that people who would otherwise strive for diversity rein it in to right the wrongs they’ve suffered.

You know, I hear that same argument about white writers on this site…

My answer is still the same, and best summed up in this statement from Resist Racism:

Sanctuary is not segregation.

In so many movements, women of color are marginalized. MoC and White Women tend to dominate the conversations. Black women are an afterthought. Women of color of other backgrounds are rarely mentioned at all, outside of a “victim of her culture” narrative.

I am not going to apologize for maintaining one space on the internet that will put us first.

On that note, that doesn’t mean that we will never explore men’s issues, just like that doesn’t mean I won’t post things written by whites. But men – and white folks – aren’t really hurting for a place where they are heard and respected.

It’s refreshing that you at least admit to it, though.

If it’s intentional, no reason not to cop to it.

During my regular visits to sites comprised of contributions by both genders, I don’t notice one outweighing the other. Sorry I can’t help with the “gotcha”.

I can’t help you either. I’ve edited out what I read and it generally comes from a PoC perspective, most of that is women dominated or collaborative group blog. So outside of Talking Points Memo and newsfeeds I don’t really go to spaces that would give me that kind of headache.

(Oh, along those lines, if anyone knows of a good female run hip-hop blog, let me know.)

Now, to make sure we are clear, once again, this does not mean we will refuse male contributors or men who want to help contribute. The more the merrier! But we are going to keep the emphasis here PoC and female.

(And I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out Marge Twain’s response: “I’m with drispe in that I find it extraordinary that you ladies appear to have a wildly popular blog here and you apparently have engineered some method of typing without the use of penises.”)

And now that that’s out of the way…

The Good

Email

I got through about 75 emails this weekend. I will be working through the week on it so I hope to get through the backlog of 600 before too long. If you sent me something, I saw it – it’s just lost in my inbox. Sit tight.

The Role of White Allies

I’ve gotten a few emails, and seen quite a bit of conversation popping off in the comments about the role of whites both here, on the Racialicious blog, and on a larger scale in the anti-racist movement. I am going to finish the allies series, and I already tapped two white people that I trust, who have dealt in often hostile PoC spaces, to offer up their opinions on being a successful ally. However, I am not sure of how the conversation is going to flow yet. Feel free to add questions/suggestions in the comments.

What’s Coming Up

Ask Racialicious : New advice column! All questions will be put to the panel of current contributors, and you will receive two or three different takes on your particular situation. The first one is set for next week.

The Role of the Sexual Correspondent: I tapped Andrea to be our Sexual correspondent because I found there were so many issues I wanted to delve into concerning race and sex. I watch a lot of provocative conversations on feminist blogs, but I rarely ever comment because they do not really take into consideration how it feels to be outside of current beauty standards, or how the “Art of Femme” (Octogalore is calling it sparkle) can, in some ways, be liberating or freeing. Obviously, we balance this analysis against our often overly sexualized images, and the conversation takes on a new dimension.

I also want to talk about sex work and women of color, build on Andrea’s first post about sexuality and authority, devote a whole series to preferences and how we form them, and have a good discussion on power dynamics and kryiarchy in interracial/intraracial/interethnic relationships. Again, any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

The Things We Do to Each Other: I am forming this series, about interracial, PoC-to-PoC interactions. Why isn’t there more unity between our groups? Why are we all so invested in this wheel of tyranny? How do pivotal events (like the riots in LA) play into different groups interpretations of history? And how do we deal with racist actions by other people of color?

The Things We Do to Ourselves: Second part of this series, specifically about intra-racial or intra-ethnic conflicts. Colorism factors large here, and I know its effects cross communities. Also looking at the black hair wars, Generation 1.5 versus “FOBs,” the penalties for acting outside of the boundaries set by your group.

Gender & Beauty: I am holding on this until after the Women of Color and Beauty carnival happens, but I’d love to continue to delve into this topic, particularly around representations of beauty.

Some Musings on Masculinity: I read an interesting line from Mark Anthony Neal, who mentioned that being a hip-hop feminist identified male “queers” you in all kinds of ways. Then I read PaulPortland and Joseph’s exchange on another thread about how ideas about gender and “proper” masculinity influence how MoCs interact with the world at a very early age. Add that to me finding a copy of bell hooks’ “The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love” for three bucks, and we have a new series. Not sure about the ETA on this one, perhaps early fall.

Outside of the Binary: Davonne from Gimme Sugar made comments about being “The Blackest Asian,” which reminded me of all the times my friends who were outside of the black/white binary in the US found themselves migrating to one extreme or another. I need to read some more Andrea Smith, but I’m contemplating this one.

The Random

Music

Angel H. tagged me with a meme a while back, asking for seven songs. But my mood changes quickly, so here are seven artists I’ve been spinning:

Nina Simone (To Be Young, Gifted and Black; Either Way I Lose, Near to You, If He Changed My Name, )

Esperanza Spalding (Ponta De Areia, She Got to You, Mela)

Esthero (Heaven Sent, If Tha Mood, OG Bitch)

Rhymefest (Build Me Up, Fever)

Nas (If I Ruled the World, The World is Yours)

Rachael Yamagata (I Wish You, Even So, Collide)

Murs (You & I, Dark Skinned White Girls)

And that’s it from me. Thanks for reading, add your questions/comments/complaints/suggestions as you will.

-LDP