On Race, Networks, and Access

by Latoya Peterson

Okay, a little over my self-imposed posting limit for today but I wanted to get this out while all the ideas were fresh in my mind.

In the wee hours of the morning on Monday, a friend of mine dropped me an email. She asked if I could make it to a meeting that day to talk about communications for the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Now, this friend has taught me more than I ever thought I could know about national security tactics, nation building, underground democracy movements, and back room deals in Washington. At this point, when she says “Hey, you should check this out,” I mentally prepare myself to take the red pill and fall down the rabbit hole.

So she said “Show up at 4 at this Congressional Building” and I told my job I had to take off early. I arrived at 4:15 and entered a room, and quickly realized:

    1. I was one of a handful of people of color.
    2. That most of these people knew each other, and were bloggers, congressional employees/aides, or think tank employees.
    3. That what we were talking about was how to shape the messages that made it to the Congressional floor.

Specifically, the discussion revolved around engaging and shutting down the messages from the right – think George F. Will’s misinformation on global warming and John McCain’s tweets on the stimulus package - using the power of blogging to counteract these messages and harnessing other networks to mobilize the base.

So, by this time I’m going, “where’s everyone else?” Where’s Jack & Jill, Colorlines, ARC, Color of Change, and all the other anti-racist peeps that cover politics?

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is changing their messaging and plan of attack and we aren’t there. And why is that? It’s because we aren’t in the network.

When I raised this observation in the session, I was also surprised at the response. Refreshingly, there were no excuses made. The general attitude was “oh yeah, we want to do that too. We should reach out more.” After the meeting, there was a time for meet and greet where I spoke to quite a few other people who were also aware that the blogosphere was segregated and it would take more than a couple of casual emails to right this.

We talked a little about strategy and part of that will be getting people to communicate across networks. So that’s where you all come in.

What bloggers do you think would be interested in being a part of this conversation? I have some folks on my to contact list, but I wanted to throw this one out to the room and see who you all are reading for political coverage.

And also, what experience have you had with race and networks? I know this is a common issue in the workplace and I am just wondering what people’s experiences were with being included or excluded in an office setting.