by the Racialicious Team
I know we want to keep this a light affair–the readers will damn near eulogize Carmen in the comments (“She’s leaving the anti-racism biz, not the mortal coil, y’all!”)–I’m still a bit verklempt about her going. Just had to say that…
With that said, I think we should add some of our favorite Carmen clips, like when she looked like she was gonna beat that newscaster’s ass for coming out his mouth wrong. But, of course, CNN didn’t leave that one up. Can anyone get access to it? I’ve tried Google, no luck.*
Or this one of Carmen explaining why the Spanish basketball teams making Miley Eyes is racist:
Or her explaining the myths and realities of interracial relationships:
Or her breaking down myths about Asian Americans:
It’s hard to imagine Racialicious without you, especially considering all the hard work and dedication you put forth to make it what it has become under your guidance. As I mentioned in my goodbye letter to what I affectionately called “The R,” you are the reason I ended up writing for Racialicious in the first place. After having met you at your NYU presentation on race in the media, I was fully inspired to really begin to channel all the thoughts in my head about race onto the page, and fortunately you recognized that helped nurture that interest. Though you will be moving on and continuing your work at Urban Dojo and as a devoted mom, I am more than certain that you will continue to inspire others along this new path. You will be missed at Racialicious, but your legacy will live on through the passionate contributors that are at the helm of this site and the countless others whom I am sure count Racialicious as their stepping stone for discussing, seriously considering, and writing about race as we know it. Best of luck in your new pursuits!
I want to just say a thank-you to Carmen for pulling me into the Racialicious fold. It’s sometimes a bumpy road for Middle Eastern and Muslim writers on Racialicious, but her inclusiveness and bravery in including us in the discussions is appreciated, and is part of what makes the site great. Much love to you, Carmen.
The thing about Carmen that always impressed me was her finesse. The issues we talk about seem to raise people’s hackles instantly, but here’s Carmen taking it into peoples’ boardrooms, to CNN, to online radio, and to this space, and she made it seem almost … elementary. I’m thankful to her for helping me in my journey on this site, and for the chance to inherit at least part of the mission she developed.
That said, Keanu is dead. Long live Cho!
Thanks to Carmen there is only one website on the worldwide web that I feel comfortable writing and truly supported – which is Racialicious.
Carmen, thanks for being a pioneer on the World Wide Web for race relations. With your work on Racialicious, Anti-Racist Parent and New Demographic, you helped to break down the persistent racial issues facing the country over the past several decades. And the fact that you love Keanu makes you all the more admirable in my book! From one Keanu fan to another, good luck to you in all of your endeavors.
When I started reading Mixed Media Watch/Racialicious in 2006, I marvelled at this Carmen Van Kerckhove person. Who was this woman, and how was she so cool? Carmen was like the digital representation of everything I wanted to be as an anti-racist writer. Then, when I finally got to meet Carmen in the flesh two years later, I couldn’t believe it when she hugged me and said how excited she was to meet me. (And then I almost fell out of my chair when Latoya asked me to join Racialicious, but that’s another story) I think what is most special about Carmen is not her mind-boggling social media skills, or her concise, sharp and seemingly effortless critiques of race and pop culture, (and these are mighty powers) but how she manages to stay so affectionate and enthusiastic as a person throughout. We will miss you Carmen, and we are proud to carry on the work you started – both its super-smarts and its warmth.
It’s rare that one email can change your life. Four years ago, pissed off and isolated in a small, all white town as part of a work assignment, I googled something about race and stumbled upon the Addicted to Race podcast. I quickly fell in love with segments like racial spy and enjoyed frank, interesting conversations about the state of race in America. Over time, ATR became part of my regular listening. I even bought a hot-pink ATR tee-shirt, which I wore proudly (and alienated some co-workers with, but that’s the story for another day.) As a regular listener, it was a bit amusing to listen to Carmen and Jen struggle to talk about the struggles of black women. After one episode filled with “I thinks” and “maybe black women might feels,” I shot off an email basically saying that if she was struggling writing about black women, there were resources she could tap. Carmen responded to the email, and asked me to come on board as one of the first special correspondents to her revamped website, Racialicious.
And ever since then, my life has been kind of a whirlwind of chaos. But every step of the way was Carmen, smoothing out the path and keeping me close to the calmer eye of the storm. Over the years, I’ve watched her go through so much to do this kind of work. Anti-racism, like so many social justice initiatives, is difficult to maintain without burning out. I cringed watching Carmen being attacked, learning she had her own special section on a white supremacist site, watching as people dismissed her work time and time again for the crime of having a white last name, who she dates, what she looks like – anything but the actual ideas. A common sentiment was along the lines of “What does some little Asian girl know about race?” But Carmen is visionary, and her mission was always clear – that it was time for a new type of conversation about race, one that looked at a multitude of perspectives, that was inclusive but never apologetic, that focused on accessibility and conversation. And I was down with that mission.
But more than just vision, Carmen is a great friend. Kind of like the older sister you always wanted, Carmen was always there with a listening ear, a kind word, or a well placed “Dude, fuck that shit and stop worrying so much.” It was Carmen who pushed me to get my work published in some sort of paying media outlet. I still remember the “fight” we had over a piece, where she refused to publish it since she thought I should get paid for it, and I refused to send it out because I wanted to have it on Racialicious. It is because of Carmen that I am a paid, working writer, something I had never thought would be possible. Later, when she turned over the editing of the site to me, and let me put my own mark on Racialicious, adding new contributors and a different style, which was controversial at the time – but Carmen had nothing but faith. It was Carmen who pushed me to start speaking, to build my own identity outside of Racialicious, to figure out what I wanted and needed out of life. It was Carmen who talked me down from the ledge when I wanted to quit blogging for good after a piece I wrote became an online nightmare, and it was Carmen who ultimately blurred the lines of boss, mentor, and friend.
In many ways, Carmen was instrumental in leading and shaping the lives of young activists like myself and challenging us to be our personal best. So, I know how many of you are feeling right now.
When Carmen told me last year she was retiring from race, I was devastated. I felt like someone knocked the wind out of me. And my first response, in my head, was one of anger. How could you want to leave now, when we are so close? What about the book? What about the conference? What about all that cool new stuff you were doing for New Demographic? You just want to walk away from it all? Why would you throw everything we worked for away? But even before I could vocalize these thoughts, I already knew why. And in some ways, the path Carmen would choose became clearer and clearer with each day. It was just time. After eight solid years of work, fighting, and struggle on behalf of racial justice, she was choosing to make an exit. And to continue to ask for more, more, more would only mar what she has already accomplished.
Carmen blazed the trail.
And, to honor her work, it is time for us to continue onward.
Even if our eyes are still filled with tears.
*Latoya’s note: The situation Andrea refers to above is when Carmen was on CNN in the middle of the day, on a segment hosted by Don Lemon. Carmen tried to reframe the conversation away from “Did Jesse Jackson get a pass for using the N-word because he’s black” and talk about the broader racial issues at play. However, Lemon was having none of this and pressed with “Did he get a pass? Did he get a pass?” Since Carmen wasn’t playing that game, she was cut from the rest of the segment, hovering silently in her little box. Awesome. This is why we need a Racialicious TiVo.