Tag Archives: Peggy Seltzer

Lies, Damned Lies, and the Complicated Accounting of Identity [Counterpoint]

When I received Gyasi’s piece, I thought long and hard about how to respond.

His piece felt a bit like a slap – exactly how were we supposed to evaluate Queen Chief Warhorse’s credentials on the fly, especially after she had been vetted as a speaker by an organization intent on working locally with organizations that impact their communities? Why would we doubt her, just based on her face? I know it’s been quite a few years, but Racialicious started as a blog called Mixed Media Watch, which spent a lot of time exploring how phenotypes can be deceiving. It wasn’t so long ago that Addicted to Race boasted a “racial spy” section, which featured mixed race people recounting stories of receiving stereotypes intended for others. So we would never, ever question someone’s identity on phenotype alone. If we did that, we would have challenged Brandann for not looking properly Indian instead of just letting her tell her story.

However, Gyasi is correct – there are many, many people who have claimed to speak for Indian Country who have fabricated their identities, and we need to denounce those who would use an indigenous identity to seek profit for themselves. But are the answers so cut and dry to the point where they should be immediately obvious to all outside of the various nations? Over the years at Racialicious, we’ve come across many places in which someone’s heritage has been declared false. And each time, we try to figure out how to proceed. But the truth isn’t always easy to understand – and questions of identity are far more complicated than the Young Black Teenagers publicity stunt.

From Peggy Seltzer to Tinsel Corey, from Taylor Lautner to Cher, and from Princess Pale Moon to Andrea Smith, public proclamations of Native identity are often swiftly challenged and debated. So let’s examine the ones who made headlines, and then apply what we’ve learned to Queen Chief Warhorse. Continue reading

On the Gay Girl in Damascus Hoax and Filtering Our Stories Through a White Lens

by Latoya Peterson

Gay Girl in Damascus Revealed

When the news broke that the Gay Girl in Damascus blog was a hoax, I wanted to read a bit more about exactly what happened. The Washington Post notes:

And Sunday, the truth spilled out: The gay girl in Damascus confessed to being a 40-year-old American man from Georgia.

The persona Tom MacMaster built and cultivated for years — a lesbian who was half Syrian and half American — was a tantalizing Internet-era fiction, one that he used to bring attention to the human rights record of a country where media restrictions make traditional reporting almost impossible.

On Sunday, MacMaster apologized on the blog. “While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground,” he wrote. “I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.”

MacMaster, a Middle East peace activist who is working on his master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, wrote that he fictionalized the account of a gay woman in Syria to illuminate the situation for a Western audience.

Essentially, this MacMaster fellow is Peggy Seltzer for the Arab Spring. (And, insert plot twist – LezGetReal, the blog that encouraged “Amina” to tell “her” story was ALSO run by a white man claiming to be a deaf, lesbian, mother of two.)

But the why of this intrigues me. While news organizations are in a tizzy about what this means for using blogs as sources, what I want to know is how the media environment got so skewed that fictionalized accounts by white writers get more media attention than actual accounts by people of color? Continue reading