Creative Destruction

September 18, 2006

Bill Clinton Lunches With Whites. Also, Firedoglake sucks.

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 1:25 pm

Bill Clinton poses with bloggers

I’ve been mostly offline for the last several days, so I’m late in commenting on Bill Clinton’s lunch with some lefty bloggers at his Harlem office. Notice something missing from this photo?

Liza at CultureKitchen sure noticed:

What does it mean though that there are 20 bloggers invited to this lunch and not one is black or latino? What does it mean for this group of bloggers to be patting themselves on the backs for being with Clinton when they are all in Harlem and not one of them is a person of color? What does it mean for these people to be there and have not one of them raise this issue in their blogs?

Peter Daou, who organized the Clinton blogger lunch, responded:

Hi Liza – several bloggers were invited who couldn’t attend, including Oliver Willis (who you didn’t mention in your post). Also, I was told that more events like that are planned, and there will be an opportunity to invite bloggers who didn’t attend the first one.

So respectfully, you may have reached a conclusion without all the facts.

So Oliver Willis was invited, and (from what I’ve read elsewhere) Markos from Daily Kos was invited. Neither of them could make it, and – as far as I can tell – that was the sum total of any attempt to have racial diversity at this meeting. It’s hard to believe that racial diversity was a high priority when Daou put this lunch together.

Kai at Zuky wrote a great post about the gulf in viewpoints between the POC ((“POC” stands for “people of color.”)) bloggers who have, rightly, objected to the all-white Clintonpalooza, and the white liberals who are saying this is no big deal.

Here’s what I can make out, in the most generalized but hopefully clear terms (obviously, not all white liberals see things in similar terms and I certainly don’t speak for all people of color with this “POC perception” device, it’s just my way of explaining my view of constrasting perspectives):

Fact: The first Bill Clinton-blogger meeting was overwhelmingly attended by white bloggers.
White perception: An unfortunate coincidence.
POC perception: Hundreds of years of history and our own life experiences have taught us that racism often works its nefarious magic through seemingly benign cultural norms and all manner of fork-tongued mechanisms that lead to consistently one-sided representation and results.

Fact: This was only the first of many meetings.
White perception: Let’s not make too much of this one event. There will be plenty of occasions in the future to discuss your pet issue.
POC perception: Hundreds of years of history and our own life experiences have taught us that racism often works its nefarious magic through seemingly benign cultural norms and all manner of fork-tongued mechanisms that lead to consistently one-sided representation and results. […]

Fact: Oliver Willis was invited but couldn’t make it.
White perception: Organizers did their best to invite black folks this time and will do better next time.
POC perception: Oliver Willis is a great blogger who deserved the invite; but come on, is a single invitation really the outer limit of effort on a matter so central to the narrative of American history?

One difference that shows up here – and that frequently shows up in these discussions – is that (generalization alert! generalization alert!) POC bloggers focus on what actually happened, while white bloggers focus on establishing the purity of people’s hearts.

What happened is that there was a high-profile event in which a lot of liberal bloggers were honored with the chance to have lunch with one of the most influential Democrats in the country, and it was an all-white event. In the most literal sense, people of color were not at the table. That is what matters. Arguing that none of the organizers did it this way because they hate people of color isn’t a legitimate response; it’s missing the point. Inclusion is the point; the purity of white people’s hearts shouldn’t be the central issue here.

TalkLeft writes:

There should have been a greater attempt made to include minority bloggers. But I think it was unintentional. I will bet that when there’s another such event, and there will be, whether it’s by President Clinton or another Democrat, there will be a greater effort to include a more diverse group of bloggers.

(Notice how the subject suddenly becomes not the all-white event, but whether or not it was intentional? Another example of talking about what’s in people’s hearts instead of who’s given a seat at the table.)

I’m sure there will be a greater effort next time – but only because Liza, Kai, Bint, Zuzu, Terrance, Steve, Pam, Chris, and others are objecting to the lack of inclusion this time around. It is the complainers, not the folks who organize these lunches and other such events, who will make inclusion happen.

Unfortunately, a couple of white bloggers at Firedoglake (one of whom was at the Clinton luncheon) are determined to demonstrate how clueless and annoying white liberals can be when discussing racism. Christy Smith’s post explains that we shouldn’t talk about inclusion of people of color because it “misses the larger picture” and threatens “to take our eye off the real work.” I’m sure that all bloggers of color are grateful to have white liberal bloggers like Christy letting them know what’s in “the larger picture” and what “the real work” is; without her to correct them, they might mistakenly believe that inclusion is part of the the big picture, and is real work.

But Christy’s post is a NAACP meeting compared to her co-blogger T-Rex’s drivel. You see, in Liza’s post on Culture Kitchen, she crticized Jane (another Firedoglake blogger) for posting a racist blackface image and for lack of support for bloggers of color. ((I don’t know if that last criticism is accurate or not; Jane says she has been making efforts to include bloggers of color.)) T-Rex responded by literally telling Liza not to insult her betters:

So, Liza, dear, before you go assailing your betters and making Jane stand in for every blond white woman who ever pissed you off, maybe you should head back to eighth grade English and, you know, learn to spell and to write in a linear fashion. Although judging from your other posts that I read, mediocrity may be a chronic condition for you.

T-Rex later demonstrated that he’s a liar or an idiot by claiming to not have known that slapping down a woman of color for criticizing the race politics of her “betters” might be construed as having “racial baggage.” (By the way, Liza’s post was well-written and organized; all that fuss about “eighth grade English” appears to be because Liza misspelled the word “privileged.” I’m sure no blogger on Firedoglake has ever misspelled a word.)

I’m obviously bothered by the racism of T-Rex’s response, and I’m not the only one: check out Nanette‘s comment at TalkLeft, Brownfemipower (whose post is a must-read), and Zuzu, for starters. There’s too much good commentary for me to quote it all, but here’s a few brief bits. From Brownfemipower:

the tone of this post (and other posts that it mimics) reflects a passionate racism within the blogosphere that is quite disturbing. the internet is the driving tool of communication these days, all of us know that. who gets listened to and who doesn’t is not only reflective of the racism in the real world, but is also instrumental in continuing the silencing of “problematic” communities (i.e. communities that don’t buy/challenge structural propaganda). does it really mean absolutly nothing that clinton had an all-white luncheon? no, let’s unpack that ambigous language. does it really mean absolutly nothing that a former head of a racist imperialist nation/state had a luncheon with a an all-white group of people who control the “new frontier” of media?

In Brownfemipower’s comments, La Lubu writes:

This isn’t just about who was or who wasn’t invited anymore. All the references you’ll find referring to this as a “tempest-in-a-teapot” on white so-called progressive blogs speaks to the larger issue—”sit down and pour yourself a hot, steaming cup of shut-the-fuck-up. You wanna ride this bus? Go sit in the back.”

This comment at My Private Casbah, about the “some of my best friends are…!” defense T-Rex employed, deserves to be widely quoted:

To any and all people who do not identify themselves as people of color:
I beg of you, please, if you have any sense of decency, do not shame those black people that you call friends by making these sort of statements. There are few things worse than being with one of your melanin-inhibited buddies and having them do this to some random person of color. The person will likely view you as just another clueless white person but they’ll look at us, your friends, as the idiots since we evidently thought you were savvy enough to know why these statements and behaviors are so problematic.

For those readers who don’t know, Firedoglake is one of the most popular blogs on the planet; one disturbing thing about this is their obvious belief that their high hit count makes them better than Liza. ((Culture Kitchen is actually one of the most popular progressive blogs in existence. Not as big as the mega-blogs like Kos and Firedoglake, but I’d guess it’s in the top 1 or 2 percent of blogs, measured by readership.)) T-Rex writes “See, Liza’s pissed because nobody invited her to lunch with Big Dog. But, instead of coming right out and saying that, she’s seizing on this opportunity to try and generate herself some publicity by insinuating that there’s some kind of racist agenda at work.” And later, he writes “She wanted attention. Well, here’s some goddamn motherfucking attention.” Then Jane Hamsher (another Firedoglake blogger) said in comments: “[Liza’s] exploitation of a very real problem for personal gain is quite shameless.”

Needless to say, nothing Liza wrote supports the malicious claims that she’s an insincere publicity-hound. It’s seemingly inconceivable to Jane and T-Rex that Liza might be criticizing them because Liza sincerely believes that they screwed up.

There’s also a not-very-hidden bullying aspect to this; a smarmy “we’re a big blog, you peasant shits can’t criticize us” attitude. For instance, in the comments of Liza’s post, T-Rex announced his intention to attack Liza from Firedoglake by announcing “I’m going to make you a star.” (I’m not saying that big bloggers can’t critique small bloggers; but they should do it without the smary self-importance and the bullying attitude). And Terrance noticed that shortly after criticizing Firedoglake, he’s no longer on their blogroll. Similarly, Liza has been removed from the Kos blogroll.

One of the things Terrance points out in this excellent post is that the lefty blogosphere has “gatekeepers,” even though the gatekeepers themselves tend to deny this aspect to what they do. But the way that Kos and Firedoglake use de-linkings shows that at some level, they’re perfectly aware of their gatekeeping power, and they try to use it to punish their critics.

Frankly, the feminist in me is pleased that one of the mega-blogs is run by women ((At least, I think Jane and Christy run it, but I might be wrong about that, I don’t read FDL often.)) and (to their credit) includes a diverse bunch of bloggers. Which makes it even more of a shame that they’ve turned into whiny, clueless, racism-denying idiots the moment they’re criticized by a person of color. That this kind of behavior is acceptable on one of the most prominent progressive blogs in the world does the progressives, and the blogosphere, no credit.

UPDATE: More posts on this subject: Pen-Elayne (I recommend Donna’s posts in the comments, too), Ang’s Weird Ideas, and K/O. From K/O’s post:

With or without a lone African-American, the face of the Democratic Party does not look like that picture. Every single last one of us on the blogs knows it. We can’t be the party to take on Senator George Allen for his racial slurs one day and then ignore our own hypcrisy the next. It may well be, as we learned at Yearlykos, that the liberal blogosphere is significantly more white than the Democratic Party at large. Our response to that challenge should not be to shrug it off. Our job, in fact, is to address it.

Edited to add: Belle at Crooked Timber has a good post on this subject, too. (And I’m sure dozens of others that I’ve missed.)

UPDATE: It turns out the bit about Terrance being removed from Firedoglake’s blogroll was not true. I apologize to FDL for my part in spreading that rumor.

[Crossposted at Creative Destruction. If your comments aren’t being approved here, try there.]

Advertisements

38 Comments »

  1. OK, well first: ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ahem. Sorry about that. Couldn’t help it. (You can laugh at us conservatives the next time we step in it, no charge.)

    Second, and more substantively:

    Why should any Democratic political figure waste their time with black bloggers? (Latinos are another story.)

    Nothing against the black members of the blogosphere – but black people have, through their own political choices, made themselves politically neuter. By refusing to vote for conservatives under any circumstances, they make it unnecessary for liberals to court them. Liberals, being rational creatures, instead spend their energies courting people whose votes are not already in the bag.

    In this case, that would seem to be white progressives and other people on the hard left, whose votes are not Democratic locks. Having ceded the center to the Republicans, Democrats really have no choice but to push left and try to pick up the votes that they’re losing to Nader and his ilk. And black people, and black bloggers, by and large are no help with that – other than providing the racial cover that white progressives need in order to feel all Kumbaya-ish about things. Real engagement with the black blogosphere would just stir things up, and make progressives uncomfortable with the racism they’re carrying around – and none of that gets people to the polls. (This whole incident, in my view, pretty much makes laughable the common progressive self-smugness about how laudably non-racist they and their movement is.)

    Inviting a couple of tokens is usually sufficient to cover the Kumbaya need. Too bad the tokens couldn’t materialize (they should have picked someone other than Kos, who is probably pretty busy), but ah well.

    Comment by Robert — September 18, 2006 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  2. Hmm. When I read blogs, I am generally quite unaware of the blogger’s ethnicity. Oliver Willis is, of course, the exception that proves the rule, since his photograph is featured quite prominently on his site. Nevertheless, it sounds as though Willis was invited, but chose not to attend.

    I look at the photo above and I don’t recognize a single soul (except, of course, for WJC) even though many (most?) of those assembled are bloggers whom I read with some regularity. Can Peter Daou fairly be expected to have known the ethnicities of all the bloggers on the invitation list?

    Also, I question Liza’s observation that of those bloggers in the photo “..not one is black or latino.” Is that so obvious? I don’t see any African-Americans present, true, but I see a number of faces that could quite possibly be Latino.

    I’m willing to believe that no Latinos were present, but I do wonder how one can conclude that just by looking at the above photograph. Maybe I’m just missing something.

    I do tend to believe, however, that the DNC/blogosphere nexis comprises a somewhat WASPier cross-section of the party than its general membership, and maybe what we’re seeing here is in part a consequence of that reality?

    Comment by bazzer — September 18, 2006 @ 2:05 pm | Reply

  3. The lesson garnered from these “angry” “black” “feminist” blogs is that Whites should openly agitate specifically for their own interests or else look bigoted. Why bother? Racist if you do, racist if you don’t.

    Should the demographic have been 68 percent white, 13 percent latino, 11 percent black and an asian and a jew or would they still be complaining that would not reflect the “multicultural future of America”?

    Multicultural America = white demise, whites, even liberal “progressive” whites aren’t going to let that happen; by Thor’s Hammer and modern day Viking raids, they ain’t.

    Standing up for white blue collar people in the face of the enablers of jewish vampires in the BushCongress isn’t progressive; whites need to die. Hey Latino, Hey negro, if you really wish whites to die the quickest way possible, VOTE ISRAELI-FIRST REPUBLICAN.

    Comment by Heathenist — September 18, 2006 @ 8:14 pm | Reply

  4. To take a phrase from Kanye West, Bill Clinton doesn’t care about black people, and the real question is “why should he care?”

    I’m a black person and I am tired of leftists expressing the sentiment that when white people get together to talk about things that are important to other white people they should invite black people. I don’t want to be the black person sitting at the table for no other reason that the fact that the good white people invited me because they don’t want to look racist. Who cares whether or not a particular black person had anything substantive to add to the conversation, we just need a black person, and any black person will do.

    Tokenism is racism. In fact I would say that any white person who feels like they need a black person sitting next to them so that they don’t appear racist is even more of a racist than the person who simply didn’t notice that no black people were present.

    For future reference, I don’t want to be the black person that gets invited to events because you needed a black person that day and Oliver Willis was busy. I don’t want to be the black person that you invited somewhere just so that you could have a speck of brown in your pictures so that you wouldn’t appear racist.

    Thanks but no thanks. I’m sure your heart is in the right place but the execution is all wrong.

    Comment by SBW — September 18, 2006 @ 11:09 pm | Reply

  5. T-Rex sure sounds like a jerk. But honestly, I can’t tell from what’s quoted here that he’s a racist jerk. His remarks read like run-of-the-mill flaming to me.

    Allegedly T-Rex has a lot of readers (although I admit that I can’t recall hearing of him or his web site before this discussion). So maybe T-Rex’s popularity somehow makes this flame-war into something more, but I’m not sure it makes it into something racist. Does he reserve his jerkiness exclusively for people of color or something?

    Comment by nobody.really — September 19, 2006 @ 2:40 am | Reply

  6. nobody.really, It’s the choice of words, “your betters”, it’s a racist code for – shut up and get to the back of the bus. It’s also the choice to call her on spelling and syntax errors. Insinuating that she is illiterate, uneducated, dumber than white folks. He should have stuck to rebutting her points, especially in this context. There are alot of white people who make spelling and grammar errors all over the blogs every day, but no one goes out of their way to point it out, just the people of color have to be perfect or they are stupid. It’s like the macaca issue, if Allen had just gotten angry about the oppo research without throwing racial slurs in there, there wouldn’t have been an uproar. And now it’s like Allen saying that macaca is just a made up word, not really calling him a monkey (macaque). TRex a southern boy from Georgia, is saying he didn’t realize that telling a black to mind her “betters” isn’t racist code. Suuuuuuure.

    SBW, it shouldn’t be about having a token at the table. It should have been about having diverse opinions there. People keep saying that they only had the most highly trafficked sites represented, well considering that blogs that represent minority views probably won’t be highly trafficked due to their choice of topics (face it, whites really aren’t interested in topics that do not represent their issues, anymore than blacks or latinos are interested in topics that do not represent theirs), but they will be highly trafficked in proportion to minorities. I’m assuming that Bill Clinton or any other politician wants to reach both constituencies. Therefore it simply makes sense to include the most highly trafficked minority blogger(s). A real seat at the table, not token, a real hearing on the issues, not being a speck in a sea of white.

    Now it will appear reactive instead of proactive when they have the next blogger meet up, if they have another. It will appear that any minority there is a token. “We didn’t care about your opinion before. But since the dust up we’re trying to make it LOOK good, but we still actually don’t care about your opinion.” I don’t have a blog, but if I did, as a minority woman, I would decline the invitation because of this.

    Comment by Donna — September 19, 2006 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

  7. To be sure, I cannot recall seeing anyone using the phrase “your betters” on the web before. But flame wars regularly involve A telling B to defer to A’s superior knowledge or credentials or status. That seems pretty common to me, and not especially indicative of racial animus.

    And as a bad speller, I can assure you that flamers have no aversion to drawing attention to my unfortunate habits. I’m thrilled with the web’s general norm against picking on spelling errors – and I thank both Daran and Tuomas for their patience with my typos – but I note that this norm is honored in the breach as much as in the practice.

    Now, I had wanted to avoid getting personal, Donna, but I couldn’t help but notice the glaring lack of spelling and syntactical errors in your post. Thus I think I speak with greater authority than you about the reception bad spellers receive on the web. You need to defer to your worsers on this point. 🙂

    Comment by nobody.really — September 19, 2006 @ 2:36 pm | Reply

  8. FWIW Markos of Daily Kos fame is Latino and was at the event.

    The thrust of the point still stands, but if one is going to engage in that kind of head counting, one ought to, at least, get it right.

    Comment by ohwilleke — September 19, 2006 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  9. I agree with SBW. The notion that minorities must be included is still tokenism. There are times when issues that interest minorities have no relevance on the issues a particular group of whites wish to discuss. To then include minorities for the sake of diversity appears far more racist than their absence. It is unfortunate that we have reached a point where one must extend this perfunctory gesture to avoid being labeled “racist,” but that demonstrates just how empty the gesture is.

    Comment by toysoldier — September 19, 2006 @ 2:45 pm | Reply

  10. Kos was not there. He was invited, but did not attend.

    Comment by Robert — September 19, 2006 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  11. Why should any Democratic political figure waste their time with black bloggers? (Latinos are another story.)

    Nothing against the black members of the blogosphere – but black people have, through their own political choices, made themselves politically neuter. By refusing to vote for conservatives under any circumstances, they make it unnecessary for liberals to court them. Liberals, being rational creatures, instead spend their energies courting people whose votes are not already in the bag.

    It’s worth courting black votes, from a strictly numbers point of view, because the extent of black voter turnout can easily be the margin of victory in a close election. Both a dispirited, “why bother” black electorate and an energized, excited black electorate will vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, but it seems plausible that the latter will do so in greater overall numbers.

    Having ceded the center to the Republicans…

    This sounds more like Republican triumphalism than like a meaningful statement. How is “the center” defined, how is it measured, and in what way has it been ceded?

    In practice, the electorate seems split fairly close to 50/50, in terms of voting patterns, and is often closer to the Democrats than the Republicans on surveys of opinions about particular issues.

    Comment by Ampersand — September 19, 2006 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

  12. T-Rex sure sounds like a jerk. But honestly, I can’t tell from what’s quoted here that he’s a racist jerk. His remarks read like run-of-the-mill flaming to me.

    The issue shouldn’t be boiled down to “is TRex a racist?”; in fact, I explicitly argued against that kind of framing in my post. Even if he’s a non-racist who just had a bad day and said some things that will strike a lot of POC as questionable at best, that’s still a legitimate area of concern.

    Nobody Really, I think Belle at Crooked Timber has it right:

    When a black woman is asking a legitimate question about why minority bloggers are absent from a blogger meet-up in Harlem, and you turn around with a lot of complaints about her writing and reasoning ability, there most definitely is a subtext: you’re too stupid to write properly, and that’s why no one who looks like you was at this meeting. You’re not good enough. Don’t assail your betters. […]

    I’m not saying “no one should ever criticize women or minorities for their bad grammar—they can’t help it, the poor dears!” I’m saying, think a little about what’s coming out of your mouth. or cursor. there’s a wide world of bitchery out there that doesn’t make you look (inadvertently, all unknowing) like a racist asshole. it’s fine for TRex to say, “jealous much!” or “get over yourself” or “FYI people did make an effort but plans fell through” or whatever else. and when Liza’s making some other, unrelated point he disagrees with, he can perfectly well go grammar nazi. no one can deny this came out badly, though. if you can easily imagine a sexist, racist jerk looking over your shoulder and saying, “yeah, you put that little bitch back in her place! right on!” then probably things have gone a little wrong for you somewhere, no?

    Comment by Ampersand — September 19, 2006 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

  13. How is “the center” defined, how is it measured, and in what way has it been ceded?

    Because we’re at war, Joe Lieberman is the center. (If it was peacetime, he’d be mildly center-right. Everything shifts conservative in wartime.) By repudiating him in the primary election, Democrats have established a boundary marker beyond which no viable candidate may venture – and that boundary marker is around the midway point of the right-left spectrum.

    I am sure you will disagree with that, and will say that Lieberman is right or hard right. But you’re wrong. (So there!)

    Both a dispirited, “why bother” black electorate and an energized, excited black electorate will vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, but it seems plausible that the latter will do so in greater overall numbers.

    But an excited black electorate is usually going to be excited because of policy promises being made which alienate the bulk of white voters, ending up with a strong net loss of votes. The Democrats are usually best off wtih a dispirited, “why bother” black electorate which will turn out some safe votes without costing them support in the larger demographic groups.

    (You could get an excited black electorate without alienating whitey by running the right black candidate, of course, but in presidential terms that doesn’t seem likely this time around so I’m discounting the possibility.)

    Comment by Robert — September 19, 2006 @ 6:04 pm | Reply

  14. I’m a black person and I am tired of leftists expressing the sentiment that when white people get together to talk about things that are important to other white people they should invite black people.

    I disagree with the implication that a meeting of progressive bloggers should be, or must be, “white people get[ting] together to talk about things that are important to other white people.” There are plenty of non-white progressive bloggers, so there doesn’t seem any reason to assume that a meeting of progressive bloggers is of interest only to white people.

    Fundamentally, I disagree that thinking that people other than white people have relevant opinions can fairly be described as tokenism.

    You and Robert are both assuming that because people object to the total lack of bloggers of color, the critics therefore must favor tokenism. However, this is a false dichotomy; there are possibilities available other than “whites only” and “tokenism,” which should be explored.

    Comment by Ampersand — September 19, 2006 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

  15. You could get an excited black electorate without alienating whitey by running the right black candidate, of course, but in presidential terms that doesn’t seem likely this time around so I’m discounting the possibility.

    In the context of a discussion involving Bill Clinton, the idea that only a black candidate could excite the black electorate while not alienating whitey seems like a particularly egregious example of ignoring how things have happened in reality.

    Edited to add: In any case, you’ve now backed down substantively from your original point. You’re no longer saying that there is no possible benefit to Dems of worrying about what most black voters think; you’re now saying that there is a benefit, but it might not be a net benefit due to mitigating factors. But of course, except among a minority of especially virulent racists – most of whom are probably not Democrats – most whites don’t choose who to vote for based solely on this question.

    Comment by Ampersand — September 19, 2006 @ 6:14 pm | Reply

  16. Because we’re at war, Joe Lieberman is the center.

    Haven’t polls shown that most Americans are against the way the war is being run by the Bush administration? What does “the center” mean if “the center” is in opposition to the majority viewpoint?

    As for where Lieberman stands, that’s been argued to death and back again, and I’m fully prepared to let the subject drop. Suffice it to say that if that’s the best defense of your argument that you can muster, then I’m not persuaded.

    Comment by Ampersand — September 19, 2006 @ 6:21 pm | Reply

  17. Good. If you were persuaded, you would change your behavior to a course of action more likely to result in you getting what you want.

    Comment by Robert — September 19, 2006 @ 7:21 pm | Reply

  18. I disagree with the implication that a meeting of progressive bloggers should be, or must be, “white people get[ting] together to talk about things that are important to other white people.”

    I wasn’t trying to imply that a meeting of progressive bloggers must be a group of white people getting together to talk about issues solely of importance to white people. The point I was trying to make was that for a meeting of progressive bloggers to be complete, a black person does not necessarily have to be present if there was nothing that they would have added to the conversation.

    I don’t think that a meeting of progressive bloggers is only of interest to white people, the term “progressive” is a broad one and it may or may not include so-called black issues.

    If there was a real concern with making sure that all varieties of progressives were present then I’m sure that there are plenty of other bloggers that they could have invited like you said. But they didn’t bother to do so, so I have to assume that they didn’t feel that having POC was that important to their discussion.

    Fundamentally, I disagree that thinking that people other than white people have relevant opinions can fairly be described as tokenism.

    I agree with you. What I’m trying to say is that having a non-white person present for no other reason than the fact that it would “look better” for a non-white person to be in attendence is tokenism.From your post you admit that there wasn’t any grand attempt to invite non-white bloggers in the first place.

    You and Robert are both assuming that because people object to the total lack of bloggers of color, the critics therefore must favor tokenism. However, this is a false dichotomy; there are possibilities available other than “whites only” and “tokenism,” which should be explored.

    I’m not assuming that because there are people that object to the lack of color at the luncheon that they are advocating tokenism. I’m saying that everytime a group of white people get together (whether they be progressives or not) if an honest attempt was made to include POC who turned out to not be able to attend then that’s all that can be asked for.

    Comment by SBW — September 19, 2006 @ 8:34 pm | Reply

  19. Inclusion is the point; the purity of white people’s hearts shouldn’t be the central issue here.

    So, I’m going to assume you apply that standard to the Bush administration, then?
    (I think both count, but that’s not the point.)

    It’s not like there’s a dearth of POC in the Bush administration or appointments, but for some reason, those POC don’t count from the left’s perspective. They’re “tokens” or “Uncle Toms.” Nevermind the inclusion.

    See, you can’t have it both ways. For the record, I don’t see racism at all with Bush, and you sure can’t say he’s only a white man’s man.

    I also think FDL sucks, because they defend the “betters” and “eighth grade” drivel as being completely innocent and unintentional, yet vilify George Allen as some kind of crazy racist because he made a smart-assed crack to a paid pain-in-the-ass. They can’t have it both ways, either. If Allen’s a racist, then TRex is too. If TRex isn’t, then neither is Allen if “macaca” is the evidence for his alleged racism. (And for the record, I don’t think either DID mean anything racist by their remarks–I think it’s more a case of their being white making them not even understand the impact their words might have. Of course, it’s true that the only people I saw angry about Allen saying “macaca” were partisan whites, too.

    I’m really, REALLY tired of whites using race as a weapon against opponents. It’s not only disingenuous and dishonest, it’s really stupid, bordering on maliciously stupid.

    I don’t question your “purity of heart” with regard to race, Ampersand. Not in the least. I’m just saying you shouldn’t be so quick to question your political opponents’ “purity” when they’re essentially speaking the same language and/or ARE, in fact, being quite pleasantly inclusive (whether it’s intentional or not–I personally don’t see any of the Bush POCs as “tokens”).

    That’s all.

    Comment by bc — September 20, 2006 @ 12:30 am | Reply

  20. nobody.really, “your betters” is racist code going back to slave days in the US and actually much longer if you look at England. A member of the aristocracy would use it when speaking to a servant or even commoner who dared to challenge him. So it is considered racist here, but classist? perhaps there. I doubt it is commonly used on the internet, but you can believe that a southern boy would know it’s meaning, or should, just like macaca.

    Kos wasn’t there, but he was invited. Oliver Willis was also invited but went to Hawaii instead. (I’d rather go to Hawaii too!) This should not have been the extent of Peter Daou’s outreach. He was hired by Hillary Clinton because he is an influential blogger with connections. He is a networker who goes to conferences and meetings etc. He would likely know the race of many of the bloggers. It’s not like the average commenter or smaller bloggers who stick to anonymity behind the screen.

    Even so, I think this would have died down quickly if Daou headed it off at the pass and made a post about the meeting, he could have explained that it was thrown together rather quickly, that ironically it was held in Harlem and though attempts were made to invite POC they were unable to attend, and that there would be further meetings with more bloggers in the future. There never would have been the “something wrong with this picture” posts, and most everyone would have given the benefit of the doubt.

    It appears that either it was hoped no one would notice or remark on it, or that no one in the entire group even noticed. Meeting…in Harlem…lunching…on soul food…I dunno seems to be someone would have noticed the irony of the situation?

    I also think that if this was Clinton meeting with his favorite bloggers as a private citizen the reaction would be different, but from the posts I’ve seen on the internet it wasn’t. It was about outreach and coordinating messaging, the type of thing that was going on during ABC’s Path to 9/11, where the blogs, the Democrats, and liberal media were all syncronized.

    That’s why it should include a diverse group, you still need to get the message out to blacks/latinos/asians/native americans etc. At least if you want to engage POC to vote and be more politically active. Sure you can reach some of them on the mainstream blogs but you can reach alot more on their top blogs of interest.

    Comment by Donna — September 20, 2006 @ 12:55 am | Reply

  21. Even so, I think this would have died down quickly if Daou headed it off at the pass and made a post about the meeting, he could have explained that it was thrown together rather quickly, that ironically it was held in Harlem and though attempts were made to invite POC they were unable to attend, and that there would be further meetings with more bloggers in the future. There never would have been the “something wrong with this picture” posts, and most everyone would have given the benefit of the doubt.

    You know… For some reason, I really doubt this scenario.

    For one thing, the Lewinski parrallels would have still been drawn by the freak-o-sphere (ZOMG0RZ! B00BI3Z R0XX0R!!!). For another, a vast majority of the blogswarm was kept going by the All-Clinton’s-Fault wingnuts of the rabid right.

    The blogswarms would have had diminished staying power should, certainly. And if Peter Daou wasn’t too busy preening in public about his job instead of doing his job, it would have been nipped right in the bud. Then again, that’s easy for me to say: Left Off Colfax gets maybe 20 visitors per week, so obviously I wouldn’t know that much about “blogger outreach”. Maybe things look different in the rarified air.

    Comment by Off Colfax — September 20, 2006 @ 1:08 am | Reply

  22. Oh I agree, there was no way to head off the boobies kerfluffle, since the right is still obsessed with the clenis, even if Jessica hadn’t been invited they would have picked another woman in the group to pair off as Clinton’s sexual partner of the day. The clenis is always out of control!

    I’m saying that Daou could have avoided the “What’s wrong with this picture?” fallout.

    Comment by Donna — September 20, 2006 @ 1:44 am | Reply

  23. I agree with Donna. (Donna, all your comments have been excellent. Do you have a blog somewhere?)

    Quoting me, “bc” wrote:

    Inclusion is the point; the purity of white people’s hearts shouldn’t be the central issue here.

    So, I’m going to assume you apply that standard to the Bush administration, then?
    (I think both count, but that’s not the point.)

    It’s not like there’s a dearth of POC in the Bush administration or appointments, but for some reason, those POC don’t count from the left’s perspective. They’re “tokens” or “Uncle Toms.” Nevermind the inclusion.

    This is off-target in several ways.

    1) I don’t believe I’ve ever called any Bush administration appointment a token or an Uncle Tom. You seem to be talking to some made-up person in your head, rather than responding to what I in particular have said.

    2) Actually, there’s been a huge drop in appointments of POC – and, in particular, black people – since Bush took office. See here, here (pdf link), and the discussion here, for more on this.

    3) For the record, I don’t give a damn what’s in Bush’s heart. I care about the results of his policies.

    Comment by Ampersand — September 20, 2006 @ 3:32 am | Reply

  24. This debate strikes me as nearly as useless as a POMO deconstruction of language. The event is being picked apart in hindsight for failing to be specifically inclusive of nonwhites, presuming that other (progressive?) points of view would have been represented. If the focus was progressive bloggers, I wonder how those demographics stack up, or even if that info in available?

    Based on presence of a couple chairs in the lower left quadrant of the photo, it clearly wasn’t composed by a professional photographer or regarded beforehand as a serious photo op.

    The debate gets even more absurd in this post for putting an attractive female in the front center. The arguments get to be an infinite regress of “who knew,” “what was intended,” and “what should have been.”

    This is to me the ultimate tragedy of identity politics (which in general I just don’t get): nothing can satisfy a retrospective analysis of competing niche demands.

    Comment by Brutus — September 20, 2006 @ 12:07 pm | Reply

  25. Donna, all your comments have been excellent.

    Did you hear that? Did you here that, eh? That’s what I’m always goin’ on about: the privileged reception that good spellers get on the Web. You saw it, didn’t you? Come and see the bias inherent in the system! Help! Help! Im being represssed!

    Do you have a blog somewhere?

    Donna, have you heard the roumor that every time Amp recruits another writer to the blog, he wins a toaster? I’m just sayin’….

    Comment by nobody.really — September 20, 2006 @ 12:09 pm | Reply

  26. Brutus, I’m a bit confused by your post. Are you saying that all so-called “identity politics” are bad, in all circumstances? That seems a bit extreme. Nor do I understand why whether or not this was an intended photo-op is relevant.

    Is there ever an acceptable time to be concerned about whether or not minorities are included, in your view?

    There’s no good, current info on demographics of progressive bloggers, as far as I know. This person found that 15% of progressive bloggers, and 50% of feminist bloggers, are non-white; but as he cheerfully admits, his methodology is poor.

    * * *

    Bazzar:

    I’m willing to believe that no Latinos were present, but I do wonder how one can conclude that just by looking at the above photograph. Maybe I’m just missing something.

    What you’re missing is that Liza’s judgement wasn’t based on just the photos. Almost all the people in the photo are well-known bloggers (at least, well-known if you pay attention to that sort of thing), none of whom self-identify as being Latino or Latina.

    Comment by Ampersand — September 20, 2006 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

  27. Ampersand wrote:

    Are you saying that all so-called “identity politics” are bad, in all circumstances? That seems a bit extreme. Nor do I understand why whether or not this was an intended photo-op is relevant.

    Since you’re asking specific questions to clarify my remarks, I won’t object that you’re putting words in my mouth or misinterpreting me. I’m purposely incomplete treading into these waters. I also don’t pretend to have a comprehensive, well-constructed understanding of the issue. It’s not among my principal concerns.

    No, I don’t believe all identity politics are bad or worthless. But I do believe that they’re especially prone to distorting issues. ID politics is a lens through which one sees the world, and that lens isn’t always (or even usually) very objective.

    I had once thought that the main point of ID politics was to even the playing field, or to eliminate discrimination and unfair privilege. If that were the case, it would be a lot of consciousness raising to reveal systemic racism, ageism, sexism, etc. and focused attacks on truly bigoted behavior. The photo that has everyone spinning, since it has such as small sample size, is probably an instance of inadvertent omission, or a systemic flaw, as there is little or no evidence of purposeful exclusion. The depth of coverage on this issue is not proportional to its seriousness. Further, the link I provided charges other things, which seems to me grasping wildly since the picture itself has none of the signs of being anything other than impromptu, which is to say, nearly random.

    Of course, an even playing field is too modest a goal for ID politics as they’re now practiced. There are too many groups now seeking special representation, accomodation, and privilege — often to redress past grievance — which charges the atmosphere with even greater conflict instead of any hoped-for cooperation and tolerance.

    Is there ever an acceptable time to be concerned about whether or not minorities are included, in your view?

    Yes, of course. But the constituency has to be of a sufficient size, and more importantly, knowable, before a charge of bigoted omission has any meaning. It’s a large gray area that calls for wisened judgment, but there is certainly a lower threshold where the issue becomes meaningless. I believe that this sit-down with progressive bloggers is fairly unambiguously below that threshold.

    So if one is fighting the good fight, it might be worthwhile to pick battles that don’t positively infuriate those who might be favorably disposed or willing to be convinced that such and such discrimination ought not to happen anymore. Calling something relatively inoccuous into question defeats one’s own agenda when the focus might better fall on much greater evils being perpetrated.

    Comment by Brutus — September 20, 2006 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

  28. Brutus,

    My being a person of color is not a lens through which I choose to see the world; it’s a construct that has been projected onto me by white people since the day I was born, resulting in a white range of problems you can’t imagine, from physical danger to competetive handicaps to everyday humiliations. When I walk into a restaurant, I don’t have to shout “identity politics!” in order for the white folks in the room to give me “the look” and put out “the unwelcome vibe”.

    I’d be willing to drop “identity politics” in a heartbeat if our society dropped all institutions of racism and white privilege. Deal?

    Of course, most of us know that the expression “identity politics” itself is usually a way for those in positions of relative power and privilege to marginalize and dismiss the concerns of others. The experience and cultural milleu of the privileged is so normalized as to not be considered an “identity”. Only variation from that experience and cultural millieu is defined as “identity”; the lens through which the privileged see the world is simply considered “normal”. Anything else is “identity politics”, and discussing it is regarded as impolite because it makes some people uncomfortable.

    Peace,
    Kai

    Comment by Kai — September 22, 2006 @ 1:14 pm | Reply

  29. Brutus, you do make a very good argument and honestly I think if TRex hadn’t stepped in it this would have gone away within a day or so. Most POC are willing to give Clinton a pass for now, and assume he will do better.

    It isn’t even about him and the meeting anymore. It’s about the reaction (or non-reaction) of the bloggers themselves, and the reaction to the reaction. This has unearthed some very disturbing patterns of liberal racism that has to be discussed at some time.

    Liberal racism has a different face, these racists are quite willing to have us live and work side by side as their neighbors and coworkers, and in fact “some of their best friends are black/latino/etc”. But the basic attitude is paternalism, they will speak for us (although they won’t listen, so how can they speak for us?), they will decide what issues are important for everyone, they will tell us what to do and how to feel, they will decide how to fix our problems without our input. And if we don’t like it? “Know your place” “Mind your betters”. We are children to them, and to the white supremicist types we are dangerous animals.

    All we are saying is that as long as racism of any type is a part of the American experience, we need to have our voices heard during strategy sessions, policy making, legislation, etc. For those who dismiss it as ID politics, I’d have to say, our thoughts and proposals don’t always have to be acted upon, we know we can’t get 100% of what we want, the same as any other group of people understands this, but our issues must be considered. In liberal politics, generally women get a hearing, labor gets a hearing, environmentalists get a hearing, consumers get a hearing, etc etc etc…and big business and wealthy campaign contributors ALWAYS get their hearing. We are the only group who overwhelmingly gets the shaft.

    Amp, you need a new toaster? LOL I do have a blog, in the 2 1/2 years since I started it I have a total of maybe 4 posts. I find I have too little time and way too many distractions to concentrate when writing. My computer is in the living room and I have a chatty family! I told my husband I would like to move the computer, perhaps then I will make the time and come back looking for a link.

    Comment by Donna — September 22, 2006 @ 1:25 pm | Reply

  30. Kai says:

    My being a person of color is not a lens through which I choose to see the world; it’s a construct that has been projected onto me by white people since the day I was born, resulting in a white range of problems you can’t imagine, from physical danger to competetive handicaps to everyday humiliations.

    If you don’t like my choice of metaphor, that’s fine, but I don’t agree with you. We all use metaphors everyday all day. It’s part of the basic structure of language (and therefore, cognition). A perspective, a point of view, a worldview are all lenses whether you recognize it or not.

    most of us know that the expression “identity politics” itself is usually a way for those in positions of relative power and privilege to marginalize and dismiss the concerns of others

    That may be true, but I’m not using the term in that fashion. And I fully admitted (as I always do), that I just don’t get it. Most of your arguments don’t appear to be about what I wrote; instead, they reinforce the truth that racism (one among various “isms”) continues to be a problem. That is absolutely true, which I why I am making no sweeping statement that “it’s all bad and has got to go” or that “we should all just get over it.”

    Donna wrote:

    It isn’t even about him [Clinton]and the meeting anymore. It’s about the reaction (or non-reaction) of the bloggers themselves, and the reaction to the reaction. This has unearthed some very disturbing patterns of liberal racism that has to be discussed at some time.

    So it’s all become rather meta, to be tragically hip (something no one ever accuses me of). The existence of patterns is what I mean by revealing systemic flaws, and the fact that observing these patterns rises to the level of disturbance is what I mean by distortion.

    In the U.S., we’re all pretty messed up about race (among other things), whereas in most of the rest of the world, the virulent idea is nationalism. The way the problem has manifested throughout generations, there appears to be little hope of resolution when we continue to draw distinctions that are meaningful mostly because we draw them that way. For instance, to say that a certain perspective is normative, therefore institutionalized, is to miss the point that something will always be a dominant or normal view, which inherently disenfranchises others. In many situations, the norm is defined by a distinct (and sometimes quite vocal) minority, which doesn’t so much erase the norm as reverse it. We have all been in situations where we were the odd man/woman/race/believer/etc. out. That, too, is normal.

    Comment by Brutus — September 22, 2006 @ 3:10 pm | Reply

  31. Brutus, I think Kai was agreeing with you. ID politics is viewing through a lens that is usually not objective, but you say it like it’s a bad thing, and he is saying it like it is simply something that is. Good or bad, it’s there and we have to accept it and move forward.

    For POC, their experience as POC will shape their political views and attitudes. It is also true for a white person, but they don’t often think about it. Many times the only time a white person might think about his or her privilege (identity) is when he thinks someone might horn in on some of the action. Like in the immigration (overrun by the brown hordes! egads!) debates…and part of what I was talking about with the reaction, and reaction to the reaction. Many time I heard things like, “well, we are the leaders in the blogosphere”, “only the best were invited”, etc. But if you think about it, they are the most trafficked for white readership. Minorities will read white run blogs on occasion but their favorites will address their issues; therefore the most trafficked for minorities will not be of this group. When I raised that, things got quiet. I could never get an answer from these people, when I was expecting an, “Oh yeah! That’s why we need POC bloggers there!” This is what leads me to believe that white privilege might be in play, but it would be racist to acknowlege it, so they ignore it instead.

    There have been many comments on the blogs that have discussed this issue that touch on the power/powerless issues. It appears to me that when people feel powerless they are willing to stand with anyone else who is also powerless to show solidarity, BUT it becomes sticky when one has privilege the other does not and is questioned on it. That’s when the one without power is abandoned. In this case TRex as a gay man would usually side with minorities, but since white privilege is what is being challenged he abandons us.

    I remarked that these are the same bloggers who get angry because access to politicians is granted to the powerful, lobbyists, corporations, pundits and big media, consultants; while ignoring grassroots, smaller media, individuals. They didn’t like that caste system, but have no problem devising one of their own. The powerful highly trafficked blog against the smaller niche blogs which may be highly trafficked and respected within their niche. This includes POC but may also include other specialized blogs. For example, I’d love to see someone from Confined Space at that table too, this is a labor/workers rights blog.

    I hope you can understand why access to corporations over grassroots and individuals is wrong. You simply can not ignore the voter over the campaign contribution, you need both and must balance that. The same goes for getting the message out through blogs, sure the big blogs are tempting, more bang for the buck, but isn’t this also duplicated? The same people read Atrios, who read Kos, who read FDL. Don’t you think it would be wise to coordinate messaging with Pam Spaulding or Steve Gilliard too (widely trafficked black bloggers for those who didn’t know). Or a labor blog when the message is about workers rights, or an economics blog like Brad Delong when it’s about the state of the economy, or a media blog like Media Matters when it’s about coordinating something like Path to 9/11.

    Anyway, I hope Peter Daou is thinking of all of these things for the next blogger meeting.

    Comment by Donna — September 22, 2006 @ 10:07 pm | Reply

  32. It occurs to me that this imbroglio is excellent ammunition for the Tony Snows of the world (“racism is a memory”).

    Because if what’s consuming a community is “did they invite enough of us to lunch”, then the community’s problems have clearly fallen below a certain threshold.

    Comment by Robert — September 22, 2006 @ 10:16 pm | Reply

  33. Do we have any black bloggers here at Creative Destruction? Have we ever invited any?

    Comment by Daran — September 23, 2006 @ 8:22 am | Reply

  34. Daran writes:

    Do we have any black bloggers here at Creative Destruction? Have we ever invited any?

    No one asked or knows whether I’m a person of color. By itself, that’s not a qualification for much. And as a couple comments above suggest, it would be pointless tokenism to qualify contributors in such a way. What we have attempted to capture is a range of opinion and perspective, which is a qualification.

    I will admit that I’m often purple in my perplexity and anger and what I read here, though my emotion doesn’t usually leak into my posts or comments.

    Comment by Brutus — September 23, 2006 @ 10:00 am | Reply

  35. No one asked or knows whether I’m a person of color. By itself, that’s not a qualification for much. And as a couple comments above suggest, it would be pointless tokenism to qualify contributors in such a way. What we have attempted to capture is a range of opinion and perspective, which is a qualification.

    There’s a difference between a blogger who happens to be POC, and one who blogs about racism from a POC point of view. The latter represents opinion and perspective we do not have here, about a topic that interests (some of) us.

    Comment by Daran — September 23, 2006 @ 12:17 pm | Reply

  36. Daran, we’ve invited one black blogger that I know of. She accepted but hasn’t had time to post.

    Comment by Robert — September 23, 2006 @ 1:32 pm | Reply

  37. Robert, the lunch was just a match. A match in and of itself is not dangerous. It could have been blown out if Daou or any of the bloggers at that lunch had explained the situation. Instead they ignored it which is throwing the match on dry tinder. Then they turned defensive instead of explaining matter of factly, which is adding a couple of logs to that fire. Then some went on the offense using racist terminology, throwing gasoline on the blaze. Now most are quiet and ignoring the situation, after all even the biggest firestorm will eventually burn itself out if you ignore it, BUT the damage will be immense.

    Having this conversation is throwing a bucket of water on that fire. Even if you do not agree with every word that a POC has to say on the matter, you are making the effort to understand their point of view. If those who were at the event would have this conversation, it would be like turning on the hoses.

    Instead as I said they are dismissive and/or ignoring and/or attacking minorities, in some cases removing their posts, banning them, and de-linking. This is creating unnecessary bad blood in the liberal blogosphere. They seem to think that we want their guilt, not so, get past the damned guilt and help us come up with solutions, as amp noted, that are inclusive instead of always excluding and overlooking us (what actually happens), making excuses about what is in their hearts (good intentions).

    Comment by Donna — September 23, 2006 @ 1:53 pm | Reply

  38. […] Creative Destruction: Bill Clinton Lunches With Whites, Also Firedoglake Sucks […]

    Pingback by Jane Hamsher: The Left’s Answer to Ann Coulter? « Dark Sun — September 26, 2006 @ 4:13 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: