Without a net: walking the tightrope of talking about race

Carla Axtman

As I sit here writing this post I know I'm about to dive into the equivalent of a boiling vat of hot lava. I'd like to be able to just let it go, walk away and move on with my life. But it just keeps coming back--like a toothache I've been treating with ibuprofen instead of the oral surgery it really requires.

The issue of race is one that both confuses and frankly, scares me. Every single time I've seen it discussed it creates a shitstorm of monumental proportions. I sincerely want to have an honest, thoughtful and (most-importantly) meaningful conversation on how we can be appropriate, fair and generally good to one another on this issue.

I can't possibly understand what it really means to be a person of color. The only way to do that would be to actually not be white. I understand what it means to grow up in a small town. I understand what it means to be female. I can articulate what it means to me to be an activist or a mom or a person constantly in search of my spiritual beliefs. I don't think its realistic or practical for me to truly understand what it is to be a person of color.

A number of my very good friends are persons of color. I love and respect them for the amazing people that they are and honestly when we became friends, their race never occurred to me. They matter to me because they are hard-working, smart, interesting and decent human beings who enrich my life and make it better.

During the process to appoint someone to replace Margaret Carter in the Oregon Senate, race was one of the issues that came to the fore. At the time, it bugged me significantly. I've been a long-time believer in having the most qualified, prepared person get these positions. Why was race a factor? Then one of my good friends, who happens to be African-American and knowing my sincere quandry explained it to me: being "qualified" sometimes means really understanding what its like to be a person of color in a place dominated by whites. Effective representation must sometimes consider the unique struggles and concerns of racial/ethnic groups. Further, people need and want to see individuals that reflect themselves in places of leadership.

I can wrap my brain around these ideas and understand them, to a degree. I can't go as far as to say that a white representative can't appropriately and effectively represent a place where there is a large percentage of people of color. Any more than I can say a person of color can't do the same for a dominantly white area. And honestly I would very much prefer that race not be a part of that equation in an ideal world. But the world isn't ideal--its in fact a very flawed and complex place.

All of this said, I can't always make factors of race my top priority. Nor do I want to. Yesterday, I attended the We Make The Media conference in Portland. Some of the attendees noted on Twitter that the group didn't consist of many people of color. This observation was indeed true, as far as I could tell. But what I kept hearing in terms of legacy media structure was that the discussion kept sounding like it was stuck in 1999. The hierarchy of media leadership in the room seemed in a rut that they didn't understand based on old ways of thinking. What interested me was the lack of representation of new media and younger people, instead of race. So I said so, only to be smacked down as an insensitive white woman.

Huh?

Am I really not allowed to talk about other things? As a white woman, do I really have to consider the issue of race over everything else ALL the time? If I were a woman of color who said that I was interested in discussing the age disparity instead of the race disparity, would that then be okay?

Maybe sometimes I am insensitive to issues of race and it's appropriate to point that out to me. Like anyone else, its good for me to grow and understand. I'm completely good with that. But from my view, it should be alright for me to focus on other things--things that I observe or pull me in or that are other priorities.

I also don't think I should always have to stumble over the fact that I'm white in order to talk about these issues.

Let the hot lava diving commence.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Carla, I hear where you are coming from, but don't generalize about all people from your experience.

    Hot lava sounds like what happened in the mid-1980s when there were female political activists who believed all women should think alike. Other women disagreed.

    There was a hotly contested congressional primary in 1986 where a female legislator was running against 2 men, one of them being a county comm. in her district.

    There were women with no power to vote in that district because they lived in other parts of the state, but by golly anyone who didn't support the female legislator "didn't support women". I had that phrase yelled at me for having the gall to mention that a female friend who lived in the district said many people she knew had been voting for both the legislator and the comm. for a long time and had long since decided which one they thought better suited for Congress. The voters chose the male candidate who is now the dean of the Oregon House delegation--Peter DeFazio.

    Those who say people should march in lock step generally defeat their own purpose.

    There are many kinds of bias--how the rest of the state views the Portland area, differences according to age (someone may be an icon to an older generation but unknown to young people), etc.

    Interestingly enough, the 2006 State Senate race in Dist. 10 was mostly devoid of race although it was a black Republican incumbent being challenged by a white former local elected official who had a throng of young (and older) volunteers. Jackie Winters may be an "icon"(as some say) in Marion County, but she darned near lost Polk County (20 some votes) to a young man who had grown up there.

    I live in a House district which in an earlier configuration elected the first black and Hispanic legislators in Marion County. They did it by running as individuals, not as members of a race or ethnic background. Both got a lot of unpleasantness aimed at them and their volunteers because they were non-white.

    Having read the coverage of the Carter replacement process, I suspect there are those up in that area who view things differently than down here. Not surprising, given the differences between Mult. Co. and the rest of the state.

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    Eric Holder recently scolded the nation for being cowards for not having frank discussions about race. Then after a beating of a black student in inner city Chicago by a black mob, Holder responded with the pointless "these crimes could have been committed by people of any race," which is true but also ducked the question of what actually did motivate the mob in this particular instance. Significantly, neighborhood activists pointed out that Holder made his comments at his press conference at a downtown hotel, implying he was afraid to even visit the neighborhood. I think Eric Holder can make a strong claim for understanding what it is like to be a person of color. But he has no claim on what it means to live a hopeless life in a shattered neighborhood. Conversely, it seems Ted Kennedy did. The issue of class of course is the one Americans are most afraid to admit even exists, including Eric Holder, but empathy is never limited or bestowed by mere race or upbringing.

    The argument that no one can ever understand or effectively represent people of a different ethnic or social economic background is absurd and is generally used as a smoke-screen for entitlement & to winnow down the field of competitors. I have an Asian-American friend who was once dressed down by M. Carter for not having a suitably developed "minority perspective," even though as a minority whatever your perspective is automatically is a minority perspective, even if your name is Alan Keyes or Clarence Thomas.

    Dumb argument, dumb game. I personally just refuse to play. What matters in who represents you in office is what is particular about that person. Period. And frankly, Carter's record of ignoring her constituents isn't one many would brag about.

  • Steve Buel (unverified)
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    Race is a tough topic all right. It is also a word which is rapidly losing its meaning. I prefer ethnic background because is it more specific and less open to generalizations. What "race' is Tiger Woods child? One grandparent who is Black, one of Asian background, a mother who undoubtedly has a Northern European background. So his child is of what race? Well ..... All of his child's background should be honored and respected. Designating her as a certain race neither honors nor respects her diverse roots.

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    Sometimes we have to look back in order to move forward.

    In 1619 a Dutch ship brought 20 African slaves as indentured servants to the English Colony of Jamestown, Virginia.

    1680 - 1705 Colonial land-owners passed "Slave Codes" legalizing chattel slavery (children of enslaved women would be themselves enslaved for life) and severely restricted the rights of "Free Africans". These codes equated the term "slave" with "Negro" thus institutionalizing the world's first system of racialized slavery.

    In 1833 the first Oregon School opened in Marion County for white students.

    Portland schools remain pretty much segregated in 2009.

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    Carla, you were a victim of what Tom Wolfe called "mau mauing" in a 1971 article in Commentary magazine titled, "Mau Mauing the Flack Catchers" and which was later published in a book paired with his classic essay, "Radical Chic."

    It mostly works on white liberals, who are usually so quick to join in on the mau mauing of others that when it is turned on them, they feel powerless to object.

    There is no known cure although the recommended treatment for those afflicted with it is isolation.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    I've two major thoughts on this.

    First, it's about humans, and that is why it is difficult to discuss. In an age were you have to have a certification to replace water heater, people still believe their armchair philosophy, theology, sociology and anthropology are probably as about as well thought through as the pros.

    It's not a difficult topic to talk about when it isn't humans. Biology struggles with a coherent definition of species. Genus is pretty firm, but, certainly, below species there's not much you can generalize (pun intended). I'm proud of my Bengal cat, whereas I don't particularly care for Persians. If I'm planting pumpkins, I certainly will pick the cultivar depending on my intended use for it. I don't think any would consider it "racist" to disqualify dachshunds from police service. Dutch even uses the same word for race and breed.

    The point is that there are reliable subspecies differences in groups of individuals, and that those differences are worth noticing and basing actions on. It's only difficult to talk about because we don't have much common language, and little education, for talking about humans objectively. Religion has seen to that.

    The second point would speak to that "worth noticing" bit. In social terms, "ism" to me is "consciousness of". "Racism" is noticing race. "Sexism" is noticing sex. Also back to the other point, we only notice those differences in cultivars because those differences are consequential. We consider anyone that notices non-consequential differences between them to be an expert. That's good and natural. But when we notice race or sex because we're simply conditioned to notice it, we rob the individuals in question of their individuality unnecessarily. Race is an equation for predicting behavior, just like sex roles. It races hackles because it doesn't give the individual a chance to be different. That is where the way we use it in biology and with other humans is different. A baking pumpkin isn't genetically capable of growing to the size of a purpose bred Jack-O-Lantern. A black man may well be as intelligent as I. Kant would have said that it is appropriate when it's an analytic, a priori statement, not when it's a synthetic a priori statement. That's why saying that blacks aren't as intelligent as whites is "racist". It apprehends the language of the analytic, as if that were a property of the black race. High relative carbohydrate content is an essential property of all baking pumpkins. Assuming that a black person has more melanin is not racist.

    The semiotics is applicable to any societal subgroup, race is only one example of it. Would it be acceptable to say, "Never shop home improvement stores without a lesbian friend along"? It's the same synthetic-as-analytic reasoning, used as a shorthand for individual behavior. I could have as easily said, "I'm taking Mary along because she's a lot better with that stuff than I am". The insult is in it's being a a priori shorthand for her behavior, instead of bothering to learn the a posteriori specifics of her personality. It does the same to other members of the class by placing an expectation, again instead of learning the particular case. That's also a human trend. It's why we give people nicknames. It's a form of ownership. In Genesis, when God gave man dominion over the creatures (oy-veysmire!), he did it by having him name them.

    Since to imagine a language is to imagine a form of life, the way we say things creates a world that we expect the listener to locate themselves within. If we don't accept that world picture, we are uncomfortable with the question. It doesn't make it any easier that our courts allow aggressive recovery for damages from "emotional distress". It ends up being, you take your chances if you express a different world view. The forces of human domestication like that.

    That's my bit said. Communication on these matters has been a real dog's breakfast of late, and I certainly commend you on diving in where angels fear to tread. Hope the discussion is similarly brave hearted!

  • SV (unverified)
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    I was at the conference as well, and I have to say as one of the few minorities there I couldn't have been more bored with the whole racial controversy - especially the argument that the organizers didn't spend more effort recruiting minorities. To respond to the statement "we advertised on the internet" by basically saying that was only targeting whites is ludicrous. I'm a minority, and I know how to use a computer. Did the majority of Americans vote for Obama because he's black? I sincerely doubt it. It's because they believed he was the most qualified. I started at UW the year after they got rid of the policy to weigh ethnicity as a factor in the acceptance process, and I'm proud to know that I got in on my own merits - the hue of my skin not being one of them.

  • Becca (unverified)
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    Carla, if you are referring to the Twitter discussion, I think you were slammed, not for bringing up the age divide, but for saying you thought it was more interesting than the race issue. It may not have been your intention, but I think your wording can be read as your being dismissive of the race issue, and thinking it's not important. If you had said "another significant issue I noticed..." I don't think you would have provoked a negative reaction.

    The clash of different generations was certainly a noteworthy and significant topic, but a very different one from the under-representation of people of color at the event. Perhaps it is more interesting to you because it is easier for you to relate to your own life. I am also white, and while I make an effort to try to be aware of the exclusion of people of color, I also struggle with addressing it, and find it easier to tackle issues that I feel I can effectively speak about. I do try to be an active listener when issues of race come up, and I am glad that the topic came up and that the issue was brought to everyone's attention.

  • The Classic Carol (unverified)
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    I thought the most egregious comment of the day, in regards to race, was that Ms. Bowman was the only person of color in the room. The Hispanic woman sitting next to me took great offense.

    That commentary or questions should be experienced as inappropriate or censored in any way in a room full of journalists is a bizarre and notable event. I volunteer to be the time keeper at the next event and will judiciously guard the right of the pale males to be alloted the same time they afforded the young and the females at this event.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Anybody have a WORD to say about natives?

    At a recent storytelling festival two elders said what has been on my mind for a cuople of years now - they said, "You will notice they don't even mention us anymore. It appears that they believe they have suceeded and we no longer exist. But that's good: now we are off their radar and free to thrive. Not just survive and also be stereotyped - now that they no longer even mention us anywhere anytime, we are at last free of their gaze and can rebuild our nations by ourselves."

    My heart broke, but I got a slightly altered perspective as one man continued to speak.

    You don't ever mention us, not in a scholarly fashion. You reference 1800's history up to 1925, and there your reference points stop. But in the vacuum that has developed around the native nations, perhaps it's also the place of hope.

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    It's rarely if ever easy to ponder and confront issues of race. It's probably one of the more challenging things to do, to realize how deep and pervasive racism is in our society. As a white woman, I know that I will never be "done" in terms of really "getting" race -- it's a life-long path of learning.

    What I do know, however, is that I live in a place of privilege to decide where and when and how and to what extent I wish to confront issues of race.

  • LT (unverified)
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    "I thought the most egregious comment of the day, in regards to race, was that Ms. Bowman was the only person of color in the room. The Hispanic woman sitting next to me took great offense."

    That is why "people of color" makes more sense. What group does the child of Tiger Woods (or the child of a white and an Asian, or the child of 2 of the many nationalities in Hawaii, or someone with Latin American parents on one side and natives of any area on the other) belong to?

    Regarding "looking back", there was a time when there were help wanted signs in major cities "no Irish need apply" and times in the immigration laws in this country that made it easier for N. Europeans to become legal immigrants than S. Europeans. Now those folks are all "white" or "Caucasian".

  • rw (unverified)
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    And if my son and I move back to OK, which we do discuss, as we consider the need to delve into our own medicine people, culture and family... well, I know for a fact we will be treated with a certain kind of unfriendliness, disdain and also repugnant monologue in certain towns and certain quarters, for we are a mixed household. This day it is still fact.

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    Carla, if you are referring to the Twitter discussion, I think you were slammed, not for bringing up the age divide, but for saying you thought it was more interesting than the race issue.

    Becca, to me based on the discussions I was hearing in the room, it WAS more interesting to me. I didn't say or infer (purposefully) that it had to be that way for others. It should be okay for me to have a different perspective based on what I heard and saw.

    I don't recall feeling dimissive of the race issue whatsoever. I simply didn't find it was as relevant to the discussion being had (about old infrastructures from times gone by) as age and the dearth of new media.

    I never once had the impression that anyone of any age, race, creed, color, sexual-orientation, etc was EXCLUDED from the discussion. Nobody recruited citizen journalists to come to this event--and I only saw a few of us. But I never felt like there was a deliberate effort to keep us from turning out. Any more than I felt there was a deliberate effort to keep people of color out.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Will there ever come a time when all people at the table actually move their hearts to BELIEVE THE BEST of the others at the table? There can be no improvement if all we do is trot our aggrieved stances out in the face of like-minded efforts. Yet, at the same time, I was witness to a really painful and deep discussion of native history-keepers discussing frankly the need to stay separate and yet make alliances with other hx keepers... and there was heat, anger, pain and tears at the table too. We were lucky enough to have a dedicated moderator at the table to speak in clear, open tones to all about the need for race reconciliation, and the fact that right at that moment, in that difficult and powerful discourse, there was healing going on right then and there.

    And that's how it is. Accept it: the healing of this is not going to be Disneyesque. It's filled with moments of wild glee, and some heady enthusiasm... but more often it is made up of hours such as those spent at the table. Nothing feels settled. Only stirred and unsettled. That's how it has to be.

    So quit attacking each other. But do stay honest in your feelings. But start believing better, be willing to believe better of each other instead of playing Racial Gotcha. Won't "getcha" anything at all.

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    But start believing better, be willing to believe better of each other instead of playing Racial Gotcha. Won't "getcha" anything at all.

    rw: This I appreciate greatly. Perhaps I should have let you write this post instead of me.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Carla, I generally applaud your willingness to delve into this area of hot lava. while I read a little bemused as the predominantly white (which is also a color....) denizens of BO bemoan and debate the fact that for some reason, their concern isn't welcomed "enough" by the other race(s) that they wish to include.

    this is a similar ethos in the progressive circles around seattle, another predominately white enclave.

    As one who came of age in SC during the early 70's and then lived in Louisville, KY until te 90's, I can speak to the curious issue you and others who have never spent significant time outside the PNW "feel". Many people who have darker pigmentation than the majority find the terminology "persons of color" itself and afront.

    Get over this feeling and move on. Treat people as people and leave skin pigmentation out of the equation. Those who would perpetuate racial differences on both sides of the issue stand to gain from the very perpetuation of same.

    As to your other observance regarding the We Make the Media event; perhaps the turnout was highly indicative of the very problems facing the print media. It is mostly run by old white guys trying desperately to appear ope to all others when they are unable to even program their own VCR/DVD, let alone understand the workings of a Kindle or iPod. the generation coming up has decided that print media is, for the most part irrelevant.

  • AnneM (unverified)
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    I think you're to be commended for honestly talking about the issue, and I think you speak with compassion and with a willingness to work toward understanding.

    That said, to most people of color, race is always a factor. Because of that, when (white) people say that race shouldn't be a factor what is (perhaps unintentionally) said or heard is that we should ignore race - and when you ignore race you also ignore community and culture and history and affiliation and that makes race a factor because it historically and in practice tends to rule people of color out.

    The dominant race gets the benefits of not having to fight for representation, of not wondering where the role models are, of not being held to a higher standard, of not being dismissed as a token, and they get these benefits without asking for them - because for them, race is not a factor. And that makes race a factor for everyone else.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Kurt, about "Treat people as people and leave skin pigmentation out of the equation. "

    Here's a test. For those who remember them, evaluate 2 state representatives who shared the same name and little else--Jim Hill the Republican and Jim Hill the Democrat.

    If you think party is the only difference between them, then you are not aware that they had other differences from height to generation to skin color.

    The white elementary school kid who told an adult at an all-city event "don't worry, I have no problem sitting next to someone whose skin is a different color", the black man who still remembers that he desegregated his high school, the child of Hispanic migrant workers who became a teacher with a Master's degree are all going to remember their life experiences. So is anyone ever followed around a store, or otherwise felt the effect of being different than the rest of the community. That includes the white kid in a majority-minority school.

    There was a debate at one time about what to call people who are registered members of tribes--Indians, Native Americans, or what? A friend of mine who was 1/4 French, half Irish and looked like his 1/4 Indian heritage--he was a registered member of the Mohawk tribe---answered that question with "ask them". And that may be the key. Treating people as individuals instead of belonging to a steretype is never a mistake.

    One other wrinkle--the sort of people who saw themselves as Reagan Democrats and may now be the folks who put Blue Dog Democrats into office see the world differently than those younger people who use blogs and Twitter. This is a very interesting column.

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/politicalconnections.php

  • rw (unverified)
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    All: there is a way to engage this real conversation, and heat will come, and self-reference will rule a lot. But there HAS to be a way to do as I saw at that table last weekend - honest speaking AND a culture of respect coming together to allow for this discussion to encompass many views without enmity or lack of continued investment all around. And when I say "culture", I actually go past just the native culture thing, the obvious. There was also a culture of engagement around that table. All are in it for keeps, and the only way to DO this thing for keeps IS to continue to believe better of all at the table adn accept ALL where they stand so we can keep opening ourselves to one antoher, being honest, and gleaning, gleaning, growing.

    Smashing someone as an opponent when they have just opened themselves to you will not get you what you profess to want. This works on all sides of the divide, from all directions. Dom/culture needs to allow the fear, anger, heat; and min/culture needs to allow the communication efforts of the "other", whichever that is. We are all stuck with a task that takes more energy than I usually have: to listen to another acceptingly and keep working for a place to hear each other, waiting for the miraculous flashes of "getting it" that come only with hard work but also with the zen of willing/ful openness.

    Anyway. I don't want to bloat tripe all over what I said. It's hard work. Bloody hard work. But playing "gotcha" is a loser's game on all sides. It just is, and I won't bore you with some stories I have from working down in addictions work in the arena of women of colour coming out of prison and other institutions seeking sobriety. The gotcha crap on the part of the staff was just godawful.

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    Carla,

    I appreciated the opportunity to meet you yesterday after reading your post for so long. Also thank you for diving into a conversation regarding race since it is rare to see someone white take the plunge first.

    I'm always amazed when the response to a lack of people of color being present is "no one kept them out". While it maybe true there was no effort to keep people of color out, there clearly was no effort made to intentionally ensure that the representation in the room represented the diversity of people who care about the future of the media.

    While progressives get up in arms when the topic of "who's missing is raised" if we continue to do the same things we have always done, we will continue to get the same results we have always gotten!

    Can a small group of white men coming together to plan for the future of media think outside their normal box and say, how do we include people who don't look like us and actively recruit their perspective and participation?

    Yeah they can and should but do they, no.

    It maybe hard for progressives who have a good race analysis to engage in this type of dialog because they think in inclusive terms anyway. However too many folks claim they want to work and engage in building community and think its perfectly okay to keep the narrow focus they have always had.

    Its kind of sad in a place like Portland that pats itself on its progressive back so often that many rooms continue to be pretty white and folks are okay with that.

    It appears that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Joanne, I wonder if maybe sometimes our "other" communities find it exhausting to interact with the mainstream, and so we find the "associations", and we continue to get work done in a siloed fashion, simply engaging with our culture-group-based institutions for good or ill, and thru them engaging (not very successfully, really, but there it is) the dominant mainstream?

  • Steve Woodward (unverified)
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    I was both in the room and on the Twitter back channel. Prior to Ms. Bowman's question about race, most of the tweets about diversity could be summed up as: "Hey, you old white guys, get off our lawn!" If anything, the discussions revealed a cultural divide between the new-media technorati and people (mostly white and boomers, judging from attendance) who want to find ways to preserve the best of old media. Perhaps Carla could have phrased her comment about young people and new media in a way that didn't inadvertently discount race. But like it or not, age and cultural differences probably are more relevant than race to a discussion about how to save journalism in an era of dying newspapers. Young media-savvy people of all races -- African American, Asian American, Latino, you name it -- have been meeting around Portland long before yesterday's conference to discuss this very future, and I, an Asian American boomer and longtime newspaperman, am happy to see it.

    Steve Woodward CEO, Nozzl Media

  • rw (unverified)
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    Hey Steve - what about native americans? Are those youth anywhere in your mosaic? Those working to save and engage gang youth and youth headed that way ONLY use youtube, WEB 2.0 and ftf encounters, as anything else is just not engaging the youth now, at least the ones who read and so forth.

    You just proved my point: you managed to tot off the list of "races" you are supposed to show you are in touch with, but it was reliably incomplete as to the folks I am most in touch with - who find themselves never to be mentioned much less meaningfully! :)

  • Joe Hill (unverified)
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    The two most overlooked points of information about this for me are these.

    (1) What W.E.B. DuBois called "the problem of the color line" (i.e. racial bigotry) is absolutely the most central, least transient, most metastatic problem in U.S. history. Always has been, shows no sign of relenting. Recent evidence? Look at the red and blue colors of the last three presidential elections. A post-racial society? Even children smile when this is suggested. And yet it is just staggeringly hard to get progressives to admit this self-evident fact.

    (2) The Portland school system is RIGHT NOW the festering product of an active racist project ("school choice" to prevent white flight) that has resulted in massive injustices for the Jefferson, Marshall, Roosevelt, and Madison clusters. This has been going on here in progressive Portland for decades. There are some signs that it will be addressed, but I personally have never been so foolish as to bet against the propensity or the ability of white privilege to preserve itself. We'll see.

    It just seems to me that until these two massive facts are acknowledged, any productive conversation about diversity is false and, in fact, impossible.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    The most important speech of the campaign was "A More Perfect Union". It was also an invitation to a dialogue about race in our country that is mature enough to go beyond name calling, and victim/guilt dynamics. In my view the right wing wants to pretend that racism doesn't exist as a force for oppression and lack of opportunity. The left wants to demonize everyone who says anything critical to or about a person of color, as if being Caucasian Euro-American disqualifies one from any semblance of equal standing in the discussion.

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    The dominant race gets the benefits of not having to fight for representation, of not wondering where the role models are, of not being held to a higher standard, of not being dismissed as a token, and they get these benefits without asking for them - because for them, race is not a factor. And that makes race a factor for everyone else.

    Anne: I don't necessarily disagree with any of these notions. But there are times and places and situations where (as in this case for me) a discussion of race is not the solution or the priority..or the area of interest. It's not to dismiss the importance or discount the gravity whatsoever. It's that it should be okay when it isn't the most relevant issue.

    Is that a luxury of being white? Maybe. And maybe that's a good place to take this discussion--I'm not sure. But if the reason for the WeMakeTheMedia conference was to develop and implement a plan to restructure how news and information is gathered and disseminated, based on what I was hearing yesterday the dominant problems had to do with age and a real lack of understanding of new media, not race.

    Jo Ann: I loved meeting you yesterday as well. I hope we will have the opportunity to sit down and speak face-to-face again in the near future.

    I'm always amazed when the response to a lack of people of color being present is "no one kept them out". While it maybe true there was no effort to keep people of color out, there clearly was no effort made to intentionally ensure that the representation in the room represented the diversity of people who care about the future of the media.

    I agree that the representation in the room lacked diversity--but I don't think that had entirely to do with race/color, per se. There was certainly not a representation of citizen journalists in the room, that I could tell. And there was absolutely a lack of people under the age of 35 based on what I observed.

    From the generated dialogue throughout the room, including from some of the people of color present that I spoke with--the main problems derived from an inability to disconnect with the way things have been done in the past. That's why I found the issues of age much more pressing and relevant.

    That isn't to say that YOU had to think of it the same way. Nor that you should. This is merely the facet that seemed most relevant to ME. I believe strongly that I should be able to articulate and explore that without being shut down and dismissed in my own right.

  • Steve Woodward (unverified)
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    rw,

    You're absolutely right. I should not have left Native Americans off the list. One of the brightest tech start-up folks in Oregon is a young Native American friend of mine, both on Twitter and in real life. He's not into journalism, but he's involved in the real-time delivery of climate-change data to a worldwide audience. I hope to see more Native Americans involved in re-imagining what's possible in Portland-area journalism.

  • rw (unverified)
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    It requires all of this information for us to forge ahead and help one another not to make false attributions in solving social issues.

    The youth of colour may indeed find their elders stultifyingly unable to grasp certain aspects of their operant reality, and, so, age stands alongside ethnicity... it's a shifting thing. This is not a monolith, it's an experience: life.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Believing the best of each other and continuing to hear each other and then willingly braid together - it is a gentle and respectful way to do the work that must be done. And will give us resiliency when the pain comes.

  • rw (unverified)
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    I hope that Carla and Joanne perhaps do some writing together, this could be interesting. And I hope they will invite the rest of us into their dialog - there may be a very interesting pastiche of women here, and then add the menfolk for fun. [don't flame me: I'm working on a star quilt, I've quiliting/braiding/call&response on the mind]

  • College Student (unverified)
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    Many people feel that the media can lead people in different ideological directions. We are Smith College students in a Senior Political Psychology Seminar and we want to invite you to take our survey. We are investigating the relationship between media coverage and political information. If you take our short, confidential survey you can choose to be entered into a raffle for a $50 gift certificate to Amazon.com. If you are interested, follow this link to Surveymonkey.com

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  • just down the street from u (unverified)
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    Carla

    How can the majority more fully understand the utterly profound circumstances that led a man to express these words? Perhaps by reading and reflecting upon them we might begin to understand why some were offended by offhand comments of a white woman Twittering. I think insensitive is an appropriate word given the context. I also think that it is easy to discount the plight of those subject to racial inequality by stating that it is not possible to fully appreciate their circumstance. Given that you are a white woman whose children are not subject to the brutality of racial inequality I suppose that you may be that comfortable making an argument to turn away. The words below seem to suggest a certain tenacity of character is necessary instead.

    "In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

    But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

    We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

    It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

    But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

    The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

    We cannot walk alone.

    And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

    We cannot turn back.

    There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."ยน

    I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

    Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

    And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    I have a dream today!"

    • delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • (Show?)

    Just down the street....

    Perhaps by reading and reflecting upon them we might begin to understand why some were offended by offhand comments of a white woman Twittering. I think insensitive is an appropriate word given the context.

    I think, given the context, that we will have to agree to disagree.

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    Hi Carla,

    I share your concern regarding youth representation and the disdain that some of the speakers and facilitators expressed for twitter and community journalism (notice I choose not to use the term citizen journalism because I don't think that is a requirement of journalism).

    We all bring our own experiences to the dialog and no one perspective is the total viewpoint. This is really my point! Unless we stretch ourselves to really hear perspectives different from our own then its easy to be in our own silo's and believe our view is the view. People of color don't have that luxury.

    From our brief conversation it was clear to me that you are passionate about the task at hand. I also agree with another poster who said its not one at the exclusion of the other.

    I work a lot on racial justice issues. I can always count to three before someone says "What about class". I'm not contributing this to you but for many they would rather talk about anything but race.

    A conversation about race should include all people not just people of color because it will take all of us to build a racially inclusive society. I look forward to the day that white people notice first the lack of people of color in the room and work to change it.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Good dialogue between Carla and JoAnn.

    Sometimes people are unintentionally insensitive. For instance, there were meetings of the Hispanic Caucus at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. One of Oregon's delegates was Hispanic, as everyone who met her knew. But here last name did not fit the parameters when a computer (or whatever) sent out notices to all delegates with Hispanic-sounding last names.

    Sometimes it is detail, tone of voice, intent that really matter.

  • just down the street from u (unverified)
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    Maybe sometimes I am insensitive to issues of race and it's appropriate to point that out to me.

    The comment by a white woman Twittering was racially insensitive to some who heard it. Yet she will not concede this. Why does she dissent? Why does she refuse to concede the overarching context? The context that is beyond issues of professional demographic in a local press pool. Is it just more comfortable for her to turn away from them? Like so many issues associated with equality of status, it is difficult to isolate one from another and treat their effects independently. The context of the struggle for racial equality is interwoven. This is the nature of a social problem in the real world.

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    Unless we stretch ourselves to really hear perspectives different from our own then it's easy to be in our own silos and believe our view is the view.

    I'd underscore Jo Ann's point, and also add one that Marshall Ganz makes about the value of solidarity, which takes this outside of the "zero sum" mentality that defines white nationalism, where one group's gain is another's loss.

    Ganz describes solidarity as a moral resource. In contrast to economic resources, which are depleted as they're used, moral resources grow with use. Solidarity is such a resource, and developing cross-racial solidarity is critical in building an effective social change movement.

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    Jo Ann:

    First of all, thank you very much for this excellent dialogue. I hope that we are both able to take something good from this. I also agree that it is not one at the exclusion of the other.

    Honestly, this was one of the most difficult posts I've published during my time at Blue Oregon. Writing it wasn't the issue--that flows out like water. But clicking that "publish" button, knowing that I am starting this dialogue from the perspective of a white person is scary as hell. I know there's a good chance I'm teeing myself up for a long, ugly verbal smacking around--at least I've seen that happen before in other places.

    For the most part however, this has been an excellent dialogue and a good chance to see things from the POV of others. I appreciate that.

    I think that there is a GREAT DEAL that we can learn from one another, Jo Ann. I really am looking forward to having more of these conversations with you.

  • Focus more on class (unverified)
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    I would argue that if we would focus more on class, we would all be much better off. This does not mean that we forget about race, sexual orientation, or gender. Our problems are much more about the haves v. have nots, opposed to white v. black or straight v. gay. This is a much more effective political strategy.

  • JamesP (unverified)
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    I love it when the politically correct crowd tries to reconcile the inherent racism of their own views on race, which they have been trained to believe are on a higher moral plane, but which in reality are the lowest and most corrosive form of racism imaginable.

    Deep down they see this truth, know this truth, understand this truth, but they cannot overtly admit it lest they be ostracized and demonized.

    So, like Carla here, occasionally the cognitive dissonance creates enough discomfort to cause a public expression of confusion.

    Why do liberals find it uncomfortable to talk about race? Because the liberal world-view is racist at its core. No getting around it. So OF COURSE it is uncomfortable for you to discuss it.

    The liberal catechism of social/racial justice is itself caustically racist, and underlying it is a racist paternalism for people of color that is just barely below the surface.

    If I held those views I too would find it very difficult to talk race with a person of color.

    Though I hold many liberal views, I never accepted the liberal tenets of race-based discrimination policies. I have always seen them for what they are- the most toxic form of smug racism imaginable!

    And I have no problem whatsover talking about race with anybody whatsoever.

    If you find it difficult, perhaps it is because of this very contradiction that Carla so haltingly and ineffectively (because she can't face the truth of her own views) puts to voice in this post.

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    JamesP:

    Please, enlighten me: what is the "truth of my own views"?

  • JamesP (unverified)
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    Did you no comprehend the point of my post? The truth of your own views is that they are, at their core, inherently racist.

    And you are uncomfortable talking about race because you are afraid to admit this.

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    James:

    I'm calling bullshit here. And you're full of it.

    My view that in this context, race wasn't the key problem in the discussion is not only valid--its shared by some people of color IN THIS VERY THREAD.

    The point of this entire dialogue is to get people outside of their silos and to look at things from the perspective of others. I get that you're having trouble with that--or maybe you don't care to do it. It's obvious that you've decided the easiest thing to do is just label it all "racist" and walk away. That's your call. But that's lazy and destructive...and it's bullshit.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Ladies, one hopes you will let others dialog with you too.

    I submit, Joanne, that some (not all, by any means), may want class included as they may have experienced all of the same vicissitudes that people of colour report. Indeed, in my case, having lived with no way out of it, I've had the years of minority experience living in native communities and isolated colonies too. So when color is the only thing to be considered, and never the rubric of the minority experience, there are a few of us out there who Get It about that "unable to escape it" experience. But will not be allowed a voice in the sharing b/c the dominant stereotypes say that only a non-pale skin color person can have experienced this thing.

    There are actually situations where it's not so. Not very many, that I will say. But they are out there, and some of us walk that path.

    So that might be why some folks beg to include class, tho most just want to talk poverty instead of skin color, as you say, Joanne. Or, rather than to address teh crude divide of pale vs tinted, they want to obfuscate by pointing back at the people of color and their class-conscious gradations and status struggle.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Dan, as usual, what I tried to say is not said until you say it. Thank you. "Believe better of each other and stay invested in that table you are sitting at" equate to what you just said.

  • JamesP (unverified)
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    The point of this entire dialogue is to get people outside of their silos and to look at things from the perspective of others.

    That's prety funny, Carla! Do you even read your own material? Is your response to me a good example of "looking at things from the perspective of others?"

    Too funny!

    See what I mean? Unable to face the truth of your own views!

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    That's prety funny, Carla! Do you even read your own material? Is your response to me a good example of "looking at things from the perspective of others?"

    It's a two-way street, James.

    That's the point.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Joe Hill - you hit it on the head. MOST of the white progressives I know are paying big bucks to make sure their little darlings get better education. Special schools, all of that. Meanwhile, MY little darling, also bright, a born native-style leading from within leader... must fend with whatever product of the system is left over, as I simply do not have those dollars to spend and that extra drivetime to deliver him here or there.

    Progressives call it "progressive investment in my child's education- consciousness", and yet.... sigh... for the rest of us without those choicy resources, we either lash ourselves with the accusation of envy [what I do] or we recognize white flight, again.

    This is not a fun topic. It feels dangerous to post anything.

  • JamesP (unverified)
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    rw - you bring up yet another great example of the inherent racism of the progressive view.

    How many young people of color are trapped in failing schools while so-called "progressives" stridently oppose any and every mechanism to give them a choice of a school that would serve them better?

    And for the most part, black and hispanic leaders stand arms locked on the schoolhouse steps preventing these children from leaving. JoAnne Bowman included.

    It is tragic. Lives are destroyed.

    I guess it is OK to sell out these children of color for the larger benefits provided by the teachers unions.

    Racist at its core!

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    It feels dangerous to post anything.

    Two notes on this:

    First, it reflects on the often abusive and extremely hostile comments in threads here, which I continue to wish the editors would work to change. No one should have the right to make others around the water cooler feel threatened and intimidated from participating in a discussion.

    On that score, though, I do think we sometimes contribute to that sense of discomfort by exaggerating the difficulty of discussions around race. Yes, it can be difficult - but our job is to make it less so, because if we portray the discussion as impossibly difficult, that only serves the interests of those who would avoid or squelch the discussion.

  • rw (unverified)
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    JamesP - any word on Native or Asian people, or are you also locked into the Standard Rant?

    C'mon: you are not adding anything to the breakout with your angry truculence. The anger is there -- we know it, we feel it, we have it and it gets us too often.

    But your intonation is only accusative, and has essentially barred the door to converse with any of those you pretend to wish to be understood by. It is quite clear you have no care to understand them....except from your defined perceptual view of date.

    We have to do better.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Yes, Dan, agreed. Again you make my bumbling traverse a coherent leap to the other side. Ack.

    JamesP is the worst of the sort who make it impossible to converse authentically. He is articulate, but expressing rage and disdain are his primary goals. The same rage and disdain he believes should not be leveled at he and his, he propagates it.

    I am glad he is not taking aim at me as I reveal aspects of my own experience - we are a mixed home, and we have been treated to violence as well, in indian country... it is NOT a choice to be a mixed family. :)... I need to be treated with respect, and debated respectfully or with a ?? inherent in the dialog. This is missing, deeply, in most of what passes between people here.

    On this topic, I believe we should look to our elders, the native elders, who were given visions and told they MUST bring these ways to the people no matter their colour. The difficult task has required great heart and excercise of discipline on their parts as we learned slowly to discipline our parts.

    The late Martin High Bear, medicine man, answered the question about if certain sacreds belonged only to natives - when god made humans, ALL of them had sweatlodge and vision quest. THey forgot them. What god made is always still there. They just need to remember. This lodge belongs to all people - they need to remember."

    And so it is: the discussion of salience is valuable; and yet, we MUST will ourselves to take care with each other. If you rage and spew at someone, are you really going to blame them for withdrawing from the discussion? Really?

    But if you learn to express your rage without aiming it at them, my bet is that they will stay in there with you, in honor of your heart.

    Now I'll depend on Dan P to make this coherent. I've babbled, but I know this is important to the discussion of how it can be done. I'm just inarticulate.

  • rw (unverified)
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    So, James P, I want to say something to you that your Grandmother or Uncle might say: so, what if you are indeed right about Carla being unable to or unwilling to see her own contradictions? It is not unusual that we DO find ourselves caught in a contradiction we must turn to dialog to get thru.

    Are you going to help her draw a bead on herself and grapple it by demeaning her, lashing at her and spitting on her effort? Are you going to be helping yourself in so doing?

    Our elders have a way of pointing out how we are shooting our feet on behalf of the guy we say has the gun. And in so doing, we shoot our grandchildren's feet too.

  • gl (unverified)
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    Carla I appreciate the diversity you bring to Blue Oregon.

  • Emmit Goldman (unverified)
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    Think the DP is anti-racist? Think again:

    "Somalia's hungry are battered from three sides: by artificially high food prices, by drought, and by a deliberate U.S. war of starvation. The Obama Administration is determined to make the Somali people scream as punishment for resisting American domination. But starving babies cannot scream. They can't even cry."

    (U.S. Starves Children in Somali War)

    Or how about:

    "...the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress appear to be continuing the Bush administration's policy of ignoring and denouncing those who have the temerity to report violations of international humanitarian law by the United States or its allies."

    (The Goldstone Report: Killing the Messenger)

    Not enough? How about:

    "...the United States has long since defaulted on its responsibilities under every single treaty obligation it ever incurred with regard to Indians...

    "The principle is this: Sexism, racism, and all the rest arose here as a concomitant to the emergence and consolidation of the eurocentric nation-state form of sociopolitical and economic organization."

    (I Am Indigenist)

    We need new political institutions that will reject the present racist and barbaric ones.

  • GWeiss (unverified)
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    Awww, jees, Carla--if we learn to deal with race so that it stops being the wedge that divides in our country, all that's left to divide us is economic class.

    I think our whole system would collapse if all of us in the lower classes aligned themselves and acted on our economic interests instead of dividing ourselves along lines of race or religion or geography or political affiliations.

    Holder is right about one thing--we are afraid to have honest conversations about race--or at least I am--all that's left is class to divide us if we get a handle on our racial legacy. Economic class comes into play after race is no longer an issue, and class is not something we're ready to take on--nor are the powers that be willing to let us take them on. So, Holder can rest easy--we'll never have substantive conversations about race. Thank goodness.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    rest repeated fail

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    In an intellectual endeavor I'm willing to look at a diverse Point of View as part of the equation, I am entirely unwilling to make it a determining factor. In the non-intellectual basis of my work, I hire based on my needs, entirely regardless of race - only capacity to do the work required. If you're first in line with the required skill set and attitude you're hired if you're a legal hire.

    Sometimes the result of lack of diversity JoAnne complained about is poor dissemination of information and sometimes it is lack of interest by those not present. Numbers in themselves don't create an answer to that question, they do ask a question. Lack of interest can have a lot of fathers.

    I won't support a politician because they're of or not of a particular race or gender. I'm interested in results and the process, not the 'what,' if race, gender, class brings something to that, then it's important. If all things are equal (something I can't remember happening) I'd go toward diversity simply for its own sake.

    While I can't be something other than Caucasian, I can remain what we all are, which is human, and react to people on that basis. I've had struggles and tragedies, I understand that.

  • the plasticgraduate (unverified)
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    Carla writes:

    "A number of my very good friends are persons of color."

    Well, congratulations.

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    Hi rw,

    Sorry for not answering sooner. Work gets in the way of my post some days:). I understand the need to discuss class as it is vital to understand the conditions that some experience daily. I would never suggest that class isn't important just that diverting the conversation from race to class does not serve us well. We should talk about class as a separate condition. It just makes me a little crazy when folks want to go there without address race after the issue of race has been identified.

    I appreciate your words on the dialog Carla and I have had. I think Carla is a thoughtful woman and open to the discussion. Its nice to meet someone that you only know on the web and have that not change your opinion of them;).

  • the plasticgraduate (unverified)
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    You can always spot a white person when they write some drivel like, "...their race never occurred to me."

    How many times have you walked into a room and been the only white person there? Did your race occur to you then? Oh, wait - that's never happened, right?

    Only white people pretend that race doesn't exist.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Yah, Joanne. I getcha. And agree. And thank you for letting me simply add the filigree.

    As to the poster after you, I've often been the only whitey in the room! Won't go into some of the sad temperature changes that happened when they realized my son was the obvious native/mixed blood and it did not come from me. I'm always honest about that, even as my different tribal relatives can often be caught telling White Lady jokes in front of me as if I'm one of them. And I guess they are saying I am. Hah.

    So I have to deal with, ok I'll say it, African American people here in the North more than sometimes are totally open and warm to me when they think I'm native, and then they have to cough up that mouse in their chest when I honestly clarify the question as it comes ..... I don't know what that is about, but I noticed it here as never in the south or midwest... so dunno what it is. Might be our invisible numbers for all that we are a hugely urbanized population all around the country. Dunno. Maybe Chris Lowe can help us with that... it makes me sad, but my son and I do not believe you should be a shit to someone when they have to scrub the poop off their shoe. We all have it, and the only way we are going to solve all this is to be polite and understanding and hope for the same.

    And let it go.

    :(....

  • rw (unverified)
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    And so that was REALLY scary to say. But it's an experience I have had many, many times since coming back home to PDX here. And instead of trashing me, I hope someone has some kind of insight I'm lacking. I think it could have to do with the demographics/culture of region. At Sundance, the Montana camp has a TOTALLY different feel from the SD or Canada camp. And the AZ people - they are their own selves, quite distinct, never mind tribal distinctions.

  • rw (unverified)
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    ps Joanne and Carla: I live in FEAR of running into you in real life and having my terribly ill-tempered wenchiness CONFIRMED. Truth.

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    How many times have you walked into a room and been the only white person there? Did your race occur to you then? Oh, wait - that's never happened, right?

    Yes, it has, actually. For the better part of six months I lived with a Hispanic family in the Willamette Valley. I was the only white person in the room almost all of the time.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Carla, those self-pitying stereotypes laid out as accusatives are really tiresome, aren't they? Learning about storytelling and oral hx in culture would save that person a lot of grief and everyone around that person a lot of grief. YOu can express your grief without alienating everyone with your self-indulgence or by laying waste to the ones you say you want understood by... those guys I watched last week, GOD they got me to see and feel... their pain was so palpable! And yet it came from heart and head, and spirit... and it was anger, yes, but nobody was slashign anybody. It was truly spiritual speech taken up about things mortal. We NEED our storytellers to teach us how to talk our way out of this, I am more and more convinced.

  • Peri Brown (unverified)
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    I was the only white person in the room almost all of the time.

    "White" is a race, not an ethnicity. "Hispanic" is an ethnicity, not a race. You were all caucasians, they caucasian hispanics and you a caucasian anglo.

    So, everyone DID post to that Cesar Chavez thread without ever reading any one else's posts!

  • rw (unverified)
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    hahhaha... peri, you are a hoot. But remember, they parse out as people of colour b/c of brown skin. Please don't get me started on the hilarious dicing and slicing that goes on behind the sundance gates.... hahaha... eek. My very cultural son, totally cherokee looking guy adn a strong traditionalist takes shit from new dancers who don't know him and trot around in their browner brown for as long as it takes to notice who is cutting firewood for 12 hour shifts day after day and who is taking care of the women and children during dance; and who is a brother for real when it comes time, standing strong. Heh. But he sure has to tolerate that stupid "whiter skin" bullshit.

    ANyway Peri, that was a nice little herring bone you tossed in. Got any sour cream to go widdat?

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)
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    Posted by: Dan Petegorsky | Nov 23, 2009 10:57:28 AM

    It feels dangerous to post anything.

    Two notes on this:

    First, it reflects on the often abusive and extremely hostile comments in threads here, which I continue to wish the editors would work to change.

    You've got 6, max, dittoheads, that are readily identifiable. You have more links spammers than posters, also readily identifiable. You have a majority that want some kind of validated IDs.

    Continuing to do nothing isn't just not working to change it, it's positively encouraging it. It's a blog. You can set any standards you want, as long as you are consistent. It would also be trivial to have categories of threads. Some don't allow for any responses. Some have to be approved. Some require a FB ID. Some wide open. No radical remake, just a one liner under the post, "open for comments", etc. Finally, you could have another page for the interminable debates, where JK and adam and wunderblunder can spam to their hearts' content. When they raise their ugly heads in a "real" topic, you move it to their foul little nest. People that go there know what they're in for.

    Have I proposed anything that would take more than 15 minutes? One has to blame the management for complete inaction. This is now into basic functionality. Look at "comments" under the menubar. 75% link spammers on dead topics. That is lost functionality. This is a good blog. Don't let them eat your lunch. Do something proactive.

    It's irritating that a number of people predicted that this would happen when you went from being out of power to having the Presidency + Congress. It started pretty much overnight. It is unconscionable that this has been allowed to play out, verbatim as described, for a whole year.

    Finally, there's a small bit that the readership could do, as well. Reread this thread, rating each topic on merit. Then look at how many responses each get. The better responses get fewer comments, just like main posts. If you want better quality discussion, then you have to get off your high horses and talk to people that think differently, or the only people that will speak differently are those that don't care, i.e., the dittoheads.

    At least no one has summed up the problem with the endemic, "they're haters" line. You know, there are left wing dittoheads too.

  • rw (unverified)
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    "They know what they are in for" - I agree with you on the most part, but I've experienced Kari to get some mean little PMS moment and while he does not remove others, remove me... yet I've not heard an outcry by the denizens that I should be logged out and trucked away.

    So - perhaps that fit of pique phenomenon would be dealt wtih if there is an established minimal structure for the edits, criteria, etc. Perhaps the lack of effort is manifestation of a fear of having one's draconian impulses stimulated and then fed if the editing were to begin? Laudable to sit quietly and hold one's breath in such a case.

    Or... maybe he's just too busy to care about that part. Most likely the latter. However: having had a pissy response and some targeted removal a few times, I'm not too anxious for Kari to wade into that part of the blog ownership without some good back up and sound advice - when you get overwhelmed you WILL make emotional decisions. And the defense of all actions is reliable in it's impenetrability.

    It would be nice to have the robo spammers removed. And Dan P. might be a good first stop resource viz how to enforce a more-genteel tone around here so that meaningful discussion can take place without a feeling of vulnerability that is out of proportion.

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    Carla said:

    The hierarchy of media leadership in the room seemed in a rut that they didn't understand based on old ways of thinking. What interested me was the lack of representation of new media and younger people, instead of race. So I said so, only to be smacked down as an insensitive white woman.

    Question for her critics:

    If the heirarchy of media leadership in the room had consisted entirely of people of color AND were still of the same age group... how would that have improved the representation from new media and younger people?

    Anyone with sufficient skills to log onto a computer and read Carla's post here is in a position to know that the extant media, particularly print media, is in trouble because of the insurgent new media and... frankly, blogs like this one.

    So, how would this conference have been better able to tackle these issues if it had been dominated by people of the same age but with different colored skin?

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    Posted by: Peri Brown | Nov 23, 2009 11:43:22 PM

    "White" is a race, not an ethnicity. "Hispanic" is an ethnicity, not a race. You were all caucasians, they caucasian hispanics and you a caucasian anglo.

    There are lots of "hispanic" folk who have very little European genetic ancestory. If they are "caucasian" then so are the overwhelming majority of "blacks" living in the United States.

  • Steve Buel (unverified)
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    As to PPS school racism: In 1979 when I became a school board member there was specific institutionalized racism. Very clearly drawn on racial lines. Today the racism of the school system in Portland is what I refer to as a secondary racism. The specific institutionalized prejudices which clearly exist are drawn on economic lines. More well to do neighborhoods in general get better schools. Hence, since people of color, in Portland, are more likely to be in these neighborhoods they are secondarily discriminated against. (Some people might argue that this is reversed. They are discriminated against because they have more people of color.) This explanation is a generalization of course, but it will stand up decently well under close scrutiny.

  • Nick P (unverified)
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    The issue of race is one that both confuses and frankly, scares me.

    Why am I not surprised in the least?

    I can't possibly understand what it really means to be a person of color. The only way to do that would be to actually not be white.

    What you mean is how it "feels" to be a person of color. And how POCs "feel" isn't really the problem. I'm sure that POCs in America would "feel" better if so many of them weren't rotting in jail, last hired / first fired, or expected to act as mouthpieces for their entire race every time someone wanted perspective. Racism is a pillar that American capitalism rests upon. One cannot be seriously attacked without attacking the other. Thinkers like W.E.B. DuBois, Malik al-Shabazz, and Martin Luther King (read up on the Poor People's Campaign, YT) understood this. White liberals, particularly those desperate to talk about anything other than race and class, do not.

    A number of my very good friends are persons of color.

    I was waiting for this. Do you seriously consider it some kind of material evidence that your opinions have some special merit? Do they know that you brag about being friends with them to bolster your "progressive" street cred?

    What interested me was the lack of representation of new media and younger people, instead of race. So I said so, only to be smacked down as an insensitive white woman.

    Well, considering that it sounds like you were desperately trying to divert the conversation away from legitimate minority concerns... yep. Sounds like they hit the nail on the head.

    Am I really not allowed to talk about other things? As a white woman, do I really have to consider the issue of race over everything else ALL the time? If I were a woman of color who said that I was interested in discussing the age disparity instead of the race disparity, would that then be okay?

    You are "allowed" to talk about other things. And people are allowed to respond as they see fit. FACT: Race colors everything in America, and as long as capitalism exists it always will. The election of Barack Obama says a lot more about the attitudes of white America than it does any significant change in the power structure.

    I'd also like to ask if the approval of POCs is so important to you that you feel silenced when it is withheld. Are you really that racked with white guilt?

    I also don't think I should always have to stumble over the fact that I'm white in order to talk about these issues.

    I don't think it has anything to do with being white. I think it has to do with being ignorant and privileged. Your comments up thread too numerous to mention belie the perspective of a middle class white woman being petulant for getting denied a pat on the head for being a "good white liberal."

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    What you mean is how it "feels" to be a person of color. And how POCs "feel" isn't really the problem. I'm sure that POCs in America would "feel" better if so many of them weren't rotting in jail, last hired / first fired, or expected to act as mouthpieces for their entire race every time someone wanted perspective. Racism is a pillar that American capitalism rests upon. One cannot be seriously attacked without attacking the other. Thinkers like W.E.B. DuBois, Malik al-Shabazz, and Martin Luther King (read up on the Poor People's Campaign, YT) understood this. White liberals, particularly those desperate to talk about anything other than race and class, do not.

    No Nick, actually I meant exactly what I said. Your words don't fit in my mouth. So stop putting them there, please.

    If we took all of these people you're listing and put them in a conference about saving journalism in Oregon, exactly how would they fix it?

    I was waiting for this. Do you seriously consider it some kind of material evidence that your opinions have some special merit? Do they know that you brag about being friends with them to bolster your "progressive" street cred?

    The fact that I have long-term, dear friends of color gives me no special merit or privilege than anyone else. Had you bothered to actually glean meaning from what I was trying to say rather than look for seams drive wedges and divisions, you'd know that already. Again, your words don't fit in my mouth. Stop trying to put them there.

    Well, considering that it sounds like you were desperately trying to divert the conversation away from legitimate minority concerns... yep. Sounds like they hit the nail on the head.

    Wrong again. At least you're consistent.

    People choose to be concerned about what they like. I chose to be concerned about those things I was seeing and observing at the conference I attended. Why is it that my concerns aren't legitimate--but someone else's are? Or is the fact that I'm a white woman just not quite "legitimate" enough for you?

    You are "allowed" to talk about other things. And people are allowed to respond as they see fit. FACT: Race colors everything in America, and as long as capitalism exists it always will. The election of Barack Obama says a lot more about the attitudes of white America than it does any significant change in the power structure.

    Okay, then answer Kevin's question from upthread: If the heirarchy of media leadership in the room had consisted entirely of people of color AND were still of the same age group... how would that have improved the representation from new media and younger people?

    I'd also like to ask if the approval of POCs is so important to you that you feel silenced when it is withheld. Are you really that racked with white guilt?

    Are you really so in need of being divisive and nasty that you have to build up false premises in an effort to rip others apart? Your bitter, acidic and snide comments do nothing to further the conversation or make things better. What's your goal? To "out" a "middle-class white woman" who you think it "ignorant" and "privileged"? You know nothing about me, where I've come from or where I am now. Ignorance is in your mirror.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Not sure who has the ass-end and who has the brains-end, **P or @@P

    Another fine product of historic trauma.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Carla, I have to apologize to you for this shit-flinging, nose-picking excuse for discussion.

    This has nothing to do with what Rose High Bear calls Race Reconciliation. Nothing.

    And until I know the ethnicity of this nasty poster, I won't go so far as to say it is some kind of pain that should be dignified, much less enobled.

    It feels like someone just being nasty because they can, and not even really about authentic pain connected to the topic at hand.

    It's a person in generalized emotional carcinoma mode.

    This is not constructive, folks. It's just cathartic spleen, if even that interesting.

  • (Show?)

    It may be too late and recent comments may have turned too abusive to attempt returning to a substantive discussion, but to pick up one aspect of Carla's thread, the question of representation of new media and younger journalists in the mix, and how that does or doesn't dovetail with racial/ethnic representation:

    Here's the thing, Carla: they are connected. Demographically speaking, the younger the country's population the more and more racially/ethnically diverse it's becoming. So theoretically, at least, greater representation by new media and younger people would inherently also bring greater representation of people of color.

    BUT - and this is a huge but: I say "theoretically" because in fact the blogosphere and new media have been disproportionately white and segregated. This holds true not just in every study I've seen of the general state of new media, but also in so-called progressive new media gatherings such as Netroots Nation, where it's been identified as an ongoing problem.

    In other words, as poorly representative as "old media" are (and, by the way, the "progressive" tv shows are just as bad or worse in this regard - last I saw MSNBC ranked at the bottom of the list for % of non-white hosts/guests), "new media" may be even worse - and, as I noted above, this is especially damning given how much greater the percentage of people of color is as the population skews younger.

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    In other words, as poorly representative as "old media" are (and, by the way, the "progressive" tv shows are just as bad or worse in this regard - last I saw MSNBC ranked at the bottom of the list for % of non-white hosts/guests), "new media" may be even worse - and, as I noted above, this is especially damning given how much greater the percentage of people of color is as the population skews younger.

    Dan: This is a good point and I'm glad you brought it to the fore. There may in fact be a dearth of racial/ethnic diversity in new media--and I'm certainly not going to dispute this idea.

    The question is: how does this actually translate to substantive structural changes in how news is gathered, delivered and consumed by the populace as a whole? As we watch the erosion of journalism in Oregon--how will changing the racial makeup of those who gather and deliver news improve the current situation in terms of this erosion? Accepting your premise: Given that we in fact have had a better representation of diversity in legacy media than new media...and the erosion has taken place anyway, how will adding more ethnic diversity practically improve this structural erosion?

    Clinging to the old ways of gathering and delivering news isn't working. Citizen journalists are a part of the mix now--and they're drawing consumers. Some in relatively large numbers. The issue isn't necessarily the color of their skin--it's the quality of their writing and the depth of their work. And they tend to be younger than their legacy counterparts, as a whole. For me, the issue of how we bring these factions together and blend them to create a new, dynamic structure that watchdogs the powerful and tells compelling stories is the first thing to address.

    I don't think the issues of age and race are mutually exclusive in terms of addressing them per se. For me, the issue of age disparity in media is the one that I see as the initial stumbling block to change.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)
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    Posted by: Kevin | Nov 24, 2009 1:53:55 PM

    Posted by: Peri Brown | Nov 23, 2009 11:43:22 PM

    "White" is a race, not an ethnicity. "Hispanic" is an ethnicity, not a race. You were all caucasians, they caucasian hispanics and you a caucasian anglo.

    There are lots of "hispanic" folk who have very little European genetic ancestory. If they are "caucasian" then so are the overwhelming majority of "blacks" living in the United States.

    You'll be disappointed that DHS paid me $80,000 over 6 months to retrofit their PowerBuilder apps to handle it that way. That's how it is legally defined. Yes, there are black hispanics, too, which is completely irrelevant to what Peri was saying, as Carla defined her housemates as "brown". Hispanic was a loose term until LBJ defined it as anyone with an Hispanic surname. When Jane White marries Juan Lopez, she instantly becomes Hispanic- unless she keeps her maiden name.

    The point is, that it is not a race. It's pretty obvious from the non-response to Z's linguistic analysis that folks would rather argue about this than realize that the meaning of a term is its use, and simply unpack its meaning. Hard to mange that not being a civil discussion. Do you really think that the spammers would have had a comment if that were the subject? Of course no discussion of teh concrete steps proposed to deal with that. Admit it. You like arguing. Personally I suggest that Zara take the philosophy to a journal; no one here is going to listen. I think it was you that pointed out how "incredibly anti-intellectual" Americans are. Try acting like you know it.

    Oh, and since you all would rather just be pissy..."identity politics exists". I've heard that poo-poo'd around here. Stupid lines like, "whatever that is anyway". You know exactly what it is. It's when someone votes for a candidate, regardless of anything else, simply because the candidate shares some demographic similarity. "I support Sam because he's gay. I voted for Obama because he's black. I support Pelosi because she's the first woman Speaker of the House."

    There's a lot more of that going on than you know. In Louisiana, one common version you see is the electorate voting based on whether the candidate is a duck hunter, deer hunter or fisherman. People knew less of Edwin Edwards' genealogy than that he was a duck hunter. The bridge just south of La Vacherie only exists because Huey Long's driver couldn't get duck back to Baton Rouge from Folse's father's restaurant, before it was cold, if he went down the western side of the river.

  • (Show?)

    How will adding more ethnic diversity practically improve this structural erosion?

    That's a softball: despite this general erosion, ethnic media is actually thriving. Since "mainstream" media have utterly failed to meet key market needs, new markets for ethnic media have emerged and are doing very well, both in print and broadcast.

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    Oh, and since you all would rather just be pissy..."identity politics exists". I've heard that poo-poo'd around here. Stupid lines like, "whatever that is anyway". You know exactly what it is. It's when someone votes for a candidate, regardless of anything else, simply because the candidate shares some demographic similarity. "I support Sam because he's gay. I voted for Obama because he's black. I support Pelosi because she's the first woman Speaker of the House."

    It's poo-pooed because it's a gross oversimplification which fails to adequately account for what actually happens most of the time. Or did you think it mere chance that Alan Keyes and Al Sharpton failed miserably as presidential candidates while Barack Obama thrived?

  • rw (unverified)
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    Daniel Pete: your comments really come home as true. I learned last night that I utterly misunderstood an interaction with an elder who is a traditional herbal and root master as well as a storyteller. I'm ready to apprentice, or begin to find that relationship after years of it being in the back of my mind. Recently I mentioned this in brief, but specifically, upon learning that a tribal associate of mine is indeed a Digger. She mentioned a lecutre/demo she is doing.... and I thought I was being put off as a White Lady who should just go pay to visit an exhibit! I was a little miffed even!

    Well, here we are three months later, I talk it thru with an elder who helps me understand 1. she was telling ME her particular bonafides (she is asked to teach it in all kinds of venues, is recognized); and she was INVITING ME!

    'Jeez. So it IS critical that we press ahead to include a broad variety of culture groups, ethnicities et. al. It's the only way we are going to have a chance at parsing the cues as reportage is being made.

    I am still embarrassed today that I, after decades of my life in this milieu..... so utterly missed what was being said and even felt miffed or rebuffed, with my hopeful/ego bumped. I'm so embarrassed.

    It goes deeper than words -- photographs are like art - there is a kind of call and response, often, in the compositions presented in "journalism". We don't know how to read African American Underground Railroad quilts much less know the stories of Morning Star and Broken Top quilts as used in Native ceremonies.... and just so, I feel certain that there are conversations taking place that have deep visual hx....

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)
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    I stand corrected. People in Portland actually like being lied to and having a rare Presidential victory used as cheap cover by the mayor!

    How many do it? Who knows. I know it's easier to find one than a true progressive. There are also those that are so self-deluded they really believe all the other adornments they add along the way. Either you know that or you don't. When you consider yourself an "out there" progressive yet, just coincidentally, think Israel got it right on everything, I suspect you don't know that.

    I'm pretty damned tired of all these ad hoc, disingenuous arguments. Oooww...crystal ball moment coming on...in the next 30 days we will have a major post by the identity politics editor, and, real reach here, Kevin will, after carefully considering all the facts, will completely agree with her. No, there isn't a simple predictive equation, progressives really ARE psychic.

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    When you consider yourself an "out there" progressive yet, just coincidentally, think Israel got it right on everything, I suspect you don't know that.

    Since you appear to be using me as an example, LBb, I'll simply point out a couple salient facts which illustrate why stridently smug, self-satisfied & self-righteously 'real' progressives don't get any traction when engaging in litmus-testing broadsides against 'fake' progressives.

    1. I am Jewish
    2. I have a long history of being harshly critical of Israel, both on my blog and in comments here at Blue Oregon - both of which are easily searchable - as well as on other blogs/forums

    Having been called a self-hating Jew more times that I care to remember, I personally consider it something of a verification that I must be on the right track when individuals from both extremes try to dismiss me, particularly on the issue of Israel.

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    Dan:

    According to the NPR story you linked--these organizations see themselves as successful because they've adapted to new media and work to be multigenerational. In addition, it says they're trying to think outside the box of the old ways of doing things--which they attribute to their survival.

    They're not successful because they're "ethnic" (NPR's word), they self-identify as successful because they've learned to adapt where others haven't.

    Incidentally, the most successful and well-trafficked political blog in the nation was founded and is managed by a person of color: Markos Moulitsas Zuniga. The Daily Kos isn't exceptional because Markos is Hispanic. Kos is successful because he provides excellent analysis and good writing for the niche he's created.

    And just as an aside--Markos has been an inspiration to me personally. I doubt I'd be a blogger now if his work hadn't paved the way.

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    Carla - I'm not really sure why you're trying to separate out the "ethnicity" of the ethnic media in talking about their success. It's part of what and who they are, and self-consciously so. This is a completely different phenomenon from Kos, which does happen to be Markos' creation, but is not a self-consciously ethnic news vehicle.

    Anyway, there's lots of literature on this, especially going back to the mid- '00s (?!) - before the Great Recession caught up with the new media's growth:

    Ethnic Media Reaching Record Numbers in U.S.

    New Study Maps Rise in Ethnic/Racial Media Nationwide

    And also the annual "State of the News Media" reports from the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which have separate sections on ethnic/alternative media.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Dan P - I do not like that "ethnic media" is stratified. This is like self-selection on the freaking playground. I get it why NdN media stay under the radar.... but I don't like it. Makes them too freaking hard to find, AND it makes it too hard to evolve and professionalize whilst maintaining that which is our beloved frybread intonational litmus.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Lord B: you are so cranky today. If the people who disagree with Carla would stop being complete acid torques and express themselves with some respect, really engage, you might find the discourse to your liking. Maybe?

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    RW - I don't understand what you're saying. Do you not think papers like Indian Country Today, El Hispanic News, Asian Reporter, Portland Observer, etc. etc. serve an important community role, covering stories and providing viewpoints and perspective seldom found in mainstream papers?

    Or look at television. A study by Media Matters of cable news last year, Gender and Ethnic Diversity in Prime-Time Cable News, found some pretty staggering data:

    Latinos were particularly underrepresented. Though they now comprise 15 percent of the American population, they made up only 2.7 percent of cable news guests. The worst of the three networks on this score was MSNBC, which featured only six Latino guests out of 460 prime-time appearances during the entire month.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point, but with this in mind do you really want to criticize outlets like Telemundo or Univision? Who's excluding whom?

  • rw (unverified)
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    No, it's fine that they exist. Perfect. But they exist so very apart from the mainstream, we have to go off into their part of the world, net, wherever/whatever to get this news. I long to see the mainstream media referencing from there. Not putting them down at all. However, just because self-separation exists, it's not wrong to label it.

    I think there is a lot of criticism of mainstream media not being willing, yet I work within my communities, and there are some who are adolescent in their refusal to put up the energy to interface, and then there are the others who get used up or exausted from task of trying to share, communicate, etc.

    The exhaustion of the effort creates a ghetto - it's easier and more productive to shrug, and just turn your energy to creating and forget about trying to speak to anyone but your created audience and the few who figure out how to find you.

    Native resources are NOT readily visible, and much that shows up on search threads are not well done. I'm speaking of hte native reality, not of black entertainment stuff or hispanic radio/telenovela. I'm thinking about my coimmunity, so horribly left behind.

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    RW - got it. Oh, and FYI, I'm sure you'll be shocked, shocked by this from the Media Matters study:

    "There was not a single appearance by a Native American during the entire month."

  • rw (unverified)
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    Also, Dan, those little rags you mention, those are not the equivalent of the depth journalism required to really do a lot of good. I view those as veritable house organs to the ethnic. On the level of a decent company paper.

    I'm sorry, I do not mean to cast aspersions on any of those fine people -- but they are not funded, they lack depth..... they do not stand in for true professional coverage.

  • rw (unverified)
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    O dear me, Dan: I'm SO shocked.

    Oy. What shall I do to update my understanding of my families?

    [pathetic joke - and I thank you, heartfelt and good-humored that you do notice and do mention. Sure wish we were at the place of simply sharing frybread reference points... but it cld be that this day is generations away yet]

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    Also, Dan, those little rags you mention, those are not the equivalent of the depth journalism required to really do a lot of good. I view those as veritable house organs to the ethnic. On the level of a decent company paper.

    I'm sorry, I do not mean to cast aspersions on any of those fine people -- but they are not funded, they lack depth..... they do not stand in for true professional coverage.

    This cuts to the very heart of Carla's post, IMHO.

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    How abounding times accept you absolved into a allowance and been the alone white being there? Did your chase action to you then? Oh, delay - that's never happened, right? Yes, it has, actually. For the bigger allotment of six months I lived with a Hispanic ancestors in the Willamette Valley. I was the alone white being in the allowance about all of the time. federal small business grants

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    For the bigger allotment of six months I lived with a Hispanic ancestors in the Willamette Valley. I was the alone white being in the allowance about all of the time. [ spy on a phone ] app

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