Thursday, December 11, 2008

On Blogging, Preaching to the Choir, and Throwing a Party

I chose this image not because I'm going to write on the movie, but because it seemed to best convey all the topics to be covered in this particular post.

So who would have thought my last post would be so aptly named? "On Walking in a Wind Storm." We certainly got ourselves some wind - and quite the storm - from this one. More drama than I'm used to - for sure - and I teach at a middle school.

I keep thinking of the image of the Joker from the most recent Batman movie, as he says, "And . . . away . . . we . . . GO!"

BOOM!!! (imagine explosion sounds)

So here goes. I've been crazy frustrated for the last few days. To the point of not sleeping and all that. I have a feeling my counterpart in this particular blogosphere whirl of a storm probably has an idea of a similar kind of irritation and stress. Because - I mean - did either of us ever want this kind of ridiculous "battle"? I seriously doubt it.

And there are a number of frustrations to this - that I've already aired - but one that's got me is what happened when I tried to wander over to "the other side" and say my piece. In retrospect, I should have totally seen it coming, but it kind of surprised me the reactions I got over there. Nowhere (other than with the blogger herself) was there any sort of response to the gist of the matter - that something had offended, unintentionally, and should be addressed in some way. Instead, there were attacks, numerous references to my "sensitivity" and inability to take a joke, "PC" references . . . the usual.

And, really, why did that surprise me? Because that's what happens in the larger world - but it's also what happens when you step into somebody else's turf and call out the boss. At that point, whether or not you are making sense, the boss's people are going to step in and protect. That's normal human reaction. When the opportunity to draw a line in the sand and call out sides occurs, we all choose a side and defend those we know. "Our people" - whether that line is drawn by family ties, race, neighborhood, or who reads whose blog.

And that's exactly what happened. Those on "my side" jumped to tell me how right I was and how reasonable I was being, while "her side" jumped to say the exact same thing to her - while both of us were probably a little bit wrong. Et voila! Drama.

And that's what really bothers me here. Because this blog stopped being about my personal space to vent or "practice writing regularly." It's become an opportunity to educate and share experiences, as a means to spread the word and battle the institutionalized and media-led ignorance of those living in this country. And I don't say "ignorance" as the loaded term that so many see it to be, but the definition - lack of knowledge. Because, if you don't have the experience, and nobody takes the time to teach you, you're going to lack that knowledge.

And in my attempts to share experience and knowledge, I've developed a little following. Not a huge one, by any means, but a decent number. The problem is, this particular following sounds so much like a choir. Because people choose to come to this blog to read it. And most people are going to continually come to and read a blog that they agree with - because it's just too painful and frustrating to read something that you can't nod your head to on a regular basis.

The problem is, that process makes it difficult for true education and learning to occur. Because one-sided agreeing doesn't really change anybody's mind. I just get to hear - "Yeah! Say it again! I totally agree with you!!!" - which feels great, but am I really reaching anybody that wasn't already headed in that direction?

And then I found a venue (blog) FULL of EXACTLY who I want to reach - folks learning about race and dealing with it from the context of raising their children (of color) in a white-dominated society and world. Folks that seemed willing and excited to learn (I know this because I only found out about it when they linked to my post on Guess Who? as something to think about). And so I paid it a visit. And I saw something that bothered me, so I commented - thanking the writer for the link, and explaining my concern.

And then . . . away . . . we . . . went!


Because it turned out that that particular choir wasn't having it. We all went into "protection" mode. And here we are.

Want to know the saddest thing? Since the drama occurred, I have gotten hundreds of hits coming over from that site. When I was originally linked to, as a means to learn something and think about it? Three. It's one more microcosm of how people of color tend to get attention in this society - ignored until something BIG and negative goes down.

So where am I going with this? I'm not exactly sure. But I have always been proud of my ability to win anybody over - no matter their demographics. Race, gender, economic status - throw it all away when the CVT walks in, because he can find the common ground and walk there. The beauty of practice in "The Gray Area." But that's in person. In writing? I tend to chafe a little bit more . . .

And so I find myself thinking about a party that happened at my new house after Thanksgiving. My new roommate (a black man) can best be described to have stereotypical "hippie" tendencies from an outside viewpoint. His friends follow suit. The friends I brought to this party were a bit more colorful (still a few white folks), but from a hip-hop cultural grounding.

So, most of the party, there were sort of two parties happening - the upstairs: hand-drums, barefoot, and less-clad dancing with abandon( average age between 40 and 50); and the downstairs: chilling on a big couch, listening to hip-hop and giving each other a hard time (average age mid-twenties to mid-thirties). When folks from the upstairs wandered down, we would exchange cordial greetings and introductions, there would be an awkward pause, and then the newcomer would return to upstairs.

Except at the end. At the end, the straggling "upstairs folks" came on down and joined us all on the big couch. We made a mini-performance space, and folks took turns sharing their words. I shared some politicized spoken word about my relationship with race as it pertains to my father. An "upstairs woman" shared some of her own spoken word (also political) from back in the day. Two of the downstairs crew dropped lyrics over a generic beat I put on. And we all just shared a positive, creative, and intimate space for a short period of time. "Them" and "us" - sitting all lined up on a big-ass couch, appreciating each others' talents (and courage to share).

And THAT'S the kind of party I want to host again. A party where you can all have your different places to camp out and do whatever it is that brings you satisfaction, while also coming together to share and learn and connect at the end of it all.

I don't want to preach to just the choir. Sure, I need the choir to keep me fed and strong enough to battle on through the rough stuff, but I don't want only the choir. Because I want the opportunity to really reach some people who don't see my side. I want the opportunity to re-structure my own views based on somebody else's comments. And I want the opportunity to foster a respectful dialogue between different sides, so that they can edge a little bit closer towards common ground.

And so I make an offer to all those from the "upstairs party" that have been coming over here to see what I have to say: why don't you come back again, bob your head to my beat for a minute, appreciate the subtleties of a well-formed verse? And to those with me at the "downstairs" party - how 'bout we go upstairs for a bit and dance a little; see how a head-spin goes to a natural drum rhythm? And when we hit that point of being a bit too far past our respective comfort zones, we'll both head back to our little areas of the party - but we won't go home. Oh, no. We'll share the same house, and all the positive, good-natured fun emanating from upstairs and down, until we're relaxed enough to switch it up again and stretch.

And to the now-"infamous" blogger from the "upstairs party" - I offer you a space to post a little something. Share your thoughts and where you're at, honestly and respectfully (as you have been doing), so we can reach out a little bit. I offer my own services to the "upstairs," as well (but not pushing it).

And wouldn't that be quite the party!!?? I mean - seriously. Somewhere where we all don't just preach to choirs, but to the "other side." Somewhere where true, knock-the-breath-out learning happens. Dang.

I'm not a (specifically) religious man, but I've always felt that everything happens for a reason. I doubt you disagree. So wouldn't that be tight if this was the reason?

That's my little dream. Not likely, by any means, but something worth aspiring to (and daydreaming about).

And as far as my choir goes - thank you all for the support, don't stop reading, and please feel free to share a verse or two whenever the need strikes.


Ms. Sis said...

i just want to say that I am confused... i miss a couple of day or like a week reading your blog and it seems like tons of stuff happened, and I am not sure exactly what. Of course you don't have to elaborate, or re-post or whatever, but just know that I wish I could chime in my 2 cents, but I am missing info.

miri said...

Can I just say - you certainly have a way with metaphors. What a beautiful image you created at the end there. Definitely took the edge off of my frustration and turned it into a warm sort of glow. I think I'm ready for some dialogue, some exchange of information, and most importantly, some partying :)

Misty said...

::sitting down on the couch.... nodding her head to an imaginary beat, altho a little bit "off" b/cs she has, uh, NO rhythm... wishing she had a glass in her hands or something to eat... she's nervous.. but wants to meet people, talk, share, laugh, figure out::

Aunt LoLo said...

Thanks for the invite - I will stick around. I was just thinking, before I read your post...actually, the same thing you said - most blogs are based around readerships of VERY SIMILAR PEOPLE, looking for validation and friendship with VERY SIMILAR CIRCUMSTANCES. Funny how that works.

I'm gonna stick around and see how your party goes down. :-)

happygeek said...

I'm from the upstairs party.
I have watched the party unfold and have learned from it.
I was one of the 4 who clicked over originally, because I really do enjoy learning from others. I do not always understand, but maybe I am not supposed to understand everything all the way. I have never walked in your shoes. I can't. I'm a white Canadian girl.
Thanks for the invite. I will be back.

Anonymous said...

I too was one of the few who clicked over the read "Guess Who." I truly have enjoyed reading different perspectives on race, especially the roll it plays in adoption. I have spent a very small amount of time living in a place where I was a racial minority, which made me think about the way I live on a daily basis, but I have no idea what to do to change. I think I'll stick around and try to learn as well!

Anonymous said...

Eloquently put. Blog dynamics can get territorial for sure and a choir can easily become a mob. Blog politics and courtesy are surprisingly nuanced and intense. I think that we self segregate in the virtual world for much the same reasons that we do so in our off-line life and just like in the off-line world it can be both limiting and empowering in different ways at the same time.

I am an immigrant rights activist. The discussion of race, in the context of mainstream immigration dialogue, is about as complex and sensitive as a sledgehammer. Not only is it difficult to keep from getting worn-out by unconcealed hate, and constant remedial-level discussions about race, it is easy not to advance a more nuanced understanding of my own experience as a multi-racial family.

So, I wholeheartedly embrace your goal of welcoming as many new voices to this discussion as possible, especially people committed to enhancing their understanding of the world. However, I think we should not lose sight of the fact that the more nuanced discussions that can take place among fellow travelers at self-selecting places like your blog are also empowering and valuable, not to mention nourishing to a tired activist like myself.

Just my two cents from the choir section of the downstairs party 