Race, Privilege and Why I Won’t Be At ‘BlogHer’
Nobody probably noticed, but I’ve been boycotting all the major mom blogger/blogger conferences for about two years now. I just couldn’t stomach the lack of diversity in the attendees, speakers, or topics. Or paying my hard-earned money to feel out of place, outnumbered, unheard or isolated. No thanks.
For me, it was just a painful reminder of my two decades working as a professional journalist where I spent most of my career as the only or one of very few African Americans on staff at a number of major national magazines.
Except this was worse. Much worse. Because these were women and mostly moms. Not the white male-dominated industry that fed and nurtured my cynicism for years. And I guess I expected more.
After all these are “modern” moms, raising the next generation of leaders (and followers) and women I hoped would take on more than a birds eye view of the world.
Moms who hopefully watched Little Bill and Ni Hao Kai-lan with their kids as well as ANT Farm or Victorious, and valued diversity for their children and themselves.
Instead, I found just the opposite. When I mentioned to certain blog organizers that the conferences could be more diverse I got blank looks, the sound of crickets, unreturned calls and emails, or anonymous slams about making everything about black and white. Oh! and excuses. Lots of excuses.
BlogHer is looking slightly better this year, thanks to celebrities like Malaak Compton Rock and YouTube sensation, Awkward Black Girl. But the session on “Honoring Your Culture, Celebrating Your Community,” has no African American panelists at all. And when it comes to African Americans who are actually bloggers, being included in the conference panels, the tally doesn’t require a full hand.
What is true at BlogHer is a correct reflection of reality. The blog world is dominated by white, affluent women. That is a fact. If you don’t believe me, ask H&R Block, see their info graphic on Modern Moms/the Mommy Blogger world here. That’s fine. But not acknowledging how race and stereotypical ideas about who sets trends, who are perceived as “good mothers” and therefore good brand ambassadors is overly simplistic, and quite frankly ignorant. If you haven’t noticed who disproportionately gets picked for those top mom blog lists, or gets the large brand media campaigns, then you’re uninformed.
To make matters (much) worse, when one or two smaller conferences were launched with a goal of highlighting and supporting diversity in the blogoshpere, some bloggers were up in arms–claiming there isn’t a whites only blog conference.
Really?? Because I’ve been to several.
Half the conferences I’ve attended have had an invisible, unstated “whites only” sign hanging from the rafters, minus one or two “tokens” (myself included in previous years). But I felt the sign looming overhead, with no speakers that looked like me or no social issues that truly spoke to my community. When I saw the cliques, the close-knit circles of who is supporting whom, who is sharing brand contacts and offering social media support to whom–and those whoms are rarely black or brown (Major caveat: any LifetimeMom past or present I have ever worked with. Truth!)
The problem is that we are taught that racism puts others at a disadvantage, but we are not taught that racism gives others an advantage. A centuries old advantage. And white privilege doesn’t allow people to see defacto advantage as it lives and breathes. It doesn’t allow you to get that a lack of inclusion creates dominance. And dominance is what racism is all about.
And so, sadly once again this year, as two solid businesswomen and accomplished bloggers, set to launch Niche Mommy (www.thenichemommy.com) as a new conference devoted to diverse bloggers who are moms, the drama ensued (Full disclosure: I am a speaker). Blogs that I won’t bother to link to suggested there shouldn’t be a conference to support diverse bloggers, while mentioning all of their friends of color, or their alternative lifestyle which makes them diverse.
Yes, there are all types of diversity. But I am talking about the kind that is most obvious. Others asked if whites should attend? Umm, why not?
And so, I am deeply troubled by people who view creating a space specifically for black and brown bloggers and those who care about their issues as excluding others, especially when we have been excluded by default for years and no one cared. And you became upset when I mentioned it. Although you never mentioned it yourself.
Sometimes privilege blinds you to reality. It blinds you from seeing the unearned power gained from years of an unjust system. It helps you deny the unlevel playing field that you have (perhaps unknowingly) benefited from, and then it gives you the gall to criticize others for creating a place where they feel included. I have sat quietly for years and listened while you discussed issues that are important to you, while you told your motherhood story from your perspective. And I am honored to attend any conference where I can discuss mine.
I’m hoping all moms will join us.
The ignorant exchanges regarding the launch of Niche Mommy are yet another reminder that we have much work to do in having truly honest and uncomfortable conversations about race in this country. And why my silent boycott continues.
Maybe I need a sign.