There’s Got to Be a Morning After

April 11, 2007, 12:15 pm

So who knew that, in writing about race, sex and media representation and using a particular group of people who will remain nameless as a counter-example to the Rutgers women’s team, that I would run headlong into a really odd coalition of people who would spam the heck out of me for 24 hours? My regular readers, from the comments left by two of them, were as bewildered as I was at this turn of events: Carine asked if anyone else thought this was like the “X-Files” — yup, particularly the coded references to “the 88.” Or realizing that you have somehow attracted the ire of a cult that is still waiting for the Confederacy to be allowed to leave the union peacefully.

Please note, if you read them (I would advocate skimming for highlights,) how quickly the comments devolve into race-baiting and race hatred, and that on the other blog, unless the blogger has had the good sense to remove them, anti-black sentiments and descriptions of me as an anti-white feminazi shifted gears late in the game and morphed into Anti-Semitic remarks aimed at no one in particular.

I thought this was pretty interesting, given that I am sheltered enough up here in the good old Northeast that I don’t normally see the things I teach about play out in front of me. I also thought it was interesting how much trouble some of the commenters had figuring out what *my* race was, although the issue seems to have been decided by midafternoon (in response to a comment that I was undoubtedly “nappy headed” myself) that I “write too well” to be Black. I also liked the ones, purportedly written by gay people, accusing me of being a really bad queer. Ouch, Mary. Stop it! Stop it!

Neat, eh? I think one of the challenges this poses to blogging is how you create dialogue with an audience without simply providing a forum for a lot of apparently disconnected people to rant about things they are already upset over — that they then pin on you, the blogger, and attempt to provoke into an argument about something that wasn’t the point of the post in the first place. Some of these people, it seems, simply transferred a conversation that they have been having with each other for some time over from the blog that targeted me and into my blog.

I have turned the comments off for the post in question, although they seem to have trickled to a halt: maybe everyone just went to bed, who knows. The lunatic fringe will continue to write me until they are exhausted, so I don’t think I am suppressing their freedom of speech. But I left the comments that were there both because of free speech principles (some of the writers are clearly bewildered by this) and as a lesson in blogging. They are also a really good example of what the post was talking about in the first place: why one group of people (white men and women) are recuperable as heroes despite all the negative information (true and untrue) that is out there about them and why another group of people were not allowed to be heroes at all because of who *they* were (black women), despite the information we have about *them.*

It’s clear that this kind of talk is quite upsetting to those invested in the racial and sexual order that we live in. The comments in the post below, and at the original blog, are really useful context for thinking about this, as is this sympathetic story about the professional situation of the blogger, Professor Robert “KC” Johnson of Brooklyn College, which suggests why he might have taken the opportunity to go after me in the first place. What you don’t get to see is one really odd email that was sent to a random collection of my colleagues (there may be more, but I was copied on this one), and a bunch of other emails I got in two of my accounts (some of which have been repeated in the commments). I also got a few e-mails from faculty at the university-I-will-not-name that said some version of, “Now you know what it is like to work here.” Yeah, really. And as I began to realize that the postings were also exhibiting a particular venom toward an African American colleague at Unnamed U. who I knew years ago, only the sense that this was probably not the way to renew our acquaintence kept me from picking up the telephone.

Clearly there are many blogging worlds out there, and I stumbled into one of them inadvertantly by describing what has already been published about a group of people who have become symbolic of a host of grievances felt by those who are mobilized and energized by another blogger.

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