There’s a lot of titillated buzz today over a recent White House-led summit of black online media and black bloggers. You may have seen this NY Times Media Decoder blog post or the link to it from the top fold of the dreaded Drudge Report. They’re referring to this video from YBF which also got posted at ConcreteLoop (both awesome blogs) and there’s also JJP’s own CPL and her report here from the African American Online Summit. It seems that parts of the Summit were “on background” and others were “off-the-record” and others were wide-open. Here’s the thing — bloggers are not journalists. Sure there are some journalists who blog. But by and large, we’re talking about people who make their daily living doing something entirely different and as concerned citizens have joined with other concerned citizens to become community leaders — in the face of an astonishing prior vacuum of leadership among black folks earlier in this century.
So the bottom line here — I don’t have the details on what parameters were put out there — I wasn’t there. But you cannot seriously expect to put a bunch of black people in a room at the White House, then surprise them with a random visit from the first black president and not expect some excitement. And excited black bloggers in this day and age tends to mean excited blogging, complete with exciting photos and videos shared with their communities who will also then become very excited vicariously. (This is sort of the point, right?)
Lookahere — the mainstream media would have you believe that black bloggers are “unprofessional”. And they are right in the sense that we are not your journalists of yore. We are ordinary people who blog and thus may or may not be acquainted with what are now in the rapid-fire, real-time social media-driven world we live in — outdated expectations and mores about how we will and will not speak to our communities about what happens when we meet with members of our larger African-American community who happen to work at the White House. Or wherever/whatever.
That said, we are as interested in building trust-based relationships with those we support (where possible) as they are with us. Through dialogue, exploration and practice, we will find what works. The rules of social media are not written in stone. They are being written right now, by you and by me and by the White House, etc. So there’s going to be some push and pull. CPL shared primarily her commentary on her experience — it’s not as if she quoted Administration officials on policy positions. I believe it’s all a stir in search of a manufactured controversy over these points:
a) Q: is there some kind of adversarial relationship between black bloggers and the WH? A: NO — in fact, quite the opposite!
b) Q: is the WH looking to pimp black bloggers and exploit their communities A: NO — I don’t even think this is possible, even if they tried.
c) Q: should the WH even talk to black bloggers? Isn’t that racist somehow? A: NO — African-Americans are an important voting constituency, especially for this midterm election. The black vote could sway as many as 20 House races. It’s smart indeed for the White House to reach out to the places black people are actually interested in.
d) Q: does the President think black people don’t watch Meet the Press? (snicker) A: NO, how dare you imply that the President thinks that black people are too stupid or apathetic to watch Meet the Press! That’s super-insulting. NO ONE watches Meet The Press except political diehard junkies, political journalists, political bloggers and political candidates!!! Oh, and about a 1/3 of Washington DC. Other folks, particularly those under 40 or under 30 — may be getting their political fix elsewhere, including their favorite hip hop celebrity blog. That’s what’s real. That’s what’s up. There’s a difference between what Donna Brazile might watch and what someone 20 years younger who lives in Cleveland or Raleigh might be down with. Stop being elitist, Real Clear Politics!
e) Q: why can’t we have nice things? A: Look, there is nothing I’ve seen in what any black blogger has blogged about this White House meeting that the Administration hasn’t already said publicly in various ways and places elsewhere. No freaking out needed. Stop feeding the racist Republican trolls looking to portray us as fighting and/or incompetent and/or both.
Look, if black bloggers and black online media weren’t having a consistent impact in reaching people — if what we are trying to do wasn’t meaningful & important — no one would care what we did, when we did it and whether or not we did it at the White House. Naw mean? You could read this as an attempt to drive a wedge between increasingly effective and powerful black online forces and a new center of power at the White House. We can’t let that happen.
So to Ta-Nehisi Coates and the rest of y’all crabs in the bucket, I suggest you step off. Unless I hear from the White House that they’ve got serious beef with us, your beef betta go back in the freezer where it belongs. Don’t we have some work to do — a la stop the Tea Party from painting our president as a Kenyan Muslim Socialist (aka “nigg*r” who needs to be impeached/lynched)? Let’s stay focused on what’s really important and what we’re all working for, shall we?
I want to thank the White House for inviting Jack and Jill Politics to participate and to share what happened (where possible) with you. Because straight up now — this little dust up is about you and is designed to get your attention (and that of the Tea Partiers, of course). It’s about what you think, what you believe, what you’re willing to fight for and whether or not you’re going to stand up & vote in Nov. I sure hope you ignore the haters trying to push us down and show how powerful the black vote *really* is.
Suckas snatchin’ my last nerve this afternoon!
Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell
Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris
Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats