Francis L. Holland is the uninvited guest. He is the bull in the china shop. He says the things that people don’t want to hear. That other people are afraid to say. And people are noticing.

I may question his methods — he was kicked off of DailyKos and not without justification. Before you blast me, hear me out. Let me repeat myself: I question the method, but not the message. The DailyKos is a community. And it has rules that are outlined — and unspoken. Technically speaking and politically (in the relationship sense) Francis broke some of those rules gleefully. I’ve read some of his posts and the comments. The brother stepped on toes, rattled cages, confronted people personally. Under the Dkos troll rating system, it’s true that he may well have crossed the boundaries of sounding like a “Purity Troll” at times.

Calling sympathetic people “racists” and generally adopting a defensive, belligerent, aggressive stance is not likely to open constructive dialogue. What happened was that the discussion became about that instead of some valid points Francis brought that clearly resonate with other black bloggers like Field Negro and African American Political Pundit and that might be of interest to other folks in the political blogosphere.

Bloggers and readers of many ethnicities have questioned where blacks are in the progressive blogosphere. While there has been considerable attention and resources devoted to helping sponsor and foster local blogs, it’s true that there has been less of that among progressive blogs.

It’s also true that despite the fact that upper and middle class blacks are online at rates approximating those of other races in the same income bracket, they don’t seem interested yet in participating in the political blogs. The facts (and keep in mind this data is from Oct 2005):

Nearly 80 percent of African Americans surveyed have access to the Internet, compared to the 88 percent of the general population. Two-thirds of online African American households have access to broadband connections, compared to 53 percent of the general population. […] African Americans say they’re more likely than the general population to participate in several online activities. Sixty-eight percent of visit news sites, while only 56 percent of the general online population is likely to visit news sites. — 2005 AOL African American Cyberstudy

I have some questions of my own.

1) I’ve heard from bloggers that they want to hear the black perspective. Well, sorry, but Francis — like it or not — represents a perspective that is valued among some in the black community. You wanted to know what we’re thinking. Now you know. I’m sorry if it hurts your feelings. I really am. But isn’t it better to know? We don’t all think this way. There is a diversity and spectrum of opinion just like among other ethnicities.

2) Black bloggers — should we demand greater inclusion and support among larger, whiter blogs? Or should we focus on strengthening our own networks with each other and deepening our support/building our audience within the black community and beyond? Several blogs, most notably FireDogLake, MyDD and yes DailyKos have worked hard to bring a diversity of voices to the table. Read Matt Stoller’s post on the State of Black America as an example. Both the BlackProf and I have been invited to cross-post over at MyDD. Should blogs like these be encouraged to do more or excoriated for not doing enough? Which approach is likely to be more effective — or do we need both to make progress?

3) Right now many black blogs have small audiences, aren’t part of the BlogAds or other ad networks in significant numbers (their black blog selection in BlogAds is quite sad and lacking, frankly) and we aren’t big fundraisers yet on ActBlue or elsewhere. If we want to be included and respected, should we focus more on building our base of power within those currently important frameworks or create our own frameworks. Should we build our own ActBlue (ActBlack?) or our own blog ad network (BlackAds?) Corporations are eager to reach out to the black community even if progressive political organization s appear less so. Do we attempt assimilation with the “whitosphere” or self-segregate in the “blackosphere”? Is there a middle ground?

4) Was it appropriate to ban Francis Holland from DailyKos? If you go by “the rules” , maybe. But did that only create a martyr and a hero? And was an interesting writer who opened a frank and difficult line of discussion lost? Francis’ posts on MyDD have been more moderate in tone which I think is helpful. Francis, my brother, this is my advice to you: slow your roll. You have some important things to say. There’s a way to say them that will get heard and make friends instead of shut down and demonized. You make valid points. If your point is to be heard only by black people, keep throwing bombs. If you want to impact and move white opinion, put your message in terms they can understand. African American Political Pundit, Angry Black Bitch, Skeptical Brotha and Black Agenda Report are good examples I think of where the comfort zone boundaries might be. Their blogs have a bite and deliver a zing while managing to attract a diverse audience. When in Rome, speak as the Romans do. When among the family, pour on the hot sauce. We can take it.

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