What does it mean to be a black blogger?
I'll start with the number of black blogs I have on my blogroll. There is a discernable disproportion of black bloggers on my blogroll to the percentage of blacks in America and presumeably the blogosphere. That's 15.2% for me.
As far as I know, I am the only Republican black blogger and everybody who carries at least one link to a visibly black blogger goes after Oliver Willis (who needs no introduction or links from me). So the simple answer to the simple question is, you get more recognition from other black bloggers than from non-black bloggers, unless you are Oliver Willis. Since Willis is clearly a big liberal wonk there's a similar deal with liberal blogger recognition vs non-liberal recognition. What's it like to live in the shadow of Oliver Willis? I don't know because I don't read his blog.
There is a deeper question implied by the black blogger question. But that devolves back to the simple question: What does it mean to be black and stand up and say what you believe? I'll get to that after I dispatch with a few other things.
The Blogosphere Itself
There is certainly the matter of its own echo chamber effect but that is the nature of the beast. There are two things to note in that regard.
- Power Law Distributions distort the importance of popular blogs. Since I know this, I have solicited a link from Glenn Reynolds. I still haven't done much link whoring at all, but on the other hand I have not really made that an issue or an effort.
- Blog amplification introduces distortion. The purity of ideas get lost as they propagate. They may become more interesting, but they destroy consensus.
Real Black Issues
Am I satisfied that black opinion is sought and found in the blogosphere? Not really. That is a function of how much needs to be said that is considered 'black' and that differs widely depending on whether or not you are. You see everything I write comes from a black perspective, because it's my perspective is black and I'm 100% (like Dozer in The Matrix) born and bred straight from source. So when you come to Cobb and read my stuff, you are getting a black perspective whether or not you acknowledge it. The question is loaded because it depends entirely on the behavior of non-black folks.
I know that behind 'what does it mean to be a black blogger' are three important questions which are implied.
- Do whitefolks depend on their own preconcieved notions of what a black issue is or is not?
- Do whitefolks seek out authentic blackfolks views when informing their own opinions?
- Do blackfolks use the blogosphere the same way whitefolks do?
(this argument is in black & white like a hitchcockian clarity, don't get bent out of shape)
To the first two which may or may not be related. That is to say, the second question may be taken independently of the context of the first. In either case I believe that folks have to have some extraordinary motivation to figure in their choice of connections. The blogosphere will eventually expand and dumb down just like the rest of the internet and we will be talking about average people soon. Average folks will do in the blogosphere just what they do in real life, so the predictable answers will be yes and no. But for the moment, while the blogosphere consists of extraordinary folks, the egotistical nature of blog exposition seems to be the primary dynamic of most blogs who are not doing a joint authorship thing.
So from that perspective, if you're Oliver Willis, you can be a meme bandit and suck all the wind out of black diversity just the same way Glenn Reynolds and Atrios do in their perspective ideological solar systems within the blogosphere. The alternative is to create a joint authored portal like Volokh or Crooked Timber or OxBlog. I have Vision Circle and there is the ever excellent Negrophile. For the moment I'm not complaining. I do think, however there is a significant question on whether the blogosphere needs a joint blog of color. It begs a lot of other questions too.
In the meanwhile, If I want to write about something and I think it's important, I'm going to blog it and link around it until the meat of the subject matter is covered to the extent I think it deserves. So I don't think you'll often hear me complain that a black issue (from the supply side) is not being covered by the blogosphere. You're more likely to hear me piss and moan about my exasperation at the intransigence of idiot bloggers who don't heed wisdom from the source. That gets back to questions one and two, so what's so special about bloggers anyway?
On question three, I think that there is something of a disconnect on choice of media. I got into this question earlier this year with Art McGee and others notable in the black internet world. The consensus seems to be that a self-fulfilling prophesy may be working. The blogosphere status quo is arguably white and male. In the way that smoke filled rooms still smell of smoke long after the backroom dealings are done, the 'masters tools' have evolved to favor a kind of atmosphere which may not be appropriate for the types of communications people of color and women want or need.
I am 100% convinced of the value of the blogosphere in the sense that it is an operation of individualism that allows for greater expression than was possible in web based fora like Salon, Cafe Utne, Abuzz ect. We have extended the credo of The Well "You own your own words" to a much larger universe of people than The Well could ever accomodate. So in the blogosphere I see more possibilities for black expression than ever before. In light of Power Law, we need a different kind of critical mass however, and I don't think that is quite established. Negrophile is the place to watch.
Blackness Itself, Again
So to the big question about what does it mean to be black and stand up and say what you believe. That depends on whether or not the subject is racial. If the subject is racial then see Diminishment below. If it's not, then Americans will try to pretend that it doesn't matter that you're black. They co-opt the subject. This is not always a bad thing, but it can be very annoying.
Diminished Standing & Racial Subjects
Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, I rehashed this last week. So you basically have Bells Rules & Blogcritics. I covered that here and here. The long story is Cyberspace My Black Ass but that's the stuff I did as boohab and I'm not going to retrace my steps here.