James Fierce added me to his G+ circles yesterday. I kind of went on a rant about the latest outcropping of a diversity jones. Apparently some folks in Silicon Valley have got the fever for the flavor. Like CNN, they are running a special series on something to do with race.
In 2008 I won the Aaron Hawkins Award for best black blog. I am proud of that achievement. It was a recognition I didn't seek, and I got it for doing what it is I do without any conscious effort other than the standing commitment I have to be the best writer I can be, engaging subjects of interest to me here in the blogosphere.
I have been writing online since before the invention of the 'digital divide'. There are only a few black writers who have been as many places as I, for as long as I have been. Back in the 80s I was on bnet, the XeroxBlackNetwork, the Drum, SCAA (for whom I wrote the FAQ), SCAA-M. I have been at Compuserve, Prodigy, The Well, Meanderings, Electric Minds, cafelosnegroes, Salon, Cafe Utne (for whom I served as a Society proctor), Slate's Fray and the Mote, Brainstorms, and finally to Cobb, this blog now going on eight years. I have seen every flavor of race discussion and written about all the major controversies to the points of fulfillment, exasperation, and tedium. Furthermore, I have been featured on TV and radio. The only way you get to be better known than me as a black writer is to pursue that distinction with a vengeance as a livelihood. I would like to believe that I am as well known as I am, for what that's worth, because of quality, not because of marketing. I can't explain it more simply that this, I am a black American writer who is famous, not by design or effort, nor by accident or random chance. I am organic. It's all about the content.
I have resisted publicity and marketing for several reasons, the most important of which is that I cannot imagine a situation in which I could be positioned properly. That means I cannot imagine someone walking up to me, recognizing my work for what it is and giving me the >100k reasons per year my technical work gets for my attention. But even if that problem were solved, I think I already know the size and shape of the market that finds 'black American writer' appealing, and I'm convinced that it cannot afford me the sort of respect I would consider appropriate. Maybe Trey Ellis is doing OK. Maybe Ferai Chedeya is getting paid. I hear Zadie Smith is making out nicely and I can't imagine that Colson Whitehead is in exile anywhere outside of his own mind. Let them represent, and give a shout out to my boy Jimi Izrael.
Still, none of them does the tech hustle as I have done for the past 20 years, and I think only Farai among them understands online the way I do. I am a fairly serious online writer, and I have been invited on many occasions to interview with major newspapers. But I think inevitably, what I say and what I write is best done here on the blog, and unfortunately I have solved my curiosity around the racial subjects. So what I have to say, at the length I have to say it, in the long now's context about race is not going to sell a lot of soap. The market for solutions is small in comparison to the market for 'dialog'.
Nevertheless, like Black History Month or a bad penny, somebody's searchlight comes sweeping around periodically. The existentials of black this or that is always somewhat interesting. But it's interesting in a very predictable way. It's like Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. There's really only one thing that is compelling about sharks, that they are viscious, monomaniacal man-eaters. All the rest of the scientifically interesting knowledge about sharks is only compelling to the sort of geek who would apply to work at an aquarium. That doesn't bring out the Red One high definition cameras, the ad campaign or the masses. Yes, sharks eat people, but.. as soon as you say 'but', who cares?
So it is with the blackness thing. There are only a few compelling subjects within that oevre and the dudes at The Root are exploiting that to the fullest, as Ntozake Shange's character would say, assiduously without any further assistance from me. You could visit there if you like. The Root is today's black mass thing. Me, on the other hand, I'm a goddamned individual, and your preconceived notions about what growing up black in America must entail would suffer something of a bashing if you tried to apply them too closely. After all, even 'diversity' is a bucket. Sure you want to see Great Whites, Hammerheads, Threshers, Nurses, Tigers, and the occasional Whale Shark, but you still want to see them bite.
I have not figured out a way to get that Google Plus to be a target in my 'Share This Post' widget in Typepad. I would love to share what I write here at Cobb to specific circles. It would be a technical coup. And then people who add me to their circles would be able to read what I write. So there's my suggestion about how to get an award winning blogger of note into the orbit of people who don't know. Or are blogs just too ancient a technology to matter, because, you know I kinda started this thing called The Conservative Brotherhood, and...