Glimpsing the Worlds of Neighbors Online

    by Dori J. Maynard
    July 1, 2008

    Over at TheRoot.com, Kim McLarin points out the ridiculousness behind the rumor that floating “out there” exists a tape of Michelle Obama using the term “whitey.”

    McLarin does not base her argument on the fact that a Princeton and Harvard University graduate, married to a man with the political savvy to come from behind to be the presumptive Democratic nominee, is not likely to be guilty of such a political misstep. Nor does she argue that someone who has spent decades of her life navigating the racial fault lines is not likely to step on a cultural landmine by spewing racial epitaphs.

    Her argument is more basic, at least to many African Americans.


    “When the hell was the last time you heard a black person call somebody ‘whitey?’” she asks, before pointing out that despite what the rumor implies, African Americans just don’t have a large and widely agreed on vocabulary of names used to disparage white people. The exception, as has been pointed out, can be found in old media from the late 1960s and 1970s, such as “The Jeffersons.”

    Given, as I have repeatedly pointed out, we continue to live in a largely segregated society and our online habits seem to be only driving us deeper into our niches, it’s not surprising that behavior seen on an old sitcom could be used to fuel a rumor meant to torpedo a current day presidential candidate.

    I thought about this at the Knight News Challenge Conference a few weeks ago when Jay Rosen was talking about The Daily Me versus The Daily Us. The Daily Us would presumably give us insight into our shared problems and shared dreams. Sitting in a room so far from my neighborhood, a place where for some the only work available is filling your shopping cart up with cans and bottles fished out of the trash cans, I wondered, really wondered, if we know enough about each other to even have an idea of what our separate dreams and problems might look like, let alone be a point where we consider those dreams and problems shared.


    Despite talk of the digital divide, the Internet, where it’s free to post, as long as you have the time and a computer, is supposed to be the great equalizer, the place where your we can learn about each other’s dreams and problems.

    The difficulty is that we have to actually be curious enough to surf for those sites that will provide a glimpse into the worlds and thoughts of our neighbors. It’s obvious from my posts that I don’t think enough of us, including myself, take the time.

    Today, instead of complaining, or hectoring, or otherwise pointing out our shared failures, I’m going to list a number of sites I enjoy. And, in the weeks to come, I will be posting interviews with the bloggers from those sites. My hope is that as I introduce you to new sites and new bloggers, you will return the favor. Because, whether we acknowledge it or not, I do believe one of our shared problems is our continued ignorance about how we live, and, clearly, about how we talk.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates


    Angry Asian Man

    Too Sense, Race, Politics and Hip-Hop


    Jack & Jill Politics

    There are more, but that gives you a start.

    Tagged: community digital divide internet politics race relations

    One response to “Glimpsing the Worlds of Neighbors Online”

    1. Dori,

      Thanks for some great links. I’ve been reading most of these since you posted the list and I’m looking forward to your interviews.


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