BlogHer ’14 Closing Keynote on Race, Gender and the Internet: Where Do We Go Next?

BlogHer ’14 Closing Keynote on Race, Gender and the Internet: Where Do We Go Next?

Talking about race is not just for people of color. Talking about feminism is not just for women. If there’s anything I hope people will take away from the BlogHer ’14 Closing Keynote about race, gender, and the Internet, it’s that.

BlogHer '14 Closing KeynoteL-R: Patrice Lee, Kristen Howerton, Grace Hwang Lynch, Cheryl Contee, Natalia Oberti Noguera, Kelly Wickham, Feminista Jones

In case you missed it, the panel included six women: me, BlogHer’s Feminista Jones, Kelly Wickham of Mocha Momma, Natalia Oberti Noguera of Pipeline Fellowship, Kristen Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan, and Patrice Lee of Generation Opportunity, and moderator Cheryl Contee of Fission Strategy. The hour-long discussion touched on aspects of privilege and discrimination—both individual and structural—and how we as bloggers can use our platforms to have honest, constructive conversations about race in America. The panelists and audience made many excellent points. But one hour is barely long enough to scratch the surface of such a huge topic.

I know it’s a conversation that’s needed. So many of the Voices of the Year Community Keynote stories we heard we heard at the conference on Friday evening reflected the sense of feeling not accepted, less than, and unworthy that are all too common among women of color. I long for the day when no one needs to write "America’s Not Here for Us," "Sometimes, I Still Wish I Was White," or "Letting the stupid little ni**er go."

As I was reflecting back on those powerful essays and about the women who took the stage for the keynote, I recognized a common thread. Many of us are mothers, and we want a world where our children are not killed or bullied or jailed or suicidal because of their skin color or have doors closed at school or work because of their names or the way they look—things they cannot hide or change, even if they wanted to.

Contrary to some opinions that talking about race is about “political correctness” or “taking away freedom of speech,” it is quite the opposite. Examining race brings up a lot of emotions, but the problem is not about feelings. It’s about changing policy to create a more equitable society. Feminista Jones explained that as a black woman, talking about race is not an option; it is a matter of survival.

I know there are a lot of women listening and participating who are grappling with white privilege and their place in the conversation, too.

Kim at Kim’s Kitchen Sink writes:

There were a lot of talks this weekend about what it means to be an ally. How to support without appropriation. How to speak up, but not speak for. I don't have answers. I only have my experience, and my heart. And a lot of the time, my heart hurts so much for those I don't know how to help that I dissolve into a pool of helplessness and just freeze. I don't want to freeze anymore.

To people like Kim, I’d recommend following bloggers from a diverse range of racial, religious and sexual orientations. Read news sources focused on minority communities, such as Colorlines, The Root, Indian Country Today, and Hyphen Magazine. I can tell you what it’s like to be an Asian American woman; I don’t don’t have first-hand experiences in being Black, Latina or Native American. But I can listen, read, and amplify. Don’t think that because you are a different race you can't discuss immigrant children or Renisha McBride. And share what you learn with people of your own racial background.

Over the course of the weekend, I met people who were excited about the discussion, and also heard some rumblings of discomfort. One pivotal discussion leading up to this year's closing keynote was Kelly Wickham's incisive post on Mocha Momma "Calling Out My Sisters", in which she calls out non-Black women for failing to speak up for the injustice in the killing of Trayvon Martin. But as the audience asked, how to participate? The panel had many thoughts, which were captured on Twitter:

It all comes back to trying to make the world better for the next generation. One of the most poignant reminders of how important it is to turn attention to the topic of race in a public forum happened after the keynote. Walking down the street, I ran into Bethany Huang, a 14-year-old girl who started Miss Unrep, a blog to inspire other misinterpreted or underrepresented girls to aspire beyond the images they see in the media. “It was so great to see an Asian-American woman onstage. It meant the world to me.”

If we had had more time, I would have loved to discuss how to better integrate race issues with traditional women's or feminist discussions, such as parenting, career, reproductive rights, sexual assault prevention, education and more.

Are you ready to discuss race, gender, and privilege? Have you written about it recently? Add your voice here.

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs about raising an Asian mixed-race family at HapaMama.

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