Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NetRoots Nation: Is It the Latest Approximation of Them Vs. Us?

I've been sorting through my thoughts and feelings since I got back from Austin. I am new to blogging afterall and must do the work of defining this blog and my goals for participation. I had a very distinct impression of my time spent at NetRoots Nation, but I wanted to sit on it for a spell. I've come away with mostly positive thoughts but I am troubled by the lack of representation of PoC who attended and topics covered. I had the opportunity to speak with the outgoing Executive Director and to the Daily Kos founder. I know, I know officially these are separate entities. I am certain a more detailed review of the money trail and relationships would yield a very close involvement between the two and other parties of interest however. I was angry that after 3 years I saw less than 20 Black people in attendance. One was a campaign advisor and sponsor and two were/had been elected officials. Not everyone was a blogger. I had posted a diary about how bored I was and got 237 responses, mostly negative, from people who were not even there and ignored the crux of my complaint. Link.

It wasn't that I was bored, per se but I didn't have a sense of recognition and acknowledgement. It's not that people weren't nice. I made some valuable contacts even. Donna Edwards nearly had me screaming from the rafters her speech was that good. But something was missing and I just wasn't feeling it.  There was a distinct lack of participation by PoC who support PoC and who were in fact calling the shots. How could I tell? What was missing was sincerity and commitment

You don't open a restaurant, accept reservations only to serve vegetables without indicating you're a veggie-only establishment. Using a term such as "NetRoots" is rather generic and all-encompassing, no? The potential for misleading others is right up there with using the words 'hope' and 'change' in one's campaign. There are people who show up expecting to order a dish containing meat. Or perhaps they just want a dessert and coffee. You don't say, "Well anybody can eat here we don't stop people from coming". You don't tell someone it's up to them to show up but not offer a proper full-balanced meal! You don't serve wine to a thirsty alcoholic and tell them it's their choice to not drink it but not offer any water. You don't get offended by dissenting voices - you address those concerns.

It's not just about number of attendees. It's about content, inclusion and full participation. You can't go basking through life enjoying your privilege telling yourself you're a good person while stepping over that homeless person lying in the gutter. Or your neighbor who's getting evicted. Or the young girl that's afraid to leave the house for fear of male aggression. Or a potential ally who's trying to get your attention if only you'd stop looking at your reflection in the mirror.

Some of us may decide we won't be relegated to standing by the bar when you say your restaurant is overbooked and we want a table. We'll start our own restaurant. 

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