Ferguson, Bloggers and Race in America: Even if We Think We Know, We Don’t

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One of the bloggers I admire most is Kelly Wickham, who writes  Mocha Momma. I “met” her online 7 years ago because she was a reading specialist and, as the parent of a dyslexic child, I was so grateful for the committed, loving, determined way she wrote about her work. I kind of stalked her in comments until we met at BlogHer in 2007. (Actually I also stalked her after that, too, but at least by then she knew who I was.)

She writes, with honesty and rage, about race.  About family, and  love, and education and whatever else occurs to her, but also about race.  I’ve learned a lot from her, including how much I didn’t know.  As the years have passed, and more women of color have joined BlogHer and Kelly’s Facebook feed, I’ve learned from others, too.   The BlogHer community grew and widened, and with it the gut understanding of the whole community.  On our blogs we tell the truth, and the different truths shared by the bloggers who are now a part of my life have been an immeasurable gift.

Of course it is beyond wrong that, in 2014, we still have to seek diversity, to go out of our way to learn lessons we should have learned long ago, and that those most in pain still experience so much that we haven’t figured out how to learn.

The trouble is that there hasn’t been nearly enough intersection between us and those experiencing  the harshest emotions that emerge in response to American racism.

I remember once talking with author Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, who said to me “Don’t you see, we black mothers must be lionesses to protect our sons.”  I thought of her statement often as I was raising my own.

I remember a colleague describing to me, when we were both pregnant, her fear of the first time someone called her not-yet-born child a “n*$%#&r” – of what she would say to him, what she would do.

But despite having African-American colleagues and friends, I’m not sure I ever, until these past days, completely heard the depth of anger and despair that lives within so many.

It’s not that I didn’t know; most people I know care about and have seen plenty of racial injustice and have worked, in our own ways, to change it.  But that’s different from opening someone else’s door and walking in.  It’s on fire in there.  And it should be.

Listen to these:

Everyone can’t stand up the moment something pisses the off and we’re all different in how we react. Some people shut down because they don’t even know where to start. Some people just need a nudge to be emboldened to speak. Some people need to know they’re needed before they speak.

Well if you need that nudge, here it is. If you’re afraid because you don’t want to say the wrong thing, push past that fear. Because right now, your silence about the continued devaluation of Black lives is wrong. Your lack of acknowledgement is not ok. If you need tips before speaking out here’s 3: don’t blame the person who was killed. Don’t say you’re color-blind. Acknowledge the racism at play.

Speaking up when it matters is usually when it’s also the hardest. When your voice shakes, that’s when you’re standing in truth. But that’s usually when it is most needed. And when you do it, someone else might be encouraged to do the same. Do not be silent.  Awesomely Luvvie 

I am outraged but I do not know what to do with my outrage that might be productive, that might move this world forward toward a place where black lives matter, and where black parents no longer need to have “the talk” with their children about how not to be killed by police and where anger over a lifetime of wrongs is not judged, but understood and supported. Roxanne Gay

Black bodies matter. Black bodies matter. Black bodies matter. Say it with me: Black bodies matter. This isn’t a question. This isn’t a euphemism. This isn’t an analogy. This is a fact. Black cis and trans boys, girls, men, and women and non-binary folks, they all matter. Until that fact becomes a universal truth due to the precise liberty and justice the Constitution of this country promises, I won’t stop fighting and neither should you.  Jenn M. Jackson

But it wasn’t what I could see and hear as Ferguson residents fled and were pursued into residential areas that gave me chills. It was what I couldn’t see. Because behind the walls of those smoke-shrouded homes were parents comforting their frightened children. I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were there. They could have been me. They could have been my children.Kymberli Barney for Mom 2.0

This is what I need, dear friend.

I need to know that you are not merely worried about this most tragic of worst case scenarios befalling my son; I need to know that you are out there changing the ethos that puts it in place. That you see this as something that unites us as mothers, friends and human beings.

My son needs me, as much as yours needs you. Sadly, my son needs me more. He needs someone to have his back, when it seems that the police, the men he’d wave to with excitement as a little boy, see him as a being worthy only of prison or death.

I need you, too, because I can’t do this alone.     Keesha Beckford “Dear White Moms” on BonBon Break

This is where the story gets tricky. This is where our son paced up and down the stairs—in his under shirt, gym shorts and crew socks—telling us about the police who came to our door and handcuffed our son and pulled him outside.    “Why?” It was the only question I could come up with — “why?”       

His hands ran over his face and found each other behind his head. I knew this look too. The one of lost words—of previous trauma—of discouragement. 

“I don’t know. There’s some robberies in the area? I guess? And they saw me here—I don’t know. They thought it was me. They thought it was me and wouldn’t listen. They didn’t believe me that this was my house.”

He shook his head and looked at me. “It didn’t even matter that I had a key, moms.”   Elora Nicole

For each of these there are dozens and dozens more.  No more to say.










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Cynthia Samuels

Cynthia Samuels is a long-time blogger, writer, producer and Managing Editor. She has an extensive background online, on television and in print, with particular experience developing content for women, parents and families. For the past nine years, that experience has been largely with bloggers, twitter and other social media, most recently at Care2's Causes Channels, which serve 20 million members (13 million when she joined) and cover 16 subject areas. In her three years at Care2 monthly page views grew tenfold, from 450,000 to 4 million. She has been part a member of BlogHer since 2006 years and has spoken at several BlogHer conferences. Among her many other speaking appearances is Politics Online, Fem 2.0 Conference and several other Internet gatherings. She’s also run blogger outreach for clients ranging from EchoDitto to To the Contrary. Earlier, she spent nearly four years with iVillage, the leading Internet site for women; her assignments included the design and supervision of the hugely popular Education Central, a sub-site of Parent Soup that was a soup-to-nuts parent toolkit on K-12 education, designed to support parents as advocates and supporters of their school-age kids. She also served as the iVillage partner for America Links Up, a major corporate Internet safety initiative for parents, ran Click! – the computer channel - and had a long stint as iVillage's Washington editor. In addition, she has developed parent content for Jim Henson Interactive and served as Children’s Book Editor for both Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. Before moving online, she had a long and distinguished career as a broadcast journalist, as senior national editor of National Public Radio, political and planning producer of NBC's Today Show (whose audience is 75% women) where she worked for nine years (and was also the primary producer on issues relating to child care, education, learning disabilities and child development), and as the first executive producer of Channel One, a daily news broadcast seen in 12,000 U.S. high schools. She has published a children’s book: It’s A Free Country, a Young Person’s Guide to Politics and Elections (Atheneum, 1988) and numerous children’s book reviews in the New York Times Book Review and Washington Post Book World. A creator of online content since 1994, Samuels is a partner at The Cobblestone Team, LLC, is married to a doctor and recent law school graduate and has two grown sons who make video games, two amazing daughters-in-law and three adorable grandsons.

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