An Accidental CafeMom Social Experiment Uncovers Major Racial Issues in America
I came across an unapproved re-post of my piece “I Was ‘Black While Mothering’ Today” on CafeMom.com yesterday. Some anonymous user took all of my words and my wedding picture – without my permission – and asked for “thoughts” from commenters on the popular forum site. Before having the post removed, I read through pretty much all of the comments. I must say, I was completely disturbed by quite a few of them. For the most part, I was accused of “pulling the race card” and playing the “victim” more than having an earnest issue with the treatment of black women in America. I find that terribly disappointing. But, the plot thickens.
The issue got ten times worse when I attempted to re-post the article as a snippet myself and field questions in the African American moms group. I figured my experience was common enough to warrant healthy dialogue. Instead, I was confronted with a bunch of women telling me to just let it go, and not care about implicit racism because “it is just going to happen.” Then some really sad individual waved a virtual fart at me – not kidding, a grown up actually wrote that they were fanning a fart at me – and I just gave up. I think she was pregnant though so maybe I can give her a pass.
I found another black mom who reproduced my work (again) and had to badger her to remove it. She didn’t understand how taking something from “the internet which is free to all” without permission was copyright infringement. Le sigh. In the end, all the illegal posts were removed by the CafeMom admin team.
Two things I got from this experience: A) I will never ever try to have intelligent conversation on CafeMom.com ever again, and 2) I now have major reservations about fighting to EVER repair conversations around race dialogue in this country.
What the White Moms Said
Aside from calling me delusional, paranoid, racist, and hypocritical, most of the white moms in the forum thought that the real problem was me. These poor moms in the post I mentioned couldn’t possibly have an issue with me because of my skin color. It was probably my height or maybe my “demeanor repels people.” (I’m not making this up. These people really attempted to read me from a blog post). One commenter suggested that maybe parents were avoiding my daughter and I at the park because they thought she was special needs (because that’s a completely logical reason to avoid people in public spaces).
The funnest responses were the ones where I was accused of “pulling the race card” and the “Trayvon Martin card.” The latter was new to me. I had no idea that Trayvon Martin had a card. But, many simply didn’t believe the incidents I outlined had happened at all. I was “seeing what I wanted to see.” They were confused as to why everyone at the park didn’t already know me because you know, most working mothers of three have enough time to develop personal relationships with every single stranger in a thirty mile radius. Shame on me for not knowing all the park attendees in the City of Orange.
Most of them didn’t actually read the post. And, they simply ignored the white moms in the forum who said that they completely understood the racial animus I described in my piece as they have white friends who say and do horrible things to racial minorities. And the nastiest comments came from the posters who were writing anonymously. You know, because what they had to say was something they could really stand behind.
In all, I wasn’t shocked at the reactions. I can understand how my post would put white women (and white moms in particular) on the defensive.
What the Black Moms Said
These responses actually shocked me. I was accused of having low self-esteem, called a weak person, needy, arrogant, and accused of thinking myself better than single moms. No one questioned whether the incidents had actually occurred though. They just thought I was being overly sensitive for responding with a blog post which obviously denoted that I was “consumed” by these events. Some suggested that I just walk up to the moms and introduce myself next time. That was the most light-hearted of the responses.
After I stopped laughing at all of the comments, I had the second re-post removed. But, this one actually disheartened me a bit. These women couldn’t divorce my criticism of the one-dimensional overlay of the Jezebel stereotype to all black moms from their own insecurities about their parenting choices. Instead of reading my post as an indictment of would-be stereotypers, they read that I somehow wanted the white moms in the park to like me so much that I was emulating them (by going to USC, getting married before having kids, etc.). That was probably the most disappointing facet of this accidental social experiment.
The very group of individuals (black mothers) that I strive to represent was repelled by my rebuff of being identified as an “uneducated moocher sex-machine only good for procreation.” They thought I assumed I was better than single moms because I rebuked the title of “welfare mom.” And, they became so consumed in their emotions with this that they couldn’t see that this post was never about my opinions of single moms at all.
Again, the black and biracial moms who said they shared my experience were simply ignored. The conversation completely deteriorated when these women’s fixation on me spiraled down into Snow White memes and other nonsensical activities.
What I Learned
The scholar in me wants to turn this into a dissertation. I want to examine further the divides between white and black women when it comes to race dialogue in this country. But, that’s a future thing.
For now, this entire ordeal made it incredibly clear to me that we have so much more to do if we are ever going to move past our inability to intelligently discuss race in this country.
Believing that someone’s perception makes them delusional, paranoid, or “wanting to see racism” is a major cop-out. It implies that if we choose not to see racism then it will simply disappear. While that works for whites, it hasn’t been too successful for racial minorities. Denying racism doesn’t kill it. It just transfers the burden to those who have no choice but to experience it everyday of their lives.
Conversely, believing that just because someone voices their grievances with the broken racial system in this country they are weak beings with low self-esteem implies that those on the receiving end of racism deserve (and should accept) it. And, asserting that my demanding more of whites in my neighborhood means I am trying to be white is just silly. We can do better, think harder than that.
WE DO NOT LIKE TALKING ABOUT RACE IN AMERICA. This is especially true with blacks and whites. It just makes people uncomfortable. Leave it to me to place myself squarely in the middle of the drama.
Luckily, my skin is thick enough that this won’t make any difference in my activism. But, it does elucidate why racism deniers and racism victims continue to talk around one another in complete figure eights.
Sorry CafeMom.com. This isn’t great PR but I had to tell the truth.
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