I’d convinced myself NOT to pen this post. Figure I have enough going on juggling the new AAGSAR Facebook Group, the kids, work madness and my new business venture that should have ALL my attention but has failed [greatly] since my return to online genealogy in August.
Why ruffle [seemingly] quiet feathers? What will it really change? How does my single [albeit loud] voice matter or make a difference?!
I was content to go on via AAGSAR helping slave ancestored researchers hone their skills, integrate smart technology into their research and to embark on the journey of sharing their family data online.
Then I wandered over to The Root, and to the right of my screen spotted this — Whiteout in Mainstream America: From the Emmys to the Runways, Blacks Remain Ignored. Then I read this…
(The Root) — I don’t hate many things. I’m pretty good at keeping that emotion in check. But here’s a short list of things I hate:
3. Terrorists, including American terrorists, here and abroad, and especially the ones who stand on street corners harassing women who pass by
4. The willfully ignorant
I can so identify! Hell, I’ll even add one to the list of things I hate — 5. Bullies.
NO way to ignore this post now. I’m back where I ALWAYS land — ADVOCACY.
I can live with ruffling feathers and being one of few voices willing to openly address the race matters that well — matter, and how the [most times subdued] DEEP issues of race and culture sneak into even the most unexpected places, like online genealogy.
I dare say if my recent return to the genealogy blogging community has been greeted with a frosty welcome thus far, I suspect it will feel like I’ve taken online residence in Antarctica by the time my post is finished. So be it!
So, if White Flight can be defined as white people uprooting their families and homes when black people move into their communities, a Whiteout can be defined as the social dynamic of ignoring and/or dismissing the black people in your presence.
Whiteouts don’t just exist in the world of Emmys and Runways or on Capitol Hill to seated Presidents.
Whiteouts can occur most everywhere. They can be [as long as you’re seen but not heard] subtle OR [smack you in the face] blatant. Whiteouts happen in both real and virtual worlds.
If you’re in brown/black skin — much like the reality and consequences of racial profiling — this is nothing new to you.
But if you’re not familiar with how a Whiteout works, I’ll share what an online Genealogy Whiteout could look like…
- COMMUNITY PROGRAMMING. It might directly market and solicit financial support from me for new TV programming specific to genealogy, yet dismiss the possibility as the descendant of enslaved Africans, I might have stories to share and they too are part of America’s history; openly seek contributions from Native Americans and “real Americans”, while ignoring queries asking if African-American contributions will be considered; publicly ignore repeated requests for clarification only to reply [privately] asking questions to be sent via email; respond to a requested email query with just slightly cloaked sarcasm absent of answers; and lastly, it might still be willing to accept my financial contribution to a recently launched crowd-funded campaign, yet fail to answer directly if my Slave Ancestors and their stories qualify as real American history?
- GENEALOGY BLOGGING. It might overlook the obvious, communities — virtual or real world — should be welcoming; ignore within a 5 week period AAGSAR aided some 20+ African-American researchers in bringing their family history into the genealogy blogging community and NEVER since an African-American genealogy blogger first planted his or her family tree online, have we ever had more than 12 bloggers online at the same time — let alone 20 entering the community together. A Whiteout here might just treat new African-American bloggers [by way of AAGSAR], as if they were not a part of a community — fueled by acts of kindness — at all.
- ALLIES & PARTNERS. Finally a Genealogy Whiteout (or Brownout) might look like the desire to support and be part of the AAGSAR group, witness the progress in helping researchers being made, yet [for whatever reason] fail to spread the love with the broader community and/or those who could actually benefit from the 1:1 support being provided to assist slave ancestored researchers in meeting and conquering their family history challenges. In some cases, it could feign an act of aggression or assault that never existed to justify a personal display of non-support, going as far as obscuring historical slave data and information from descendants to punish Luckie for asking a question. Because as long as I don’t ask questions, everything’s “okay”. Correct?
Yes, I understand the dynamics of Whiteouts. I’m not oblivious to how effectively they have been and are being used in the broader online genealogy community. My question would be to what avail?
Even when we were “best buds” it took my pounding on community doors to get the sharing of historical slave documents acknowledged. Anyone who’s been around the genealogy community awhile will remember the COAAG I started and the A Friend of Friends sharing portal that soon followed. They will recall my holding a seller of his family’s slave papers accountable after socializing a press release announcing payment for the artifacts in the amount of $60K or when I took a UK genealogy community to task for classifying African-American researchers as a “niche” sub-culture.
Was not a lesser form of a Genealogy Whiteout in play then? Do you have ANY idea how exhausting and infuriating lobbying for your rightful presence to be acknowledged is? Have you ever had to fight — DAILY — to have your Ancestors history represented and family’s historical data made available?
I don’t need Emmys, runways or Capitol Hill politicians to educate me on how Whiteouts are attempted to diminish the importance/value of the targeted audience/demographic.
In 2013 the online genealogy community:
- Still lacks an understanding of and sensitivity to how African-American researchers are impacted not only by the history of slavery past BUT the handling of our Ancestors slave history [and applicable data] in the present.
- Is greatly in need of diversity and inclusion in its online presence. Yes, our shared history is ugly and can be awkward. However given genealogy continues to become more popular in mainstream society and accessibility to historical documents being more prone to the digital platform — the opinions, perspectives and variables that are part of the African-American researchers wheel-house is critical to evolving the online genealogy community.
- Needs to get a grip. Asking a question is neither an act of aggression or anger. Speaking the simple truth is not hatred or hostility. Period.
I’m neither blind or deterred. This isn’t 1860. I can’t be placed on MUTE.
My voice is crystal-clear. I’ll continue to be seen and heard.