Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Reminder from Think Progress of What Women and Others Put Up with Online, and Ta-Nehisi Coates on How the Internet Has Opened up Cultural Conversations

From Think Progress, a reminder of what women (and gay folks, and people who call for an end to racial injustice in American society, and others) put up with online on a daily basis. The other side of the coin, however, is that the Internet has undeniably opened the door for many people who were previously excluded from significant political and religious conversations to make their voices heard beyond the control  mechanisms of the centrist gatekeepers of those conversations, who are all about assuring "balance" and "stability" and their own hegemony along with the hegemony of other folks from their elite universities and elite socioeconomic circles.

I recently took note of an interview that Ta-Nehisi Coates did with Isaac Chotiner at Slate about his new book Between the World and Me. An observation Coates made in that interview which struck me, and which I didn't discuss, is the following: 

I think at places like Slate or the magazine where I work, there was a really poor record of hiring African-American writers. It was really that simple. And I think with the proliferation of the Internet and Internet media, it has been a little harder to maintain that gatekeeper position. It also used to be, in the 1990s, that a large number of African-American writers who wrote for places like the Atlantic and the New Republic were drawn out of the same social world. That was my impression. It was natural to reach to Harvard, to go to the Ivy League and find the smartest black person who would write the long essay. There is still some of that, but it isn’t as predominate. Jamelle [Bouie] went to UVA. Jelani [Cobb] went to Howard.

The kind of centrist gatekeeping that Ta-Nehisi Coates describes here has long been glaringly obvious at some of the leading Catholic journals in the U.S., which wouldn't dream of inviting outsiders into their elite conversations that are all about controlling what may or may not be said about Catholic identity. Look at the intellectual pedigrees of the people these central journals invite into their conversations, where those folks went to school, where they grew up and live today, and you'll discover that their "Catholic-identity-defining" circle is not catholic in the least.

It's tiny, parochial, exclusive in a way that militates against the most fundamental meaning of the word "catholic." The Internet has, blessedly, opened up the Catholic conversations these folks love to host, particularly about but not with or inclusive of gay folks.

And I think that development is all to the good, though I deplore the way in which Internet conversation spaces are simultaneously used to bully, harrass, and threaten people already susceptible to discrimination in their daily lives — including at the very same Catholic journal sites unwilling to open their Catholic-identity-defining conversations to a wider circle of human beings.

No comments: