Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Minority Within A Minority and Mass Appeal

We bloggers are a minority within a minority. I've reached this conclusion over time.

Yesterday I posted about my outrage over the words and actions of certain African Americans and I think those views do not reflect the views of African America at-large.

It seems to me that within African America the demographics are becoming more and more fractured. Even amongst the middle class there are sub-groups. For instance there are people who earn middle class salaries and there are people who may not earn a middle class salary but have middle class values. So that we can't simply look at salary as an indicator of class and values.

Being of the middle class in African America has never really been tied to the amount you earn but rather your set of values. So that a person who economically might be considered poor can be considered middle class. And conversely someone who earns a middle class salary may not share middle class values.

After reading the comments from yesterday's post it occurred to me that the African American middle class may be smaller than I thought. I for some reason have been under the impression that a majority of African Americans are of the middle class. And while it may be true that the majority of African Americans earn what would be considered a middle class salary, many of those people do not share a collective value system. (as Ehav Ever asserts in his comments from yesterday)

So how do WE, those of the middle class exert positive pressure on the larger group? And is it our role to do so?

When examining my outrage that people like R.Kelly have not been shunned by African America as a whole I have to come to the disconcerting conclusion that my values are in the minority. And that I may not have a real understanding of African America as a whole.

I am I think somewhat insulated from the majority. I live in a place that insulates me, I work in a place that does as well. And blogging also insulates me. From what I've seen the adage "Birds of a feather flock together" is very apparent in the bloggisphere. My blog generally attracts like minded people and I in turn am attracted to like minded blogs.

How do we reach out to make effective change if indeed we are isolated? If the people we want to reach don't have internet access in their homes how do we reach them? If they simply don't have an interest in what we say or envision then what?

I saw a comment from Professor Tracey on another blog in which she states that a certain blog is not a think tank, but a blog of action. My question then; in order to be of action how do we extend our message beyond the bloggisphere? How do we reach beyond those who are already 'believers'?

Should bloggers become blogger evangelists? Do we need to find ways of reaching out to the larger community? How would we do that?

Shelly at BoringBlackChick in a post said that only 2% of the worlds population has internet access. That's a very low number. Is the internet the populist tool we want to think it is?

So how do we reach out? We have amazing ideas. We have in many cases what the Sharptons and Jacksons don't have, we have solutions. But these ideas must be heard otherwise they will remain just ideas.

How do we now take what I see as a great organizational and communications tool, blogs and turn words into action? Do you agree with my conclusions?

18 comments:

Ehav Ever said...

In order for you to find the answers to your questions you have to first figure out what your interpersonal demographic is. For example, ask yourself the following questions.

Within your family are there people you could be helping?

2) Within your neighborhood are there people that you could be helping?

3) Within your religious community are there people you could be helping?

4) How do you define help?

5) What are you expecting from the people you help? Are there particular actions you expect from them in exchange for your help to them?

6) How far can your reach really extend?

7) What are your personal limits?

8) Are there things in particular that you need help with?

With my blog I wanted to show that there the image of a Jew has ALWAYS been varied and multi-cultural. I believe on some level I am doing that. I also wanted to show people that the realities of living in Israel are often more complex and varied than most people think. I also wanted to show that being African American means more than just what people see in the media, and that there are more than one type of African American. I believe on some level I have done that. Yet, there is so much more I could be doing.

My blog has also been the source of much conversation between me and fellow Jews here in Israel. Reading other blogs I get a better idea on where I stand and where I don't stand, I also am able to focus my thoughts after writing on my blog.

This is why I have been mentioning community a lot. You have to know who your audience is and who it is not. You also have to know who you are trying to reach, and who will never listen to you. There is a song I once heard from a rap group called Dilated Peoples. In their song panic there is a statement that says, Most people are satisfied playing follow the leader. If you want to see real change you have to be the leader to follow.

A good movie for you to watch would be Batman Begins. It deals with the issues of someone trying to shake people out of apathy.

Ehav Ever said...

MDC Wrote:
So how do WE, those of the middle class exert positive pressure on the larger group? And is it our role to do so?

Ehav's Response
I don't believe that you can EXERT PRESSURE on a larger group. What you can do is the following. (Get ready for another Ehav list)

1) Live you life in a moral and steadfast manner. This in turn may cause SOME to see it and want to imitate your actions.

2) You can reach out to people you know who are on the brink of making immoral choices. I say brink, because I believe that only people who don't want to be immoral can really be helped. People who willingly want to be immoral are not easy to even deal with.

3) Volunteert to work with young children. Get to them before the pop culture can get to them.

4) Get married and raise children with clear moral compass's. Then when they go out into the world they can spread that morality by their actions.

5) Stand against those who are completely immoral or evil to the core.

That is the only way I know. The only way to affect change to is be a dramatic example to shake people out of apathy. You also have to realize that most people who are lost, are lost due to their own free will choices. Instead of wasting time on them concentrate on the ones who want to be found.

DMB said...

(I agree with Ehav Ever on many points, particularly about reaching the minds of the children.)

We live in a culture where most adults are quite satisfied as long as they have cable tv, a leather coat, sneakers and a working cell phone.

You can't seek to change a person's values from without. That can only occur from within the person.

Usually people only seek to change when they are in pain or have lost something. Then they usually perceive it as 'not being right with God' and somehow think that a conversion of some sorts (whether genuine or less than genuine) is the answer to get back into 'God's blessings'.

And even this does not include an automatic conversion to middle class values.

You have to reach the children. Plant ideas in their heads to give them something to think about before they embark on that chase for cable, coats, sneakers and cell phones.

Tami said...

Two things come to mind immediately:

1) I think all of our blogs are important tools in communicating our values. It has been empowering for me to learn that there are so many like-minded black people out there. I have always known that we are in the minority.

Though less than two percent of people are connected to the Internet, I think our words are reaching some of the people most able and willing to affect change offline. There is a marketing concept that says when marketing products to young people, you should try to reach the "Edge Teens" first. These folks are the trend-setters that other young people follow. I think this concept can be applied, in a way, to the black blogosphere. I think the people most involved in new technology and social media, including blogging, are the new leaders of the black equality movement.

2) I think it is imperative that we focus on negative portrayals in media, that we put pressure on corporations and artists who peddle minstrelsy, and don't let up. I work in public relations, marketing and advertising. It is my job to know and use the media to communicate. I think we as a community consistently underestimate the impact media and associated popular culture have on values. Groups (like the Republicans and the religious right) who have created cultural shifts in recent years, for better or worse, know the power of consistent talking points, they know how to create a spectacle and they know how to use the media.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Ehav,

I disagree with you about IF we can exert pressure on the larger group. Here is why; the middle class of every culture throughout history has been the group that has had time to ponder the problems of the larger community. We, the middle class have the resources to for instance, communicate with like minded people. What we are doing now, talking about these issues, is what middle class people have always done.

So my question isn't if we can, but how and what means we use. Do we use direct action and take it to the streets or do we use available technology like blogs to exact change.


DMB,

You are right about the consumerism that thwarts solutions. That's something that some of us in the blogisphee have been talking about lately.

The problem is that I think that many poor people use spending money as a drug to fight off the depression of poverty.

So an entire re-programming is needed. That's not going to be easy.


Tami,
I think the media portrayals are atrocious too. I think we have to stop supporting the media that is our enemy. That's why I cancelled my cable (and it cost too darn much). If a few hundred thousand of us cancelled our cable the media would pay attention.

Ehav Ever said...

Hey MDC,

Now I am fully awake (I am going to the synagogue to pray in about 10 minutes.)

You asked three questions that I would like to talk on.

How do we reach out to make effective change if indeed we are isolated?

First find out why you are isolated. Then take actions to get your message to your intended audience.

If the people we want to reach don't have internet access in their homes how do we reach them?

Go to them directly. Take your message to their homes or their places of socialization. Interact with them on their home turf. Once you again you have to know who it is your trying to reach.

If they simply don't have an interest in what we say or envision then what?

Only you (i.e. the individual) can know the answer to this. If people don't want to listen to you, why should you continue to speak to them? What investment do you have in such people? Why are you responsible for such people? Are you really sure that such people should listen to you? Maybe what you envision is only right for people like you who either hold or want to hold your type of values.

For example, I am Jewish. In Judaism we don't go out looking for converts. There is no concept in Judaism that the world must become Jewish for God to love it. There is a concept that if the entire world lived like Noah and Job (both non-Jews), then that is enough for the world.

We Jews have 613 commandments that we collectively must live by as direct commandments from God for Jews to live by. We were chosen to live this way, not because we were strong, but based on the Bible because we were such a small people.

That being said, I would living in an illusion if I believed I could convince the world to convert to Judaism. There is no pretext for such a thing, and it is not necessary. If I tried to convince Jews to live by what God commanded for us, and non-Jews to live like Noah and Job then that is one thing. Yet, trying convince a group of non-Jews to become Jewish would be foolish. This is why Jews don't go out seeking converts, and often converts are discourage 3 times. It is not easy being Jewish and God didn't create the world so that everyone had to be Jewish. What we do believe is that we are supposed to a light to the nations. If people want to know about the Hebrew Bible and they question us about God then a Jew should be able to give them answers and point them in a general direction. That is the mission of Judaism towards the non-Jewish nations. Almost like custodians of a truth. A truth that at one time the entire world had, but many (not all) traded for other things.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Ehav,

I hope you had a good rest.

I think that blogs and the internet are an amazing chance to do what you say, go into peoples homes. So is the answer to advocate for increased net access? I think that could part of the solution.

I really think that mass media is needed to counteract pop culture.

Ehav Ever said...

Hey MDC,

Thank you for your hopes for my rest. It was well, I went to synagogue to pray and I am good.

In terms of your disagreement of my use of the word IF. All I am saying is that you push all you want, but if people willingly are paving their own way to Gehinam (Often called Hell) there is not much you can do to stop them.

Let me explain my position on that. Often the Hebrew words Sheol and Gehinam are translated as Hell. This is not the case. Sheol was an ancient belief that when you died you ceased to exist. It basically means a ceasing. Ancient Jews prayed that God would not leave them in a place where they ceased to be. Gehinam was a valley near Jerusalem where trash was burned.

So how does this relate. You can try all you want to push people out of jumping into Gehinam, but you can't make them choose not to live in it. You can do all you can to try to convince people that a real life is not Sheol, but people can choose to chase after it.

When I pledged Phi Beta Sigma I once had a debate with my line brothers about morality. Nothing I said could convince them that morality was important. This and other issues caused me to be hated by my chapter. I eventually knew that I would never be that close to any of them due to moral concerns and personal concerns. Some of them chose destructive paths and some of them walked the line.

I once also took in a young girl at college who had become pregnant by a guy, who I really didn't like. They had no relationship, and I initially took her side. I felt like she was like a little sister to me, but the situation became where it was almost like I was her father. She would talk to me the way that a child talks to their father, especially when I would try to convince her not to walk down the path she was going. She left college, she went back to her mother's house, she had the baby, then she became a stripper. I tried to convince her that path would cause problems for her and her baby. She retorted back that it was her life, and nothing I could say would convince her. So then when she was dancing at this one club she was attacked by one of the workers there. Her life after that point began to spiral downwards exactly as I told her it would. Yet, she would not listen to me. It got to the point where every time I talked to her I started to get depressed. It began to take an affect on my life. That was until an Eshet Chayil i.e. a woman of valor stepped up and smacked me back to reality. That woman of valor was my mother. My mother reminded me that I am not this girl's brother or father, and that at some point I have my own responsibilities. She reminded me that it was noble to care for people like that, but I couldn't them drag me into their Sheol, or else I may fall into their Gehinam.

This is what I am talking about when I say IF. I just don't believe the majority of people of ANY era want to live by logic. Most people are happy with their connected little lives until something bad happens. Then they want to pray, then they want to change, and many times when the storm passes they go right back to where they were before. I remember how after 9-11 everyone was talking about a change, and for a few weeks in NYC there was a visible change. Yet, after a few months, a few years, it was back to business as usual. As as I mentioned earlier, It is the doom of men that they forget.

YET, some people were shaken into action. Some people say the writing on the wall. Some men went out and married that woman they had been dating for years. The tragedy of 9-11 shook them up and they realized that life is to short to play games with commitment. I am part of an organization called Fuel For Truth. The founders of FFT were Jewish men who were disconnected from their Jewish roots. They all lost friends in 9-11 and woke up to the fact that they could not live any longer as disconnected Jews. That small group went out and got another small group of Jews and non-Jews involved. That slightly larger group went out to get another small group, and the group got a little larger. A guy at my synagogue told me about it, I ignored it. Then they invited me to volunteer as semi-security during one of their events. From there I began to see the value of the organization, and I could affect it. I later found that it had affected me to.

So this is what I mean. I think your ideas and actions have to be focused. You alone or in a small group can only change the world by working person by person, small group by small group. Your reach is only so far, yet your friends reach may go into places your reach can't. If you try to get to big people may fall through the cracks.

Yet, if you drop a stone in a pond the ripple starts out small, but expands. The actual stone only DIRECTLY affects the water and the ground it sinks to. Yet, the shockwave is what directly affects the rest of the pond. Regardless if the stone ever makes its way to the other parts of the pond the ripple affect has affected the pond.

Ehav Ever said...

In terms of advocating for increased net access. What I would say instead, just because I don't see that as realistic, is that bloggers can galvanize each other. They can learn from each other, and they can formulate plans. Then they can go into their respective communities and work there. Just go back to Positive Blogging Week. I want you to never forget that YOU inspired that. It had not crossed my mind until I read one of YOUR posts. There is a French saying that says, It is the great ambition of women to inspire love. So pat yourself on the back for your ambition.

Okay so lets look at what happened with a Week of Positive Blogging. When I read your post about Bill Cosby's book I thought to myself, She's right so many people concentrate on the negative at the expense of the positive. I began to wonder, what could I do about that. On some level, I would like to believe I have been doing something about that already, but I am one man. (Get ready for the Batman Begins quotes)

People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne, as a man I'm flesh and blood I can be ignored I can be destroyed but as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.

Being one man I can ignored, cast aside, or destroyed. Yet, if this concept that MDC has put out there can become something organic incorruptible it could be a start of something. I later noticed that someone had done A Positive Blogging Week a few years ago. Yet, I had never heard of it. Then again I didn't know about blogging until a woman at a synagogue in Manhattan told me about it. So at first I said okay how about a day of positive blogging. Yet, a day is not enough. A day can be skipped over and forgotten. One day does not get people to think and probe deeper. It doesn't give people time to look around them. So then it was a week.

After that point I felt it would be more organized if EVERYONE was on the same page. Positivity to me may means something completely different to someone else. Some may consider for example, R. Kelly not going to trial positive. Some may consider Superhead positive. So then the idea of a set group of topics that people could focus in on. Everyone is different so there would be different ways people would look at each topic. My ulterior motive was to make so that the entire week focused on changing the world. The next step was getting support from bloggers that I am normally in contact with. Well you know the rest.

All of this that came from your influence I did based on the values and lessons I have learned in my life about trying to link different people together. It also came from my experience in trying to convince people to look a bit deeper into issues. My experience as a Jew and as a former member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. played heavily in how I planned for A Week of Positive Blogging. What I hope that everyone got out of it was to learn that the world is often smaller than we think. Also, we are all not that much different no matter what, who, and where we are. Some people may also blog differently as a result of the experience. I know I do. Do you see how one person inspired one other person, who went on and brought another few people, who brought another few people. There were people who had heard of A Week of Positive Blogging from people I didn't even contact. This is what I am talking about. Your reach for example didn't extend into my neck of the woods, and my reach doesn't extend into your neck of the woods, but when we joined hands our collective reach spreads.

One of the concepts that I kept running with during that week is helping children, community, and morality. I believe with all my heart of these three things can be elevated to a higher status with the hearts of people that could change the world. It may not save it, but I believe it can change it. Yet, each of has to take everything that we learn and everything that are becoming and apply that to where we live. Going back to my stone in a pond post. Imagine if 10 people are seen throwing stones in a pond. Imagine if 20 people are then inspired to also throw stones in a pond. Imagine if those 20 people go out and grab 5 more people to throw stones. If that keeps up pretty soon a ripple can turn into a wave. Yet, it is often easier to start small.

My suggestions are: (list time, list time)

1) Come up with a realistic plan on who exactly in your immediate reach you want to see change in within the next 5 years.

2) Find bloggers who have the knowledge base that you need to affect said change. Network with those who may have the know how you don't have.

3) Formulate a plan on what it is you are going to do.

4) Go out and do it.

5) Inspire someone else to do something similar.

People don't exactly need internet to follow in your footsteps. Yet, what you gain from the blogsphere may be what galvanizes you to physically galvanize others. Warning! Batman Begins quote:

Capitan Gordon: You're just one man?
Batman And now we're two.

Miriam said...

"Being of the middle class in African America has never really been tied to the amount you earn but rather your set of values"

I once read from somewhere --- I hope your sitting down... that dark curly haired people are not "into" money. i.e. that doesn't define them and yes, they could be caught hording bunches of money but not with the intent of being a miser -it'd be more for honor or what it could buy them, etc.

I don't know. But reading your sentence made me remember that interesting tid bit.

I have been toying with the idea that bloggers need to crack the mainstream media. At least one radio show should be on promoting blogging, and alternative medias. I've been toying with the idea but I don't know if I'm the one to do it because (1) I am so far removed from where the action is and (2) I don't know enough (re: rappers, political figurs, etc. I'd end up sounding too ignorant in public LOL)

But I think that is the way. Basically, a "yield sign" re-directing traffic.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Miriam,

"I have been toying with the idea that bloggers need to crack the mainstream media. At least one radio show should be on promoting blogging, and alternative medias."

That's a great idea! We do need some sort of way to promote our blogs. That's someting I will think about. If you have any suggestions please share them with me.




Ehav,

Very thought provoking as usual, the incident with the young woman you tried to help is analogous to the Black blogisphere and the larger population I know. But I think that there are lots of people who want help, they just don't know how to find it. Yes there will be cases like the scenario that you mention but we'll just hope that they will come around later.

Some people are early for a train, some exactly on time and some a little late, but what's important is that they all make the train.

That particular Batman quote is okay. (lol)

Shelly said...

I struggle with the notion of being middle class. (In the UK class is SUCH a thorny issue) But in real terms I am, if you look purely at education, economics and value system.

I just want to say to Ehav: you are one intelligent brother! Thanks so much for your insights on this complex issue...

I especially like your 5 point plan. Simple as. To use this technology to find likeminded people, define our goal(s), formulate a plan, go out in the world and DO IT! All our words mean nothing unless we get out there with our own two hands and create a new world.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Shelly,

"Ehav: you are one intelligent brother!" I agree!

Why is class a thorny issue there? History?

Shelly said...

Yeah... The history and culture of Britain is so class orientated. People tend to cling to their working class roots even if they're technically middle class; middle class people are either embarassed about it or are desperately trying to scramble to the next rung up the ladder; and the upper classes are so few and so insulated that they tend to not to even talk about it. Mostly becuase they're the ones running the whole damned place anyway!

It's all so weird and complex and people have alot of hang ups about class here.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Shelly,

That's so different from here. Everyone flaunts their status. Especially the new rich.

I hope you'll post about this at some point.


Thanks

Monica Roberts said...

Ms Deux,
I believe and know for the most part we African-Americans still value hard work, education, family and fairness. You wouldn't know that listening to right-wing talk radio.

It's just that the definitions of those terms have been skewed to reflect a narrow political viewpoint.

To me, one problem I see is that I believe that our generation failed to pass on the lessons of our tortured history in America to our kids and we're paying for it.

In the 60's we achieved the easy goals of the end of Jim Crow desegregation. The powers that be could live with that.

The economic empowerment one is tougher. Those that have the power and the cash aren't gonna give it up without a fight. While we were happy that 'we'd overcome', they were plotting and planning to revese those gains.

If our peeps had read the history of Reconstruction we should have been even more forceful and vigilant about protecting our hard won gains during the 70's.

The rise of the conservative movement was a reaction to our civil rights successes. They also learned lessons from their mistakes in the 60's in terms of having the churches on our side and the importance of media messaging that the progressive side woke up to late in the game and are just getting the critical mass they need to counter it.

They are also using our historic tendency to gravitate to church-centered leadership as a cynical divide-and-conquer tactic to split our community and alter the Black churchs ongoing historic mission of speaking truth to power and advocating for the least of us.

Rev Al Sharpton and rev Jesse Jackson are on the right track, it's the megachurch ministers that are out of step with the Black community and I get tired of people attacking 'the Revs' for actually doing what the Black megachurch minsters SHOULD be doing instead of building arena-sized churches.

I'll probably have to post my thoughts on your question on my blog. ;)

Mes Deux Cents said...

Monica,

"To me, one problem I see is that I believe that our generation failed to pass on the lessons of our tortured history in America to our kids and we're paying for it."

You make an important point; a lot of the behaviors we see in mainstream pop African American culture clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding and knowledge of our history.

I worry though that we have lost at least 2 generations and that they will now become ambassadors for failure.

I also agree about the Black church. I think that there alignment with right wingers has made them some what irrelevant.

That’s a sad contrast to the history of the Black church.


Thanks

Monica Roberts said...

'I also agree about the Black church. I think that there alignment with right wingers has made them some what irrelevant.'

Not only urrelevant, but impotent as well. They have compromised the moral authority they used to have for faith-based bucks.

The more galling thing to me is that they are aiding and abetting people who OPPOSED (and continue to oppose) our civil rights struggle.

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About Me

West Coast, United States
African American, Poet?, Vegetarian, Music lover, Agoraphobic, Social Phobic

My Favorite Poet

My Favorite Poet
Staceyann Chin

My Favorite Track Athlete

My Favorite Track Athlete
Christine Arron