BlogHer Session Discussion: Identity & Obligation on Day Two

BlogHer Original Post

23rd in our series introducing you to each of our BlogHer Conference '06 sessions and their speakers, and finding out what you would like to get from each session. Today, I bring you from Day Two:

Identity & Obligation: Do you control which parts of your identity are exposed? Do you feel an obligation to represent for your gender, race or culture? Do you feel you're not allowed to comment on issues facing a group to which you don't belong? Maria Niles moderates a discussion with Karen Walrond, Dawn Rouse, Marisa Trevino and Carmen Van Kerckhove on how we slice and dice our identity.

We've all heard the joke about the Internet and the dog that no one knows you are. But part of the blogging ethos (according to many) is transparency. Or maybe you've heard the alternate buzz word: authenticity. The fact is that if you use your real name, gender is apparent for many of us. If you include even a single picture, race and age may be apparent for many of us. If you go down the list you can find a lot of things that are almost never obvious unless you choose to reveal them...culture, sexual orientation, political ideology, religion. This session is about all the many aspects of our identity we could choose to blog about, and how we decide which ones belong in our blogs. And if the decision not to blog about certain aspects of our identity makes us feel guilty or like we're not doing all we could do or all we should do.

[img_assist|fid=1038|thumb=1|alt=images for contributing editors, L-N] Moderator Maria Niles is in a somewhat unique position. She is a different race than she appears. Sometimes she is privy to hearing things she doesn't want to hear. From even the "nicest" people. She has a bird's eye view on how screwed up attitudes about race can be. But she rarely, if ever, blogs about race, and then only on her anonymous personal blog. Why is that? And when she does choose to talk about it, what drives the decision?

[img_assist|fid=1083|thumb=1|alt=Dawn Rouse] Dawn Rouse is a white woman raising a bi-racial child. She writes about what that's like. Sometimes. What really stands out about the discussions on her blog about race is that when she does touch on race, she gets other white people to talk about their feelings about race too. That's pretty unusual. Sometimes it seems like most of us don't want to comment or express opinions on anything we can't lay claim to. Not just race, but any identity aspect. Sometimes it seems like that's the way lots of people want it! Dawn's blogging breaks those barriers.

A few weeks ago, and long after the conference schedule was pretty much set in stone, Marisa Trevino wrote to tell me that I didn't have enough of the Latina perspective represented, and she pointed me to some Latina bloggers I should know about. I said "OK...why don't you come represent?" And in true BlogHer fashion Marisa stepped up. Like Maria, Marisa is often mistaken for a different race than she self-identifies as. Although she is actually a "hybrid", Marisa's blog is all about la raza. A syndicated journalist and local public radio commentator, Marisa has written about family, education and other social justice issues for about 10 years. She is all about representing.

[img_assist|fid=1091|thumb=1|alt=Carmen VanKerckhove] Carmen VanKerckhove has the same dedication to representing, in her case for multi-racial identity. Co-hosting a podcast named "Addicted to Race", about "America's obsession with race" is only part of the plan. She also writes a blog that tracks how the media represents multi-racial identity and multi-racial families and relationships. She and her partner also conduct diversity training and consult on grass roots organizing. In other words, it's all race, all the time. But do you wonder if sometimes it gets tough for bloggers like Marisa and Carmen? Do they feel we're making progress. Do they sometimes wish they could turn off the radar and not notice? Well, for now anyway, Carmen can't...it's her mission.

[img_assist|fid=1072|thumb=1|alt=Images for Contributing Editors, F-K] Karen Walrond feels completely differently. She's not hiding her race or her culture, but she doesn't blog about it. Living in Trinidad she feels like America has an unhealthy focus on issues of race, and she also feels like we don't really think enough about differences in culture. Assuming, for example, that everyone of the same race thinks or feels the same, regardless of other elements of their identity. She doesn't feel an obligation to represent, but she knows there are those who think she should.

So, we've got a panel of folks with different backgrounds, different identities and different perspectives on how that does (and should)impact their blogging.

So, that's what we are envisioning for the session. But what do you think. What do you want to learn? What do you want to hear? What do you never want to hear again? What would make you attend this session?

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