Racist Memes and Blogging ► Unpacking the Writer

It’s been a rollicking month for Not Now Silly. I’ve hit new heights in readership and received my first real criticism, which we’ll examine in detail. Yes, folks, it’s time to take another look under the hood to see how the engine is ticking over. 

First things first: The month of August was a good one for this blog. For the first time readership broke 12,000 for a calendar month. While I hope not, I think it will be a while before I break 12k again. Speaking of broken records: On September 24, 2013 I hit a brand new daily record: 703 hits. I’ll take it. That’s now my daily target. 

Other ratings: While I wasn’t paying attention my post on The Detroit Riots ► Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Five overtook Brian Jones ► A Musical Appreciation on the all-time leader board. This gratifies me for two reasons. 1). I am quite proud of my article on Detroit’s several riots, having taken more than a month to write it. I feel it’s important history that so few people actually know; 2). And, it’s a much better blog post than the Brian Jones squib. That one rose to the top of the leader board almost immediately and stayed there for more than a year. I was somewhat chagrined because the Brian Jones post was something I dashed off in less than an hour.

While I’m thinking about it, I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank Curbed Miami and Al Crespo of the Crespogram Report. Both sites recently linked to stories on Not Now Silly. My stats reflect a spike in hits directly from those links. I’m gratified Curbed Miami and The Crespogram Report found enough to like here to recommended Not Now Silly to their readers.

Now about that criticism: Some criticism is easily ignored. However, it’s not easily ignored when it comes from people whom I respect. That’s what happened with my most recent post on Coconut Grove. A Century of Coconut Grove Racism ► Soilgate Is Trolleygate Writ Large is an essay on a theme similar to several I’ve posted before. It compares the Racist attitude of almost 100 years ago with the Racist attitudes of today in Coconut Grove. In the late ’20s Miami allowed a polluting incinerator to be built in a Black neighbourhood. Just this year Miami allowed a polluting diesel bus garage in the same Black neighbourhood. Same as it ever was.

When I am being polite I call this attitude Modern Day Colonialism and Trolleygate, as I did in a post back in February. However, when I’m not being polite I call it what it really is: RACISM, pure and simple. West Grove has suffered under a century of it, which I keep discovering over and over again the deeper I research Coconut Grove. The thrust of my most recent post is that Racism is with us today and Trolleygate is merely the physical manifestation of that ugliness.

These blog posts go through several drafts before I press the PUBLISH button; some more than others. One of my earliest mentors in the writing game told me, “There is no good writing, only good rewriting.” I’ve made that my #1 motto and there have been sentences I’ve kicked at dozens of times before I’m finally satisfied.

During the earliest drafts of A Century of Coconut Grove Racism ► Soilgate Is Trolleygate Writ Large I used images like the one to the right to illustrate my post. However, I the longer I edited the post the more I came to resent the pictures I was using. My words said Racism exists TODAY. However, all the pics were of Racism in the oldie moldy past: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Racist signs from the ’40 and ’50s. The words and the pictures created a tension that I didn’t like. They contradicted each other.

I have several dozen pictures on my computer hard drive that illustrate racism over the centuries. Several of them have been collected since President Obama took office. It occurred to me that those recent memes were the ones that best illustrated the point I was making. I removed all the historical images and substituted contemporary pictures instead. When I finished editing the post — when I was finally satisfied with what I had — I knew the pictures would rankle some people. I actually consulted a small group of folk whose opinion I trust. I call these people my de facto editors, because they’re all I’ve got as a Lone Wolf Citizen Journalist to bounce ideas against. None seemed to object and one said, “Go for it.”

The push back against A Century of Coconut Grove Racism ► Soilgate Is Trolleygate Writ Large began almost immediately. Here’s the predominant sentiment, sent to me by email:

I think it distracts from the serious discriminatory ridership routes and Env[ironmental] justice issues. I would suggest more serious photos of Rosa Parks, Jim Crow signs on buses, etc…. It is important to depict civil rights leaders, including our President, in a complimentary light to inspire youth to greatness, not ridicule upon achievement. The images posted distract from our serious issues.

Believe me, I’m sympathetic to that point of view. Racism is ugly. Racism is not polite. Having said that, I do my readers a disservice if I turn away from the ugliness of Racism. I do my readers a disservice if I use metaphors and euphemisms to describe Racism. Racism needs to be treated as you do with a dog who has just taken a crap on the rug: You rub its nose in it and use stern words. NO! BAD DOG!

I’m not going to sugarcoat Racism. That plays into the hands of Racists, who hope you will be far too polite to call them out on their Racism. I also disagree that the images I used were not serious. They were as serious as a cancer cluster. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these few pictures (which, by the way, are not the most incendiary I have) comprise an entire book. I won’t apologize for using contemporary pictures of Racism to illustrate modern day racism. Therein lies madness.

Tune in next month for another exciting episode of Unpacking The Writer, a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, the home of the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.