Michelle Moravec and I are interested in a discussion of the risks of speaking and silence when race, racism, and feminism are the topics of conversations. The starting point for this conversation will be a few blog posts that exemplify both ends of the spectrum–the silence and the speaking. In May 2012, I wrote a blog post titled Of Clicks and Cliques: White Women, Women of Color, Diversity and Tension. Michelle Moravec wrote a response (because hard questions deserve answers), and we hoped for a dialogue around the recurring tensions between white women and women of color in the academy. The posts were met with silence. Although my post generated 130 visits to my blog in just a few hours and remains the most visited post on the blog, very few women responded, and of those who did (mostly via e-mail), Michelle was the only white woman to respond. Almost a year later we both watched as Tressie McMillan Cottom asked what seemed the most mild of questions about the silence surrounding “The Onion’s” slur against little Quvenzhané Willis: Did White Feminists Ignore Attacks on Quvenzhané Wallis? That’s An Empirical Question. The backlash didn’t just come from defensive white women on twitter but, as McMillan Cottom recounts in a follow-up post (On White Women’s Anger), from Women’s Studies faculty enraged by her question.
We are interested in a discussion that aims to get underneath both the silence and the speaking (and the shouting). If, as so many have argued, social media and digital communities can be a space for open dialogue, why the silence? Why the shouting? And what do we do with the fact that when a white feminist wrote on the same subject (On Quvenzhané Wallis ) she got a very different response?