The Segregated Blogosphere
By Celina De León

Chris Rabb's life as a blogger started with an e-mail. For four years, he sent out an e-newsletter to thousands of names in his address book. The newsletter eventually became his blog, Afro-Netizen, which provided Rabb's commentaries on politics and news, with a focus on Black communities. Since then, Rabb has become one of the most outspoken voices on the racial divide in the blogosphere.

"As bloggers of color, we are such a smaller number of people than our white counterparts. That makes reaching the volume of traffic much harder, and the lack of social and financial capital also makes this harder," Rabb said.

People of color make up 40 percent of bloggers, but only 26 percent of Internet users. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project's "Blogger" report, which was based on findings from their February through April 2006 tracking surveys, 11 percent of bloggers are Black, 19 percent are English-speaking Hispanic and 10 percent are some other race or ethnicity.

There are no bloggers of color with the kind of exposure and influence of superstars Matt Stoller of mattstoller.com or Duncan Black of atrios.blogspot. The result, according to Rabb, has been a typical white liberal/left dialogue in the political blogosphere.

"They won't talk about the racial element of anything that's been deracialized by mainstream media. They're not going to talk about affirmative action, about the racial element of the immigration issue," Rabb said. "Whenever issues of race come up, it's seen as a distraction."

Meanwhile, people of color face more barriers to accessing web-based technologies and are less likely to have the type of jobs with the flexibility and support to, for instance, blog as part of their work. As Rabb puts it, a bus driver is probably not going to blog as much as a professor.

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The Internet's element of anonymity has allowed both relief from racism (people of color who shop and do business online don't experience the racism they do offline) and, at the same time, emboldened racists hiding behind the mask of virtual reality.

For bloggers of color who reveal their racial identity and whose blogs tackle race and cultural politics, this has meant contending with hate mail.
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