After I posted about People of Port Arthur winning top blog spot in the Walleye Reader survey, I received a lot of lovely messages of encouragement.
But also this one:
This isn’t what I’d classify as “hate mail.” It’s a legitimate complaint; it’s feedback about an important issue.
I responded to this comment, and I touched upon this topic on Lisa’s show, Superior Morning, yesterday. I’d also like to address it here.
First I’d like to say that I’m not trying to squirm away from criticism and sweep this issue under the rug, nor am I trying to ignore real concerns.
Yes, the blog is very likely 95% white people. I haven’t done the exact math, but I’d imagine that’s a pretty accurate estimate.
The blog is also heavily populated by a majority of heterosexual people and, interestingly enough, I’ve featured more female-identified people than male-identified.
There’s nothing I can do about who I’ve already featured in 2016 and 2017. I definitely did not and do not discriminate against race, sexual orientation, gender, spiritual beliefs, age, or outer appearance. I have chosen to not write about people after being informed of hateful beliefs or certain kinds of criminal activity. I probably won’t write about a person who’s been nasty or hurtful to me or my family. My prerogative.
I’ve attempted to be inclusive and that is illustrated if you’ve read through all the spotlights. But I take no issue with people noticing the “whiteness” of the blog because it’s true.
However, I do take issue with the statement that “it’s nothing like the real people you see downtown.”
I live here, right downtown. I took the pictures. I know these people are real because I talked to every single one of them. If it wasn’t in the downtown area, it was almost always in Port Arthur. They are all real people that represent Thunder Bay, Port Arthur, and downtown. Obviously 244 people is a tiny fraction of the people in my area.
When reading this blog, it’s important to remember three things:
1. This blog is just over a year old. Hopefully I’ll be able to add to the diversity as time goes on.
2. I am one person. This is something I do for fun. I have three children who keep me busy. I mostly walk everywhere. Besides this blog and my children, I have other projects on the go.
3. People say no to being featured all the time. I’d say it’s about fifty/fifty. As nice as it would be to feature a whole host of diverse human beings, I cannot force people to be a part of my blog. If someone says no, that’s that. I’m also not going to say no to featuring someone (if I’m asked) because that person is white or straight.
Not a big surprise for Thunder Bay?
Maybe I’m doing a great job of fitting in with all the “racist assholes.”
Or, maybe I’m a single mom of three just doing the best I can.
If you enjoy reading People of Port Arthur, that’s awesome! By all means, please stick around. If you have a problem with the blog and would prefer not to read, that’s ok too.
I think you are an incredible woman and mom of three who has taken a leap to pursue her passion and purpose. I can say from my experience that I am honoured to have met you and to have been featured in your blog.
Thank you for seeking out PA people and writing about them. I have learned a lot and discovered much from your ventures.
Thank you for reading and so happy to have you as part of the project!! Your kind words mean a lot to me!!
I would also like to point out a few of the people that have been featured, though not mentioned are white skinned but their heritage reflects quite differently, i know because they are my friends. its just a small snippet of people not like you are writing their ancestry.com profile for them.
what do they want “i met a nice black gay dude today but he said he didnt want to be on my blog” just so you hit diversity points?
Very true Scotia. Aside from joking with my friends, people really don’t want to be my “token brown person” just so I can hit a quota.
And very true about “white passing” people.
I don’t want to be too critical, but I think maybe one thing missing in your consideration, is that you’ve called it “people of port arthur”. So, maybe there’s a responsibility to reach out, build relationships (seriously – some of the people that are part of port arthur face racist shit all the time and being highlighted in a blog is not their idea of a good time. so it will take time to get to know them a bit so they can feel safe and ok being highlighted.) and really make it about the diverse people. If you called your blog “My friends and acquaintances in port arthur” then it’s a little more clear that you’re not doing this as a full time gig and not trying to represent everyone. The criticism you received was harsh and brashly delivered, but as you say, the whiteness of your blog is accurate. Everyone has their stuff – you are a single mom raising three kids the best you can – no one is disputing that – but you’ve chosen to write a blog called the people of port arthur, so maybe the feedback is a good opportunity to assess how you can go about that, given all your other stuff you’ve got going on. I can come up with a million reasons for stuff I don’t do, and they’d all be pretty true – but it doesn’t mean that it’s ok I’m not doing things. My suggestion, take the grain of salt, let it land without the comeback, and challenge yourself to see where it can go.
Hey, I appreciate your comment and the feedback. Feedback is almost always appreciated.
I realize that people in Port Arthur and other parts of the city face racist shit all the time. And perhaps that’s why they say no when I ask them if they’d like to have their pictures taken and be featured in the blog. I reach out as much as I can, but I think my responsibility ends when a person says no to me. I can’t force a relationship or a friendship and I have to be careful not to come off as harassing people. I also have my own personal safety and the safety of my children to consider.
I disagree about calling the blog “my friends and acquaintances” because a lot of the people I had never seen before and likely never will again.
Also, my reasons for NOT doing things DOES mean that it’s ok not to do them. Of course I will challenge myself in the coming year, but if I’m tired or busy with my children, I’m not going to feel guilty about JUST doing to best I can. I’m not going to go downtown after dark or start going to bars just so I can find “different” people. It’s also hard to have lengthy conversations when I’ve got the kids with me.
I do take most of my criticisms with a grain of salt. The criticisms are plentiful, down to attacking the way I look. I pick and choose my battles and this particular subject resonated with me. I wanted to offer my thoughts and explanations because it was important.
I can also add an “about me” page on the blog to make it clear to readers that this is not a job, but rather a hobby.
Cool. I respect your writing and your mojo for doing the pieces. Probably for the rest we’ll have to agree to disagree and/or discuss offline one day 🙂
I think the white privileged we carry around (despite all the other factors we individually face) increases our responsibility and effort in these areas. (and I’m not saying you’re not responsible – just to the point in where we disagree on where our responsibility ends).
Peace though- and thanks for responding.
I do agree that we, as the privileged, have a certain responsibility! For sure!
I’m doing my best to raise my sons to be good men. I talk to them about gender issues and race issues all the time. I talk to people on the street in front of them, we give people food and our change, then we talk about it.
I’m just…exhausted, you know? My life has been in such an upheaval over the last two years, longer if you want to get into childhood and my pre-children working life, haha! Sometimes I just need to take more of a backseat and let others do the big fighting. Whether right or wrong, sometimes it’s ok to live in a bubble; it’s impossible to pour from an empty vessel anyway.
Our city is full of such negativity sometimes and I thought the blog would be a nice way of focusing on positive.
We can definitely agree to disagree with no hard feelings 😊
Well said Leah – I think your response is right on. Such positive people like yourself & the folks featured in your blog make our community a better place and I for one are glad you and your subjects are here. Keep doing what you do.
Thank you, Bob!!! You’re always full of encouragement
I’ll have to thank you for the success today
What do you mean?