WordPress Wednesday Aug. 4

brittanica.com

As promised, this marks week two of the raw data on the identities and subjects of bloggers highlighted by wordpress as the best bloggers on wordpress have to offer. While this week avoided outright racist posts about people of color the trend toward highlighting mostly white male authors and white heterosexual authors on Freshly Pressed continues. Among the things we found most interesting this week was that in order to give the appearance of diversity, wordpress staff used captured images from videos on several posts whose photographic images were all of white people; the videos were done by black artists. In another case, they used a captured image from a black artist’s video on a post that had several images relating to its actual subject matter, including a photo of children of color. In both cases, the captured images did not reflect the focus of the posts in question. In all cases, including one where the post was actually about a black artist and wordpress staff decided to use a more stereotypical looking captured image than the much clearer photos available in the post, the posts were written by white people so that the visual diversity they created on the Freshly Pressed page was dually misleading.

Also interesting was that in at least one case, a video capture of a black artist was used on the Freshly Pressed page for a post that focused primarily on Asians. At the same time the overwhelming majority of authors of color highlighted were either Asians (as in, APIs in Asia) or API Americans. Like last week, there were several days in which no authors of color were highlighted including today.

Another interesting trend that seems to be emerging is the fact that many authors addressing issues of language or race highlighted on the page are writing from outside of the U.S. The majority of these authors have been Australian but not all. Further their discussions of race are largely about imperialistic interplays rather than racial contentions and almost all are written from a white perspective. In some cases, this perspective has coincided with the desire to deconstruct colonial gazes while in others it has embraced them.

On the positive side, while women were seldom pictured this week, at least two images included “plus size” women. Both of these women were white.

Some Data Issues

The data on images in general is misleading this week because wordpress highlighted a post on India that was a photo essay so that people of color appear over represented in the sample this week when in fact they were only pictured in a few posts this week. Again, the author of that post was white and equally interesting, he had chosen a header image of a boy of color walking for his blog design.

The focus on animal and plant blogging also decreased the overall number of human images further inflating the number of people of color depicted this week beyond the actual reflection of representations chosen.

Also as implied by the beginning of this post, in order to cross-check this information you need to look at the posts since simply scanning the Freshly Pressed page can give the wrong impression about who and what is highlighted. Interestingly, wordpress is aware that I do these stats on Wednesday’s and today’s Freshly Pressed page is particularly misleading with regards to supposed diversity of highlighted posts.

News of the Odd

One of the outlined criteria for Freshly Pressed is that the posts be interesting, entertaining, or otherwise inform. While we ruled out counting posts we found “boring” because that was entirely too subjective, we did find it interesting that wordpress chose to highlight a flickr page and several magazines that are presumably hosted by wordpress rather than actual bloggers on the site. They also highlighted a blog post that seemed to imply it had been plagiarized, and one that, while fascinating, claimed that upper middle class students are more oppressed than anyone else. They also continued to highlight posts that had copyright infringements despite their express policy against doing so, and in one case the post amounted to one giant uncited photo and a paragraph of text.

The Raw Data

Here are the numbers for the week in their raw form. We are collecting more information than I have highlighted here but I want to focus on the identity issues that started this project.

There were roughly 278,000 bloggers and between 285,000 and 346,000 blog posts per day from which they chose 11 to highlight each day. This weekend no new posts were highlighted. We only counted actual photos of people not videos of people even when wordpress staff chose to ignore images in favor of video screen captures for the Freshly Pressed page. The reason for this was that we noticed how the video images they chose did not reflect the post & videos are rarely highlighted on Freshly Pressed posts which makes them less important to us as an overarching indicator.

Identity

  • pictures of men of color: 11
  • pictures of women of color: 3
  • TOTAL IMAGES OF PEOPLE OF COLOR: 14
  • pictures of white men: 19
  • pictures of white women: 12
  • pictures of white people where gender was unknown (feet, hands, arms, etc.):5
  • TOTAL IMAGES OF WHITE PEOPLE: 36
  • Images of white people in the header: 9
  • Images with people of color in the header: 1
  • men of color authors: 2
  • women of color authors: 5
  • person of color author where gender was not given: 1
  • TOTAL AUTHORS OF COLOR: 8
  • white male authors: 26
  • white female authors: 20
  • white author where gender was not given: 3
  • TOTAL WHITE AUTHORS: 49
  • authors who mention spouse or parenting: 14
  • authors who mention queer identity: 0
  • white identified or eurocentric posts: 3

You will note in this section that white people vastly outnumber people of color in both the images used for highlighted blogs and the people authoring them even with the issues of over-representation of images of poc this week.  You will also note that both with regards to authors and images, men outnumbered women overall while female authors of color outnumbered male authors of color. As implied there were no images or authors that identified as transgender and no mention of queer identity or couples. Images of older people in this week’s Freshly Pressed were also down, and those depicted were all men of color down on their luck in a photo essay in which everyone else appeared to be working class or higher reinforcing a eurocentric view of poc.

WordPress Criteria Stats

These stats include the things that wordpress has expressly said they would not highlight, like posts with grammatical errors or un-cited images or other copyright infringement.

  • Grammatical Errors: 7
  • Copyright Infringement: 17 (not counting youtube videos)

While this represents a small fraction of the highlighted posts, it stands to reason that in the 300,000+ posts each day that wordpress staff had to choose from, they could have found posts written by people of color and/or queer people that neither violated copyright or had grammatical errors to replace this posts.

Conclusions

Despite what one wordpress staff person said about the Freshly Pressed page striving to reflect the diversity of the bloggers who use their format, the reality seems indisputable. In the last two weeks alone the majority of blog posts highlighted have been written by and illustrated using images of white, heterosexual, cis people primarily from the middle or upper class. They have also assumed a white audience in many cases and in some recreated both sexist and eurocentric narratives.

If you are concerned about the lack of representation not only on the Freshly Pressed page but the way wordpress is ultimately crafting its image through that page, please link to this post using some of the data in your post and considering asking wordpress to be more inclusive.

Give Us Free

This Juneteenth, I find myself wondering just how free we really are. There is a black man in the White House and a black woman still dominates afternoon tv, even if her ratings are slipping and have been since she supported said black man. Black people can apply for jobs, business and home loans, buy, sell, eat, drink, in public and alongside white patrons. Unlike our brown brothers, we can even live in Arizona, as long as we are a deeper shade of berry that is, tho I don’t know why we would. In the eyes of many, the legacy of slavery and the existence of racism are things of the past.

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But let’s break down the difference between then and what many scholars and activists have come to refer to as The New Jim Crow:

  • We have a black president but for the first time since the troubled days of reconstruction, or those of 1963, 1965, and 1968, both nationally syndicated radio and talk show hosts are calling for a “million gun march” on Washington and supporting a movement that contains openly racist elements
  • Despite the loss of basic civil and human rights under the Bush Administration we only see the rise in law enforcement willing to “defend the rights of states and citizens” after Obama’s inauguration and specifically implying that he will at some point try to “enslave” people, “create concentration camps”, and/or rise up against the “people of the U.S.” based on neither history nor voting record nor any other indication except his blackness (see Oath Keepers manifesto – and no I am not linking there)
  • The intentional, and illegal, targeting of black people and other poc for predatory lending , particularly women of color, helped cause the economic crisis and left entire black communities without homes or good credit and the only response has been two administrations handing over stimulus checks to the perpetrators
  • Despite exposure of predatory racialized and engendered lending, the bid to profit off of poor black women and other woc (as well as poor white people to a lesser extent) continues in the form of tax loopholes and property law manipulation (You should note that even though the documentary Flag Wars shows a white lesbian real estate agent intentionally targeting and intimidating black home owners, including at least one homophobe, and then reveling in one hold outs death as she picks over her things for resale, that same agent was later featured on an episode of House Hunters, for which she was hired and paid by both the show and the home buyers, living in a mansion in FL)
  • Unemployment for African Americans is at a 25 year high while no programs are specifically earmarked to help them
  • White supremacist and other hate groups are on the rise with a 54% increase in membership since 2000
  • Liberal blogs, established “zines”,  journals, news shows, publishers, departments, etc. continue to exclude or tokenize (defined here as having 1-2 people but no more despite multiple opportunities) intellectuals of color giving the sense that we are still only important when discussing race and that only a handful of us have the intellectual chops to do so
  • Despite evidence to the contrary, liberal circles are just as likely to blame African Americans and other poc and resort to racism for losses in rights we share but are perceived of as their own as conservatives
  • Gentrification that displaces African American and other poc communities is still largely spoken about by liberals as “bettering the community” “saving neighborhoods” “creating community” or “fostering multicultural communities” and applauded without a single thought to the economic, social, and psychic damage done to displaced black folks
  • More black trans women are being killed now than in the past and less is being done about it even as gains in protections for trans communities are being won largely on the basis of murders of trans women of color
  • police brutality against black women and girls continues to be documented on video and yet excused away by review boards
  • and if listservs. livejournal, and blogs are any indication, the number of white people who believe that “racism” is a “slur” levied by black people to make “innocent” white people feel bad about themselves and not an actual indication that discrimination has occurred is any indication, the number of white people who feel immune to being called out for discrimination and absolved of ever being discriminatory is also on the rise
  • That liberals, conservatives, and hipsters think racism is something they can joke about as if it is both a thing of the past and theirs to laugh at

So this juneteenth, I find myself not in the mood to celebrate the last black folks to be told they were in fact free and subsequently let out of bondage but rather musing on how long the white people in that Texas town kept black people enslaved despite 2.5 years of laws to the contrary because they could and neither their neighbors nor the nation was interested in making sure equality was upheld.

While I am grateful that black people in the U.S. are no longer enslaved (not counting black and ther poc “servants” trafficked here from other countries to clean elite people’s homes or serve as sex slaves), I am saddened by the fact that we are still not equal in this nation and that the spectre of segregation looms at every turn.

Queer Quickies

Jane Lynch makes me giddy with the stupid, always has, and the pic below makes me think getting the state to recognize one’s long term commitment and love for another person might actually be worth it.

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Then again, I could just be caught in the stupid.

In global news, the first queer couple to be married in Portugal were also lesbians. Teresa Pires and Helena Paixao got married this morning after 7 years of unwedded bliss.

AP/unattributed

And while it is nice to see all of this joy, we can’t forget that Chimbalanga, 1/2 of the Malawi couple arrested for performing a traditional marriage ceremony, is still missing after only being released from custody due to combined internal and international pressure. (UPDATE: according to trans blogs Chimbalanga has been found and did a press conference with her partner Monjeza.)

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As always, marriage is not at the top of my organizing agenda but when it costs people their lives or their freedom, makes history, or simply brings so much joy to the couple you can’t help but smile, I think it’s worth a mention. If this weren’t a quickie, I would of course have to bring up the race, class, gender (umm, I couldn’t find a single cis blog that reported Chimbalanga’s reported gender) and locational issues surrounding the way these stories have been reported across the blogosphere and in the queer press. It is particularly disturbing that most of the stories on the last piece have eschewed talking about the couple, their genders, political goals in making a public announcement, their activism, and subsequent treatment, in favor of raising the spectre of “Evil, Dangerous, Darkest Africa” and refocusing on homophobia sans transgender issues. These constructions rival the boycott of Jamaica while people are beaten, killed, kicked out of school, denied basic rights of passage (prom, graduation, etc), threatened, harassed, fired, and in the case of the U.S. legally denied the right to work in certain industries (the military) or get married in a nationally, and many cases, state sanctioned ceremony in Western Countries. Trans people are also not included in state level discrimination laws including many of the states that have laws for the rest of the queer alphabet. Thus neither writers in Britain nor the U.S. have the right to claim the moral high ground they have taken in reporting international stories, particularly from Africa and black diasporic countries; their ongoing belief that they do have the high ground in the face of so much violence and exclusion in the West, speaks volumes about why gender and racial tensions continue to exist in the queer community and why so many Black Britains are writing pieces about imperialism in the queer movement these days.

And you thought this quickie was going to be fluffy … like you don’t know me enough by now.

Latiesha Green Verdict in: Guilty

lgFamily & Friends of Green @ NYC Pride. Leslie Fienberg/transgenderwarrior

Dwight Delee has been found guilty of killing Latiesha Green after just one short week of trial. The verdict is significant in two conflicting ways. Delee was charged with murder but found guilty of manslaughter. While that reverses a recent trend to not convict people of killing trans women, it also lets Delee off the hook for intentionally targeting Green and instead says he meant only to do harm. On the positive side of the verdice, Delee was convicted of a hate crime, despite jurors Lateisha Green's auntbeing instructed that they could find him guilty without being guilty of a hate crime. The Green decision is the second high profile case to find the murderer guilty of hate crimes; the other case was in the Angie Zapata trial earlier this year.

Green, a 22 year old African American trans woman we’ve written about before here at the spot, was shot in the face at a stop outside of a party in Syracuse at the end of last year. Her brother Mark was seated in the passenger’s seat but was uninjured. Some witnesses testified they heard Delee call Green a “f—-t” before shooting her and others said that he was having a homophobic conversation with two other partygoers before getting his gun. Delee’s family says that he would never have said those things nor had a gun b/c he was wrapping up his parole and is being targeted as a black man already in the system. The jury and witnesses said differently.

Delee now faces a maximum of 35 years in prison for his crime. This number includes the additional hate crime sentence.

Green’s family has asked both the state of NY and the nation to pass stiffer laws to protect transgender people pointing to the years of harassment and death threats she endured in life. One can only hope that the growing attention to transgender rights in this country, coupled with the Zapata and Green verdicts and the recent Rob, Arnie, and Dawn Show transphobia, will help ensure people are talking, learning, and fight for transgender people’s rights.

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sources

Image

  • Latiesha Green’s Aunt w/picture of Green at NY Pride. Leslie Fienberg/transgenderwarrior