The other day I checked my Twitter followers. I did that because Alicia Keys — the pop star, American R&B singer-songwriter — started “following” me. One of my Patheos.com blogs had gone viral and expanded the profile of who was looking in on my Twitter posts. As I scrolled down looking at the pictures of my Twitter friends I noticed something interesting– a third or more of the faces were black. In our segmented (if not officially segregated) culture for a white sixty-year-old writer to find so many black and brown faces smiling at him on Twitter shouldn’t be unusual but it is.
The rappers, pop and R&B artists who are following me most certainly were there because of a Patheos piece I’d written defending the President: The Slow Motion Lynching of President Barack Obama
It generated over 2,600 comments, 100,000-plus FB shares. It was picked up on hundreds of other sites and blogs. That’s when all of a sudden I noticed that some of my new followers had millions of followers and began to wonder who they were.
Like I said, I’m not the sort of person you’d think has a following in the African-American community. Here’s how I described myself in the article: “I am a white privileged well off sixty-two-year-old former Republican religious right wing activist who changed his mind about religion and politics long ago. The New York Times profiled my change of heart saying that to my former friends I’m considered a “traitorous prince” since my religious right family was once thought of as ‘evangelical royalty.'”
The fact this piece struck home is testament to just how bruised by racism many African-Americans rightly feel. This is a racist country. Period. Full stop. Our problem isn’t one NBA owner. Our problem is us. The media talks about this or that case– a rancher says dumb things, an NBA owner turns out to be a scum. But here’s the real problem, or at least part of it.
As “Frontline” pointed out: “A number of recent surveys have shown that there are profound racial disparities in the juvenile justice system, that African-American and Hispanic youth are more likely to be tried as adults. They are more likely to receive longer sentences, they’re more likely to be in locked facilities, and on and on and on, even when charged with the same offense as whites.” And while blacks are only 13 percent of the population, they make up 38 percent of the state prison population nationwide.
As Charles Blow put it “How to unwind all the hurt and damage? How to rescue folks from a system and culture that threatens to drown them?
The fact that Patheos packed such a punch into the African-American community was also interesting. Over the years, I’d had some pieces on Huffington Post that reached big audiences, a few with more than 5000 comments and hundreds of thousands of “shares.” (I was one of HuffPost’s first bloggers.) But Patheos isn’t a HuffPo “Goliath,” but a “David.” So the wide spread impact of that Obama piece surprised me.
Congratulations Patheos! Happy 5th Birthday!
Frank Schaeffer’s new book WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD How to Create Beauty, Give Love and Find Peace to be published June 1…
… in paperback and online in all formats everywhere…