The Internet is evolving so fast,
everybody has a site. Every movie has a URL and nobody does any
advertising without carving out a space in cyberspace. The Internet is
so commonly used, that I predict that by 2005, 85% of the families
living above the poverty level will have a presence in cyberspace.
Family web pages will be commonplace. I can envision some sites headers
now. "Coming in 2005, www.atterberry.com to a domain near you.
Check the family tree and download relative's baby pictures.
So just who is using the web? EVERYBODY
IS. Every ethnic group in America is utilizing the Internet. All the
people who don't want to be left out of the loop are making the
adjustment. Don't believe any of the hype saying African - Americans are
not flocking to the Internet. Don't believe one iota of it.
I have observed the African American web
presence more than double in a year. If you don't believe me just try to
do a search under some of the Black or African American thematic topics
that you used to. See how much more data comes up.
There is just one catch. Many of the sites that you think are controlled
by African Americans are not Black owned, controlled and conceived. I
have an acronym for this. I ask is it a BOCC= B(lack) O(wned)
C(ontrolled) C(onceived) ?
Is this a problem? Heck yes. Herein lies another disappointing thing
"happening" wherein we are not controlling our images and
ideas. Yes, I know that there are those who think that "it is only
important that the target audience be African American." Some say
it is not relevant that popular African American sites be BOCC's. I just
want to name some sites, which most people assume, are BOCC but have
White ownership. Black Voices (www.blackvoices.com) is owned by the
Tribune Media Corporation. Not Barry Cooper! Blackfamilies.com (www.blackfamilies.com)
is owned by Cox Interactive Media. Not John Pembroke! Cybersoul (www.cybersoul.com)
is owned by HBO. I have just one statement, to those who think that it
is not important who owns the Black Image in cyberspace. "If it was
not important to control the Black images in cyberspace White firms
would not want to!"
I am not saying that Blackvoices, Blackfamilies and Cybersoul are bad
sites, they provide great information, but I am saying that this trend
is detrimental to the potential African Americans on the Internet,
especially from an economic vantage point. I remember when Afronet gave
space to a White columnist. There were so many people who told me what
an ill-conceived move they felt this was. I agreed then, but I ask,
Where are your voices now!!
These sites are well financed and whether they make money or not having
that cushion allows the worker bees to not worry about if they are
making money or not.
But how do the sites make money? ADVERTISING!! Procter and Gamble
advertises on Black Voices, but do you think CEO Barry Cooper gets any
of that money ? Is he or his staff rewarded with a bonus? NO!! Does he
have any control over the way the money is spent on the site. NO! The
money goes straight into the coffers of the Tribune Media Corporation.
Advertising is the lifeblood of television, newspaper, radio and the
Internet. Yes, those sites may look great and have all the fancy bells
and whistles, but do you really think Cox Interactive, Tribune and Time
Warner love the African American way of life that much? What say do you
have in supporting BOCC ? Or the question should be. Are you BUYING
BLACK!! The Internet may be the last place the African Americans can
control the destiny of their portrayal in the media. If we donít
support these sites now, by buying books, music or other gift items
THROUGH these site, they eventually will go out of business. Next time
you decide to buy something on the Internet, take the time to pull up a
BOCC site and then buy the item or recommend to the site owner that he
or she should carry that item, its not as hard as you might think.
Anything you can buy at Yahoo!, you can buy on any BOCC site.
My hypothesis is that in five years Whites will either own or become the
significant contributors to the majority of the most popular
"Black" web sites. These people realize that to be able to
control access to data and what data people receive is critical to
controlling them. Since the Internet is nothing more than a whole bunch
of computers networked together, it has allowed Black folk to meet and
express ideas without interference from Whites as you have with
television, radio, and other media. During the days of chattel slavery
it was a no-no for Blacks to meet up and discuss ideas. Even in Africa,
colonial European efforts combined to prevent African People from
communicating without their presence. Although many African countries
have their independence now, the colonizing groups still exert a lot of
influence over their radio and television programming. Nowadays Black
people can legally congregate in most places on the globe. It is still
discouraged like it is in my hometown of New York City, but itís just
I remember some years ago I was home from college for winter break and I
was accosted by police for simply walking with too many other African
American males at night. We were on the sidewalk and they were riding in
the street. They blared their sirens and rode their vehicles on the
sidewalk blocking our path. They got out of the car with hands on their
guns and told us to get up against the wall. We were orderly, quiet and
had committed no crime, but we were Black, all male and there was 20 of
us. There was only two of them initially, but by the time it was all
over, there was a 1 to 1 ratio of Black males to police officers. Nobody
got arrested, although due to my outrage over being stopped, I came
close. Their mission was to give us the "subtle" message,
"this is what happens when we see too many of you people
together." The sergeant who arrived on the scene said we were
stopped because we were reported being disorderly by a 911 caller.
Likely story. Twenty Black people were together doing nothing but
"shooting the breeze," but for this white woman, it was a
frightening scene. Just think about the fear that the Internet
represents when you have millions of people who come together in web
site chat rooms, post to message boards, read the ideas of other people
who look like them. It gets even scarier if some of these people aim to
do more than "shoot the breeze" but instead talk about
legitimate social issues like the murder of unarmed African emigrant
Ahmed Diallo at the hands of the New York City Cops. Eventually this
sort of linkage could spill over into "activism." There has to
be a medium to dilute or control the way people interpret national,
global or local events. These types of questions posed by the site
administrators on the message boards and the site survey questionnaire,
which downplay race as a factor are examples of the little things which
a White controlled site is more likely to do. To those who feel the need
to monitor us, the Internet is no exception. The best way to do this is
to use a "Black Face/person" as the visible site person.
Another example might be in the case of a movie, or T.V. series that
Blacks feel is worthy of boycott. The white site is not likely to
endorse a boycott and takes the route of "let's all watch the show
before we judge it prematurely, lets see how it represents
"us," as one White owned Black series did with the short-lived
television sitcom "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfieffer,"
which burlesqued slavery and virtually made a joke of the horrible life
that African people enslaved in the Western Hemisphere experienced.
You would never see that sort of nonsense done with other human
tragedies like the Jewish Holocaust. Thank God we were smart enough to
recognize that this show could not continue to air with our economic
support. I could draw thousands of analogies of ways, in which these web
sites are likely to subtly use subversive methods to control black
frustration and rage, but I feel that portion of my conveyance should be
left to your own imagination. I am sure that you have experiences which
would allow you to recall or draw your own examples. Although there is a
small upside. I think the phenomenon of Black web sites controlled by
whites can actually wind up being very educational. There is a lot of
information being circulated which passes itself off as legitimate data
simply because it was done by a Black person without careful attention
being paid to the actual content of that data. More so I believe that
regardless of the race of the author, the work the individual does
should be viewed on its scholastic merit. Scholarship can not be
quantified simply by race; cyber-browsers should go further with
information they receive on the web even when Blacks control the web
site. If Black people realize that the data they are receiving may be an
interpretation from a White controlled perspective (as are 95% of the
other media and communication outlets) they may dig deeper and go
further with the data and discover that the data they received is
erroneous. If the ambiguity of web site ownership causes cyber-browsers
to do a double take at the information they receive, then in my opinion
it is a good thing. Many Black people too easily accept information on
the basis that the author is Black or has a cultural or ethnic sounding
name. I have seen information appear on BOCC sites which was more
detrimental in its propaganda than stuff that normally receives a red
flag on White media outlets.
Take for example the recently released "Encarta Africana"
Encyclopedia released by Microsoft. This double CD package has been
billed as the first comprehensive work on African culture and history
throughout the Diaspora and Africa. The brain children behind this
project are Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr., Chairman of
Afro-American Studies and Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of
Afro-American Studies and Philosophy. Both of these men are Black and
have a following among various groups in the Black community. I have
read interviews with them and about them which makes me worry what they
have done with the original efforts of W.E.B. Dubois to produce this
Encyclopedia. Dubois moved to Ghana in 1961 to establish the Secretariat
of the Encyclopedia Africana, but he died before it was completed. There
is a lot of criticism from sources regarding the efforts by Gates and
Appiah. I do know that the Secretariat in Ghana totally disassociated
Duboisí original project from their effort. The teacher in me forced
me to go through the lesson plans for educators at www.encarta.msn.com/schoolhouse.
In our efforts to learn more about other white sites we spoke to John
Pembroke of Black Families.com which is owned by Cox Interactive. He was
quite evasive about providing information about the staff, page views
and amount of money Cox invested. Johnís official position is Brand
Manager (now whatís that) ? He is not the CEO, CFO, COO or even the
founder. So you know he answers to someone else. Are all of these
H.N.I.C. executives selling us out? Even the recent BET venture is still
partially white owned. Why?
The bottom line is that you should know which sites are created by Black
efforts or White efforts. You should check it out for yourself. You
might be surprised by what you will find. Just remember when you spend
your money, are you handing it over to the white man or are you buying
black? With the Internet, believe me folks, WE HAVE A CHOICE!!