Lists are very arbitrary things. To me they are designed to promote discussion, thought, or amusement. Usually I just dismiss them. There are more than a few websites that are devoted to the organization of lists. Best power trios, best left handed first basemen, best James Bond movies that had a shitty soundtrack - that sort of thing.
Yesterday a site called Flavorwire posted a list of 23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013. Really? The original link to the site I saw on a fellow poets Facebook page came with the caveat that 22 of the poets were white.
So I clicked on the link to see for myself, and yes, they were mostly white, and young, too.
There are days when you have to know when to fire your ammunition, when to express your displeasure about things. I moved on with my life after shaking my head at the site and made a silent vow to myself to not take the page very seriously if I came across it in the future.
Later in the day, I saw another link on a friends' Facebook page that Flavorwire issued an apology. The post thanked people for calling the oversight to their attention and that they would do better next time.
The apology seemed to piss people off more than the original post. I guess it was not enough for some.
When does the knee jerk outrage end? Why does a post from an obscure website cause so much anger, especially when a local entertainment weekly newspaper had this article on their front page on the same day?
This is the current issue of Columbus Alive. The People to Watch series is done annually. As you can see, there are a dozen people to watch, eleven of them are white.
How come people locally got in the face or posted a link with outrage as their status update about the Flavorwire site and did not register a peep about this article?
I made a couple of vague references to it then decided to send an email to the guy who wrote the article.
"I could not help but notice that out of 12 people in your People to Watch 2013 story in the current issue of Alive, 11 of them are Caucasian.
While I have no complaint about the credentials of any of the people chosen for the story, I am disappointed that, in a city of this size and diversity, you could not find any members of the Latino, Asian, Indian or other inspiring entrepreneurs of pleasure from an ethnic community to select.
You really could have done better. Next year, I hope you or the story writer looks a little deeper out of their comfort zone to choose some truly diverse citizens of the rad and awesome city of Columbus as people to watch."
Less than an hour later I got a respectful, honest and reasonable reply.
"Thanks for the note. I agree with your criticism. We could have done better. I would, however, point out that this is one of the strongest classes of PTW we’ve ever had (based on merit), and we weren’t without diversity, as nearly half of our selections were either women, of color, GLBT or a little older than our demographic (we’ve been accused of being ageist, too). I think that’s much better than we’ve done in the past, but still not as good as we could have done. I would also respectfully suggest our selections had nothing to do with our comfort zones. After looking at the dozens upon dozens of nominees we received, going over our own internal list and seeking suggestions from previous PTW winners, we simply felt this was the best possible class we could present. Frankly, that’s our chief aim.
Either way, I appreciate you reaching out to keep us honest. We need more of that."
There was no cursing, no wishing of the other to die in a fire, but a short, respectful civil dialogue carried out. Not a long series of insults on Twitter or mentions of Godwin's Law.
It's easy to just lash out on something, especially when it's at a large national level. It's easy to say the president sucks or I hate racists but when it hits close to home, why is nothing ever done when it's so much easier to try and make a difference?
The media in this city has a lot of issues involving complacency. There's no real competition in a one paper town. And the arts magazines seem to rehash the same things over and over, playing it safe instead of doing any investigating of all the culture this city has going for it. I do feel better about calling people out on their stuff directly when I had an issue with an article.
Has this been solved? Who the heck knows, but my blood pressure stayed lower while being direct with my concerns instead of putting up a snarky Tweet or posting an angry status update, or simply clicking on like.