Back in March, I wrote “Someone Is Wrong on the Internet.” Why did I do that? I’m glad you asked!
I belonged to two groups about “African American” hair. On one of them (one that doesn’t have any restrictions on sharing or quoting posts) a woman asked a question. The absurdity of the question and subsequent responses lead me to pitch an article about that to adoption dot com. They thought it sounded interesting. I immediately crowdsourced opinions.
On Facebook, I tagged all of my friends who are raising black children, biological or adopted. I also posted the question in an adoption-related group, which I’ll just call CAF. In both cases, I noted that I would be using responses for my article, as I had done many times before. My friends were great sources of information, as was the group.
But, as often happens when race is mentioned in CAF, an argument broke out. There were about four people on CAF who don’t believe in white privilege and barely believe in racism. They subscribe to the “colorblind” theory of parenting – if you don’t talk about race, racism won’t exist. Well, one of those four posted – but not with outrage. Instead, she wrote about how she used to be that way, but this group had brought her around to understanding, and she and her child were closer for it. That’s what education is supposed to be about here – being better parents to our kids. There is also one woman of color (I’ll call her Petra) who posted a story about another woman of color complaining to an upscale clothier in NY. The clerk at said store, when spelling this woman’s name back to her, said, “M as in monkey.” Racism!
So, the newly enlightened woman posted (quite rightly, I think) that perhaps the angry complaint wasn’t the best way to respond. Petra immediately started after her, writing tirades in all caps. I defended the woman, as I am wont to do when I see others being bullied, so Petra started verbally attacking me. Because this was my post, and my questions had been answered for the purposes of the article, I closed comments.
Petra started a new thread to attack me for cutting off comments. I replied that I closed comments because I didn’t see the need to get embroiled in an argument. I then turned off notifications for that thread. To this day, I’m not 100% sure what was said about me. When I didn’t respond, Petra started a third thread to attack me. I didn’t even bother with that one. I blocked Petra entirely.
Did Petra ever contact me directly to engage in a dialogue with me? No. Did the moderators do anything at all to stop Petra from attacking me? No. And yes, that still pisses me off Dawn. I know some friends jumped in to defend me, and eventually the group owner did shut down the threads… but not before a fourth thread was started by another person entirely. Fun times. That’s actually what brought me to explain my realizations about arguing with strangers on the Internet in a blog post. How much hate and pain must this woman have to expend so much energy and vitriol on total strangers on the Internet?
But wait, there’s more!
In the original post, before the brouhaha, Petra had made a very good point about my question. I asked her if I could quote her on that, even posting the precise quote that I intended to use. She said I could.
Two months later, the article was posted. Here is where I made my fatal mistake: I unblocked Petra. I wanted her to be able to see the article and make her judgments accordingly. She flipped out! Once again, she didn’t contact me, but used the CAF group and another group that I moderate, to accuse me of stealing her words. Apparently, in one of the threads that either she or another woman posted, she revoked permission to use the quote. Seeing as I had blocked her, there was no way for me to know this.
Meanwhile, people on a hair group that was not the one I used as the source for the question, started in on me as well. That group does have rules about what you can share. I stopped frequenting it after people started criticizing Gabby Douglas’s and Simone Biles’s hair. I only belonged to see the photos of hairstyles. What I imagine happened is that the mom who asked the original question asked it on multiple groups. I say “imagine” because the next thing I knew, I was no longer a part of that group. No messages, no direct discussion, just das boot.
Proving once again that too many people on the Internet are incapable of rational, adult discourse.
Meanwhile, either Petra, some of the women from the hair group, or both, contacted adoption dot com and falsely accused me of using quotes without permission. Adoption dot com pulled the article, without telling me. I had a discussion with the editor, and assured her that I had had permission, and could show her evidence. She said, “It’s too controversial. Race doesn’t really have anything to do with adoption anyway.”
I quit adoption dot com that day. (I have to admit, I felt ethically squicky about working for them in the first place. But that’s another post.)
There were two silver linings here:
- A writer whom I very much admire wrote to my editor expressing disappointment that adoption dot com had chosen to pull the article, and defending my ethics. It was just about worth going through all this BS to read what she wrote.
- Another writer whom I also admire put me in touch with Adoptive Families magazine. I completely reworked the article – the only thing that’s the same is the bulleted list – and they recently published it. It’s a much better article than it was.