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Last week when I wrote about Courtland Milloy‘s latest columns on gender, race, and why white women are so angry, I wondered about what got Milloy going on the topic. As I noted, the argument about where the interests of white women and women of color align (and part ways) has been going on for ages. Milloy and I ended up talking late on Friday about the two columns and what he’s got coming up next.
The reaction—particularly in the Post’s comment section—has ranged from appreciative to livid, with commenters accusing Milloy of injecting race into a conversation where it isn’t warranted. (That’s a criticism he’s no stranger to, as Rend Smith noted in a 2010 profile.)
Milloy says, though, that the reaction is perhaps a sign that “the column is doing what it was supposed to do.” That is, get readers who don’t often think about the intersection of race and gender thinking about it.
Recently, the Post began asking columnists to start engaging in the comments. A few people have told me that they’re not willing to hang out in the comments where racist and sexist sentiment tends to run unchecked. Milloy is one of them.
“Hats off to the people who read and react in ugly ways,” he says. “I’m just not going to waste much time on them.”
Still, he says, “I see there’s a lot of fear that translates into anger, I see there’s a lot of interest [in race], but no space for engaging on these issues in the media.” In the wake of the column, “There’s feedback directed at me, there’s feedback about the issue, and there’s conversation that’s going on in the comment section between the commenters—they’re all interesting to me.”
The second column last week was about how the abortion debate takes on a different tenor for black women. The campaigns that insist black women’s wombs are dangerous places, the literature that worries black women who have abortions are falling prey to some grand eugenics scheme—those are charges that pro-choice or abortion-seeking white women don’t have to face.
“I wasn’t trying to do it in defense of black women—I must say that I haven’t read much lately about where black men get into this mix,” Milloy says, adding, “Men ought to be right up in it, not just the crazy white men in the Virginia General Assembly.”
For his part, Milloy plans to keep digging. “I have some more columns coming up,” he says. “This is Women’s History Month—after Black History Month, the minorities had pretty much had their say,” he laughs. His goal, he says, is to continue the conversation around race and how it interacts with gender.
It’s work worth doing. And it reminds me of the old black women’s studies book, All The Women Are White, All The Blacks Are Men, But Some Of Us Are Brave.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery