SPOTLIGHT CORNER RETURNS with @Sheswrite

After a three month hiatus, I am proud to bring back SPOTLIGHT CORNER!  My first featured guest is Melanie Coffee Hesselberg AKA @sheswrite.  I met Melanie on Twitter and I discovered we had a few things in common like: she’s African-American, she is in an interracial marriage, she is a mother, she is a blogger, she resides in Chicago (where my family so proudly hailed before they moved to San Francisco), and she has experienced something that I experience everyday in my local community being the wife of a caucasian man.

Melanie wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on August 25, 2011 called My On-Again-Off-Again Relationship With White People that forever in my heart made her my kindred spirit.  I want to be clear. This piece is NOT a piece of work that incites racism or hatred, it merely looks at Melanie’s experiences form her perspective as one half of an interracial couple and her experiences as an African-American woman.  The flurry of feedback on the piece really gave me pause to think about my own experiences with both my husband and my own friends in terms of race relations.  Her piece inspired me to have real life conversations about how I felt and what i hoped and dreamed for in terms of equality for my children. I could go on and on, but then you would never hear what Melanie has to say about blogging and when you are done reading this piece, I highly encourage you to click the links in this post to get to know her better.

So with no further introduction …

There’s a scary thing about blogging. At least for me there is. It’s the people who read it. I know, I know it sounds ridiculous. But I’m a writer. I write to write, not necessarily to be read.

Esoteric? Perhaps, but it’s how I feel. So when I blog, I try to write without thinking of being read. In my job as a journalist I’m always thinking about the reader, trying to convey the facts objectively so that people can draw their own opinions and not simply digest what *I* think.  This requires examining all phrasings to consider whether they can be misunderstood.

With blogging, I put my fingers on the keyboard and just go. Clickety-clack-clack away. This past summer I was approached by an editor at The Huffington Post to write for their BlackVoices section. My first response: YIKES! On my personal blog I could whirr away at whatever I wanted, now writing about something as sensitive and personal as race to such a wide audience. Naturally, I figured I’d be an idiot to say no, but  beyond the “yes,” what would I say?

I was talking this over with my friends and finally settled on my relationships with white people.  To stay true to my “voice” I tried to write just for myself. I tried not to think of how many people would read my post, what they might think. I simply wrote.

When it was posted, it stirred up an amazing response. I got about 400 comments and it was an eye-opening conversation on race. I think that the comment section was more interesting than the piece. The response ranged from the racist, to the white people who said: “I’m trying to understand” to people who called me racist. When some of the negative comments started pouring in, I wondered, do I respond? Of course the first reaction is to defend yourself.  My husband advised me to wait a bit.

I did and I’m glad. Evenutally I decided not to respond to any of them. I figured that above the comment section I said what I had to say and below my writing was where people could have their say. It’s a line I decided not to cross. And I’m glad I didn’t.

It was good to get people talking about race. I know of a few educators who passed this piece along to their high school and college students as a way of opening up the conversation. My Facebook page also had a good back-and-forth about it. I was really humbled by the response and how it helped start honest discussions.

We need more of those, especially when it comes to issues such as race.

All of this goes back to what inspired me to become a journalist. I wanted to help break down barriers and for me, that’s to do that through educating people. Teaching them something whether it’s a quick walk in my shoes, those of the Chicago superintendent, a single mom on welfare or a stroke survivor. Opening our hearts and minds to each other to foster more understanding.

I think I’m getting a little too esoteric again. Nevertheless, I suppose that’s why I like to blog. It’s writing to write.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing the SPOTLIGHT CORNER Melanie!

Melanie can be contacted at:

Her Blog: http://www.sheswrite.net

Email: sheswrite9@gmail.com

Twitter: @sheswrite

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