Monday, July 26, 2010

A recent request from the AALS for us to write about our blog...

Minority Voices in the Brave New World of Blogosphere:

When I was recently asked to submit an article for the American Assocaition of Law Schools (AALS) Minority Group Section Newsletter on the opportunities and challenges of creating a blog dedicated to addressing issues affecting minority issues, I first found the request a bit humorous. You see, as a faculty member slightly older than many of my colleagues, I never considered myself particularly hi-tech. Indeed, I recall not long ago asking one of my colleagues, Howard Wasserman, a regular contributor to the Lawprawf’s blog “what the heck is a blog and how do you create one?” So being considered a knowledgeable person in this so-called new generation or means of scholarship is a bit ironic. I say this not only to provoke a smile or two, but more importantly, to encourage others with a yearning to write regularly on matters you believe are largely dismissed in existing blogs or scholarship, to consider contributing to an existing blog, or better yet, to create your own blog. I will first briefly describe possible inspirations for creating a blog, focusing on my own, and then provide a rough blueprint for providing your own, perhaps outsider’s, perspective to a fairly successful blog. I hope this helps in inspiring others to enter this brave new world of scholarship and engagement?

As a few of you may know, a few months ago, I, along with a group of respected scholars, created the “Nuestras Voces Latinas” blog. It is specifically dedicated to addressing issues that affect Latina and Latino communities, but are rarely addressed by members of those communities. What inspired me to create the blog was, with notable exception to the Immigrationprof and Blackprof blogs, I rarely, if ever, noticed Latina or Latino faces or names as experts opining on subjects affecting the Latin communities in the U.S. or abroad. Be it the Bill Maher Show, Face the Nation, or one of the many blogs addressing contemporary news or political topics, none seemed to have representative voices. I had written on the subject in one or more obscure law review articles, that I am sure few had noticed, so I began to learn more about this genre by speaking to colleagues I respected and knew had experience with blogs. I was then inspired by two important events: the first was a panel on “the Dearth of Latina Public Intellectuals” at the most recent LatCrit Conference in Washington, D.C. where a fairly heated debate arose concerning whether law professors at the conference were in fact public intellectuals. While I was pleased when one colleague was kind enough to list several of the professors in attendance as public intellectuals and sources of inspiration, I nonetheless began to question the impact our scholarship had on the profession and larger communities. The second event was a conversation I had with my daughter about her experiences as one of the few Latinas at NYU’s business school. From that conversation, I sensed a yearning for alternative voices to the flood of perspectives that all-too-often define Latina and Latino issues as largely limited to music, fashion, immigration, and food. So I started what was to become a fairly large part of my professional life.

The following is the blueprint and a ever-so-slight word of caution.I first spoke to many, and recruited some, experienced bloggers. This for me was an essential first step. I started by writing to many colleagues I respected, but may not have know that well, and asked if they were willing to meet at the AALS conference to discuss a new blog project. An organizational meeting of respected possible contributors is strongly encouraged. In that meeting, we will able to commit to a schedule for the submissions or posts (often a thorny issue as life gets in the way), a list of potential other bloggers, an understanding of the overall scholarly commitment, and a schedule for launching the blog. All of these are crucial subjects in order to ensure accountability in the future. I then recruited a handful of experienced bloggers. Fortunately, I was able to include invaluable sources of reference and experience, such as Steven Ramirez, Larry Cata Backer, and Leticia Nadia Cabrera Pierre-Louis. I also was able to gather an amazing group of scholars and additional fellow bloggers, including: Steven Bender, Guadalupe Luna, Berta Hernandez, Frank Valdes, Pedro Malavet, Charles Venator, George Martinez, and Maria Lopez. Receiving administrative support from my home institution, Florida International College of Law, was also helpful. Ensuring independence from my home school, however, was an issue my fellow editors raised, but was easily resolved. I raise it here only for new bloggers to consider. Then we began to write. Another important piece of advice is to ideally have bloggers from other blogs to announce your launch—we were fortunate to have blogs such as “the Faculty Lounge” and “Law Prawfs” announce our entry into the sphere. We also fortunately arrived on the blogosphere when crucial events, such as the enactment of Arizona SB 1070’s anti-immigration law, occurred. Events such as these allowed the blog and its editors to gain exposure and to provide the outsider perspective that was a primary goal for creating the blog in the first place. Indeed, some of the editors have been interviewed by newspapers throughout Latin America, national domestic print media, and other important blogs, such as

I will end with both a few words of caution, and perhaps one or two of inspiration. First the caution, be prepared to receive a certain amount of hate mail. Indeed, a week does not go by when I or one of my fellow bloggers doesn’t receive some form of a personal attack. I have responded by first filtering the comments and proving a warning that only respectful comments will be posted. These words nonetheless do sting for a few minutes. For me, I try to use my continuing search for balance and peace to remind me that such hate mail only demonstrates that the blog is having some impact. So I suggest toughening up that skin and giving it a go. I for one realize that dozens of articles and a few books had not had nearly the impact a two month old blog had when, for instance, the members of our group were able to gather over 200 law professors to publicly oppose Arizona’s SB 1070. I would thus strongly encourage all of you to consider entering this brave new world.

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