by Lina Schmidt, ’15
Last week, STATIC hosted a talk with Latoya Peterson, the owner and editor of Racialicious.com. Latoya, who is currently a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford, addressed a large audience in El Centro Chicano. She discussed her experiences with writing, particularly the successes and challenges of writing about popular culture from a critical feminist and anti-racist perspective.
Writing was not immediately Latoya’s career. She emphasized that being a working writer isn’t necessarily the result of a college degree, talking instead about what motivates her to write. Often, she said, she begins with an idea that she can’t get out of her head. It is this — a reaction to something — that provides the raw material for a piece. Writing for Racialicious, a blog that focuses on the intersection of race and popular culture, there is always something to critique. However, calling out racism in mainstream culture can make a writer into a target.
There is a great deal of backlash, Latoya said, in response to her writing. Because of this a writer has to know when to pick her battles — “haters gonna hate,” she said succinctly — in order to reach the people who are willing to listen. In Latoya’s opinion, blogging can inform such an audience by making ideas more accessible. Because it provides analysis of widely consumed media such as TV shows, commercials, and music, Racialicious and its writers play a crucial role by empowering individuals to think critically about popular culture.
Latoya concluded by telling the audience that writing is a learning experience as well as an opportunity to teach. The clarity of one’s writing, she said, is the result of time and practice. As for the clarity of one’s message: that takes time, and sometimes mistakes can be an opportunity to learn. The most painful kind of lesson, she said, was when “you feel like you’ve failed your community.” Interestingly, in an attempt to create a safer space in the Racialicious community, the blog’s moderators must approve the comments on each post. In her work with Racialicious, and in her conversation with students this Wednesday, Latoya Peterson is inarguably helping to build communities of knowledgeable, conscientious writers.
Many thanks to the staff of STATIC for coordinating this event, and to Latoya Peterson for graciously agreeing to speak.
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Lina Schmidt is a sophomore from Bainbridge Island, Washington. Currently undeclared, she enjoys writing and is a member of SSQL. She is an Outreach Coordinator for STATIC. She can be reached at lina93 at stanford dot edu.