An Aside: "But He Didn't Look Black!"

The Times' obit article on Steve Gilliard I referenced earlier has a bit near the bottom that I was rather surprised to read: specifically, that almost no one knew he was black/African American.

Uh, I've been working online since '87, long before the Internet was available to almost everyone, and even before the subscription-only online services (then CompuServe, AOL which started its life as an Apple service, GEnie, Delphi, and Prodigy) became big deals. Although others seem to engage in the practice, I don't think I've ever been able to distinguish caucasian v. negroid v. Asian, etc. in text alone.

What I have seen - but thankfully, I've usually successfully avoided - is that people can make such assumptions about others online that, once they actually meet someone face-to-face, they seem to suffer culture shock.

I've always seen online as the great equalizer (except that many poorer or less technology-minded people often miss out) in which you can work and play very effectively without getting hung up by issues of race, ability vs. "dis"ability, gender, creed, sexual orientation, religion, along with a host of others. In these twenty some years, I've met some truly extraordinary people who, without I believe any exception (oops, wait, there was ONE ---eeeeeh!) have never disappointed me once I got to meet them.

Today, we're incredibly fortunate with the great diversity of people who blog or otherwise maintance a regular Web-based presence. What was so extraordinary about Steve isn't that he was black (anymore than I would like to be remembered as only caucasian/WASP), but his commitment to dessimination of important information to the public.

Elsewhere, someone took the politically correct route by calling Steve a "person of color". Yes, he was a person of color, but I believe that to call him a person of conscience is far more apt.