If we learned anything from the exploits of afro blogger Michelle Lapidos—whose "Before and Afro" site was a unsentimental mix of sincere, racist, and tone-deaf—it's that you can't just change your black afro to a blonde one and expect everything to be alright. Now, another earnest young white woman has written a post chronicling her experiences living in Harlem, "an urban Norman Rockwell painting tucked away next to the Hudson River." Except this post was taken down in less than two days because of the intense negative reaction it elicited.
With several Sex and The City references at hand, writer Ivy Jacobson described her rationale for moving to Harlem (her roommate chose it) and how she's learned to love a neighborhood where "there are no women on macrobiotic diets dictating to nannies on the sidewalks." Lest you miss the point, the post was titled "A Match Made In Harlem: A White Girl Reports From NYC’s Legendary Neighborhood." As with Lapidos, it seems that her excitement over her own narrative blinds her to some of the more offensive throwaway statements she tries to make about "big, black thugs."
There are uncomfortable cliches: "Women in my neighborhood let their husbands have it in the middle of the street, often wearing tropical-colored get-ups." And her attempts at humor fall short on several occasions: "From a real estate perspective, the pre-war architecture of my neighborhood is incredible, I don’t live in a shoebox and the rent is reasonable. And from a thug perspective, my address lends me a bit of street cred. The cashier at my bodega says I keep it real." One commenter pointed out how she described the "exotic" elements of the neighborhood:
Do you realize you are insulting people of color by comparing them to trinkets, museum pieces, tourist sights for you to behold? ...Don’t act like you’re some great messiah for moving into some legendary “forbidden land.” The people there are PERFECTLY happy without your racist input.
The article in question was taken down for several reasons. Once frightening comments were made on this site — which are moderated for coherence, spam and profanity regardless of the article - and on Twitter, we reached a state of emergency.
HMGL — and I personally — apologize as sincerely as I humanly can to those who were hurt by this or any piece.
I also apologize deeply and profoundly to the story’s author for putting her in a compromising position.
For the record, no one receives any money off this site save for our host, GoDaddy, and WordPress, who I pay out of pocket.
Today has been a very trying day for this website, usually a source of joy to those who work on it and read it. I am quite literally sick to my stomach for any distress caused.
We've contacted Ford for further comment. But don't walk away thinking everyone hated the post, you can still see on the cache page that the first six comments were overwhelmingly sunny and supportive... and likely all from the writer's family and friends: "That’s my girl scout! Living the dream in NYC! I am so happy and proud of you, Ivy. Former Girl Scout leader of Ivy! Barbara!" Yes, we do feel a little sorry for her and hope she can put this behind her (now that we've blogged about it).