An apology November 9, 2015 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I made several mistakes in the University of Missouri thread. I apologize.

I approached the discussion far more lightly than it deserved and tried to shoehorn in a bit of recent news that was not germane to the issue.

After cortex made a note in the thread to drop the subject, a few commenters followed up. Rather than continue what was rapidly becoming a derail, I contacted some of them privately via MeMail. The response was...quite harsh. So, following MeFi protocol, I'm taking it to MeTa, but not to continue the discussion, disagree with the moderator, or call out any other commenters. This is strictly an apology. I apologize for approaching the topic insensitively, I apologize for the derail, and to one commenter in particular I apologize for attempting to continue the discussion privately.
posted by jedicus to Etiquette/Policy at 10:01 AM (173 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

I was lurking in that thread, and your comments did strike me as somewhat insensitive to the tone of the room. It's great that you want to apologize, but at the same time, I'm really surprised that you decided to make a Metatalk to do so. To me, that strains the credibility of the apology. In the big racism Metatalk a while ago, I actually talked about exactly this type of thing. A few days after making that comment, I encountered an article about ally theater that was really helpful in guiding my thoughts on this matter. To quote from it, "before you jump up to perform “allyship” ask yourself, “is what I’m about to say or do in any way beneficial to the person I’m about to say or do it to? If so, how?”"

So the reason why I say I don't consider your apology credulous is not because I don't think it comes from a sincere place, but because I feel like this is more for the benefit of your own reputation and desire not to be seen as racist, rather than to actually do anything for the people who were most hurt by your statement. You state that you're bringing it here because you didn't a good response when you reached out privately to apologize - but this almost suggests to me that you unfairly expect people to respond positively to your apology - which is not a great thing to do, because you're effectively dumping emotional labor on the folks you've offended by insisting that they reassure you. If I might give you some feedback, maybe you should consider what you're even looking to accomplish from apologizing?
posted by Conspire at 10:31 AM on November 9, 2015 [61 favorites]


On the other hand, this is the model of a good apology--no equivocation, no excuses, flat out "I was wrong and I'm sorry."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2015 [82 favorites]


I'm really surprised that you decided to make a Metatalk to do so

Further in-thread discussion would have perpetuated the derail. MeMail was not well-received and isn't a practical (or even possible) medium for apologizing to everyone whom I offended.

I actually talked about exactly this type of thing

I took care to avoid "explaining all of the reasons you were doing that and why you really aren't that racist and bad and how people shouldn't think of you as racist going down the line".

You state that you're bringing it here because you didn't a good response when you reached out privately to apologize

I did not state that, and I apologize if I inadvertently implied it. To be clear: I attempted to continue the discussion via MeMail, not apologize. The severity of the response is part of what prompted an apology via a different medium.

this almost suggests to me that you unfairly expect people to respond positively to your apology

I absolutely do not expect that. I am not looking for thank yous, counter-apologies, kudos, or any such thing. I wanted a venue to apologize. I did not expect, need, or require, even a single response to this MeTa.

you're effectively dumping emotional labor on the folks you've offended by insisting that they reassure you

I did not insist or even ask that anyone reassure me, and I apologize if I inadvertently implied it.

maybe you should consider what you're even looking to accomplish from apologizing?

I'm looking to accomplish the act of apologizing.
posted by jedicus at 10:51 AM on November 9, 2015 [66 favorites]


While apologies can help, just think first and don't double down in the future. Regardless of whether people accept your apology or not.
posted by halifix at 10:54 AM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Interesting to me that the first comment here is a PoC saying "actually I don't accept this apology" and the second one is a white person saying "oh but it was such a GOOD apology."

Jedicus, sometimes people won't accept your apology. Sometimes you will screw up and the people you hurt will prefer just not to hear anything else from you rather than to continue to give you time to speak.
posted by KathrynT at 10:56 AM on November 9, 2015 [42 favorites]


I was not commenting in any way on whether or not any person of colour should or should not accept jedicus' apology--that is entirely up to them and not my place to say. I was merely saying, as a larger concept, that if you are going to apologize for something, this is how to do it. Whether or not said apology is effective or desirable or accepted is up to the people who were harmed to decide. That is all.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:58 AM on November 9, 2015 [21 favorites]


What is the point of the queue if not to head off obvious trainwreck threads like this?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:03 AM on November 9, 2015 [23 favorites]


I feel like there's room for both "here's some next-step stuff to consider about the when and why of making a public apology" and sort of just acknowledging that someone's making an effort to make a good-faith apology in a community space. Being able to make the effort to say "I fucked that up and I'm sorry" seems like overall a good thing for the health of this place.

What is the point of the queue if not to head off obvious trainwreck threads like this?

There's no trainwreck so far and I don't see any reason there needs to be one. Someone apologizing and folks talking a little bit about how they feel about that is an okay thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:06 AM on November 9, 2015 [38 favorites]


What is the point of the queue if not to head off obvious trainwreck threads like this?

QFT. I hate the queue but if we're going to have it then at least use it.
posted by lalex at 11:07 AM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


posted by KathrynT Interesting to me that the first comment here is a PoC saying "actually I don't accept this apology" and the second one is a white person saying "oh but it was such a GOOD apology."

Clearly Jedicus needs to apologize for his apology.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:13 AM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


to me this reads as someone performing an apology, whether that was their intention or not...
posted by nadawi at 11:13 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's no trainwreck so far and I don't see any reason there needs to be one. Someone apologizing and folks talking a little bit about how they feel about that is an okay thing.

If it does avoid being a trainwreck it will only be because jedicus doesn't come back and do the thing he (predictably*) did in like the third comment on the thread.

I mean come on. I feel like you're stretching to say that you don't see how this thread ends up going super badly, and with one or more people leaving the site.

If that kind of problem is not what you're trying to avoid with the queue, then fine, but that's what this type of thread usually ends up as.

If you are going to have and use a queue to filter the content of metatalk, generally, it seems pretty obvious that you should avoid letting people do single-person callout threads, even if those threads are by the person involved. Focusing community attention on one person + a contentious topic usually ends up pretty badly. Even if that person wants to draw that level of attention to themselves, it ends up being really negative for the community.

*not because he's him but just because people predictably do things like this
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:19 AM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


The exchange in the original thread kind of bewildered me, unless there's some history/pattern with jedicus that I'm not aware of. He offered some information that he felt lent some analysis to an interesting political situation, clarified when challenged on it, and then addressed (maybe more stridently than necessary, but are we doing tone arguments now?) a pretty fighty paraphrase of his comments.

It seems like there is a recurring theme that comes up in MeTa where some Blue threads are supposed to be "community celebration" type occasions rather than discussion/analysis, but I think it's really hard to get a handle on which these are when they're not explicitly denoted that way.
posted by threeants at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2015 [24 favorites]


Can there not be two uses of the word apology? There's the apology made in which one seeks to be forgiven for a mistake. Then there's the apology made in which one is publicly admitting that they were in the wrong. It seems clear, because Jedicus has explicitly said as much, that they are here for the latter than the former.
posted by Dalby at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


I agree. I think jedicus is in good faith trying to make an apology. Obviously it's a contentious topic and he was stumbling about and realizes that now.

I'm reading this as "I was being an ass. I'm sorry. I didn't realize it at the time but I do now and I will make every effort to not do so in the future."
posted by sio42 at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


Speaking only for myself, as apologies go, this was OK. No one has to accept the apology, nor even accept that it was done in good faith (good faith can only be shown by jedicus avoiding that behavior in the future). It's possible that apologizing in a MeTa is intended as a form of grandstanding, but I agree with fffm that, if you really want to apologize to the community, a simple direct statement of wrong and contrition (and the intent to do better) is the way to go. Sadly, the effect was undercut by the "explanatory" comment that followed. As Conspire said in the previous thread, sometimes just going away for a while is more effective (or at least less damaging) than any amount of apologizing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:31 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


The hardest thing to do is to back off and realize that you are not relevant to a discussion in any way anymore and that by continuing to engage in any way (positive or negative) is worse than remaining silent.

It was nice of you to own up to it. Now the rest of your work begins to undo whatever that impulse is inside you that created the mess in the first place. That work is on you to sort out on your own.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:34 AM on November 9, 2015 [24 favorites]


I can't speak for what happened in the private exchange of letters, but in the thread jedicus went from making a self-admitted cynical comment about the future of the football team's successes on the field to being likened to someone in opposition of the bus boycott in Montgomery in 1955 in very short time.

I don't think we all wake up wanting to be compared to the worse representations of human beings in the midst of some of the bloodiest moments in the Civil Rights Movement, and it understandably provoked a response. The best response? Maybe not, but no one has to admit to wrongs or missteps, publicly at that. An apology never has to be offered and never has to be accepted, but it never hurts to accept the benefit of the doubt when it comes to its validity.
posted by Atreides at 11:39 AM on November 9, 2015 [27 favorites]


In my opinion, the organized campaign to get Tim Wolfe was extraordinarily successful, powerful, and interesting. To me, analyzing the context(s) in which it occurred honors its participants as adult political actors with agency, rather than denigrates them. This kind of analysis is clearly not welcome in a "community celebration" thread, but I'm not sure how users are always supposed to know when they're in one of these (as opposed to the various marriage equality threads, where it was made pretty clear that celebratory was to be the primary accepted mode for comments in these threads as the dominoes fell).

I should add that I'm writing this in ignorance of jedicus' posting history-- I don't have any association with his name-- because I do think users' patterns over time is important in how to approach/interpret these situations.
posted by threeants at 11:43 AM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


To me, analyzing the context(s) in which it occurred honors its participants as adult political actors with agency, rather than denigrates them.

Writing off the team with an admittedly cynical response because of their loss of a first-string QB and unsuccessful season is much less analysis than it is degradation. It comes off as "Well, they didn't have everything to lose, so...".
posted by Etrigan at 11:46 AM on November 9, 2015


If the next several hundred comments are going to consist of arguments over how sincere said apology is, or how precisely said apology should have been phrased, or whether or not the author had the right to deliver said apology, or what have you, then this is probably just going to be another hilarrible but pointless meta with little purpose beyond providing the space to engage in another village scrum: excellent (to paraphrase Ms. Stein) if you are a village, but if not not.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:47 AM on November 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


I think it'd be a really good to avoid getting into any kind of re-hashing of the content of that thread and of the content of the comments; the thread is over there, and this post was someone apologizing, not someone asking whether or not they should or whatever. Making argument about whether they did anything apology-worthy seems kind of counterproductive.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:51 AM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


I accept your apology.
posted by bondcliff at 11:52 AM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


What is the point of the queue if not to head off obvious trainwreck threads like this?

Since when is the queue a filter and not... a queue?
posted by stebulus at 11:54 AM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Since when is the queue a filter and not... a queue?

Since there are posts that don't go through?
posted by lalex at 11:59 AM on November 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


Reading through that exchange, your point was typical in that it arguably wasn't egregious and would probably be something worth mentioning, all things being equal, but all things are not equal and it had the effect of both explicitly questioning the bravery of the students and creating a derail in the thread that centered on the credibility of the people with the grievance. Which is very, very typical. I think it's interesting in that I have no doubt that you were not consciously aware that you were doing something that basically followed a script about how white people discuss this sort of thing, but that, nevertheless, there it was. A blatant, self-aware racist could have written something making the same argument, just much more obviously racist. That you made the argument should tell you something, that it might seem to many of us as a reasonable thing to mention in the thread should also tell us something. Why were you not aware of the subtext of what you were saying? Why were you not aware of how it would be received and how it would function in the conversation? All of that speaks to both what was wrong with your comment and what is wrong with how those of us who aren't people of color approach and engage in those kinds of conversations.

But on top of that, we've got this MetaTalk post, which displays a set of related problems. As was the case with your original comment, you don't seem aware of how this high-profile apology functions in this context, nor how it is likely to be taken by those you are nominally apologizing to. There's a general problem -- beyond things involving racism -- in how people apologize, especially publicly. People tend to make their apologies all about them even though the ostensible point of an apology is the hurt you've done to the person you're apologizing to. So that's a general problem, and I think there's more than a bit of that in this.

But this is especially a problem when white people apologize about racist stuff, or men apologize about sexist stuff, or the like, because the rock-bottom fundamental issue in all of this is the way that privilege distorts the perception and thinking of the privileged such that they just naturally approach everything as if it were mostly all about them. It's amazing how much discussion among white people is all about adjudicating which white people are racist and which people are not ... as opposed to the actual grievances that people of color have. When someone says, hey, your comment is the kind of thing a racist would say, the privileged reaction is first of all about the defensiveness of feeling accused. But, tellingly, very often when someone comes to recognize what was wrong about what they did and said, they then make their apology into a very big thing, as if their recognition that they were in the wrong and how they feel about it is what's actually most important. But it's not what's most important. What's most important isn't them and their feelings. The fact that people with privilege almost invariably make it first about their hurt feelings when criticized, and then second about the sincerity and fulsomeness of their apologies, tells you a lot about what's really going on.

In general, the more attention you call to your apology, and the more effort you put into "making it right", is the more to which the apology is very likely motivated by something you feel you want or need, and less about what an apology is really supposed to accomplish: simply saying "I see that I did that wrong thing that hurt you, I regret it". And this dynamic is hugely amplified in conflicts and hurts where there's a power imbalance, where there's privilege. The scales are tilted in your favor, regardless -- in this situation, the simple fact of a white person admitting wrong and apologizing carries far more weight than it really ought, anyway. Making it more elaborate or more public just makes this worse.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:04 PM on November 9, 2015 [35 favorites]


Interesting to me that the first comment here is a PoC saying "actually I don't accept this apology" and the second one is a white person saying "oh but it was such a GOOD apology."

It's not so simple as that, I think.
posted by zarq at 12:07 PM on November 9, 2015 [22 favorites]


Since there are posts that don't go through?

So helpful! Thanks ever so much!
posted by stebulus at 12:15 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


"It's not so simple as that, I think."

Yes, it is precisely that simple.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:17 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


As a community, I think it benefits us to allow people to apologize for making mistakes. Yeah, occasionally it'll be trolling (which the mods can fix with the ol' banhammer). Sometimes people are going to be flippant, sarcastic and just flat out wrong. Letting people apologize acknowledges that mistake and gives them incentive to behave differently in the future.

I understand the comments about grandstanding apologies, but what was a best path here after the comments had been made? Apologize? Forget about it? Close the user account? What serves us as a community in instances like these?
posted by 26.2 at 12:18 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't have the energy to respond specifically to the specifics of everything going on in here, but in general terms and addressed to more people in this discussion than is really encouraging: when I wrote my first comment here, the mindset I approached this with, as a PoC, is that I judged what was being said first and foremost on the criterion of "does this thing have any tangible benefit for, if not at least not actively harm, PoC? If not, what was the point of it being said when the context is a discussion on racism?" It's really apparent to me, reading this discussion, a lot of white people do not approach things in the same way, whether it be in regards to judging the comments of other white people or in regards to thinking about what they say for themselves. I would really like it if folks could layer on this level of conscious introspection before saying things.
posted by Conspire at 12:18 PM on November 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yes, it is precisely that simple.

It really isn't. Reread my second comment, please.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


The queue-vs-filter question is a complicated one that's maybe a lot to get into from scratch here. Folks who haven't specifically followed the catch-as-catch-can string of conversations we've had over the last year and a half about whether and how we are side-eyeing some specific posts that hit the metatalk queue can be totally reasonably confused by references to filtering.

The very short version is that while we continue to aim to have the large majority of metatalk posts that folks want to make get their way to the front page, that in some cases ends up requiring some reworking by the user if there's significant, likely-thread-upfucking framing issues with how they're trying to broach an otherwise legit issue, and in an even smaller but non-zero set of cases we're just going to say "no". The primary examples there: big angry rants, super-specific personal callouts of another user.

This is post isn't something that falls into that "no, we need to have you rework this" territory for me; it'd have been possible for it to be framed in a way that would have put it there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:25 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am thinking about one of the comments at the end of the MetaTalk thread about needing to talk about racism. Someone noted that in another community they belong to, they ignore the first comment and think of it as smoke in a room. As long as it's one puff, it dissipates. But if you keep doubling down and fill the room with smoke, it merits a response. When I originally read it, I had a knee jerk reaction that pretty much amounted to "But what about asthmatics for whom even one puff of smoke is too much!!" So I didn't comment.

Now, I'm wondering if there's some merit to it. To extend the metaphor: some smoke is so obviously toxic that even one puff is going to be very dangerous, and the mods should delete on sight. Some smoke is going to be annoying and hard to ignore, but will also fail to disrupt the discussion as long as it's ignored and no one doubles down. And the asthmatics? Well, they're the people who have just had to put up with toxic language so much that they have no more tolerance for it. They are the early warning that something could go off the rails.

Naturally, unlike real smoke there's no objective way to say how toxic a comment is, and most of the time there are going to be experts (PoC or women or trans people) who can let us know if something is really toxic and needs to be cleaned up or further discussed. (And a hearty thank you to everyone who does this. Even if you can't always fight the fight, every time you do is a step forward for us. And I know the cost.)

This apology is sort of like the room has cleared out of smoke, and the fire starter walks back in still really covered in smoke and is all "Sorry! Didn't mean to disrupt the party!" After everyone has gotten on with their conversations and the evening. It's re-disrupting. That is a problem in of itself, even if it comes from a good place.

I also think that there is potential value in it to deter future fire starters. If you let off a puff of smoke and someone starts coughing (eg reading you "uncharitably") immediately stop! Do not pump more smoke into the room in an effort to explain why someone shouldn't be coughing! Even if you're trying to demonstrate that the smoke is harmless, you're still clouding the discussion and making it worse.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:32 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's weird that MeTas like this one (ones not calling for a site-wide referendum but just making a public statement) are probably received as more aggressive and dramatic than they would be if just dropped in the thread in parenthesis.
posted by thetortoise at 12:35 PM on November 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


Yes, it is precisely that simple.

Read fffm's second comment.

I think the many ways this topic is currently being addressed on Metafilter, including the ongoing contributions of various White people to these threads, is more complex than "a PoC said" vs. "a White person said" and should not be reduced to a glib sound bite. Solving what is clearly an ongoing problem is not going to happen if we are constantly in "gotcha" mode.

We have a post two threads down that was put up by someone who is Caucasian, explaining assumptions that White people should not be making about PoC and non-Western cultures. Is the OP of that thread an ally? Clearly, yes. Did she mistakenly assume that someone who made a negative comment about foreign cultures was White? It would appear so. Was that a problem? I honestly don't know. I certainly felt badly for hush. But hush's comment was problematic and needed to be addressed. The ensuing discussions in that thread about very real problems in AskMe (that also manifest elsewhere on mefi) were quite positive and important for us have.

We need to have these conversations. We need to try to educate without having threads devolve into people attacking one another.

For these conversations to effect change, an awareness that the topic is complex and begets nuance is required. We should have the patience to ask for clarification, rather than assuming the worst.
posted by zarq at 12:41 PM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


You literally cannot make a more legit apology than that. I guess you can make the argument that no apologies are legit, though.
posted by ignignokt at 12:42 PM on November 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


As a community, I think it benefits us to allow people to apologize for making mistakes.

Indeed. I find the almost reflexive pitchfork waving in response to things like this quite corrosive, to be honest. I feel like people are aggressively imputing a lot of (unknowable) motivations to jedicus - and others like FFFM, now. Reducing long standing community members with nuance and personality to just "a white guy" is dismissive and patronising. Engage with what's written, please.

I did not see jedicus asking or expecting anyone to accept his apology, or requesting some kind of acknowledgment that he was okay or anything. Assuming good faith, it was just an apology, to me.

I would rather be part of a community that can acknowledge (not accept!) apologies, and move on. Lambasting jedicus for creating more drama is somewhat unfair, I feel. Some responses to him have been just as "drama"-filled (whatever that means).
posted by smoke at 1:04 PM on November 9, 2015 [72 favorites]


Everyone seems cross today. :(
posted by JanetLand at 1:10 PM on November 9, 2015


Maybe MeTas just shouldn't be posted on Monday morning.
posted by thetortoise at 1:11 PM on November 9, 2015


If only there was a queue that could help with that.
posted by lalex at 1:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


look on the bright side - i don't think we'll be getting too many apologies in the future
posted by pyramid termite at 1:15 PM on November 9, 2015 [78 favorites]


Some people will have negative reactions to apologies, and that's OK. We are a diverse community in which diverse readings and responses should be not only accepted but welcome. As long as people aren't shouting each other down, we're doing alright.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:15 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Interesting to me that the first comment here is a PoC saying "actually I don't accept this apology" and the second one is a white person saying "oh but it was such a GOOD apology."

While no one is obligated to accept an apology, of course, the above was an extraordinarily, breathtakingly bad-faith — if not malicious reading of what jedicus actually wrote.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:37 PM on November 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


While no one is obligated to accept an apology, of course, the above was an extraordinarily, breathtakingly bad-faith — if not malicious reading of what jedicus actually wrote.

I think you're referring to fffm, but the point stands.
posted by lalex at 1:38 PM on November 9, 2015


"Read fffm's second comment."

His second comment was irrelevant. If fffm had written his comment simultaneously with Conspire's, and as a response to jedicus's post, then the point fffm made would have been as you understand it. But it wasn't. It was written after Conspire's and in response to Conspire, begins with "on the other hand", and in this way was intended to be and functions as a counterpoint to the argument that Conspire, a person of color, was making about the appropriateness and effect of this post. It undermines Conspire's point both directly and by the way in which it pushes it aside in favor of fffm's hot take, and it exists in that time and place as an expression of fffm's unthinking privilege -- whatever it might have been in some other context.

That fffm or anyone else would take umbrage of KathrynT's mild criticism, characterize hers and other comments as "gotchas" and "pitchfork waving" and "extraordinarily, breathtakingly bad-faith", be upset that fffm's status as white was invoked critically, and that this is a time to be oh so aware of nuance and being generous to jedicus and fffm, as opposed to Conspire, is proof of everything that Conspire has been complaining about in this and other MetaTalk threads. I was aware that white fragility was easily provoked, but I'm still surprised and disappointed.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:40 PM on November 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


It wasn't a hot take, and my second comment made crystal clear any ambiguity, and made absolutely clear that the acceptance or not of any such apology is not my business. I was saying, only, that if someone is going to apologize then a straight up "I screwed up" is how to do it. The decision on whether that apology needs to be made in the first place is not mine to make. It was a general point only.

The structure of the apology is literally the only thing I was talking about, and I was not telling any person of colour how to act or whether to accept it or whether it was appropriate or anything like that. Nor did I take umbrage, so don't be ascribing motivations or feelings which don't exist to me, okay?

The apology itself may or may not have been inappropriate. That is for those who are harmed to decide. In no way am I saying anything other than that. Can this ridiculous derail stop now?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:49 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


damned if you do, damned if you don't.
posted by terrapin at 1:51 PM on November 9, 2015 [30 favorites]


Indeed. I find the almost reflexive pitchfork waving in response to things like this quite corrosive, to be honest. I feel like people are aggressively imputing a lot of (unknowable) motivations to jedicus - and others like FFFM, now. Reducing long standing community members with nuance and personality to just "a white guy" is dismissive and patronising. Engage with what's written, please.

Specifically in response to this point: I saw this Metatalk the moment it went up, and the reaction driving the comment I made occurred to me instantly, but I almost didn't write the first comment I wrote in this Metatalk. And that is because there is this constant social pressure, when white people apologize for being racist, for PoC to step in to reassure them, accept the contents of their apologies, fawn over how they're not racist, and make amends, or else they're accused of being dismissive, bad towards their allies, splitting hairs. I almost didn't articulate my thoughts, and then I realized - it is this racist status quo that was preventing me from doing so. Realizing that, I was like "fuck, no, I can't let it go unspoken."

So I spent thirty minutes sitting there, carefully crafting my comment and selecting my every word. I drove tonnes of emotional labor editing and re-editing, making sure every criticism was as cushioned as possible yet straight-to-the-point. I made sure that every comment had specific emphasis on how I was speaking only for myself and no other PoC; and I barely made mention of racism in case I triggered flights of white fragility. I knew I had to do this because I was speaking to a majority white audience, and because I had no energy to fight a long, drawn-out battle on racism. I deliberately crafted my argument over thirty pain-staking minutes, to state exactly what it was I found racist about the apology, and linked to the systems that reinforced these expectations against PoC.

Then FFFM comes in with his next comment, written in four seconds, reinforcing exactly my fears. And now there is this cascade of comments stating that this site is not a community, this site is vicious and mean, just because there was dissent. Do you know how silencing that is to me?

It should not be "dismissive and patronising" to point out that these comments are perfectly representative of these racist expectations at work. And there is an incredible double-standard at play here. FFFM, if you've read any of his comments, pretty much puts zero emotional labor into his comments. He doubles down; when challenged on things, he never explains but simply repeats what he says; he speaks for giant sweeping groups; he never cushions blows. How is it that he can do these things, a perfect archetype of the privileged white dude, and yet still have people defend this reduction when people point this trope out? And yet, when I do anything than less, I'm the angry minority.

God, I'm so infuriated by the blind, senseless and careless racism being thrown around here. I'm literally in tears right now. And just so you know - a pre-emptive fuck you to anyone who is even thinking that admission of my emotion makes my reaction to the racism that is occurring right here, right now, to me, any less valid.
posted by Conspire at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2015 [89 favorites]


It makes it more valid. I apologize for making you feel bad.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:56 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


So the reason why I say I don't consider your apology credulous is not because I don't think it comes from a sincere place, but because I feel like this is more for the benefit of your own reputation and desire not to be seen as racist, rather than to actually do anything for the people who were most hurt by your statement.

Can it not serve both purposes? I'd rather hang out at a place where the people care about their reputation and don't want to be perceived as racist rather than places where people drop offensive bombs and then never address what they said. The idea that someone is trying does do something for those hurt, no? Even the act of apology is helpful, no? A place where people apologize for their transgressions is more welcoming for all and that serves the people who are hurt.

Maybe I missed something.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:56 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


'Performing allyship' is an accurate yet astonishingly ugly phrase.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:00 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Public apologies are by their very nature performative and carry all of the attendant risks regarding both their reception and value. Particularly making an apology into its own MeTa, which confers a sense of gravitas and capital-I Importance, thereby undercutting the humility necessary for an effective apology. The content of the apology itself, however well-formed and best-practice-following, cannot be divorced from the context of its posting in any meaningful way, especially given the recent MeTa about racism. So in this case the apology, though well-meaning, was ill-advised and tone deaf by virtue of its visibility. Whether it was a "good" apology or not is besides the point.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:08 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


It makes it more valid. I apologize for making you feel bad.

Then going forward, I'd like to see you make an effort to try to match the labor people put into engaging with you. That people challenged you on being silencing towards PoC with your statement should not be something you double-down on after the fact by accusing people of misreading you and insisting that they re-read your comment with no further explanation; it should have been something that you would have had the foresight to address in the first place within your own comment, by prefacing it with something like, "I think your reactions are totally valid, but I personally (and this might be coming from my position as a white person) thought...", so you wouldn't have gotten misread in the first place. If you recognize my reaction as valid, even if you believe it to be a misread of your position, you should put more effort into not provoking these reactions in the first place next time.
posted by Conspire at 2:08 PM on November 9, 2015 [26 favorites]


His second comment was irrelevant.

Personally, I think there's little gain in accusing him of lying about his intentions, as you are doing here. To what end? If you're constitutionally incapable of taking his second comment at face value, then say so. But pretending it doesn't exist or should be completely ignored is silly.

That fffm or anyone else would take umbrage of KathrynT's mild criticism

I can't speak for anyone else here, but my disagreement was not "taking umbrage." From fffm's tone in those initial two comments, I doubt his was either. She said something I disagree with. I explained why.

this is a time to be oh so aware of nuance and being generous to jedicus and fffm, as opposed to Conspire,

This makes no sense. You are drawing conclusions that are not in evidence. KathrynT is not a person of color. My comment was directed at her. I have stated no judgements about the validity of Conspire's comment. Deliberately. I would not. Conspire is quite obviously entitled to feel the way they do, and I would not presume to tell a PoC how they should feel about racism, any more than I would allow a non-Jew to dictate how I should feel about antisemitism.

My comment to KathrynT was about her reduction of fffm's comment. Which I clarified when prompted.

...is proof of everything that Conspire has been complaining about in this and other MetaTalk threads. I was aware that white fragility was easily provoked, but I'm still surprised and disappointed.

Are you calling me a racist, Ivan? For someone so verbose, you certainly seem to be trying your damndest to imply it without explicitly saying the words.
posted by zarq at 2:12 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I agree that performing allyship is gross, but is that what happened here? Conspire linked to a past comment about someone responding to criticism with a very public "I am stopping!" and demanding attention, and then compared it to a person giving themselves and their actions a pass ("we need to do better") in response to another person's observed distress.

Jedicus, instead, said I'm sorry I was insensitive and wrong.

I guess Conspire and others can desire that people be completely without ego to the point where they don't care what anyone thinks of them and is willing to walk away without an apology, lest some of the positive value accrue to them. I'm not sure I think that's realistic about human beings, though, and I think it sells short the value of public acceptance of responsibility. Even if nobody but PoC took offense to hir statements and none of them will see or accept or garner any satisfaction from the apology I don't quite buy that there's not still some value to the universe in them being offered.
posted by phearlez at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


And I'd like to see you make an effort to not ascribe motivations that don't exist, to not assume I'm doing no emotional labour.

And I wasn't 'accusing' people of misreading me, I stated that they were misreading me because they were. Beyond that I have a brand new family member to go meet, so cheers.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:15 PM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


I don't see where anybody, jedicus included, was expecting anyone else to fawn over or otherwise reward jedicus for his apology. You brought that reading here yourself, Conspire, and it strikes me as a singularly uncharitable reading.

My mother taught me that when I've done wrong, I should apologize. It's the right thing to do in that circumstance; it promotes healing. The apology should be sincere, concise, complete, and unconditional. The wronged party may choose to accept the apology or not, as they see fit—the apologizer should not attempt to pressure or coerce the wronged party into accepting it.

jedicus committed a wrong in a public forum, was made to recognize that, and apologized publicly in the appropriate venue. His apology was unconditional and conveyed no expectation or coercion. I suspect he would have left it entirely at that had you not chosen to start the thread off by loudly dismissing it as theater and grandstanding.

You don't have to accept his apology, Conspire, but I think it was honestly kinda shitty of you to drop that bomb in the thread as the first comment. Attacking the act of apologizing itself was poor form, given how careful jedicus was to clarify that he was offering the apology unconditionally and without expectation.

Apologizing—expressing contrition—is the right thing to do when you've done wrong. It doesn't erase the wrong, but it's still the right thing to do. It can be done badly, but this was done well. Accept it or reject it, sure, but don't attack someone for doing the right thing in the right venue under the circumstances.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:16 PM on November 9, 2015 [34 favorites]


OK, now this is becoming a trainwreck thread.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:19 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


to the extent that this has become a thread where white people rate the apology and pressure others to accept the apology by not criticizing it, and ultimately one defending jedicus, then i think the apology failed.

whether that was what jedicus was looking for, the rest of you have certainly given it to him.

long flowery descriptions about the nature of apologies completely ignores the power differential when isms are involved. so it goes.
posted by twist my arm at 2:21 PM on November 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I don't see where anybody, jedicus included, was expecting anyone else to fawn over or otherwise reward jedicus for his apology. You brought that reading here yourself, Conspire, and it strikes me as a singularly uncharitable reading.

Stuff White People Do: seek reassurance from non-white people that they're not racists
White Fragility
Good White Person
It's not my job to absolve white friends of racism, but it can seem that way

Are there any other tropes of systematic racism you'd like to reduce to my personal, irrational feelings? Should I cite them all as long-established trends as well?
posted by Conspire at 2:22 PM on November 9, 2015 [28 favorites]


Even the act of apology is helpful, no? A place where people apologize for their transgressions is more welcoming for all and that serves the people who are hurt.

Not always. Even a textbook "well-formed" apology can do more harm than good if it is empty or done in haste. In this case some more introspection may be in order for those who are carrying an invisible knapsack.

If one or more people are in tears as a result of the apology (and the defense thereof), then clearly the apology is not at all serving those who were hurt.


After cortex made a note in the thread to drop the subject, a few commenters followed up. Rather than continue what was rapidly becoming a derail, I contacted some of them privately via MeMail. The response was...quite harsh.

Perhaps the OP might consider a possible universe where it was his/her speech that was harsh, and that the responses received were in reality moderate and level-headed given the circumstances.
posted by TheCavorter at 2:26 PM on November 9, 2015 [18 favorites]


I'm a bit surprised that people are holding this out as "the model of a perfect apology" because to me, on first read without even seeing any comments, it struck me as defensive, if not aggressive.

Specifically, I'm talking about this:

After cortex made a note in the thread to drop the subject, a few commenters followed up. Rather than continue what was rapidly becoming a derail, I contacted some of them privately via MeMail. The response was...quite harsh. So, following MeFi protocol, I'm taking it to MeTa...

Conspire took this to mean that jedicus reached out to apologize via MeMail; jedicus clarified that he didn't apologize but rather took to MeMail to continue a discussion that he'd been asked (by other commenters and a mod) to stop. So why even bring it up?

I very well might be reading too much into this. But my initial take was: "I tried to do the right thing, but people were mean to me, so here I am doing the right thing again." I also saw it as kind of a passive aggressive callout of the people he MeMailed. Because again, why else would you bring this up, this whole background explanation and stuff that happened offscreen, if the issue is your behavior in the thread? And I only bring this up after biting my tongue throughout this MeTa because so many people seem to be reading this as a 100% good-faith, perfect apology and I guess if you are reading it that way then any pushback on it might strike you as unfair. But I didn't have that read on it at all and so maybe it's more open to interpretation than people are acknowledging.
posted by mama casserole at 2:28 PM on November 9, 2015 [33 favorites]


And you know, I am totally (albeit usually silently) with you about 99% of the time, Conspire. I thought your recent MeTa was very apt, and I pay a lot of attention to your comments in general because you bring a valuable perspective and set of experiences to this place, and you express yourself clearly and well. I have learned a lot from you, and from the conversations that you help enable, and I appreciate the work that you do even as I recognize that you should not have to do it. I consider you a fellow traveller, and an admirable person. I'm very pro-Conspire, though usually I am sitting at the back in the sorts of threads where your comments justifiably take center stage.

But man, here, I just feel like you really were reaching to find fault and that you read a lot of negative shit into a place where it didn't exist. The kinds of self-congratulatory non-apologies you are talking about totally do happen, and regularly, and they are a problem. Those links above are all talking about real things. But this just wasn't that. Sometimes an apology is just an apology, even if it's a white person apologizing to people of color. Just because people often make shitty apologies doesn't mean nobody ever makes a sincere one.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:28 PM on November 9, 2015 [18 favorites]

Since there are posts that don't go through?

So helpful! Thanks ever so much!
I feel like this is sarcastic and I'm not sure why? The definition of a filter is that some things don't go through. There are posts that don't go through on MetaTalk.
posted by lalex at 2:29 PM on November 9, 2015


On the other hand, this is the model of a good apology

I dunno, I disagree. It's public when it really didn't have to be - which increases the chances for people getting upset over misunderstanding something and flaming out. It doesn't mention any newly-gained understanding - it seems like whatever derails happened before could happen in the next thread that dealt with racism issues. I think the reason this seeeeems like a good apology is that we've become so sooooooo used to hearing shitty ones. Not just here at Metafilter, but in general.

I reallyreallyreally don't think we need to use any positive superlatives to describe the apology.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:31 PM on November 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I don't think you have to stretch at all to find this a sort of backhanded and/or aggressive apology. It seems quite clear to me how someone could come to that conclusion in good faith.

I didn't personally read the apology in the exact same way as conspire did, but it is very, very easy for me to see how someone would. It's certainly not some kind of platonic ideal apology that can only be criticized by someone who is acting in bad faith. I wish people would dial back some of the accusations they are lobbing at conspire.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:35 PM on November 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


Sometimes an apology is just an apology, even if it's a white person apologizing to people of color. Just because people often make shitty apologies doesn't mean nobody ever makes a sincere one.

It's a public apology. You don't seem to understand that puts PoC into either following the racist trope that I'm outlining right in the links I responded with, being silent and then having their consent to the apology be assumed, or respond - and then get piled on with white disapproval like yours, which is exactly what is happening here. People who want to apologize need to go out of their way to demonstrate good faith - and not having the awareness to understand that a public community apology puts pressure on PoC to perform in certain ways does not inspire good faith from PoC. In other words, you, as a white person, might be able to ignore the demonstrative nature of this apology, but I certainly don't have the easy privilege to do so. I don't appreciate you passing judgment on me, and specifically calling me "loud", "uncharitable", dismissive", "shitty" and "dropping a bomb" for expressing that there are these power dynamics at play.
posted by Conspire at 2:36 PM on November 9, 2015 [24 favorites]


But my initial take was: "I tried to do the right thing, but people were mean to me, so here I am doing the right thing again.

I dunno. My take was "I ignorantly did the wrong thing, and people were harsh with me, which made me realize that I'd done the wrong thing. And since the wrong was done in public, here I am apologizing in public."

I mean, one can't very well privately apologize to every single person who read the Missouri thread. Wrong behavior deserves an apology. Public wrongs deserve public apologies. Righting the wrong doesn't end there (jedicus doesn't get a get-out-of-feeling-bad free card for this, let alone a get-out-of-changing-his-behavior card) but it's an appropriate starting point.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:37 PM on November 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I tried to get at this a little earlier, but my basic feeling is that stuff like this is just straight-up complicated, and it's not surprising that people have different feelings about some of the stuff folks are disagreeing about in here.

It's complicated because there is value in both (a) making the effort to apologize in a community space when you feel like you've fucked up, and (b) talking about when and how and why people make apologies and how that can be more complicated and problematic than just "apologizing is good". And we've got both of these here, and both of those should be seen as okay things for MetaTalk.

And I feel like most of the friction coming into the conversation isn't about the specific apology or the specific critical response to it so much as about the larger historical and cultural context behind all this shit. And discarding the context is non-trivial even if you were to think it was the thing to do, which I don't know that it is. But at the same time, it does set up what seems like an unworkably steep barrier to hold someone trying to apologize not to the standard of whether they did an okay job and seemed to be making an effort but rather to the standard of whether other people elsewhere have historically fucked up a lot when trying to do similar stuff.

That privileged people with wounded pride do dumb shit around apologizing, per e.g. Conspire's comment here, is worth talking about and being aware of and it's something that as a community we're better off being exposed to and thinking about. I think that's 100% legitimate and I totally understand Conspire wanting to lay it out there.

But at the same time, jedicus isn't the elected representative of White People Apologizing Badly and it shouldn't be surprising that him trying to apologize in what's basically a normal, okay way to do on the site—MetaTalk's pretty much the spot to do it in general, and especially if you're trying to stay the hell out of a thread you've already felt like you fucked up in in the first place—is something a lot of folks will sort of blink at seeing immediately met with being told he's doing it wrong.

And those two things are in conflict but they aren't a zero-sum thing where either one is correct or the other is. It can be both the case that people have legit issues with the why/when/how of public apologies and that as a community dynamic thing immediately coming down critically on an apology is sort of rough. And I think that's basically what is the case here: legit critical concerns about a good-faith attempt to apologize and a lot of conflicted feelings from a few different directions about different aspects of that. Because it's not binary stuff, it's not resolvable in any simple way.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:38 PM on November 9, 2015 [44 favorites]


I know what it feels like to be in a thread here on mefi and have people holding the dominant position in society driving me to tears. That's hard to read in a comment here. Many hugs for those who want them.

I guess, what I want to throw out here is that there's not an "either or" dialectic here that needs to be propped up by our conversations in this thread. We can be tacitly supportive of Jedicus and also understand Conspire's criticisms. They can both occupy our understanding of "what is what" without negating each other.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:43 PM on November 9, 2015 [23 favorites]


(on submit, what cortex said lol)
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:46 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


[And a couple comments removed, let's maybe try and ease things down in general a little in here.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:48 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am a largely silent member of the jedicus fan club, but I winced at this. I completely understand the need and community obligation to apologize, but there is a fundamental conflict when it centers white feelings and experience to do so. Sometimes it is better to take the lumps for failing in one's obligation to the community than to make the conversation about whiteness. I think this was a well-intended error that the mod squad failed to correct.
Conspire, I thought you were a trans woman because you engaged so passionately, personally, and deeply about the various oppressions experienced here by trans folk and women. I felt very different about the amount of energy you brought to those discussions when I realized you identify as a cis man, and I hope you take some of your incisive critique about allyship and performativity and apply it to your own ally work.
posted by gingerest at 2:51 PM on November 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


You literally cannot make a more legit apology than that. I guess you can make the argument that no apologies are legit, though.

Haven't we all had the experience of someone making a heartfelt apology to us that was more about soothing their feelings (e.g., guilt, worry that someone would think badly of them) than ours? I have - and even though I deserved an apology, and the person delivering honestly felt bad about his conduct, its hollowness was obvious and sort of dug the knife deeper.

Conspire's request was that people think a little more carefully about the impulses motivating them to say or do certain things around the discussion of racism. Taking that advice would be to everyone's benefit.
posted by sallybrown at 2:52 PM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Um... cortex, you just removed a comment in which one person said they were going to stop commenting because they were concerned they had started to dominate the conversation. Isn't that an important cue for people to know?
posted by zarq at 2:52 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


These deletions are so weird.
posted by lalex at 3:00 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


A few comments removed. I don't know what warpzone we just went through, but if you've got a concern about a deletion the thing to do is to ask about it—here if you need to, contact form if that's more appropriate to the situation—and not to decide it's your job to repost the thing by proxy.

I nixed a comment from Anticipation Of... that seemed like it was going further down a path that was already bumpy as hell and that had a coda suggesting they were trying to ease out of the thread anyway. If there's something beyond that that's confusing, I guess let me know, but...that's moderation happening.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:01 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Remember when deletions used to be rare in meta? We've had what, 5 in 5 minutes now?
posted by zarq at 3:02 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


That's fine, cortex. I thought the coda was the vital bit. Thanks.
posted by zarq at 3:03 PM on November 9, 2015


That's overactive moderation. Nothing in that comment was a personal attack or anything else that's traditionally been a reason for MeTa modertion.
posted by lalex at 3:06 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Don't think of it as excessive moderation, think of it as ... topiary.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:09 PM on November 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I want to clarify one thing I said and then I will hush up so as not to suck all the air from the room - I don't think that the mods' error in letting this througgh was that it is a mistake on jedicus' part and it is their role to stop user error or whatnot. I think they erred in that the very structure of centering whiteness implicit in the apology compounds the original injury done to PoC (and thus to community well-being), and that the discussion in this thread is purely 100% well-meaning and utterly, predictably hurtful to exactly the people to whom jedicus most wanted to make amends, and that this discussion is not benefiting the community enough to merit those injuries.
posted by gingerest at 3:09 PM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


That's overactive moderation.

No, that's pretty baseline normal moderation, and nixing the occasional thing that's not some nuclear-grade slur-slinging meltdown but which is nonetheless likely to make things go significantly worse is something we've done sparingly but regularly in MetaTalk for a while now. It's part of us trying to make this part of the site a little bit less of a shitshow than it has historically sometimes been, by applying a little more consistently some of the moderation thinking that applies to the rest of the site to the erstwhile thunderdominess of MetaTalk.

It's okay if you disagree about that, everybody's got their own druthers, but straight-up reposting a deleted comment in protest isn't an okay way to express that disagreement.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's okay if you disagree about that, everybody's got their own druthers, but straight-up reposting a deleted comment in protest isn't an okay way to express that disagreement.

Really, why? Shouldn't we be able to talk about what should and shouldn't be deleted in MetaTalk?
posted by lalex at 3:14 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


reposting it is basically a protest to a mod decision, requiring them either to let it stand or delete it again. and talking about deletions in a metatalk not about deletions quickly becomes a derail.
posted by twist my arm at 3:16 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


As a gross rule of thumb, I think the longer an apology gets, the more likely it is to seem like a bid for continued attention, rather than a desire to minimize disruption. When minimizing, one must strive to be brief. This apology would get a better grade from me if it skipped the third paragraph.

I want to back up Conspire, because I really relate to the description they wrote about taking the time to very carefully express a difficult topic. For some issues I end up doing this, really weighing each word. It takes a lot of effort. And on some threads I see high-effort posts made (nearly) with sweat and blood responded to with quick, shallow dismissals. This makes conversation about tough justice topics deeply discouraging.
posted by puddledork at 3:20 PM on November 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


There's a lot of nuance to apologies, so I really feel uncomfortable judging how sincere it is. It's also true that there's racism power dynamics in play, and it's sort of disappointing that we need to go through this again when we've already discussed this a lot recently.

But we could have discussed this without the implied or exaggerated dismissal of others.
posted by halifix at 3:25 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I agree with your rule of thumb, but jedicus is a lawyer, a tribe for whom brevity loses out to explication every time.
posted by gingerest at 3:26 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


We're mocking the OP's job now?
posted by Xavier Xavier at 3:29 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Won't SOMEBODY think of the lawyers!
posted by ominous_paws at 3:32 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Man, this isn't the thread I expected when I saw the OP. Wow.
posted by Justinian at 3:33 PM on November 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


[One deleted. Again, we're not reopening a debate over what jedicus said in the original thread, that's going to help nothing here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:38 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


gingerest: "Conspire, I thought you were a trans woman because you engaged so passionately, personally, and deeply about the various oppressions experienced here by trans folk and women. I felt very different about the amount of energy you brought to those discussions when I realized you identify as a cis man, and I hope you take some of your incisive critique about allyship and performativity and apply it to your own ally work."

So hey I'm a trans woman who used to be active-ish on Mefi but I've basically stopped commenting and even reading much because it was so exhausting to be a trans woman here, and there's only so many times you can have your toes stepped on in threads about trans stuff before you realise that the people you're having a nice civil conversation with elsewhere on the site are only avoiding trampling your feet because you don't happen to be pointing at them right now.

I'm in regular communication with Conspire and I respect and am grateful for his contributions to the site and his careful and consistent allyship to trans women. He says this stuff because I, for one, just can't any more.
posted by these are science wands at 3:58 PM on November 9, 2015 [29 favorites]


In that recent racism thread, we touched upon the idea that white people / those within the dominant culture sometimes just can't resist centering the discussion on themselves. It's something of an unconscious compulsion. And it takes active effort to resist and say, no, I'm not going to make this about me. I'm going to stay quiet and listen. This compulsion is so enticing that it takes the form of apologies sometimes! As thetortoise said, consider if a small note was dropped in the thread, in parentheses and smalltype. A quick "Hey guys, I'm sorry", no big meta thread, no major production and need for discussion. Just a quick note and bowing out of participating. How simple and effective. Letting the conversation continue with minimal disruption and no amount of spectacle. Cool! I like Jedicus and doubt he had any bad intentions for this post. But it's worth considering that this is something that needs to be actively worked on, even for the well-intentioned among us.
posted by naju at 4:06 PM on November 9, 2015 [34 favorites]


Another deleted; please consider whether your comment is going to come across as pot-stirring.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:14 PM on November 9, 2015


As a cis woman, I have been grateful for the tirelessness with which Conspire offers allyship in threads about woman stuff not specific to trans women. My gratitude is orthogonal to my critique. That said, I am privileged to be in a position to work on providing allyship more often than I am to require allies myself, and that may mean that I should be more cautious about criticizing allies who themselves live on one or more axes of oppression.
Teasing lawyers is a pleasure I will not allow anyone to take from me. Teasing doctors, on the other hand, keeps me from murdering them, and is thus a professional survival strategy.
posted by gingerest at 4:27 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I appreciate the apology. I should say vicariously appreciate: I'm not a PoC but do have multiple parts of my identity/existence that are subject to controversy/hatred and to both heartfelt and hobby-level attack in various areas, including (though not too often) here. Personally, I do appreciate it when someone who has been on the attack backs off and says "wait, sorry, I've been an asshole and I regret it." Or even just "I recognize I may actually have been wrong." It's not been a frequent occurrence in my experience, at least with respect to some of the bigotry that gets applied to me, so I don't take it lightly and it does tend to mean something. Public apologies are the only ones I'm likely to see, since I don't comment that much.

In the case of an apology directed at a group that includes me, I might consider posting to say "thank you" after an apology, but more typically would just feel a little bit better about humanity or about my personal safety in the world and not post anything at all. Or just think "eh, not enough to make me feel less wary of you." I do very much understand and feel the strong negative reaction to pile-ons of "yay! What a great person this person is for apologizing!" and "See, we don't really have any problems here!" that such apologies are often greeted with, especially when it seems like most of the celebratory comments are posted by people who aren't actually in the group being attacked.

But to me the problem is more with that kind of patronizing reception than with the apology itself. Sometimes there'll be an apology that feels so much like "Sorry you're offended" or "I was Bad but have now been Reborn" that it does feel like grandstanding, or at best superficial. But for an apology that is less than blatantly obnoxious, I prefer to read it in the best possible faith and not in the worst, even if I choose not to accept it.

There are things in this particular apology that could have been left out or phrased differently, but I was really dismayed to see it picked apart so thoroughly for failing to hit exactly the right tone, or for being made at all.

Basically, it bothered me enough to post this comment. I do appreciate it when apologies are made and they have here and there made me feel a little better, even when they're not perfect. I'd really like them not to be ruled out as a decent thing to do, or as something that must be executed perfectly if it's going to be done at all.

Maybe a good approach to an apology posted to Meta would be for the poster to ask that it be closed to comments. Or for people to just not respond if they're not the target of the apology. I agree with everyone who objects to celebrations or declarations of "shmoop" (I can't even use the word with a straight face) in these contexts. But I think the problem has to do more with how the apologies are received than with the apologies themselves. And I think it's important to recognize that people within any group will have a whole range of reactions to an apology, and that no single reaction is going to be entirely representative.

tl;dr, I feel better in an environment where there is space for apologies to be made without being either shot down or celebrated.
posted by egg drop at 4:30 PM on November 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


Why would anyone ever apologize? Look what it gets you.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:36 PM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


fff, the point of apologizing should not be 'what it gets you.'
posted by zarq at 4:41 PM on November 9, 2015 [54 favorites]


I'm coming back for a moment with, ironically, something of an apology. I would just let this go quietly, except that I feel that I brought a lot of shittiness to the thread with my contributions above and I feel a need to at least try to set the record straight. I will back off again after this.

I was way off-base up above; I just re-read both jedicus's original apology and Conspire's original response to it, and I honestly have no idea why I at first read Conspire's response as being needlessly combative. It wasn't particularly combative, and the parts that I took the most offense to stemmed from a misreading by Conspire which, had it been correct, would have made them totally justified. It seems that Conspire thought jedicus was coming here with a public apology after having failed to find acceptance privately. That would indeed have been gross and inappropriate, not to mention theatrical and self-centered.

Again, I don't know why I took such umbrage with Conspire's very reasonable reservations. I really don't—it feels like I was responding to some bizarro-world version of what he actually said. I obviously cannot unsay what I said above, but I certainly no longer stand by those comments and I hope that nobody who agrees with them sees me as their champion in this thread. I am bewildered and ashamed.

I am not asking for forgiveness or even acknowledgement. I just want people to know that I think those were crappy comments and that I do not stand by them. I realize that this does not undo the harm that they caused, but hopefully by registering my lack of support for them I can reduce the amount of harm they will cause in the future. I will fade out of this thread now, and will probably not return to it. I will strive to comment more carefully in the future.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:46 PM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Zarq: Well, look what it gets us, then. No good comes out of apologizing around here.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:49 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


And surely, Zarq, you can appreciate that no one who reads this thread is going to feel particularly comfortable apologizing in the future. Offer oneself up for a whipping? Not damn likely. Better to just STFU than to dare risk saying sorry.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:55 PM on November 9, 2015


Another deleted; please don't make drive-by personal swipes? This thread is already super testy and really doesn't need that.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:58 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Zarq: Well, look what it gets us, then. No good comes out of apologizing around here.

I've apologized an embarrassingly large number of times on metafilter and metatalk for doing many, many ridiculously stupid things. Other than my feeling like an idiot, it's usually turned out okay.

We can't predict if people will accept an apology. But if it's sincere, apologizing is still a civil, polite, responsible thing to do.

And surely, Zarq, you can appreciate that no one who reads this thread is going to feel particularly comfortable apologizing in the future. Offer oneself up for a whipping? Not damn likely. Better to just STFU than to dare risk saying sorry.

Possibly? Didn't stop the comment above yours from happening, tho.
posted by zarq at 4:59 PM on November 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


no one who reads this thread is going to feel particularly comfortable apologizing in the future

I will certainly feel comfortable apologizing where and when and how appropriate in the future. If I unknowingly misstep in doing so (as I have many times in the past in many different contexts) and get a correction for it, I can sit and think about it. One of the beauties of Metafilter is how easy it is to step away for a bit and disarm the whole defensiveness feedback loop one gets into in in-person conversations.
posted by sallybrown at 5:02 PM on November 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


I think Metafilter, generally, has more trolls on every conceivable side of every conceivable issue, than it likes to admit. It gets tough to tell who is typing sincerely, who is indulging in outrage culture, who is saying something just to be outrageous from some moral or intellectual high ground, and who is honestly just trying to make sense of it all every day. The moderation is part of that confusion. They're human and I'm sure they try to be as objective as they can. And maybe generally they do a pretty good job of it. I don't know. Who can know? Honestly, I don't care how good they are at their job.

What I do care about is how this community is shaping itself. It seems, sometimes, misguided. Some members of this community are not vocal enough and some are perhaps too vocal. I think sometimes ideas are held back because there seems to be some unwritten law about how ideas are supposed to be formulated before one dares to post them. This is quickly becoming a forum in which an apology is deconstructed and cannibalized so each person can put forth some poorly formed perception of one kind or another. This is a forum where almost anything will be used to draw lines in the sand. What good does that do? What good have lines in the sand ever done anyone? They just get swept away by the sea. Or the moderators.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 5:02 PM on November 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


Comments and attitudes like those expressed by FFF are what drive people like myself away from here.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:03 PM on November 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


Maybe it would be helpful if in threads like this with heavy derail deletions a mod could just offer an explicit read of what they're intending to be discussed? If that sounds facetious, it's not. I feel like these threads turn into clusterfucks of deletion debris and guess-the-topic. What is the "rail" of this thread? Whether apologies are good or bad? Whether jedicus' apology was good or bad? It seems awfully hard to discuss the latter without being able to discuss the original thread...
posted by threeants at 5:04 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Another POC chipping in to say that yeah, it's clear that jedicus doesn't think of it that way, as is manifest from his comment in the thread right up top. Neverhtless, the apology definitely felt like ally theater. For me, the feeling intensified after reading jedicus's response comment to Conspire.

You'll note, by the way, that at no point in jedicus's original apology does he straight-up use the word racist. He'll say that he was insensitive, he'll say that the things he said weren't germane, he'll say that the things he said were a derail -- but he doesn't actually say the r-word, or acknowledge his line of discussion was totally following racist ones.

Which is not to impugn his motives, or say that he doesn't actually feel bad and want to make things right. I'm not saying any of those things at all. And I know it's a minor, tiny point. But not being able to say, "I did something racist" in apology for engaging in behavior that looks and sounds a lot like racism is totally, totally another square on the bingo card of White People Not Quite Successfully Grappling With Being Racist.

If you fill out five squares all in a line, your prize is that someone will come up to you and announce that you're just being UNCHARITABLE and MEAN and won't somebody think of all the BABY APOLOGIES????
posted by joyceanmachine at 5:07 PM on November 9, 2015 [16 favorites]


(Also, my comment should not be construed as a defense of the deleted derails themselves; I have no clue what they said...because they were deleted.)
posted by threeants at 5:10 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


threeants - jedicus's apology and apologies generally, sure. I don't want this to become "but let's talk about whether the football players were risking a lot or not", or "let's needle people in the thread and try to get an unrelated fight going".

This is a testy thread, on a hot button issue, people are ticked off. So this is a thread where it's good to only comment in a thoughtful way, rather than coming in with a tossed-off complaint or an ambiguous jibe or whatever, or some other pot-stirring stuff. The cost of that stuff is higher in this thread than in some others. So, please don't. We've got people commenting thoughfully in here on different aspects, changing their minds in reflection, etc. It's clearly possible to do.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:11 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


For me, the feeling intensified after reading jedicus's response comment to Conspire.

Yeah. If the follow-up to your apology feels like litigation, then everything ends up looking like you're aiming for tactical high ground, which is what we lawyers sometimes do out of reflex more than anything. And that's an impulse that often just makes things worse when you're not in a courtroom (of public opinion or otherwise).
posted by naju at 5:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


Thanks, LobsterMitten. I just genuinely don't understand how it's possible to talk about the appropriateness of jedicus' apology without talking about the appropriateness of his original comments, but if that's not a place we can go I won't go down that road.
posted by threeants at 5:15 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


five fresh fish: Better to just STFU than to dare risk saying sorry.

This position carries a hidden subtext: if an apology is given, then the onus is on the person who has been hurt and/or taken offense to accept it.

Do you think that apologies should always be unconditionally accepted? Sometimes, even amongst equals they won't be. An "I'm sorry" isn't going to solve everything, every time. It might even start or continue an argument.

When the person who has been offended is from a minority group and the person doing the offending is from a majority group, there's additional subtext at work. An expectation -- a demand! -- that the minority will take a submissive role to the person from the group which traditionally holds oppressive power. That shouldn't be ignored or dismissed, because it's part of the overall dynamic.

Standing up for oneself, voicing one's feelings and saying, "I don't accept your apology" takes on a new meaning, then. So does telling people like Conspire that they don't have a right to do that.
posted by zarq at 5:16 PM on November 9, 2015 [29 favorites]


So does telling people like Conspire that they don't have a right to do that.

That is precisely what got my goat in this thread. So many comments which basically boiled down to telling Conspire how they should have responded or why their criticism was wrong-headed. These were pretty much textbook examples of tone policing and silencing. I would like to think that the golden rule of MeFi is 'Be conscientious of your fellow MeFites and treat them like (non-dysfunctional) family' which would preclude the festering meanness that has been on display, but alas. We have a long, long way to go on that front.

Also, just as a general pro life tip, if you are actively expecting anything after issuing an apology, your heart is in the wrong place. Doubly and triply so if you are taking people to task for not reacting correctly to someone else's apology.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:27 PM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


lalex: "Really, why? Shouldn't we be able to talk about what should and shouldn't be deleted in MetaTalk?"

Sure. Wait a week and if you still want to talk about it post a new meta so we can concentrate on that rather than mixing it with the topic here.
posted by Mitheral at 5:27 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


This position carries a hidden subtext: if an apology is given, then the onus is on the person who has been hurt and/or taken offense to accept it.

It was an apology to the community. Why should any one person respond to it? Why should one or two people's opinion be taken as gospel for all? Can you imagine anyone who accepts jedicus' apology feeling that they could say "apology accepted"?

The better case for this thread would have been for it to be closed right off the bat, and individuals could have taken or rejected it in private instead of subjecting the entire community to this mess.

The best case would have been to not even have had this thread. It's a no-win, all-lose proposition on all fronts. Nobody comes out of this happy or satisfied.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:33 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Right but all of this is the fault of jedicus. So why should he be given a public forum and everyone else be denied the same in return?
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:35 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's all about apologizing per se; I think *creating a whole new post* to make an apology is part of what's at issue here. That can definitely look a little like theater or performing-whatever, so I found Conspire's first comment pretty convincing. Nor do I disagree with fffm's first comment, pointing out that at least the apology was "I did a bad thing and I apologize" instead of "I'm sorry if you felt offended" or whatever -- but on the third hand, the timing wasn't ideal and I can see how that could come across as "white person buts in to say 'aww, it's not so bad'".
It feels a bit like Greek tragedy...people meaning well in different ways but the universe is cruel and everybody gets screwed over in the end. The Greeks were pretty clear-sighted about this stuff; they didn't believe in pie in the sky when you die.
posted by uosuaq at 5:39 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Annika: Because it is in the best interests of the community to not have meta threads like this? Threads like this are how we lose community members, time and time again.

But enough. I've had my typical grouse about how hateful threads don't help us. I'm going to leave before I get banned. Good luck with the remainder of this thread.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:41 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Conspire said: And just so you know - a pre-emptive fuck you to anyone who is even thinking that admission of my emotion makes my reaction to the racism that is occurring right here, right now, to me, any less valid.

I only want to chime in to say that I wish Conspire had spent even more hours crafting even more comments describing the way you're expected to behave if you're on the receiving end of an apology that feels to you to be morally questionable...where you feel like someone is trying to nudge you towards a pacified reaction, putting you in the position where you cannot express your anger or hurt, without being called out for being an over-emotional example of whatever minority group is being apologized to. This doesn't get talked about nearly enough. There is so much pressure to accept an apology from someone more powerful than you--there is even a sense of sick relief when you do it, "Whew, now we can get back to normal! Look, I've accepted your apology, can we pretend everything is okay now?"

I don't know whether the roil of emotion for PoC when they go through that, is the same as when one is expected to accept apologies from ableists or queerphobes or whatever, but Conspire is describing an emotional state I am all too familiar with, and had not ever thought about it before as something that shouldn't have to be that way. That is, not once has it occurred to me that the vast discomfort that surrounds the cagey-sounding apology, was anything other than me being ungrateful.

I am saying this so badly! I will cut to the chase: Conspire, never shut up about this stuff, because some of us can't even articulate why and when conversations hurt us, and to have someone who can think it through and make coherent words out of it, is very valuable.
posted by mittens at 5:46 PM on November 9, 2015 [38 favorites]


That wasn't badly said, mittens...apologies mean fuck-all compared to just doing better in future...they *might* make a difference to the people who hear them, which is great if it happens, but all you can do is put them out there and then focus on doing better. No one should feel pressured to gratefully/gracefully accept them!
posted by uosuaq at 5:53 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was an apology to the community. Why should any one person respond to it?

That's how we do Metatalk! Make a post. Get responses. :)

Why should one or two people's opinion be taken as gospel for all?

It... shouldn't? Conspire wasn't speaking ex cathedra for all mefites, or all mefites in a particular group. His reply talked about how he felt.

At least, that's how I took it. 100 comments later, we've had agreement and disagreements so it's not like everybody's falling in line.

Can you imagine anyone who accepts jedicus' apology feeling that they could say "apology accepted"

I'd be okay saying it, but he wasn't apologizing to me. Maybe I'm an outlier? I don't know. Didn't feel like Conspire was forcing people to back him up or anything.

The better case for this thread would have been for it to be closed right off the bat, and individuals could have taken or rejected it in private instead of subjecting the entire community to this mess. ... Nobody comes out of this happy or satisfied.

Agreed. As 'internet fraud detective squad, station number 9' and lalex said, if we're going to have a queue then this would have been a good use for it.
posted by zarq at 5:53 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


The converse of the fact that Conspire is under no obligation to accept an apology, though, is that other people are under no obligation to reject it or agree with Conspire. FFFM got a lot of pushback for saying that the apology looked like an actual apology rather than a pseudo-"I'm sorry if you were offended" apology.
posted by Justinian at 5:55 PM on November 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


We don't actually have to start back at the top of the thread and revive the arguments from there.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:58 PM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


Wouldn't a quick note in the blue make more sense than a meta? Seems like that usually goes over well enough. And since you can't much respond without derailing the thread, it avoids this whole issue.
posted by michaelh at 6:03 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ehhh, historically this sort of thing has always gone in Metatalk. Whether that is no longer the case I guess is open to debate but it's always been true.
posted by Justinian at 6:07 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've seen plenty of minor parenthetical apologies in the blue. I've made some. They get a few faves and everyone moves on to the topic at hand.
posted by naju at 6:09 PM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


Sometimes you can't really apologize, at least not in the sense of being instantly forgiven and hey don't worry, we're cool now. Sometimes, when you fuck up, you just have to wear it for a while and do better later.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:10 PM on November 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


wrt this in cortex's comment:

trying to apologize in what's basically a normal, okay way to do on the site—MetaTalk's pretty much the spot to do it in general, and especially if you're trying to stay the hell out of a thread you've already felt like you fucked up in in the first place

I disagree. Taking it to MeTa escalates it from a disagreement in a single thread to a site-wide issue. A quick "sorry for the insensitive derail" comment in the thread would have been better scoped and would have avoided the perception of it being performative that the post here raised.

Or would such a comment have been deleted as furthering the derail? As a user, it feels to me like that sort of "hey, I was wrong, sorry" personal-growth adjustment happens quite often in threads without spilling out onto MeTa.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:11 PM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


I agree with michaelh, though, Justinian. Maybe jedicus was following your line of thinking, but I think an apology *on the thread itself* would have worked better in this case. I don't think the mods were wrong *not* to prevent this MeTa from getting posted, but I also don't think it was a great idea for a MeTa.
posted by uosuaq at 6:11 PM on November 9, 2015


I think generally a brief "sorry, bowing out now" kind of thing in the thread is a good way to go. A longer apology speech will often get deleted since it seems to invite responses, which would continue a derail, but a very brief one is fine.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


The converse of the fact that Conspire is under no obligation to accept an apology, though, is that other people are under no obligation to reject it or agree with Conspire. FFFM got a lot of pushback for saying that the apology looked like an actual apology rather than a pseudo-"I'm sorry if you were offended" apology.

This isn't quite the equivalency you're presenting it as, because one way orients with the uneven racist status quo and power dynamic here, and the other is pushing against it. That doesn't mean it's impossible to align yourself with the former position, but it requires caution and explanation in establishing your stance if you don't want to be uncritically responsible for reinforcing these power dynamics, instead of just shooting off a one-line rebuttal.
posted by Conspire at 6:15 PM on November 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


Would it be preferable if - when you find yourself in the quite wrong - you drop out of discussions of that subject for a long while, and keep that to one line? I would like to see more of a "winning move is not to play" idea for MeTas like this, in that one's apology is still drawing attention to oneself even when genuine.
posted by solarion at 6:39 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have read this thread twice and am genuinely confused about why it's so much about Conspire and FFFM. Is it because they were the first two people to respond and they disagreed, and one is POC and one is white? I read jedicus's apology as being mainly directed at people contributing to the Mizzou thread.
posted by thetortoise at 6:45 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


In my personal experience an apology works better when I show I understand the nuances as to why my behavior was poor beyond the most basic understanding, which is usually "I should apologize because I can see on your face that what I did hurt you". If I don't understand how and why my actions hurt, then my basic apology most always creates a bigger problem than the one I started with. And when that happens, until I show that I truly understand the how and what of my actions, I'm "wearing the fish".

(At work we used to have a wooden fish that engineers would have to wear around their necks if they brought the network down. No one wanted the fish, but after a while it became a trophy of sorts and the team learned to love the fish.)
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:55 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think a lot of times when you're being criticized for the way you made someone else feel, the only answer that will not make it worse is "Ok. I think I understand where you're coming from." If jedicus' reply to Conspire's first comment had been simply that, would this thread have gone the same? Maybe so, because third-party interference. *shrug*

I didn't read the original apology the way Conspire (and others) did, but it's an interesting way to think about it and now I've learned something. I kind of feel (but can't actually know) that jedicus may be in the same situation. Good thing, right?
posted by ctmf at 7:09 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a forum where almost anything will be used to draw lines in the sand. What good does that do? What good have lines in the sand ever done anyone? They just get swept away by the sea.

Well said.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:51 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Really? I thought it was pretty cheap to end that way, given what a little Apple of Discord the rest of that comment is -- after all, it basically accuses certain people commenting in this thread of trolling and/or participating insincerely, it just stops a hair short of naming them outright.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:21 PM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yes, exactly.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:25 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay, I was letting it go but I need help with the metaphor. I have confirmed with the Googles that I know what "drawing a line in the sand" means - it means "I will allow this to go no further" - although the searches yielded little to reveal why drawing a line in the sand means that, apart from the fact that doing it with a sword suggests you have a sword and you are willing to poke it into the person you're drawing lines around. What I am not getting, here, is who, exactly, is saying "this will go no further!", and what the sea has to do with it. What is the sea in this metaphor? Mortality? Fickle community opinion? Mods? Feelings? Who is holding a sword here? At whom are they brandishing it?

I am a literal-minded person and I need your help. (I got Apple of Discord on my own.)
posted by gingerest at 12:25 AM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


That was not a joke.
posted by gingerest at 12:27 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


gingerest, I found the wiktionary definitions to be the clearest for "drawing a line in the sand." As well as the etymological bit. Basically though, it is an Americanism that often means "I am fully prepared to defend my position, no matter how unreasonable or incorrect in the larger context of things, until you shoot me shut me down so hard I lose, but I'll still think I'm right."
posted by monopas at 12:51 AM on November 10, 2015


I think that if you've just devoted a paragraph to hinting that certain people in this thread can't be trusted and may not even really believe what they're arguing, it's a pretty bold move to then turn around and close with a little homily about how we need to rise above conflict and divisiveness.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:29 AM on November 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


Rather than just talk about what was wrong here, can we talk about how to be better in the future?

In that vein, I have a few questions. First off, what should Jedicus have done here?
1) apologize in MeTa and take the lumps.
2) just STFU in the original thread and behave better in the future
3) drop a very brief apology in thread.

I am really not sure what the best option would have been for the people hurt by comments in the original thread, for members of the minority targeted whether or not they saw the original thread, for the health of the broader MeFi community.

I realize there may not exist one best way to act here, but I am at the moment not even sure how to evaluate which way is better (other than to not fuck up in the first place, of course.)

Second question: given we have only our words here, how should one respond when words are misread? E.g. part of Jedicus' second comment here was replying to Conspire's misreading that Jedicus had tried to apologize first in meMail. Is that part of that comment ok?
posted by nat at 1:31 AM on November 10, 2015


3) and then drop it. Soonest mended, and all.
posted by Wolof at 2:07 AM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


For those of you who are white dudes, maybe this discussion makes more sense if you can imagine just how constantly exhausting it is when every damn conversation about your concerns is filled of white dudes going "so here are my feelings on this!" and who cannot take "hi this is not about you" as an answer and who then shit up the whole conversation by arguing over whether their concerns are relevant.

It just happens everywhere and again and again and again and it is so PREDICTABLE. And it's also predictable that other white dudes struggle to visualise this as a problem because they are so used to white-dude-opinions being like 90% of the discourse. And then they are all like "Well if you are not comfortable in this totally normal place and cannot handle civil discussion then maybe this place is not for you" and "here are some more of my opinions on this topic!!" and "also here are some of my opinions on why people should not be so dismissive of my opinions" and "silencing white men is also a problem!" and just aggressively and exhaustively and repeatedly resisting any attempt to make the discussion not about any other damn thing than white men and what they think.

It is just SO par for the course that when someone finally kinda realises that maybe the discussion doesn't need to be all about them, they pop up somewhere else like "Hi! Look how non racist I am that I finally realised that everybody does not need to be talking about my opinions! in fact my opinions were not necessary to the discussion at all! come and read all about it!"

and like all these things, it's not about the one specific person who's doing it, it's not about their good intentions, and it's not even about how discourse plays out on Metafilter which has recently improved dramatically on this front. It's about the consistent pattern of SO MANY people behaving this way SO much of the time just everywhere.

I hope this helps to understand the issue for those here who are thinking "But it was such a great apology! why would you shit on that?!". The situation is materially different from apologising for standing on someone's foot or just being a dick in some generic way. If you are feeling super sincerely apologetic over repeated accidental turd gifts, maybe consider not apologising by presenting a glitter covered turd gift.
posted by emilyw at 3:32 AM on November 10, 2015 [43 favorites]


One comment deleted. Please just try to speak clearly about whatever it is you want to say if you are participating in good faith, and if you aren't, or what you want to say needs to be sort of veiled in coy language, consider that it probably doesn't need to be said.

I'd also urge folks to try to keep this productive. I feel like thinking about how we can best apologize if a situation could be benefited by that is fine and probably useful, and it would be great if we could focus that way.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:24 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I felt very different about the amount of energy you brought to those discussions when I realized you identify as a cis man, and I hope you take some of your incisive critique about allyship and performativity and apply it to your own ally work.

Let other people do their work. This seems like not the time for a person I assume is white to raise this in this conversation. A very inappropriate time, actually.
posted by listen, lady at 5:13 AM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, but another delete. Again, posting sarcastically really isn't going to work here, and also again, let's try to keep this more of a productive conversation about maybe what works for an apology rather than free-range grar.

I'm with those who say that a quick short thing in thread like, "sorry all, my previous comment was insensitive" or similar rarely goes awry, as long as it's brief.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:16 AM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Gingerest, seriously also not goofing around, I had the same "?" moment when I saw "line in the sand" associated with the ocean. It may be because of my TX background, but I always understood "line in the sand" to be an extremely literal reference to the (definitely burnished) story of how Colonel Travis rallied the troops to fight the battle of the Alamo. The defenders of the Alamo saw it as a hopeless battle and Travis gave everyone the opportunity to "opt in" by drawing a line in the sand and asking everyone who was willing to die for the cause to step over it - or, I guess, slink away in shame. If this phrase origin is true or close to it, it doesn't have anything to do with the ocean, and what it expresses is commitment - "I draw the line, I am committing to an action, and I'm placing you in a reactive position: you must choose either to cross my line - joining me - or refuse my terms and give up your position in shame."
posted by Miko at 5:53 AM on November 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


One of the most important things I learnt on Metafilter about privilege is that the only thing you really need to do when people tell you "hey, you're stepping on my toes" is to stop stepping on their toes.

They aren't talking about the history of their toes being stepped on so that you will have a learning experience. This may seem counterintuitive because, hey, they're making an effort to teach you something, shouldn't you be engaging with them by talking about how you're learning something?

No. It's certainly good and pleases those people that you're learning something but only because it means that you're no longer going to step on their toes. They have no interest in your epiphanies. They don't care about your personal journey to Better Person Land.

All they care about is that you stop standing on their toes so that they can go on walking. They want you to shut up about toes!

Making your epiphany the subject of a discussion, however well intentioned, is pretty much the opposite of that. The answer isn't, "talk about my new appreciation of toes". It's "step out of the way."
posted by Omnomnom at 5:56 AM on November 10, 2015 [38 favorites]


In that vein, I have a few questions. First off, what should Jedicus have done here?

Look - apologies are social in nature, which means you've got to be aware of social context and particularly, the social context around racism. Metafilter is majority white. So when you issue a big sweeping public apology like this, the way it makes me feel is that if you've hauled me right into the center of a massive cocktail party where I'm the only PoC, and everyone around me is white - some informed, but a lot of them the most clueless, carelessly racist people you would know - and loudly apologized to me for being racist for something you did to me somewhere else, maybe a week ago. Do you know how much pressure that puts on me, with the glaring expectations of every white person in the room staring at my neck? I'm aware the majority will sympathize with you because they can all so easily put themselves in the shoes of "what if I accidentally say something wrong too?", but not so much "what is it like to suffer the unintentional racism of good white people on a daily basis?" And look at what happened in this thread - I said exactly why the medium of the apology was inappropriate. Cue shocked muttering from the crowd: "why, I never", "how cruel, he's stinking up the entire party", "no one should ever apologize again because PoC just are too barbaric to respond politely to them", "it was a good apology, I don't know why he didn't accept it."

If you are to apologize, at least place yourself on level where you're equally positioned to the person you're apologizing to. Privately, maybe, to the people in the thread you've seemed to offended the most. Just as a small aside in the context of the conversation you've been having, possibly. Don't leverage an entire social community to lend force to your apology.
posted by Conspire at 6:31 AM on November 10, 2015 [65 favorites]


I think an extraordinarily valuable consensus on how to apologise in a way that avoids placing an emotional burden on those you are apologising to has begun to emerge. As Conspire and others have explained, white people and members of other majority groups are often oblivious to the emotional burdening associated with their apologies. Accordingly, could a note on proper apology etiquette be added to the FAQ? I don't doubt that people will ever stop having things to make apologies for and it would be good to have somewhere official to point to and say 'this is how to do it' instead of playing out again and again emotionally exhausting discussions like this one.
posted by Quilford at 6:57 AM on November 10, 2015


"no one should ever apologize again because PoC just are too barbaric to respond politely to them", "it was a good apology, I don't know why he didn't accept it."

Yeah, it's reallyreallyreally weird that people are saying stuff I will summarize as "Why would anyone apologize when this is what happens?" instead of "Hmmm, I guess the public nature of the apology on a community blog where comments are enabled does create problems. Also, apologizing publicly to everyone on MetaFilter, even people who have no idea what you're talking about until you explain it to them seems like overkill: why not just apologize to the people who know about what you're apologizing for? Also-also, maybe apologies given without any real understanding of bad behavior or plan to avoid similar behavior in the future aren't the best apologies."

I really don't understand people trying to imply that people in this thread is reacting to the mere act of apologizing, when there's no evidence of that at all. From the first post on, it's clear that it's not the apology that's the problem, but the way in which the apology was given.

Apologies do not need to be made publicly in a forum where anyone can comment. Apologies do not have to be made without any understanding of the bad behavior that warrants an apology. Apologies do not have to be made without putting yourself in the shoes of the people who you wronged.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:01 AM on November 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Seems it's not 'don't have to be' but much more like 'should never be'. I'm trying hard to see where Conspire is coming from, but I'm not managing to get there yet. Not for a lack of trying though.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:17 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seems it's not 'don't have to be' but much more like 'should never be'.

I was speaking directly to people who were saying things like "See what happens when someone apologizes?" as if this was the ONLY way to apologize.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:31 AM on November 10, 2015


I'm trying hard to see where Conspire is coming from, but I'm not managing to get there yet.

I think someone from a privileged group can somewhat understand it if they have ever been in a situation where they felt they had to accept an apology-- and accept it gracefully at that-- because of social pressure. A lot of us have social conditioning that not to accept an apology is churlish or childish or something like that. Society has moved on a little bit, maybe, in the sense that the concept of the inadequate apology or the faux-pology is now a thing. But, no question to me, people still take advantage to the dynamic that it looks bad not to accept an apology.
posted by BibiRose at 7:34 AM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


By the way, I should not have implied just above that I was speaking for anyone else in this thread.
posted by BibiRose at 7:37 AM on November 10, 2015


Thanks for the cocktail party analogy, Conspire. I get it now.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:10 AM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Apologies do not need to be made publicly in a forum where anyone can comment.

The impulse to make a public apology is kinda understandable, though. The comments were made in a forum where anyone can see them. (And of course, comment.) Attempting to make public amends when you have conceivably publicly insulted or offended a large number of people seems like a logical choice.

I definitely wouldn't have done it that way. But I can see why Jedicus would have thought it a viable option.
posted by zarq at 8:13 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter can be exhausting even if you do align with it along virtually every demographic line in existence. You can be white, cis, hetero, male, liberal, academic, geeky, media-saturated, and conversations about things you love or don't care for or don't know a thing about can all pretty quickly leave you wanting to walk or scream or cry or whatever else. MetaTalk, the place for talking about how we all feel, was a minefield way before serious conversations about race and gender became a thing. (I don't want to call it toxic, but I sure perceive it as such from time to time.)

When any issue like this comes up, I just imagine the way using MetaFilter already makes me feel, and crank it up eleven thousand times. I can't actually envision how terrible that must be, but then I remember my own (lack of) tolerance for grievances much, much punier than the frustration that's on display in this thread — frustrations that, I and you both know, recur in both despairingly vast and teeth-grittingly minute iterations within our societies, like fractal of godawfulness — and suddenly I find it really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really easy to give other members the benefit of the freaking doubt.

It is not that hard to read somebody else on this site talk about how bothered they are by something, stop for a moment, and ask yourself: "Does this sound like it totally sucks? Would it totally suck if it was me dealing with this totally sucky thing? What can I do make this totally sucky thing slightly less totally sucky, or at least not add something more to its totality?"

Then sometimes you don't say anything at all.

If you feel aggrieved about something that happens on this site, stop and ask yourself whether or not your grievance is going to make somebody else's repeatedly-stated frustrations exponentially worse than the thing that you're feeling right this moment. There is a time and a place to make conversations be all about you, and it's when nobody else is going through something vastly worse than the thing you're going through.

Hopefully we all agree that racism is high up there on the list of things that are worse than other things. Yeah?

Accidentally making other people's days worse is... not the best, but it happens. When those people tell you that you're doing something kind of crappy, that's when you maybe try and not do that thing again. (Especially not ten seconds after you last did that thing.) If your behavior is part of a greater pattern of crappiness, and the person calling you out for it has kindly provided you with multiple citations proving that such a pattern exists, you can be super-extra-grateful to them for making it as easy as it possibly can be for you to realize that you dun goofed. Yay citations! Wikipedians and XKCD-readers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief.

If it makes your day worse to be told that you make other people's days worse, please don't complain about that until you've done something about your original behavior. Please don't assume that the person who brought your problematic behavior to your attention is responsible for your bad mood. Please don't expect anything out of those people whatsoever. They owe you nothing for telling you how you made them feel.

Even if you feel like you have some great thoughts on how they could've told you what they told you more gently, or more respectfully, or more politely, or more courteously... save it for elsewhere. Seriously.

It is endlessly upsetting to see people on this site, people whose thoughts and opinions I trust and admire to no end, let themselves get entrenched in arguing against the very people they are trying to be supportive of. (The people who go around moaning about how people on MeFi have no manners, grumble, grumble, are just aggravating; courtesy's well and good up to the point where enforcing it is silencing voices or forcing them to deal with emotional burdens for the sake of the polite and well-mannered. That the people complaining about this are neither polite nor well-mannered themselves is a point of irony that I just can't find it in myself to laugh at.)
posted by rorgy at 8:22 AM on November 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


The comments were made in a forum where anyone can see them. (And of course, comment.) Attempting to make public amends when you have conceivably publicly insulted or offended a large number of people seems like a logical choice.

Not everyone who participates or reads a particular thread where an insult happens reads metatalk, nor does everyone who reads metatalk will necessarily have read or participated in the original thread to start with. If you have to publicly apologize (i prefer the private message route), then apologize succinctly to the readers of that thread and cool it on the thread.

Metatalk in of itself is an inappropriate forum for such things because it invites the exact sort of comments that have plagued this thread.
posted by Karaage at 8:29 AM on November 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


The impulse to make a public apology is kinda understandable, though. The comments were made in a forum where anyone can see them. (And of course, comment.) Attempting to make public amends when you have conceivably publicly insulted or offended a large number of people seems like a logical choice.

And this is the point of my first comment in this topic: often times, what seems personally easiest, or most logical, or most beneficial to you, will also not be the best course of action for minority on the sites. So specifically, when you're apologizing for racism - isn't "what's best for PoC" the very, very first thing you should be considering above all other priorities? An apology that fails to put the feelings of PoC over the benefit of the apologizer, isn't much of an apology at all.
posted by Conspire at 8:32 AM on November 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


Not everyone who participates or reads a particular thread where an insult happens reads metatalk, nor does everyone who reads metatalk will necessarily have read or participated in the original thread to start with. If you have to publicly apologize (i prefer the private message route), then apologize succinctly to the readers of that thread and cool it on the thread.

I agree.
posted by zarq at 8:33 AM on November 10, 2015


White guy here who felt pretty much what conspire said in first comment, upon reading post. Ally theatre is a thing, and it's on white people to reflect on, avoid. Doesn't mean it's an improper apology, just one carrying a lot of uncomfortable harmonics.
posted by ead at 8:40 AM on November 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


I've just read the very first link that Conspire posted, and it is well-worth revisiting, (as well as the original article that inspired it.)

The essential question it asks is the following:

[T]his is exactly what we mean when we talk about ally theater. What is this woman’s response meant to convey, really? How is it in any way useful?

I hadn't thought about that before, and it's a good question, as are the numericized points the article makes, and the article's most forceful expression of its point:

Listen. Solidarity is action. That’s it. What we DO in solidarity is all that counts. How people with privilege listen to what marginalized groups ask of them and do that is all that counts.

Anyway, the linked articles express this in a much fuller way, and I strongly encourage checking them out, if you haven't.
posted by maxsparber at 8:46 AM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


And this is the point of my first comment in this topic: often times, what seems personally easiest, or most logical, or most beneficial to you, will also not be the best course of action for minority on the sites. So specifically, when you're apologizing for racism - isn't "what's best for PoC" the very, very first thing you should be considering above all other priorities? An apology that fails to put the feelings of PoC over the benefit of the apologizer, isn't much of an apology at all.

I agree with this.

Just to clarify, I'm not trying to play devil's advocate and am certainly not trying to defend this post or the apology in any way. I think this post was a mistake for a lot of reasons including all the ones you, Karaage and others have already stated. As I said upthread, I also think the mods should have killed it in the queue.

My suspicion is that jedicus did not understand that imbalance when he posted. As we've seen from the way many people have commented in this thread, power dynamics between minority and majority aren't always evident to those who have the privilege to remain unaware of them. That doesn't excuse or change anything, and of course, I could be wrong. But having been -- regrettably -- That Guy myself, I think it's a possibility.
posted by zarq at 8:47 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think we need to focus on whether or not any particular individual understood all the nuances of public apologies (especially apologies concerning racism) before they made their apology.

We can discuss the usefulness of public apologies (especially apologies concerning racism) without getting stuck on whether any one particular individual intended anything with their public apology.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:55 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Conspire: specifically, when you're apologizing for racism - isn't "what's best for PoC" the very, very first thing you should be considering above all other priorities?

Of course. But I'm not certain that that is not what happened in this case.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:01 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel like we're reaching a point with this where a lot of good things have been said and if we ask people to repeat themselves more it's going to be more of a fight. If you aren't convinced, that's fine, but I'm inclined to close this up rather than go another five rounds over the same territory.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:05 AM on November 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


23skidoo: I believe that learning why people do things can help us educate them. So they can adjust their own behavior and hopefully go on to teach others what they have learned. That self-awareness often makes them better allies.

I'll happily drop the subject now. But that's why I mentioned it in the first place.
posted by zarq at 9:05 AM on November 10, 2015


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