Improving cultural appropriation threads April 14, 2016 10:46 AM   Subscribe

The most recent post which in some way touches on cultural appropriation, (the one about Rage Yoga) did not go very well. I'd like to focus on two specific types of comment, in hopes of improving future posts concerning cultural appropriation.

Okay, so when the topic of a post is connected to cultural appropriation in some way, a lot of commenters seem to want to 1) try to discount the specifics ways that the specific example of cultural appropriation in the post is harmful by comparing it to some OTHER form of cultural appropriation (which has specifically been chosen to be benign as possible), or 2) ignore the topic of the post and just talk about cultural appropriation in general, usually in a very binary/simplistic way.

Comments of Type 1 are things like "Most people agree that borrowing the idea of 0 as a digit from Indian mathematicians was a great idea, so why is it a big deal if someone puts rage into yoga?" or "I've eaten Mexican food mixed with Texan influences before and Tex-Mex is delicious, and that's a combination of two cultures, so why is it a big deal if someone puts rage into yoga?" or "In hip-hop music, you can change up music all different kinds of ways and it's still hip-hop, so why should yoga be any different?"

If there's a post on Metafilter about Rage yoga, and someone says that it's cultural appropriation with harmful effects, it detracts from that conversation to base your comment around some OTHER form of cultural appropriation (which may or may not have harmful effects). Plus, it leads to people thinking that the conversation is open season and they can leave comments of Type 2, which steer a focused conversation about Rage Yoga into a boring conversation about how a few people don't understand cultural appropriation at all.

Metafilter likes to pride itself on being a beacon of intelligent discourse on the internet. In posts concerning cultural appropriation, POC will invariably chime in to say that we don't get intelligent discourse in threads about cultural appropriation. I think cutting back on comments of Type 1 and Type 2 would help improve threads concerning cultural appropriation, and I can't see any downside to not leaving comments like these (but if you'd like to explain their benefit, please go for it.)

I'm specifically calling on people who want to participate in threads connected to cultural appropriation to consider (before commenting) if their comment is connected enough to the specific case of cultural appropriation being discussed to be worth leaving in a thread. While this alone won't make those threads instantly great, I think it would help to improve threads concerning cultural appropriation.

Previously
posted by 23skidoo to Etiquette/Policy at 10:46 AM (871 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

I think what may be resulting in this is that often discussions of cultural appropriation on the Blue, and also this MeTa post, beg the question. They assume that what's being discussed is cultural appropriation and proceed accordingly.

The comments for the post in question start off with a declaration that this is cultural appropriation without explanation or argument. There really isn't much participation from then on beyond "hell yeah" and "no it isn't".

This isn't unique to this particular post. If the default is the assumption that cultural appropriation is happening, or that it is necessarily a bad thing, it puts those who disagree with any of that in a difficult position.

It may help if those arguing that the topic is an instance of cultural appropriation explain how it is, and why it's a problem, so that a discussion is possible if people disagree.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:03 AM on April 14, 2016 [29 favorites]


Every cultural appropriation thread is another eternal September, because we have to go through the same cultural appropriation 101 discussions again, because people can't distinguish between voluntary cultural cross-pollination and instances when a dominant culture has simple made a cash-grab for a prized and culturally specific activity.

Did I say "can't"? I mean "won't." Because there is a very definite gesture toward moving away from the specific of the case to generalities, because, in the world of generalities, we got numbers from the Arabs, which we can all agree is good.

Yes, and, to the best of my knowledge, the Arabs never treated it as a culturally unique expression that they should have exclusive ownership of. So it's a poor parallel, and I think deliberately poor.

I don't mind that there were discussion about whether yoga is cultural appropriation. That's a complication question, further complicated by the fact that yoga is a relatively modern innovation inspired by western exercises and by the fact that a small group of (largely) Indian teachers aggressively marketed yoga to the west.

That's discussing the specifics of yoga, and seems like a fair discussion. But there are people who just don't think cultural appropriation exists, and, honestly, I think they are just broadcasting their privilege. There are plenty of things we don't want appropriated -- Americans respond very badly to people pretending to be ex-military, especially when they wear unearned badges and medals, and, as Miko pointed out when this last came up, that's also cultural appropriation, or at least a parallel we can understand.

I think these threads would be improved if mods would steer them back onto track when they exit the world of specifics and start being a series of "blues would never have happened if African and Europeans didn't appropriate," and those sorts of arguments. They don't help the discussion, they distract from it, and at their core they are examples of people not wanting to have the discussion but instead wanting to be dismissive of it, rather than engaging with it.

I know the mods can't police all threads all the time, and I don't know if they would be amenable to this sort of course correction, but I would be happy to contact them when I see it happen.
posted by maxsparber at 11:10 AM on April 14, 2016 [64 favorites]


Sheesh, if nothing else thanks for the callout because it led me to the thread (which I had honestly passed over as not really something with a high enough personal-interest-to-real-life-free-time ratio) and, subsequently, all of Errant's contributions which, so far anyway, are just plain amazing and awe inspiring.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:12 AM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


There are plenty of things we don't want appropriated -- Americans respond very badly to people pretending to be ex-military, especially when they wear unearned badges and medals, and, as Miko pointed out when this last came up, that's also cultural appropriation, or at least a parallel we can understand.

Can you link to that comment? Because the military thing seems very different than cultural appropriation, since generally what's objected to is pretending that you hold a specific status (Navy SEAL, you served in Iraq and got wounded, etc) that you don't. In that case you're not appropriating a culture, you're directly lying by claiming to have done things you haven't. No one objects to non-military people using aspects of military culture in general (camo clothing, civilian organizations using faux-military styling, civilians using military terminology and concepts, etc.)

A white guy wearing a kimono, even one with a samurai family's crest, isn't actually claiming to be a samurai or a member of that clan and demanding some sort of status.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:18 AM on April 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


Because the military thing seems very different than cultural appropriation, since generally what's objected to is pretending that you hold a specific status (Navy SEAL, you served in Iraq and got wounded, etc) that you don't.

I'm not clear on how that's different. Most of the things we are talking about have specific meanings in the culture that they are from, and, when they are appropriated, they are divorced of that meaning, while the person appropriating gets the benefit of cultural association that comes with whatever they appropriated.

I mean, an Indian war bonnet is loaded with meaning, with specifics, with requirements as to who can wear it and why, and what it communicates about who wears it. Much like a military emblem, which it is.
posted by maxsparber at 11:21 AM on April 14, 2016 [25 favorites]


It may help if those arguing that the topic is an instance of cultural appropriation explain how it is, and why it's a problem, so that a discussion is possible if people disagree.

Did you read the thread? Errant did a pretty good and patient job explaining, and then got some really appalling pushback, and then remained patient in the face of a lot of nonsense, as did a number of other of MeFi users.

I didn't comment in the thread because I figured the last thing we needed was another uninformed white person making their opinions known, but I started the thread thinking "this 'rage yoga' idea is dumb but whatever" and ended it thinking "this is indeed problematic and hurtful to people and I'm not comfortable with it" because Errant (and others) did a good job of explaining "how it is, and why it's a problem". There was plenty of explanation and clear evidence and I know because I was convinced to change my mind.

Right now, as reflected in your comment, the default seems to be the assumption that something is NOT cultural appropriation and this demands that the people who are already hurt provide evidence that they are being hurt and when it happens (as in this case where, again, there was good evidence presented) you claim it's not up to your standards or whatever.

There was a lot of horrifying nonsense in that thread and also lots of MeFi users, including Indian MeFi users, being almost supernaturally patient when they shouldn't have to be. This is a very calm and reasonable MeTa asking in a polite and non-confrontational way if we can make do a bit better and the first comment is "explain yourself to me so I can debate your personal experiences every single time this comes up". You're asking people who are already in a less advantageous position to do all the work. Here 23skidoo has already done a lot of work by putting together a very reasonable MeTa (and I wouldn't blame him if this had been a lot angrier, I think it would be justified) and it starts with someone doing the very thing he's asking us to think about not doing.

Can we please, PLEASE listen and be thoughtful and compassionate when someone is clearly making a good-faith effort as 23skidoo is here and maybe not start with knee-jerk defense reactions? It's okay not to comment. The first response to this thread just proves the depressing necessity of it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:23 AM on April 14, 2016 [99 favorites]


Can you link to that comment? Because the military thing seems very different than cultural appropriation, since generally what's objected to is pretending that you hold a specific status (Navy SEAL, you served in Iraq and got wounded, etc) that you don't. In that case you're not appropriating a culture, you're directly lying by claiming to have done things you haven't. No one objects to non-military people using aspects of military culture in general (camo clothing, civilian organizations using faux-military styling, civilians using military terminology and concepts, etc.)

A white guy wearing a kimono, even one with a samurai family's crest, isn't actually claiming to be a samurai or a member of that clan and demanding some sort of status.


Hey, you're sort of doing the exact thing which is often annoying in the cultural appropriation threads, which is to derail it to talk about hypothetical examples of what may or may not be cultural appropriation.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:24 AM on April 14, 2016 [60 favorites]


isn't actually claiming to be a samurai or a member of that clan and demanding some sort of status.

Oh, I see. Yes, it's an imperfect parallel. Whites in American are the dominant culture, and they aren't so much a culture as a category of privilege, so parallels are probably going to be imperfect. But the military badges and buttons parallel is helpful because it reminds us that there are things we find special and particular and we don't like it when they are taken by people who haven't earned them and used for purposes beyond what they were intended for.
posted by maxsparber at 11:25 AM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Just to echo the knee-jerk defense thing: anyone wishing to comment in a thread like the linked one should first take a deep breath, let the first reaction subside, and realize that no, there is no outcome to this conversation that results in the police shuttering your yoga studio.

That ship has sailed so, so far beyond the horizon in the case of yoga that the least we can do is listen to people who are upset and actually try to grasp their concerns. Defensiveness just makes you look terribly silly and petty.
posted by selfnoise at 11:27 AM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


It may help if those arguing that the topic is an instance of cultural appropriation explain how it is, and why it's a problem, so that a discussion is possible if people disagree.

If you're doing this as an example of exactly what 23skidoo is talking about, then please don't.

If you're genuinely doing it because you totally didn't get what 23 skidoo was talking about, then please don't.

It's okay to just sit back and read for a little while.
posted by Etrigan at 11:27 AM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]


A white guy wearing a kimono, even one with a samurai family's crest, isn't actually claiming to be a samurai or a member of that clan and demanding some sort of status.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:18 PM on April 14 [+] [!]


So I'm not a mod or anything and I addressed your first comment and then posted before I saw this one, but I'm going to suggest that, based on these comments and threads we've had on this very website, you maybe go back and read some stuff and actually pay attention to it before commenting more because lots of people have answered questions about why this is a problem for them and instead of listening to their answers you just keep asking the same questions. If you're not willing to engage by reading what other people say, maybe stop pretending to engage by commenting? It makes the conversations about you and your unwillingness to learn anything or pay attention to what anyone else says and makes them much, much worse for everyone else.

Seriously, not to be a jerk or anything and as I say I'm not a mod, but maybe you've made your points and we don't need you to keep making them in this thread and we can talk about 23skidoo's thoughtful post instead?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:27 AM on April 14, 2016 [48 favorites]


It may help if those arguing that the topic is an instance of cultural appropriation explain how it is, and why it's a problem, so that a discussion is possible if people disagree.

It may help if white people demanding explanations of everything would take five actual minutes to educate themselves (as suggested in that very thread, google "_______ cultural appropriation") instead.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:34 AM on April 14, 2016 [23 favorites]


I think what may be resulting in this is that often discussions of cultural appropriation on the Blue, and also this MeTa post, beg the question. They assume that what's being discussed is cultural appropriation and proceed accordingly.

When stuff makes it to the Blue, it's usually because someone in the group being appropriated from has a problem with what's going on. I think your mistake is in assuming that what should happen when someone says "this is appropriating elements of my culture in offensive ways" is that we should have a debate where white people get to explain how it's all cool. That's not what should happen; our voices don't matter. It's a really really hard thing to learn (god knows it took me forever), but it's true.

Either way, that thread continued to be awful after several people explained their problems with Rage Yoga. It wasn't question begging, they laid out their reasons and people were still shitty to them, to extent of questioning their claim to the culture in the first place. There's no defending that thread. We can do better.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:37 AM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]


(This is just a regular-user observation of something I've noticed, not a mod direction of any sort.)

"Right now, as reflected in your comment, the default seems to be the assumption that something is NOT cultural appropriation"

I think the reason for this, and part of the problematic interaction around this, is that free exchange of ideas is a very fundamental value in Western culture -- and particularly American culture. So when someone says "Wait, but, not this idea, treat this one a little differently please," the response for many Westerners is a gut-level sense of wrongness. But because this openness is such a buried belief fundamental to one's worldview, it's a bit difficult to realize exactly where the reaction is coming from and why.

Once you realize that's underlying at least part of your reaction, you may or may not agree with the idea of cultural appropriation (in general or in specific cases) or that it's problematic (in general or in specific cases), but at least you can recognize that you're making a judgment based on a cultural value, rather than a fundamental truth of the universe. Other cultural values are different, and when you weigh your beliefs and make moral decisions about these sorts of things, it's really important that you recognize you are making a moral judgment among competing sets of cultural values, and not judging things against a fundamental and unchangeable and infallible measuring stick -- which I think is how people often react.

Different thread of thought, a third kind of comment I think is unhelpful in when discussing cultural appropriation is when people say "But I have the RIGHT to do X!" (Sure, you probably do!) "And therefore nobody has the right to be mad about it when I do!" (SORRY CHARLIE NOT HOW IT WORKS.) And then proceed to argue that since it's technically legal nobody can ever be mad or upset. Very tedious and unhelpful. If you're going to do the thing some people dislike or disagree with, some people are going to be upset about it, and you're not going to be able to argue your way out of them being upset with you, and definitely not by being a jerk about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:41 AM on April 14, 2016 [51 favorites]


Thanks for the post, 23skidoo.

On sensitive topics, it's really easy to get into defensive knee-jerk mode, and I think it's really important for all of us to recognize when we're doing that, and to step away for a little while, breathe, and think a bit before determining if the comment will truly contribute to the conversation. If the answer's no, then hey, good job on doing your part to keep the discourse thoughtful, civil, and focused! If the answer's yes, make sure you've gotten yourself fully out of knee-jerk mode before making your point.

The suggestion to "step away for a minute and breathe" is something that mefites far wiser than I have suggested here time and time again. It's a really good suggestion. I try to do it, though I succeed less frequently than I'd like. Most of us here have never met, so nearly all of our interactions are based on the way we treat each other through our words. The discourse is all we've got, and it matters.
posted by duffell at 11:44 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


...also, if someone says that X is hurtful, demeaning, or diminishing to them, that's a really good opportunity to listen. Don't tell them why they're wrong to feel hurt or diminished!
posted by duffell at 11:47 AM on April 14, 2016 [22 favorites]


A lot of it reads like rules-lawyering because it feels like it's easier for Bad Faith Actors to think of everyone not white (or not male) as theoretical case studies instead of actual human beings. It's horrible and exhausting.
posted by Kitteh at 11:48 AM on April 14, 2016 [35 favorites]


Also worth noting: There will be disagreement about this in the culture that's experiencing the appropriation. It's rarely cut and dried. But if you're not part of that culture, it's not really your conversation, and rooting around on the web to find somebody from that culture that is okay with the appropriation in order to defend the right to appropriate tends to feel like a bizarre mixture of tokenism and using people of a different culture as a proxy for your own argument.

I mean, it's probably worth noting that there is disagreement, but it shouldn't go beyond that. I'm a Jew, and I don't know how I feel about the weird kabbala trend that happened a few years ago, but I know that I don't want some gentile in the future to grab this comment, quote it, and say "You see, it's perfectly okay for my to wear this weird little kabbala wristband because this guy one time said he didn't know how he felt about it."
posted by maxsparber at 11:48 AM on April 14, 2016 [51 favorites]


I'd just like to chime in with thanks to folks like Errant and qcubed and Conspire and anyone else that made the effort to detail their problems with the subject, and who responded to a lot of the "but what if..." and "but I don't think..." stuff with almost superhuman patience. It can really wear someone down to have to deal with it, especially from people who have made a habit of pulling the same schtick in thread after thread.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:51 AM on April 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


I think the reason for this, and part of the problematic interaction around this, is that free exchange of ideas is a very fundamental value in Western culture -- and particularly American culture.

I would add there are a large swath of people for whom discussion is nearly always fun, challenging, and enlightening and who cannot fathom the idea that hypotheticals and generally exploring a topic with one's mouth has a real impact on other people's lives and happiness here.

Life for these people is a Philosophy 101 course for the rest of eternity - one which seems utterly exhausting to anyone actually dealing with the topic of the day in their life. I would love to see greater moderation of "what if" or "what about this scenario" type commentary in threads that impact PoC or other users consistently tapping out of threads like these.
posted by scrittore at 11:51 AM on April 14, 2016 [92 favorites]


Thank you very much for posting this meta.

There were seven mod notes from Lobstermitten in that thread when I looked this morning. Seven. Most threads don't even get one.

It floors me that even after repeated attempted explanations as to why cultural appropriation is problematic, that people were still arguing over it. Errant in particular made excellent comments.

Some of the comments towards the end of the thread from qcubed, naju, clawsoon, conspire and Etrigan among others noted that having to even make those arguments and demand respect is terribly draining and tiring and depressing. If you're reading this, please know that I (and I'm sure others) truly appreciate that you take the time in this and other threads -- even though I'm infuriated that you not only have to do so, but received so much pushback over it.
posted by zarq at 11:54 AM on April 14, 2016 [31 favorites]


Life for these people is a Philosophy 101 course for the rest of eternity - one which seems utterly exhausting to anyone actually dealing with the topic of the day in their life.

Yes. Yes yes yes. An endless series of arguments with no more or less merit than the guy wearing sunglasses in the back of the class smirking and saying "but what if we were all just brains in jars?" for the fifth time that week.
posted by griphus at 11:57 AM on April 14, 2016 [64 favorites]


I'd just like to chime in with thanks to folks like Errant and qcubed and Conspire

Yeah, seriously, cosign. I have nothing to contribute as such, as a brown person but one whose culture yoga is not a part of, but that thread gave me such a blinding headache. Wrote a lot more, deleted it.
posted by Ziggy500 at 11:58 AM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


I would like to have more nuanced conversations about cultural appropriation on the site, and I know users here have the capacity for that conversation. Thank you for these suggestions, 23skiddoo. I hope users will take them on board, and I would be happy to see mods being more directive along these lines, as well.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


An endless series of arguments with no more or less merit than the guy wearing sunglasses in the back of the class smirking and saying "but what if we were all just brains in jars?" for the fifth time that week.

Weirdly these are often the same people who are like 'If we aren't arguing then what is the point of talking?' as if they weren't the ones preventing conversation from occurring.
posted by beerperson at 12:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [28 favorites]


Yes yes yes. An endless series of arguments with no more or less merit than the guy wearing sunglasses in the back of the class smirking and

In terms of actionable outcomes of this MeTa, I feel like a quicker trigger on giving people days off for this kind of JAQing off behavior is not a big ask. I don't want to lose the people who spend their time knocking these questions down when they get tired of it, and would much rather mods stepped in and used their "I know it when I see it" skills to keep it from happening so much.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:05 PM on April 14, 2016 [25 favorites]


I don't want to lose the people who spend their time knocking these questions down when they get tired of it...

I am, frankly, terrified every time one of these types of MeTas goes up because the people who end up burning out in them are almost always the ones doing the heavy lifting in the threads that caused the MeTas in the first place and, like, who the fuck can blame them for not wanting to do it anymore?
posted by griphus at 12:07 PM on April 14, 2016 [80 favorites]


One option for people who are interested in the topic of the FPP but are part of the majority culture is to just read the FPP and the comments without adding anything themselves. I don't want to say that majority culture folks never have anything insightful to add, but the value:trash ratio on our contributions isn't as high as we probably think it is, and curbing the impulse to go "oh hey let me dish out on this topic!" can be a good one (if a difficult one) to cultivate.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:10 PM on April 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


I think the reason for this, and part of the problematic interaction around this, is that free exchange of ideas is a very fundamental value in Western culture -- and particularly American culture. So when someone says "Wait, but, not this idea, treat this one a little differently please," the response for many Westerners is a gut-level sense of wrongness. But because this openness is such a buried belief fundamental to one's worldview, it's a bit difficult to realize exactly where the reaction is coming from and why.

This hits the nail on the head. In the English-speaking West, the notion that we should 'not' be allowed to grab a certain idea, any idea, and run with it however we like, is kind of anathema. In the original thread, I referred to our "secular worship of the First Amendment", and while the subject is broader than the USA, and broader than freedom of speech, the general concept of what Eyebrows McGee calls "free exchange of ideas" is deeply embedded in our DNA.

So, when someone says, "um, that thing is important in my culture and I'd prefer you didn't", the reaction is often anomalously negative. "But WHY? I have freedom of speech and expression" and so forth.
posted by theorique at 12:14 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


In the English-speaking West, the notion that we should 'not' be allowed to grab a certain idea, any idea, and run with it however we like, is kind of anathema.

This isn't true at all, though. The English-speaking West goes absolutely apeshit over things like "Stolen Valor" (I think Eyebrows had a really good comment about this some time ago.) It's when the stuff that's being grabbed isn't considered an important part of the culture that's grabbing it that people start saying that It's All Good Because We're All Human Beings Right?
posted by griphus at 12:18 PM on April 14, 2016 [21 favorites]


So, when someone says, "um, that thing is important in my culture and I'd prefer you didn't", the reaction is often anomalously negative. "But WHY? I have freedom of speech and expression" and so forth.

I guess I'd just like people to try a little harder not to be total assbuckets tho
posted by beerperson at 12:24 PM on April 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


I'm specifically calling on people who want to participate in threads connected to cultural appropriation to consider (before commenting) if their comment is connected enough to the specific case of cultural appropriation being discussed to be worth leaving in a thread.

First, that's an incredibly thin post to have survived. It's a 540 word essay on someone who got peanut butter in her chocolate, or chocolate in her peanut butter, got mad, and liked it. Only 540 words and I found it too insipid to track. I need more than two $4 discount beers to put up with angry woo.

This said, bringing up cultural appropriation at all is sort of a derail. It wasn't a thread about discussing cultural appropriation. People made it into such a thread. The topic, so much as it was, was rage yoga. Again, 540 words.

Now, if it had been given context, history, something, maybe then a deeper discussion could be had, but honestly, there's no there there.

This seems less like cultural appropriation and more like fad stupidity. Her classes will be gone in a week. She'll move onto something new. Someone will write another 540 words about something and it'll make someone else angry.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:26 PM on April 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


Stolen valor is more of an issue of fraud and falsified credentials rather than culture: closer to lying on your resume than cultural appropriation.

As someone pointed out upthread, military people don't really care about civilians wearing camo or shemaghs or other gear/apparel that is culturally associated with the military (although they might roll their eyes). Making a "general" reference to military themes with your apparel is fine; claiming "specific" status or affiliation that you don't have is where they start getting upset.

I guess I'd just like people to try a little harder not to be total assbuckets tho

Agreed. My description is not intended as a recommendation of the way things should be. In fact, I think such reactions are unnecessary and inappropriate.
posted by theorique at 12:27 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's a 540 word essay on someone who got peanut butter in her chocolate, or chocolate in her peanut butter, got mad, and liked it.

This is an unbelievably terrible comment and you should probably apologize.
posted by beerperson at 12:29 PM on April 14, 2016 [44 favorites]


This seems less like cultural appropriation and more like fad stupidity. Her classes will be gone in a week. She'll move onto something new. Someone will write another 540 words about something and it'll make someone else angry.

Ah, yes, it's nice to see in this thread a wonderful example of a white person explaining things.
posted by qcubed at 12:30 PM on April 14, 2016 [55 favorites]


This said, bringing up cultural appropriation at all is sort of a derail. It wasn't a thread about discussing cultural appropriation. People made it into such a thread. The topic, so much as it was, was rage yoga.

That's like saying that FPPs about gun control aren't really about bullets.
posted by Etrigan at 12:30 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


This is the second time, when mentioning stolen valor, that somebody has responded by saying, oh, it's not about culture. It's about misrepresenting yourself in a way that you benefit from by making use of symbols that have specific cultural value.

I mean, come on. That's pretty much the dictionary definition of cultural appropriation, and it seems to me we're only distinguishing because of a weird sense that our things have actual value while their things don't.
posted by maxsparber at 12:30 PM on April 14, 2016 [57 favorites]


> Now, if it had been given context, history, something, maybe then a deeper discussion could be had, but honestly, there's no there there.

We have had much more in-depth posts on this topic and they have still gone horribly, because apparently even with a well-crafted post some people cannot resist going Yahbut and Well Actually and But what about hypothetical? If you haven't noticed, it's only because you haven't paid attention, not that there haven't been posts like that.
posted by rtha at 12:31 PM on April 14, 2016 [25 favorites]


Now, if it had been given context, history, something, maybe then a deeper discussion could be had, but honestly, there's no there there.

the solution is obviously to shout down the people talking about the history, because "it's just stretching"
posted by Krom Tatman at 12:32 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


As a veteran and a person who's done a MeTa about cultural appropriation that went about as badly as this one so far, I beg people to drop the Stolen Valor derail. I will literally donate $10 to the site if it stops.
posted by Etrigan at 12:32 PM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


Guys, why is this conversation continuing? cjorgensen already solved this the only way a White Man can.

This wasn't cultural appropriation. It wasn't a problem. We can pack up and go back to where we came from home.
posted by qcubed at 12:33 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


...I beg people to drop the Stolen Valor derail.

Yeah I genuinely regret bringing it up.
posted by griphus at 12:35 PM on April 14, 2016


It wasn't a thread about discussing cultural appropriation. People made it into such a thread. The topic, so much as it was, was rage yoga.

And rage yoga is cultural appropriation so yes, it was a thread about discussing cultural appropriation.

Her classes will be gone in a week. She'll move onto something new.

Except not. She has live crowdfunding that has something like tripled its goal, she's starting more nights, and there's something about selling stuff. Branded clothes or something I assume.

Now, if it had been given context, history, something, maybe then a deeper discussion could be had, but honestly, there's no there there.

So first PoC are told that they're wrong. Then they get told that they're being not nice about how they're saying they're being hurt. And now posts have to be framed exactly right in order for discussions of cultural appropriation to even happen, apparently.

Come the hell on. Us white guys have been running much of the world for quite some time now, and we have dictated the terms of where, when, and how conversation may happen for long enough. Especially given that our dictates are "somewhere else," "sometime later," and "in a way that won't upset my toxically fragile white supremacy."

This seems less like cultural appropriation

This. Right here. This is a thing that people from other cultures have asked us specifically not to do.

Making a "general" reference to military themes with your apparel is fine; claiming "specific" status or affiliation that you don't have is where they start getting upset.

And this nitpickery is another. Could you, for the sake of argument, assume that 'military' is a kind of culture? And that someone who isn't from that culture or isn't from the right bits of that culture taking its trappings to serve a purpose for themselves is, therefore, at least a kind of cultural appropriation that's being framed in terms white people might actually listen to and just move on to the listening part please.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:35 PM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


As a veteran and a person who's done a MeTa about cultural appropriation that went about as badly as this one so far, I beg people to drop the Stolen Valor derail.

Yeah, I only raised it in the first place because it was once given as an example that can sensitize people to the subject of cultural appropriation. But now I realize that anything can be rule-lawyered away.
posted by maxsparber at 12:35 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would add there are a large swath of people for whom discussion is nearly always fun, challenging, and enlightening and who cannot fathom the idea that hypotheticals and generally exploring a topic with one's mouth has a real impact on other people's lives and happiness here.

Hi. I'm one of these people, and you are right, I cannot fathom it. I don't understand it but I accept it. And that's why i don't comment in those threads.
posted by josher71 at 12:36 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


This said, bringing up cultural appropriation at all is sort of a derail. It wasn't a thread about discussing cultural appropriation. People made it into such a thread. The topic, so much as it was, was rage yoga. Again, 540 words.

The topic was Rage Yoga, but that topic is obviously connected to cultural appropriation. My suggestions for improving posts connected to cultural appropriation will help improve those threads even if the OP wasn't aware of obvious connection.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:38 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


We are not relitigating whether or not rage yoga is cultural appropriation; we are having a discussion about how to better discuss cultural appropriation in general as a community so we don't burn out and drive off our members. Jumping in to say that we shouldn't be having the discussion because the original post was dumb and not appropriative seems pretty bad faith in that context.

(Everyone else, please try to avoid taking the relitigation bait and route around people determined to drag the thread off topic.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 12:39 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


This said, bringing up cultural appropriation at all is sort of a derail. It wasn't a thread about discussing cultural appropriation. People made it into such a thread. The topic, so much as it was, was rage yoga. Again, 540 words.

This is Lindsay-Marie Istace

She is a Canadian who appropriated an actual mental, physical and spiritual discipline which originated in India to turn it into something else. The topic is about her creation, "rage yoga" which is an example of cultural appropriation.
posted by zarq at 12:39 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Or what 23skidoo said. :P

Okay, EM.
posted by zarq at 12:39 PM on April 14, 2016


Ugh this is a thread where people making a few shitty comments (seriously? Appropriation is only relevant to the topic of yoga if the connection is made explicit by a white person and is not something actually baked in to the issue?) are preventing us from having a discussion that other people might want to have. I think something similar happened in an earlier thread about sexual assault that got deleted because it was super contentious.

The thing is, these threads are contentious because some people don't want us to have them! And they have the power to prevent us from having them because they come in, make douchey nitpicking comments, and then it's a fight because people need to explain to them how they're being assholes and they keep doubling down. We end up giving these assholes the power to end conversations by turning them into fights and this means they automatically win because either they get to be douchebags or none of the rest of us get to talk about that topic.

I think maybe the solution is to focus more on shutting down the assholes? Like, people who have come into multiple threads to pick fights and thus are able to control whether we even have the discussion by making it too contentious to continue when anyone disagrees with them? I totally understand why time-outs/bans aren't necessarily the mod team's go-to move but I think maybe this is a time when the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the assholes.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:42 PM on April 14, 2016 [38 favorites]


Hi. I'm one of these people, and you are right, I cannot fathom it. I don't understand it but I accept it.

But she didn't understand
She just smiled and held my hand
Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school
But still you'll never get it right
'Cause when you're laid in bed at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you called your Dad he could stop it all


I get it. It's hard to understand. At the end of the day, after you've done all of your philosophizing, hypothesizing, and interrogating with four? five? harsh lights the PoC about whether this or that or here or there counts as bad, you can go back to whatever you're doing.

You don't have to live with the knowledge and aftereffects of someone having just spent hours gaslighting you, suggesting your reality is wrong. You don't have to live second-guessing whether you're the asshole for saying, "Whoa, there, buddy," or if you should have let this one pass because maybe the next one will be worse and really needs to be dealt with, since if you call this one out maybe some people think you're that kid with the wolves. Or maybe they already do. Who knows?

It's hard to understand when you're just a tourist.
posted by qcubed at 12:46 PM on April 14, 2016 [51 favorites]


I think part of what makes these discussions extra frustrating is that the people who are the most likely to say philosophy 101 garbage along the lines of “but can you REALLY appropriate a culture ANYWAY?” are often the same ones who staunchly defend their own hobbies/interests against any incursions of people who disagree with them in any way, or who want to adapt THEIR “mainstream” cultural practices even slightly.

The whole “my world is sacrosanct and inviolable and I will destroy you if you touch it, but that of anyone I don’t understand is mine for the taking” is part of why this is so infuriating and destructive. I mean, for goodness’ sake— the thread had some people condescendingly implying that believing anything to be sacred boils down to superstitious thoughtcrime.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:47 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


It's hard to understand when you're just a tourist.

Yep.
posted by josher71 at 12:48 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


zarq: Some of the comments towards the end of the thread from qcubed, naju, clawsoon, conspire and Etrigan among others noted that having to even make those arguments and demand respect is terribly draining and tiring and depressing.

You put me on your list, but I think you wouldn't if you read the rest of my contributions to the thread. I'm pretty sure I'm one of/the primary asshole who's being called out.

But, yes, it was stressful and exhausting and scary for me, as it obviously was for others.
posted by clawsoon at 12:49 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


In the thread, Errant said "you keep saying this is harmless, and I'm saying it's not," and the responses continued to be one about whose take on that was more objective. It's the old "overly sensitive" line. People are complaining that the thread is about appropriation, as if that's not a real thing to discuss about this, or something. It's absurd.

I'm OK with timeouts for stuff like this. People are arguing about stuff that doesn't really matter to them, just for the sake of it, and then a bunch of people respond and they dig in deeper. I don't want people to think they're being silenced for their opinions, but I think these threads turn into take-all-comers bad faith arguing for no real purpose.
posted by teponaztli at 12:50 PM on April 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


OK, I accept that SV is cultural appropriation of military culture. Sorry for derailing.

It's probably largely a matter of degree. Wearing a shemagh and talking a lot about Iraq while never having been there is going to fly under the radar; wearing a replica Medal of Honor and talking about "my fifteen years in the Teams" will get your ass kicked (and deservedly so).
posted by theorique at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2016


Dude I don't care if someone wears a medal of honor, clearly that's a totally harmless activity.
posted by teponaztli at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


I can understand the assertion that cultural appropriation can cause harm to people, but I don't understand why people seem to believe that it is only cultural appropriation if you can directly point to how it harms a person.

I have some experience with the New Age community. I have heard many an inspirational story attributed to a generic aged native American chief, whose name the person telling the story doesn't remember, and which tribe it might have came from is an unimportant detail.

Is it an actual native American story, or a story a white person made up and attributed to a native American to add gravitas to the retelling? Not usually important to the teller, the important part is the moral that the story is imparting.

If I make up a story, and attribute it to a native American chief, that's clearly cultural appropriation, right? How isn't it? But if the bar for someone being able to call it cultural appropriation is to show how they are harmed by my inspirational story, that's going to be pretty difficult to demonstrate.

I mean, it's clearly harmful in that the practice of making up such stories makes identifying the true stories of a people more difficult. Stories that are a part of tribal identity and community. Stories that differ from one tribe to another, that identify different ways of life. Stories that white people have told native Americans they shouldn't be teaching their children.

But that's not the harm that gets discussed in these types of threads. The harm seems to always be framed as 'How did this inspirational story make a person feel emotional distress? Only a wimp would take offense at an inspirational story', as if emotional distress to an individual is the only type of harm that cultural appropriation could cause.

Words have more power than just the ability to make a person feel bad.
posted by Quonab at 12:53 PM on April 14, 2016 [25 favorites]


I don't think "some people deserve to get their ass kicked" is a place where this MeTa needs to go.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:53 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


but i have a list all ready
posted by beerperson at 12:54 PM on April 14, 2016 [38 favorites]


we have to go through the same cultural appropriation 101 discussions again

Yes, I think it's reasonable to have to do this, and to go to the trouble to do it. Maybe just link to some kind of document explaining it well _and_ explaining -- through stories or some other form with emotional resonance -- why people feel so strongly about it. If those documents don't exist, then they need to be created.

It's reasonable for lots of people to need a precise, clear, basic explanation of these kinds of issues and why people are upset about various things. Not everyone has the same background, and the kind of education that allows people to understand the various complex feelings, social phenomena, and histories that underlie the idea of "cultural appropriation" is not a given. I'd bet that 90% of the people with whom I graduated college (a reputable state college with competitive admissions) have no clue that cultural appropriation is a thing, or that it is bad -- and this includes the people I met in the college theater. A lot of them have had Internet and web related jobs, too.

This kind of cultural issue is incredibly important. People who have the good fortune to be educated about cultural issues and communication would be doing a great service to be a bit more generous and patient with explanations.
posted by amtho at 12:54 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying that any individual is obligated to explain everything all the time, just that the _need_ for explanations is understandable, and not indicative of horribleness on the part of the clueless.
posted by amtho at 12:57 PM on April 14, 2016


here you go

glad to be doing "a great service"
posted by Krom Tatman at 12:57 PM on April 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


"Naturally, you can take any comment personally but why would you?" from the original thread. It's this; the idea that nothing about this discussion could possibly be hurtful and if you think so, you just can't hang. Discussing forever why it's not actually so bad, or it is bad but it doesn't really matter and we should just laugh it off, why would that hurt anyone's feelings?

I wish that I could find the Ask where someone mentions in an answer that in order to get her boyfriend to stop doing a hurtful thing and break the loop of "well, why should you get all bent out of shape about x?" was that finally she asked him "why does it matter except that you're hurting me?"

The emotional labor thread wasn't this much of a dumpster fire at least in part because there are so many women on MeFi. There are so few PoC that I think moderation is just going to have to pick up the slack and not let people dogpile on whoever's willing to patiently say over and over "this is hurting me, please stop".
posted by hollyholly at 12:59 PM on April 14, 2016 [26 favorites]


Well, here's a seemingly good article that took about 4 seconds and Google to find:

Everyday Feminism: What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation?
posted by duffell at 12:59 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


People who have the good fortune to be educated about cultural issues and communication would be doing a great service to be a bit more generous and patient with explanations.

#13
posted by Etrigan at 1:00 PM on April 14, 2016 [33 favorites]


It's an undeniable problem that the people who would benefit most from education on matters like this outnumber (often vastly) the people who don't. That's part of the nature of the majority group/minority group dynamic.

My proposition, though, would be that we work toward developing an ethic where people accept more of the responsibility of this learning for themselves, rather than veering toward the "this is new to me so I demand you prove it" type of response that crops up frequently in these threads.

Also, if you find yourself stepping into a conversation where you overestimated your ability to knowledgeably participate, you can just leave it and shut the fuck up and start reading without continuing to participate and making it harder on other people.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:00 PM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


It may help if those arguing that the topic is an instance of cultural appropriation explain how it is, and why it's a problem, so that a discussion is possible if people disagree.

As someone who was called out as being one of the "worst" commentors in the linked thread, I'd like to say that I don't think it's necessary to justify "why" something is a cultural appropriation -- that should be obvious, especially if cultural appropriation is defined as "people who are not from a culture are using something from that culture, especially in a way that is different from the traditional use."

The question that I think needs space to be discussed respectfully is the question of whether a given cultural appropriation is something that we as a society should encourage or discourage. Part of that answer comes from the real effects that an appropriation has on people of the culture being appropriated. The best authority on that is obviously those people themselves and when they choose to share those effects, they should be listened to.

But I don't think that the discussion can end with "one person who practices X doesn't want anyone to do X in this particular way because of Y harm." At least because then you wind up with fights about "well, my PoC #1 says it's ok so your PoC #2 must be oversensitive." And maybe also because there's a way in which the benefits to the appropriating culture can be achieved while minimizing (or, preferably eliminating) the harms that the appropriated culture will suffer, and prematurely shutting down discussion prevents finding a new way forward.

So -- from my point of view, comments like "this is bullshit cultural appropriation" are as unhelpful, and potentially wrong, as comments like "this is harmless" (I'll admit to making the later statement). And while cultural appropriation can happen as a result of privilege on the part of the appropriating class, the appropriations in an of themselves are not necessarily racist.

And finally, I think that because the majority of Metafilter users are white, American, and liberal, it's possible to forget that navigating this appropriation business can be a little tricky for people who aren't white and aren't American but are also not of the culture being appropriated. When you're not of the dominant culture, almost every cultural interaction you have is an appropriation, so black-and-white rules like "this practice is not something I was raised with, so maybe I should be careful with how I use it" are overwhelming to the point of uselessness. Or when part of the harm caused by an appropriation stems from how people of Western descent historically fucked over the culture being appropriated from, it's easier to see how someone of Western descent should tread carefully when appropriating, than when that history isn't part of your background (even if you might be benefiting the results of the history now). Chiding members of a non-dominant culture for "not caring" about how other cultures feel, or lecturing people of non-dominant cultures about how you have personally seen racism/sexism/etc affect a given person aren't particularly persuasive argument and I hope they can be avoided when the subject comes up in the future.

And, since it's not easy to figure out the background of the person you're speaking with online, I'd argue that arguments that stem from "you are being dismissive of other cultures," or "your problem is that you don't understand how racism feels" are universally unhelpful.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


Thank you for this post, 23skidoo.

I would really like to see more mod action around these items, in particular deleting the "type 1" comments and responses to them, because it is pretty much always a derail, and is not conducive to good-faith discussion, as we've witnessed in this very thread. I wish we could be relied upon to handle this as a community without mod intervention, but I don't believe that we are.
posted by capricorn at 1:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yes, I've Googled it before. I guess what I was leaning toward was a hope that good links like that would be included with contentious topics/posts to encourage the uninformed to get a little context before they start responding and commenting. Just having something like that at the top of a post might help people reflect a little before they assume that "angry yoga" is the same thing as "zero".

Of course I realize that it's seemingly trivial for a responder to look up info him/her/themselves, but often we don't realize what we don't know (see: Dunning-Kruger, one of my favorite described effects), or that this kind of information even exists. Even having a link in front of one might make a difference.
posted by amtho at 1:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd bet that 90% of the people with whom I graduated college (a reputable state college with competitive admissions) have no clue that cultural appropriation is a thing, or that it is bad -- and this includes the people I met in the college theater.

Same here. If I ever mention CA in my social circle, most of the time the response is "well, everything's a melting pot, right", or "I bet they're happy that their culture is getting more popular" or "people are so sensitive and PC now". And most of these people have at least a BA degree; many also have advanced degrees.

We can't underestimate how ignorant and/or indifferent the vast majority of people are to issues such as this, even educated people. And the responsibility should not land only on people of colour to start conversations about such things, for reasons that were well-elucidated in the original thread and here.
posted by theorique at 1:05 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Even having a link in front of one might make a difference.

prior experience makes me extremely skeptical of this hope
posted by Krom Tatman at 1:06 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


Yes, I think it's reasonable to have to do this, and to go to the trouble to do it. Maybe just link to some kind of document explaining it well _and_ explaining -- through stories or some other form with emotional resonance -- why people feel so strongly about it. If those documents don't exist, then they need to be created.

Okay. Sooooooooo after all of the emotional labor expended on explaining it in the first place and having to wade through the shit, I suppose we could spend even more and type up a nice little PDF document to share around. It seemed to go so well for the EL thread.

I wonder how many MeFi PoC would be willing to invest time in this, particularly because it's likely that the PDF would get pretty long, peoples' privacy would have to be respected, and, yeah. Forgot this bit. There will still be a lotta people who want to give white hot takes about something only being 540 words and thus not even a real issue, or arguing that maybe it's not cultural appropriation after all, because they're not going to bother reading a primer because it's so boring.
posted by qcubed at 1:10 PM on April 14, 2016 [27 favorites]


In every MeTa thread I've seen where people are saying "some folks just don't understand what appropriation is," it was in reference to a thread in which a bunch of people explicitly stated what appropriation is a bunch of times. There's plenty of 101-level stuff, it's just that people are saying why that's wrong and the real issue is being oversensitive, or something.
posted by teponaztli at 1:11 PM on April 14, 2016 [32 favorites]


So -- from my point of view, comments like "this is bullshit cultural appropriation" are as unhelpful, and potentially wrong, as comments like "this is harmless"

Typically, the former statement is an example of punching up while the latter is punching down. And therefore not equivalent.

And while cultural appropriation can happen as a result of privilege on the part of the appropriating class, the appropriations in an of themselves are not necessarily racist.

I'm not sure this is the case? If a group were to appropriate some aspect of my Jewish heritage and twist it for their own purposes, (such as Mormons holding Christian Passover seders,) then I would feel quite comfortable saying they're being antisemitic.
posted by zarq at 1:12 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


At least because then you wind up with fights about "well, my PoC #1 says it's ok so your PoC #2 must be oversensitive."

but what if someone's "my POC" is their own experience as a POC *mindblown*
posted by tonycpsu at 1:12 PM on April 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


When you're not of the dominant culture, almost every cultural interaction you have is an appropriation

that's not what appropriation means.
posted by Krom Tatman at 1:13 PM on April 14, 2016 [22 favorites]


A link to Conspire's MeTa in cultural appropriation threads might not help, but it wouldn't hurt.
posted by clawsoon at 1:15 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


1. I posted the Rage Yoga item.
2. I made the incredibly thoughtless (not that I realized it at the time) comment about "Naturally, you can take any comment personally but why would you?"
3. As the shit storm developed I tried to lay low, listen, and learn. I would never, ever have posted that link had I understood that it was hurtful to members because of reasons obvious to them but not to me.
4. The reason why the emotional labor thread was so successful (for me, as a woman) was because whenever clueless people, usually men, would wander in and make a clueless comment, those folks would be instructed to either shut up or go away, it wasn't about or for them. Which reminds me of this comment from the Rage Yoga thread: "I'd have been interested in reading a thread on this topic where the only commenters were people of color." Yeah, me, too. Truly. But as the white, clueless OP, I didn't frame in a useful way. But finally, I'll quote someone else who posted above (thanks, Mrs. P) because this was my experience as well:

I started the thread thinking "this 'rage yoga' idea is dumb but whatever" and ended it thinking "this is indeed problematic and hurtful to people and I'm not comfortable with it" because Errant (and others) did a good job of explaining "how it is, and why it's a problem". There was plenty of explanation and clear evidence and I know because I was convinced to change my mind.

I deeply regret posting that link; I deeply regret posting hurtful comments; and I'm sorry that my education came at the expense of many valuable members of our community.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:16 PM on April 14, 2016 [89 favorites]


I wonder how many MeFi PoC would be willing to invest time in this, particularly because it's likely that the PDF would get pretty long...

You do not argue with them, try to convince them otherwise, ridicule their statement, explain that they don't understand the intentions behind the thing, nor do you try to figure it out or solve it for them.

That's pretty good.
posted by Etrigan at 1:18 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


> I guess what I was leaning toward was a hope that good links like that would be included with contentious topics/posts to encourage the uninformed to get a little context before they start responding and commenting.

The thing is, is uninformed people comment and respond even after there have been comments and links from other mefites about context and so on. The people who do this don't think they're uninformed: they think they are correct, and that people who disagree are too sensitive or have too many feelings to be rational or some damn thing like that.

Also, like I said in that fpp, it is really fucking boring to always have to argue from first principles. Some people insist that a thread isn't worth anything unless there are two sides fighting it out, but it's really fucking boring to have the same fight all the time. We pretty much never get to have a nuanced or actually interesting conversation about topics like this because someone always insists on needing their goddamn hand held and they won't stop talking long enough to listen.
posted by rtha at 1:20 PM on April 14, 2016 [42 favorites]


A link to Conspire's MeTa in cultural appropriation threads might not help, but it wouldn't hurt.

Funny thing is, I've started to do that but I'm often not the first one there, and maybe I should be more direct about it, like so:
Hey! It looks like you're about to comment on a thread about cultural appropriation.

Would you like to consider things first?

- Sure, show me a 101.
- Sure, show me how things have gone in the past.
- Ah fuck it, these people need my very white hot take right now.
posted by qcubed at 1:24 PM on April 14, 2016 [37 favorites]


amtho: People who have the good fortune to be educated about cultural issues and communication would be doing a great service to be a bit more generous and patient with explanations.

Even more? Honestly, some people here have already given so much of themselves, I wouldn't dare to go and suggest that they should be 'a bit more generous and patient'.
This kind of stuff hurts if it's about you and your life. And that makes it fucking hard work and/or tiresome.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:27 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


The thing is, is uninformed people comment and respond even after there have been comments and links from other mefites about context and so on.

We also get a lot of the same "uninformed" people over and over again, meaning one of three things:

1) They are incapable of learning or reflecting on their actions.
2) They are unwilling to learn or reflect upon their actions.
3) They know damn well what they are doing and keep doing it anyway.

No matter which option it is, some people have had LOTS of chances and been explained to and reasoned with and linked to previous discussions and NOTHING CHANGES. There comes a point where it doesn't really matter whether the intent is malicious or not (and I think it often is but, again, it doesn't matter) because the effect is to exhaust people and burn them out and end conversations. I know banning people feels like a big consequence but not banning people has consequences too.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:27 PM on April 14, 2016 [33 favorites]


Yeah, I don't know that I agree with the assumption that people in these threads just need to be educated about cultural appropriation. I'm sure there are a few, and they may be open to such discussions, and I feel like I recognize there is some of this in the same way that there will always be new people in threads about feminism or free speech or whatever who are just not educated and so have pretty knee-jerk, unnuanced viewpoints. I try to remember that this is a generalist web site, and there are always new people, and so I try to take some of the responsibility for detailing ideas when people are obviously new to them. I mean, they can choose not to agree, but they should at least know what they are disagreeing with rather than a phantom of imagined bullet points.

But there are people who just want to shut down some discussions. There are certainly people on MetaFilter who just don't believe that cultural appropriation is a thing, and, you know, god bless their little hearts, we certainly don't have any real power to make appropriation stop, except to shake our heads when we see them promoting Blueshammer as authentic Delta blues.

And there are things I just don't agree with, and I'm probably just as wrong. But I don't go into threads about subjects that disinterest me and drop the same half-dozen tired arguments about something not even existing. I think we can do with less of that. If you don't believe cultural imperialism exists, if you think all culture is appropriated and the world is better for it and some people are just too sensitive, I mean, is it possible just to stay out of threads about the topic?
posted by maxsparber at 1:29 PM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


a lot of commenters seem to want to 1) try to discount the specifics ways that the specific example of cultural appropriation in the post is harmful by comparing it to some OTHER form of cultural appropriation

I see nothing wrong with that at all. When something is attacked as "cultural appropriation," why isn't it completely appropriate to compare that thing to other examples? That seems like a perfectly rational way to try to inquire into what our real principles should be — where we really want to draw the line in condemning certain practices as "cultural appropriation" (scare quotes intended).
posted by John Cohen at 1:31 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Don't forget that if you notice someone engaging in the same misbehavior over and over in the same sorts of threads, you can hit the contact form to let the mods know. Sometimes in the heat of keeping up with fire-starting comments as they get made, you remember the jerky comments but it's easy to forget who made them by the time the next thread on the same topic comes up.

There's a real tension between moment-to-moment moderating of comments, and longer-term moderating of the site, including being aware of personalities and trends. Sometimes the former than overwhelm the latter, especially when we're devoting so much energy and attention to things like the election threads, and it can be helpful to let us know if you've noticed a trend that may have slipped by us.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:33 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is it not just as rational to idk listen to the people who are being harmed and who are talking about where lines need to be drawn

man if only this thread were utterly boringly tiresomely predictable
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:34 PM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


(scare quotes intended)

Why?
posted by griphus at 1:35 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]




"why isn't it completely appropriate to compare that thing to other examples? That seems like a perfectly rational way to try to inquire into what our real principles should be — where we really want to draw the line in condemning certain practices as "cultural appropriation" "

Because not every thread is a Philosophy 101 thread where we're "inquir[ing] into our real principles" and forcing every thread to be that is a common form of derailing, as several commenters in this very thread have pointed out. That's insisting that every single thread that even glancingly mentions cultural appropriation be exactly the same conversation, over and over, and that's boring.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:35 PM on April 14, 2016 [50 favorites]


"why isn't it completely appropriate to compare that thing to other examples? That seems like a perfectly rational way to try to inquire into what our real principles should be — where we really want to draw the line in condemning certain practices as "cultural appropriation" "

Please see my comments above.
posted by josher71 at 1:38 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I mean, John Cohen, you're doing the very thing that sucks! You're turning this into some abstract discussion as though real people don't feel real pain every day because of this shit.

Well, as Etrigan said in the linked thread: "It may be a philosophical debate for you, but they're not your professor."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:38 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


Also, that scare quotes intended bit, I'm going to paraphrase something I posted before:
For me to assume good faith, I'd have to not hear the sarcastic air quotes you put around micro-aggressions cultural appropriation.

In case I'm not being perfectly, unambiguously clear: when you put quotes around a concept like micro-aggressions cultural appropriation, which is something PoC and minorities everywhere encounter frequently, you're dismissing it as if it's not a real thing. That's what quote marks do. When a döner place pimps its "real" meat, you're not sure it's actually real meat. When someone says they're a "legitimate" businessman, you're going to assume that they're not legitimate at all.

So when you say "micro-agressions cultural appropriation", you're clearly saying you don't think it's a thing.

And that means I don't think you're asking in good faith.
posted by qcubed at 1:38 PM on April 14, 2016 [47 favorites]


That seems like a perfectly rational way to try to inquire into what our real principles should be

beep boop
posted by beerperson at 1:39 PM on April 14, 2016 [31 favorites]


why isn't it completely appropriate to compare that thing to other examples?

Because roughly 97.8% of the time, the person bringing up the comparison is basically presenting their (usually white) hot-as-fuck take on:

A. The non-white culture whose appropriation is being discussed.
B. The non-white cultures that underlie the comparisons.
C. The idea of cultural appropriation.
D. All of the above.

The other 2.2% of the time, when it's actually appropriate and not ridiculous, it's a pissed off member of the culture whose appropriation is being discussed, earnestly trying to make people understand why they're so angry, and then it spirals out of control because people want to rules-lawyer everything to death. See the Stolen Valor derail in this very thread.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:40 PM on April 14, 2016 [26 favorites]


Don't forget that if you notice someone engaging in the same misbehavior over and over in the same sorts of threads, you can hit the contact form to let the mods know.

Eyebrows, my only concern with doing that (which might just be related to my own irrational anxieties) is that I end up feeling like I'm just saying "that person I don't like is doing that thing I don't like again," and that it's my problem, not the site's. Er, in other words, that I worry that my objections are somehow unreasonable and I'm wasting the mod team's time.

That said, I've definitely seen comments and thought "oh, it's that person again." Is the idea that we can point that out in case it was missed, and then you all can nip it in the bud? Sorry, this is just an aspect of moderation here that I haven't quite wrapped my head around. But yeah, since the framing of this MeTa was about how to address this kind of stuff going forward, I'm all for more mod intervention.
posted by teponaztli at 1:43 PM on April 14, 2016


Oh, ha, I see, re: John Cohen.

Never fucking mind, you're definitely not asking in good faith.

You're proud enough of that fuckery to put it in your profile.
posted by qcubed at 1:44 PM on April 14, 2016 [36 favorites]


The other 2.2% of the time, when it's actually appropriate and not ridiculous, it's a pissed off member of the culture whose appropriation is being discussed, earnestly trying to make people understand why they're so angry, and then it spirals out of control because people want to rules-lawyer everything to death. See the Stolen Valor derail in this very thread.

Or my stupid Christianity analogy, which was wildly imperfect and which I desperately wish I hadn't made, because then the conversation broke down into "oh, so you're saying this is a religious thing? well fuck religion and fuck you" or "actually, that is a real thing that happens, and yeah it makes people upset", which, ok, so why are you arguing with me then?
posted by Errant at 1:48 PM on April 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


Eyebrows, my only concern with doing that (which might just be related to my own irrational anxieties) is that I end up feeling like I'm just saying "that person I don't like is doing that thing I don't like again," and that it's my problem, not the site's. Er, in other words, that I worry that my objections are somehow unreasonable and I'm wasting the mod team's time.

That said, I've definitely seen comments and thought "oh, it's that person again." Is the idea that we can point that out in case it was missed, and then you all can nip it in the bud? Sorry, this is just an aspect of moderation here that I haven't quite wrapped my head around. But yeah, since the framing of this MeTa was about how to address this kind of stuff going forward, I'm all for more mod intervention.


If it helps, think of flagging and sending "this bothers me" notices to the mods as asking them to give you a second, experienced opinion. The mods will never act blindly simply because you've asked them to. They will assess the situation themselves, and decide whether action is needed.
posted by zarq at 1:52 PM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, it's not that I was thinking they'd just do whatever I asked, but it does help to think of it as looking for a second, experienced opinion. Thanks, zarq.
posted by teponaztli at 1:55 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


"I end up feeling like I'm just saying "that person I don't like is doing that thing I don't like again," and that it's my problem, not the site's. Er, in other words, that I worry that my objections are somehow unreasonable and I'm wasting the mod team's time."

Not a waste of our time! If it is on your end we'll probably be like, "Yeah, I know it's frustrating but you probably need to deal with it or avoid those threads." Most of the time though we'll probably be like, "Thanks for letting us know, we'll keep an eye on it," and then do so. Plus sometimes people contact us to be like "GRAR THAT GUY IS DOING THAT THING I HATE" and just being able to vent about it lets them not get in a fight in-thread, which is also a good outcome from our point of view.

Things that are obvious to you as a user are not always obvious to us as mods (I have noticed in the last four months!) because you have six intense threads you're keeping up with at once, so you tend not to get as emotionally invested in any single thread as when you're a reader, and you lose the thread of the conversation more often. And of course we're handing off moderation a couple times a day over the course of several days on a very contentious thread that keeps going and going. So things that stick out to users who are participating in the thread with more continuity sometimes don't stick out to us. And sometimes the immediate fire-fighting means we're not paying a lot of attention to the arson problem because there's no break between fires. So if you notice the same sort of dynamic playing out over and over again, definitely call our attention to it rather than assuming we've noticed it but are choosing not to act on it.

(Just the other day I said to the other mods, "Argh, that person is doing that thing again in a thread of personal interest to me," and the other mods were like, "Oh, does that happen a lot with that person?" because it was not a topic that tended to get a lot of flags or was of enough interest to other mods that they'd paid attention to the way a couple people frequently derailed the topic. To me it was glaringly obvious but to someone who doesn't devotedly read those threads, it doesn't stand out.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:55 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


No prob!
posted by zarq at 1:56 PM on April 14, 2016


For me, tone changed meaning. When I read "explicit and unapologetic racist", it translated to "she's just like someone leading a lynch mob and her life should be destroyed." To me it said that she's not just a thoughtless and privileged racist, but someone who we should expect to make tweets about lighting brown people on fire, or carry out a mass shooting at a minority church.

By the time I got my defensiveness down enough to ask for clarification, it was too late, and my clarification comment was worded poorly enough to be deleted.

One useful outcome for me so far is realizing that my experience of racism is primarily via television and documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement. I hear "racist" and think "dragging bodies behind a car." People who experience racism every day are, I'm guessing, more likely to hear "racist" and think "what I experience every day."

BTW, if you see a comment of mine and think "oh, that person again", feel free to MeMail me. You don't have to, obviously, but I'd appreciate it.

Errant: Or my stupid Christianity analogy, which was wildly imperfect and which I desperately wish I hadn't made

Yeah. I got defensive, and then thought, "That's a huge hole in what he's saying, let's drive a truck through it to make this less scary!"
posted by clawsoon at 1:57 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry that my education came at the expense of many valuable members of our community.

You learned, and we all muddle forward together. It's okay and very big of you to post in here. Errant, qcubed, 23skidoo and Conspire (and people I am probably forgetting) thanks for helping us learn as well.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:59 PM on April 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


Errant: Or my stupid Christianity analogy, which was wildly imperfect and which I desperately wish I hadn't made

I'll admit that the Christianity analogy was part of what my goat up as well, because it came from someone who seemed very upset (however justifiably) about people being ignorant of his culture who had no problem spouting ignorance about other cultures.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:09 PM on April 14, 2016


Um, Jessamyn, I adore you. But it's not "very big" of me to post in here. It was very big and very brave of Errant, cubed, 23skidoo, Conspire, and other folks to do the heavy lifting on the Rage Yoga consciousness-raising front and of 23skidoo to start this MeTa. Thanks to all plus anyone I left out.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:13 PM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


very upset (however justifiably) about people being ignorant of his culture who had no problem spouting ignorance about other cultures.

Again, punching up vs punching down.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:15 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter is such a strange place when even jessamyn of all people, who has done more than anyone else to help build this community, gets her nose swatted with a rolled up newspaper in a drive-by MetaTalk comment. It really does signal how this community has gone from being inclusive to exclusive and sanctimonious.
posted by My Dad at 2:18 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Nose swatted? By someone saying "don't thank me, I was clueless"? The person who posted the FPP we're all discussing here is a 'drive by'?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:21 PM on April 14, 2016 [43 favorites]


I read pretty much nothing of what you're seeing into that comment, My Dad. For that matter, I don't see it in the site culture, either.
posted by sagc at 2:21 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


gets her nose swatted with a rolled up newspaper in a drive-by MetaTalk comment.

Ah, I see we're in the "let's just invent things that didn't happen" phase of the Contentious MeTa of the Month.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:22 PM on April 14, 2016 [43 favorites]


It really does signal how this community has gone from being inclusive to exclusive and sanctimonious.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
posted by qcubed at 2:22 PM on April 14, 2016 [26 favorites]


So -- from my point of view, comments like "this is bullshit cultural appropriation" are as unhelpful, and potentially wrong, as comments like "this is harmless" (I'll admit to making the later statement). And while cultural appropriation can happen as a result of privilege on the part of the appropriating class, the appropriations in an of themselves are not necessarily racist.

I really don't think that comments like "this is bullshit cultural appropriation" are unhelpful, I think the exact opposite: comments like that are a helpful reminder to the mostly-white Metafilter audience that things they didn't even consider to be harmful could actually be harmful; that things that they might not even have considered cultural appropriation are cultural appropriation. I don't really see a comment like "this is bullshit cultural appropriation" as anything other than calling out the specific instance of cultural appropriation as bullshit.

And that ties directly back to the reason I made this MeTa: that by cutting out the two types of comments I listed in the MeTa, we can better focus our conversations connected to cultural appropriation and improve Metafilter. It's easy to get distracted and try and make the conversation about cultural appropriation in general, which doesn't really work. When you make this about the vague general concept of "cultural appropriation", it makes it harder for voices like Errant to explain all the ways in which the specific instance of cultural appropriation of Rage Yoga is harmful.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:22 PM on April 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


I don't feel swatted, there are lots of ways to look at things.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:26 PM on April 14, 2016 [20 favorites]


It really does signal how this community has gone from being inclusive to exclusive and sanctimonious.
posted by My Dad at 16:18 on April 14


You're not my dad.
posted by beerperson at 2:29 PM on April 14, 2016 [23 favorites]


I expect Bella Donna will by shortly to correct that incredibly shitty 'splaining, but it's great as an illustration of the actual problem here.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:30 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Don't forget that if you notice someone engaging in the same misbehavior over and over in the same sorts of threads, you can hit the contact form to let the mods know.

I'm totally going to start doing this. Where is the contact form?
posted by 23skidoo at 2:31 PM on April 14, 2016


Bottom right of every page.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:31 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bottom right hand corner, "Contact Us"
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 2:31 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


that doesn't really solve the problem of people who are clearly familiar with the community are leaving shitty contextless drivebys under BNDs
posted by Krom Tatman at 2:35 PM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


Which "incredibly shitty 'spraining", zombieflanders? I believe there may be more than one example so I need you to be more specific, and no, I'm not joking.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:37 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


re: Christian analogy
Again, punching up vs punching down.

If the analogy had landed, I could see how it was punching up. But it seems like ignorance == ignorance to me. Like, there are zero reasons why Errant should care to know, or be expected to know anything about Christianity. But in the context of a comment about how harmful ignorance of your religious is, it seems hypocritical to pontificate (pun-intended) inaccurately about how other religions work.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:37 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bottom right hand corner, "Contact Us"

Three minutes later.....
posted by zarq at 2:37 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


I meant My Dad's characterization of your comment as a swipe at jessamyn, Bella Donna.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:39 PM on April 14, 2016


Since you didn't address that analogy in your comments at any point in that thread, and since you've now called me ignorant twice in a few minutes, I wonder if you'd care to expound on what precisely you have an issue with.
posted by Errant at 2:41 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


If the analogy had landed, I could see how it was punching up. But it seems like ignorance == ignorance to me. Like, there are zero reasons why Errant should care to know, or be expected to know anything about Christianity. But in the context of a comment about how harmful ignorance of your religious is, it seems hypocritical to pontificate (pun-intended) inaccurately about how other religions work.

Didn't we all agree that the comparison was bad in the first place? Do we really need to continue to argue this?
posted by qcubed at 2:43 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


i mean seriously Errant even said it was bad so maybe just drop it sparklemotion? This isn't some tu quoque shit that needs to be justified or anything.
posted by qcubed at 2:44 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


I didn't mean it as a swipe at jessamyn. I appreciate her supportive comment. At the same time, it's embarrassing to get credit for merely showing up to acknowledge my cluelessness. So I was trying, perhaps awkwardly, to redirect the kudos to the people who actually deserve them.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:44 PM on April 14, 2016 [26 favorites]


And yes, she had given them a shout out as well, but yeah, anyway, that's the story.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:45 PM on April 14, 2016


Well, if nothing else, MeTas like this are helpful in keeping my graylist updated as jagoffs reappear under BND accounts.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:46 PM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


Which is how it landed to me, Bella Donna. An acknowledgement that learning is hard, but teaching is harder.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:46 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Which, I mean, is completely understandable to everyone except My Dad, it seems.

I never liked my dad, anyway. Deadbeat SOB.
posted by qcubed at 2:47 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


Is it ever better for white people to "discuss" appropriation instead of keeping our traps shut and listening?

Based on experience, I don't think so.
posted by Tevin at 2:47 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


I thought the point was that the comparison was a distraction, because it allowed everyone to focus on religion to the exclusion of culture. I didn't think the problem was the comparison revealed any ignorance of mainstream Christian norms and what most orthodox Christians would find offensive. I'd also be interested to know where the inaccuracy is.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:47 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


But in the context of a comment about how harmful ignorance of your religious is, it seems hypocritical to pontificate (pun-intended) inaccurately about how other religions work.

Eeeeeeeexceeeeeeppppt.... when you're punching up at the dominant culture!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:51 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'd also be interested to know where the inaccuracy is.

Not me. Based on the original post and this MeTa, I'd call that a derail and I'd beg us to stay far away from that discussion.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:52 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


This seems to me to be agenda-posting, and that never goes well on Metafilter. Those in favor of the agenda get frustrated because other people don't fall in line and join the cause, and those not in favor get annoyed at getting preached to.

As soon as I saw the plural on "cultural appropriation threads" I started moaning. This may be one of those subjects (like IP and gender identity) that we simply cannot do reasonably.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:53 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


Eeeeeeeexceeeeeeppppt.... when you're punching up at the dominant culture!

Exactly. Christians definitely aren't a minority in the US.
posted by zarq at 2:54 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


and those not in favor get annoyed at getting preached to

Assuming arguendo that it is in fact preaching, and that the posters are coming in with an agenda...

If I'm sitting at a bus stop and someone walks up to me and starts preaching, it sucks, because I need to wait for the bus. If someone's preaching in a MetaFilter thread, I can close the tab and go on with my life.

Nobody's forcing people to stick around and hear things that offend their delicate sensibilities.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:56 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


We've got "irrational," "illogical," and now "unreasonable." Can "hysterical" and "bitchy" be far behind?
posted by zombieflanders at 2:57 PM on April 14, 2016 [28 favorites]


This seems to me to be agenda-posting, and that never goes well on Metafilter. Those in favor of the agenda get frustrated because other people don't fall in line and join the cause, and those not in favor get annoyed at getting preached to.

As soon as I saw the plural on "cultural appropriation threads" I started moaning. This may be one of those subjects (like IP and gender identity) that we simply cannot do reasonably.


I think it's going well so far. I'm not frustrated, as there have already been people who've popped in to say that they've gained some understanding. I expect we'll see a handful more.

If anyone feels preached to, they are welcome to try and explain to me (and everyone else here) why my suggestion of cutting out those two types of comments would NOT improve threads connected to cultural appropriation. I've yet to hear anyone try to tackle that, but as I said in my MeTa, "if you'd like to explain their benefit, please go for it."

If you started moaning as soon as you read "cultural appropriation", maybe you should stay away from discussions about it. This one is going okay so far.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:59 PM on April 14, 2016 [26 favorites]


We've got "irrational," "illogical," and now "unreasonable." Can "hysterical" and "bitchy" be far behind?

I dunno, Errant and I (I believe) are male, and while Asian men do tend to be emasculated in stereotypes, those insults tend to be quite gendered.
posted by qcubed at 2:59 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


This seems to me to be agenda-posting

eyeroll.gif

asking for some basic respect is an agenda that the entire human race needs to subscribe to
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:02 PM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


Since you didn't address that analogy in your comments at any point in that thread, and since you've now called me ignorant twice in a few minutes, I wonder if you'd care to expound on what precisely you have an issue with.

To be fair, I did, in a comment that was deleted. I mentioned it here just to nth 23skidoo's point that arguing by analogy when discussing cultural appropriation is not an effective strategy. At best, you're moving the conversation away from the topic at hand, at worst, you start a derail about how shitty the analogy was.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


This seems to me to be agenda-posting, and that never goes well on Metafilter. Those in favor of the agenda get frustrated because other people don't fall in line and join the cause, and those not in favor get annoyed at getting preached to.

This is a great example of the kind of thread that you could totally skip without stopping to comment in! It's sort of one of those "sometimes it's best to keep my mouth shut and have people think i might be an asshole than open it and remove all doubt about it" moments, maybe.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [28 favorites]


I think cutting back on comments of Type 1 and Type 2 would help improve threads concerning cultural appropriation, and I can't see any downside to not leaving comments like these

I agree.
posted by wintersweet at 3:05 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


At best, you're moving the conversation away from the topic at hand, at worst, you start a derail about how shitty the analogy was.

Or--and bear with me here, this may be a novel concept--you can maybe not start that derail and blame it on someone taking time out of their lives to explain how awful what you're saying is?
posted by zombieflanders at 3:06 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]




I mentioned it here just to nth 23skidoo's point that arguing by analogy when discussing cultural appropriation is not an effective strategy. At best, you're moving the conversation away from the topic at hand, at worst, you start a derail about how shitty the analogy was.

Okay. That point has been made. Can we let that particular example die the death it deserves instead of waiting outside its tomb?
posted by qcubed at 3:08 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


They assume that what's being discussed is cultural appropriation and proceed accordingly.

Sangermaine is correct. The philosophy-as-sport fan in me very much wanted to suggest to people that nothing fruitful was going to happen until there was some definition of terms (a bit of a hobby horse for me, I admit), but I very much didn't want to get drawn into the emergent argument based on what I believe to be incomplete and conflicting definitions in various people's minds, because a) far too much rage happening up in there and b) I suspect my take on it might be one that would be misapprehended, and I just don't have the intestinal fortitude these days.

There's a good discussion to be had about culture and its transmission, co-optation and evolution -- hell, cross-cultural understanding and conflict is the main subject I lecture about to international audiences in my day job these days -- but that wasn't it, unfortunately.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:12 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I could have linked to specific comments in my MeTa, but I didn't, because I wanted to discuss the behavior in general and not sidetrack the conversation by making anyone feel defensive that their comment was bad enough to be put on display. If anyone wants to get super critical of specific comments, I think MeMail would be a better way to have than conversation than in this thread.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:12 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


They assume that what's being discussed is cultural appropriation and proceed accordingly.

Sangermaine is correct. The philosophy-as-sport fan in me very much wanted to suggest to people that nothing fruitful was going to happen until there was some definition of terms (a bit of a hobby horse for me, I admit), but I very much didn't want to get drawn into the emergent argument based on what I believe to be incomplete and conflicting definitions in various people's minds, because a) far too much rage happening up in there and b) I suspect my take on it might be one that would be misapprehended, and I just don't have the intestinal fortitude these days. .


Plenty of other people have been assuming that what's being discussed is clearly not cultural appropriation, and proceed accordingly. And then we get comments about how everyone is just too emotionally invested to discuss this rationally, and what an interesting conversation this could be if not for people - who are affected by this directly - having feelings about it.
posted by teponaztli at 3:17 PM on April 14, 2016 [29 favorites]


The philosophy-as-sport fan in me very much wanted to suggest to people that nothing fruitful was going to happen until there was some definition of terms (a bit of a hobby horse for me, I admit), but I very much didn't want to get drawn into the emergent argument based on what I believe to be incomplete and conflicting definitions in various people's minds, because a) far too much rage happening up in there and b) I suspect my take on it might be one that would be misapprehended, and I just don't have the intestinal fortitude these days.

I say this with complete sincerity: thank you for not posting in that thread.
posted by Krom Tatman at 3:21 PM on April 14, 2016 [26 favorites]


I feel a little conflicted about that comment I made at the top of the thread in question, where I referred to the 'rage yoga' thing as "bullshit cultural appropriation" (which is not to say that I've changed my mind, I personally think it totally is). Obviously, anyone inclined to draw the same conclusion didn't need me to have done so first, but I guess I'd like to apologize if the specific nature of my remark sort of colored the discussion in a bad way right off the bat.
posted by clockzero at 3:22 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Nah, it would have gone the same way even if you'd written it in the style of a Victorian gentleman politely opining on the ghastly nature of the event.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:27 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


stavrosthewonderchicken: I suspect my take on it might be one that would be misapprehended

Or worse: it might be read as exactly what it is.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:27 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


I would like to pull a few quotes from near the end of the rage yoga thread.

First, from qcubed:

I mean, it's to the point where I don't actively recommend this place to any other PoC. Why would I? I don't know why I'd invite someone else to be subjected to this on the regular. And it pains me to say that, because, really? Monocultures die out.

Next, from rtha:

I've been following along but I can't do another round of "cultural appropriation: is it even a thing?" again. People in this thread and others on this topic talk a lot about free expression of ideas good intentions blahblahblah ... apparently without ever considering that a lot of us see shit like this and go "oh, free for thee but not for me! again!" and nope out from the start. Always having to argue from first principles is, among other things, really fucking boring.

And, from naju:

Yep. It seems like less and less of us are expending the energy each time a thread like this happens - so willful ignorance might eventually win by attrition. "Just asking questions!" to a silent void, then, which is probably the end goal anyway.

This is no where near the first group of MeFites who have either expressed similar feelings or have understandably given up and decided to leave. Battles have to be fought every time someone has the courage to speak up here.

I cannot fathom what folks like those quoted above, and all the others in these threads, are still doing here. If a website or purported community treated me the way they are treated, I would say "Fuck this!" and bail -- and do it the first time it happened, never mind sticking around for more abuse from endless, slimy, "well actually" sea lions.

The following, I am saying not for them (they can speak for themselves) but for myself -- a white, male, cisgender Californian with a wicked sense of humor and delusions of grandeur...if they leave, I'm out. Maybe even sooner, because they obviously have way more fucking patience for assholes than I do. Monoculture is death. Diversity is oxygen.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:29 PM on April 14, 2016 [19 favorites]


Nothing drives me up the wall like the attitude of "well, I was fully capable of engaging with the discussion, but it was clear to me that the other people were flawed in some way that was obvious to me and not them."
posted by teponaztli at 3:29 PM on April 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


Plenty of other people have been assuming that what's being discussed is clearly not cultural appropriation, and proceed accordingly.

Yes, precisely. The knife cuts both ways. When there are a lot of people in a discussion online, there are always going to be folks on either side who do not share the same understanding about the nature or extent or definitions of the ideas being discussed, and misunderstanding compounds disagreement. It comes with the territory, and makes things difficult. Nobody is to blame except in the sense that everyone is to blame, and the tediousness of doing what some people call 101-level stuff is to be understood, despite the fact that I believe it is always necessary in online-discussion context to make an effort to try and establish that we're talking about the same ideas, if we're trying to have discussions instead of arguments.

I say this with complete sincerity: thank you for not posting in that thread.

You are sincerely welcome!

I see that I'm being drawn into a discussion I didn't want to engage with the first time 'round, foolish me, so, I'd best bow out. I've got way too much work to do today, getting ready to deliver a lecture on Monday about -- ironically enough -- Cross-cultural Understanding!

On preview: Or worse: it might be read as exactly what it is.

Perhaps, perhaps. But I haven't actually said anything about the topic, just the way the topic was being discussed. So I'm not sure you're entirely justified in guessing what my opinion might be.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:29 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


It seems awfully fishy to have an expectation that 101-level "what is it even" discussions happen with a topic that has a) been discussed extensively before and b) is well documented in the outside world. Where else do we have that expectation on Metafilter? I wandered into this thread today not knowing what superinjunctions were, and my response was not to denounce their existence as irrelevant to me and mine but instead to just look them up. And the world continued to turn. Why is this expectation too onerous for threads about cultural appropriation or racism? Maybe....white privilege?
posted by zeusianfog at 3:34 PM on April 14, 2016 [36 favorites]


Nobody is to blame except in the sense that everyone is to blame, and the tediousness of doing what some people call 101-level stuff is to be understood, despite the fact that I believe it is always necessary in online-discussion context to make an effort to try and establish that we're talking about the same ideas, if we're trying to have discussions instead of arguments.

It's worth noting that the 101-level stuff has happened over and over again, and is legitimately exhausting for the educators. The onus should be on the "No it's not!" people to learn without burdening PoC unduly, as has been happening. In other words, if you truly don't know, and don't understand:

Listen.

Don't speak, listen.

You don't have to fucking comment. Read past threads where this has been thrashed out. The people who are living this reality don't owe you a special snowflake teaching session, because oh you weren't there for the last n go-rounds.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:38 PM on April 14, 2016 [25 favorites]


Too many people are expecting some kind of dialogue that clearly lays out all the points and counterpoints, and then rationally and dispassionately weighs them to reach some kind of understanding that will embiggen everyone's minds. It's awful and absurd, because anything that doesn't adhere to that is written off entirely as failing to live up to high-minded, rational standards. Someone says "wow this sucks and it makes me feel bad" and suddenly there's just too much rage to talk about things clearly. It's awful, and it completely, utterly misses the point.
posted by teponaztli at 3:40 PM on April 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


Nothing drives me up the wall like the attitude of "well, I was fully capable of engaging with the discussion, but it was clear to me that the other people were flawed in some way that was obvious to me and not them."

Well, as one of those flawed people, teponaztli, I will just say that I am genuinely grateful to those folks who engaged in the Rage Yoga discussion with the likes of me and others even though we were clueless. No one is ever obligated to participate in any discussion for any reason. Particularly discussions filled with annoying, clueless, privileged (usually white but not always, usually financially comfortable but not always) people who not only don't get it but also actively deny, attack, or attempt to magic away the lived experience of the marginalized individuals who are participating and getting pounded on emotionally for their trouble.

Perhaps I have misunderstood your comment. But seriously, this is your biggest beef with Metafilter? The folks who save their time and energy by stepping away from looming traffic accidents that seem obvious to them? Hey, if it annoys you, it annoys you. We all have some kind of Metafilter cross to bear.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:42 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


BD, I think Teponaztli was responding to Stavros' claims about how his insights into the topic would surely be misinterpreted by the rest of us.
posted by zeusianfog at 3:44 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Thanks and oops. Time for me to be quiet again.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:46 PM on April 14, 2016


Metafilter: We all have some kind of Metafilter cross to bear.
posted by clawsoon at 3:46 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah, what zeusianfog said. Sorry if that was unclear. This is sort of why I should cut down on snipe-y one liners.
posted by teponaztli at 3:50 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


When there are a lot of people in a discussion online, there are always going to be folks on either side who do not share the same understanding about the nature or extent or definitions of the ideas being discussed, and misunderstanding compounds disagreement.

This discussion that I started is about cutting down on two very specific types of comments, ones that I feel were described and defined well enough that there should be no confusion about the kind of comments that I'm talking about. I'm not trying to solve every single problem that occurs within a thread concerning cultural appropriation, I'm trying to get Mefites to notice and stop making specific kinds of comments.

I was totally clear, and yet you're still trying to be a distraction towards my suggestions that could improve Metafilter. I think that right there is proof enough that even if a discussion has really clearly defined terms, (some) people are still inclined to post whatever they want anyway.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:56 PM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


(I'm feeling too threadsitty, so I'm going to bow out for a bit. Please keep talking about improving threads concerning cultural appropriation!)
posted by 23skidoo at 4:01 PM on April 14, 2016


Okay, so when the topic of a post is connected to cultural appropriation in some way, a lot of commenters seem to want to 1) try to discount the specifics ways that the specific example of cultural appropriation in the post is harmful by comparing it to some OTHER form of cultural appropriation (which has specifically been chosen to be benign as possible), or 2) ignore the topic of the post and just talk about cultural appropriation in general, usually in a very binary/simplistic way. ...

I'm specifically calling on people who want to participate in threads connected to cultural appropriation to consider (before commenting) if their comment is connected enough to the specific case of cultural appropriation being discussed to be worth leaving in a thread. While this alone won't make those threads instantly great, I think it would help to improve threads concerning cultural appropriation.


Great idea, 23skidoo! I will make the effort to be mindful before commenting in such threads and hope others will as well.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:03 PM on April 14, 2016


I believe it is always necessary in online-discussion context to make an effort to try and establish that we're talking about the same ideas, if we're trying to have discussions instead of arguments.

Is it necessary to repeat this "establish that we're talking about the same ideas" process more than once in the same discussion, though? Because that happens a fuck of a lot - there's a 101-level go-around, and then 25 or 50 comments later there's the exact same 101 discussion with someone new. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Which is to say that it's all fine and good to claim that, in the abstract, online discussions must ipso facto include a discussion of the parameters of the discussion, only in actual real life what happens is that at best people don't read the previous 101 comments and just jump in at the nearest available opportunity with the same damn thing that's already been addressed, or, probably more likely, are using a discussion about the parameters and establishment of ideas to passive-aggressively object to the topic of discussion. You don't have to engage with the topic of "North American yoga as cultural appropriation" if you can derail the conversation into spending all of its energy defining "cultural appropriation."
posted by soundguy99 at 4:11 PM on April 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think that CA threads are unusually destructive and I don't want to disrupt any discussion about what we can do specifically about them, but I do think that this is a manifestation of a larger problem that pretty much needs some comprehensive attention.

In my view, there's two key things going on: privilege fragility, and what I'll tentatively call privilege insularity.

The defensive reaction that characterizes privilege fragility is a very recognizable and ubiquitous thing and it inevitably wrecks the thread. Likewise, that abstract, aloof, impersonal analysis that's available to the privileged, a stance that treats the conversation as an intellectual exercise or a high school debate competition, is also recognizable and ubiquitous and wrecks discussion. I feel like if we had ways to quickly and strongly nip this kind of participation in the bud, everything would be better.

Secondarily, and possibly more tractably, there's some people who frequently exhibit both of these behaviors in numerous threads on numerous topics.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:17 PM on April 14, 2016 [29 favorites]


I'm starting up this new thing, it's called Rage Metafiltering and will be held in a filthy basement but you get drink tickets and be prepared for plenty of cussing.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 4:21 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think the reason for this, and part of the problematic interaction around this, is that free exchange of ideas is a very fundamental value in Western culture -- and particularly American culture.

There was a moment not too long ago when I realized that the US Fundamental Value of "free exchange of ideas" was actually rooted in Colonialism - because often it didn't actually mean free exchange. Often it meant "perform for me" or "I will take what I want and undermine/dismiss/enslave/kill you" or "I will pretend you are fictional and make up stories about you".

If you start looking for the places where white people make use of something learned from another culture, or riff on another culture in an ignorant manner, and then the white person is lauded while the people they learned from are ignored or erased, it begins to be an unavoidable part of the whole idea of "free exchange of ideas". The exchange isn't actually free cross-culturally - it's one way, funneling some aspects of other cultures in to be an "exotic" touch or to show how worldly or knowledgeable someone is and often inventing large portions of it wholesale to make it more dramatic or to make it fit into given stereotypes.

If we want a world that can actually legitimately support "free exchange of ideas" then recognizing the humanity of other people and making restitution for the ways in which they have been deliberately hurt is absolutely critical. Part of beginning to set the ground for doing that is discouraging basic derails like 23skidoo's first example.

Unfortunately, I'm worried I'm part of the problem with #2 type comments, as I tend to go general fast (it's so very white of me!); I'll do my best to try to reign in that tendency on the blue and apologize for the times I've climbed my white tower in a discussion.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:22 PM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]


For all the "I just want to have an intellectual, philosophical discussion" crowd seems to long for (what they perceive as) real substantive hashing out of topics, it's funny. Whenever I've had PoC-to-PoC conversations about these topics privately, we end up covering more ground in 5 minutes than entire 100+ comment threads do here. It's an exchange of personal experience and opinions which are heavily informed from that experience, and stuff that's clearly been ruminated over prior to the discussion. That to me is meaty, substantive hashing out of topics. The philosophy 101 crowd imagines that they're asking really piercing, insightful questions, and it's just laughably not the case. What's that phenomenon where you don't know how much you don't know? Dunning-Kruger?
posted by naju at 4:24 PM on April 14, 2016 [69 favorites]


Well, hell. That's a whole bunch of angry responses to things I didn't actually say. Or mean, which was why, as I said, I didn't want to say anything in the thread itself, not, as has been suggested, because of a lack of faith in people's ability to understand, but because of a lack of faith in my own ability to explain my thoughts. I've said as much many times in the past, ironically.

Things that folks have suggested I said, which I didn't:
"And then we get comments about how everyone is just too emotionally invested to discuss this rationally"
"well, I was fully capable of engaging with the discussion, but it was clear to me that the other people were flawed in some way that was obvious to me and not them"
"The people who are living this reality don't owe you a special snowflake teaching session, because oh you weren't there for the last n go-rounds."
"Someone says "wow this sucks and it makes me feel bad" and suddenly there's just too much rage to talk about things clearly."
"Stavros' claims about how his insights into the topic would surely be misinterpreted by the rest of us."

I mean, I guess I failed in trying to be a good-faith meta-commenter in this particular thread, which, fair enough, but that stuff seems to be willfully misunderstanding what I actually said, and just kind of mean, to be honest.

Is it necessary to repeat this "establish that we're talking about the same ideas" process more than once in the same discussion, though? Because that happens a fuck of a lot - there's a 101-level go-around, and then 25 or 50 comments later there's the exact same 101 discussion with someone new. Wash, rinse, repeat.

You're not wrong. The whole thing is always a mess, when it's an issue about which people feel strongly and divergently, and especially when it's a problem that a lot of people feel that others just don't get (gender, race, culture, and so on) and they're burnt out on trying to enlighten them. I don't think it's fixable, entirely, but there are good suggestions in this thread for making the process a bit better, at least.

I was totally clear, and yet you're still trying to be a distraction towards my suggestions that could improve Metafilter. I think that right there is proof enough that even if a discussion has really clearly defined terms, (some) people are still inclined to post whatever they want anyway.

I'm wasn't trying to do anything, really, other than help in my own limited, privileged, distanced-by-intellectualization-enabled-by-that-privilege way. I do apologize if (as seems to be the case) I'm actually doing the opposite. I still think that we have to do our best, collectively, precisely for the reason that there are always going to be people 'inclined to post whatever they want', and while new signups remain open, there's always going to be more of those people.

Sorry, I did say I was going to bow out earlier, and I'm not trying to prolong any arguments that I seem to have stumbled in to, but I feel like it's better to try and engage the resentment I have drawn as calmly as I can.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:26 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


When you feel you are being responded to unfairly by someone who is "punching up" in a discussion of privilege, please bear in mind that thing about how this is not a philosophical discussion for that person, and how they have probably been having this exact same conversation over and over again for a long, long time, and that you are vanishingly likely to convince them that you weren't doing that thing they think you were doing, at least by arguing about it.
posted by Etrigan at 4:43 PM on April 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


Also:

I'm not trying to prolong any arguments that I seem to have stumbled in to, but I feel like it's better to try and engage the resentment I have drawn as calmly as I can.

It is not better.
posted by Etrigan at 4:45 PM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


I mean, I guess I failed in trying to be a good-faith meta-commenter in this particular thread, which, fair enough, but that stuff seems to be willfully misunderstanding what I actually said, and just kind of mean, to be honest.

Good faith is hard to come by in these threads, tbh. PoC are so often deliberately misread, twisted, abused, and so on, by non-PoC, that it's not surprising that it also goes the other way.

If you want to have your posts viewed in good faith, well, then. Come get your boys who waltz in and start shitposting. You know, the ones saying, "540 words shouldn't piss anyone off," or those saying scare quotes are intended when talking about cultural appropriation.

You deal with them, and you make it clear you come in peace to have a real discussion, and maybe over time you'll get the good faith you want.
posted by qcubed at 4:50 PM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]


Come get your boys who waltz in and start shitposting.

this is grossly unfair - he's not a moderator and they're not "his boys"
posted by pyramid termite at 5:02 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


If he's taking the side of logic and reason, doesn't it make sense for him to disavow people who use those as an excuse for bad faith?
posted by Krom Tatman at 5:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


I mean, I guess I failed in trying to be a good-faith meta-commenter in this particular thread, which, fair enough, but that stuff seems to be willfully misunderstanding what I actually said, and just kind of mean, to be honest.

Most of those comments came from me, and I wasn't punching up. I'll be honest: I was being a little mean. I'm home sick with some mysterious illness today, I feel like crap, and when I saw your comments I saw every other "if only we could engage with this rationally" comment I've seen in this context before. It's an exhausting and tedious conversation to have because it truly does miss the point altogether. The problem with that thread wasn't that people couldn't have a productive conversation, it was that the same exact conversation happens every time and it doesn't matter what the specifics of that case are. It ends up crowding out anything interesting that we might be able to talk about when we're asked to litigate each individual case and decide if it technically counts as appropriation or not.

Beyond that, there is an attitude that crops up in internet arguments where you poke at every little point, and find a weakness and drive through it. I'm not saying that's what you were doing, but saying "people can't talk about this rationally" is one of the things I'm used to hearing alongside all of that. It's just not helpful or productive to have comments where people are saying "everyone assumes they know the basic terms because they're being uncritical," and you approvingly cited a comment saying just that. Yeah everyone needs to be self-aware, but pointing that out at the wrong time maybe sends the wrong message.

I do try not to be mean, and I'm sorry for getting snarky. But everyone is angry about this because the viewpoints of people directly affected by this thing have been roundly dismissed by people who seem to be more interested in proving that they're technically right (regardless of how that dismissal might affect the people directly affected by this thing). I'm not saying you were doing this, but you did come in and say "well, technically we could be more rational about this," and I really don't think that helps because it seems a little unaware of the broader context for everything.
posted by teponaztli at 5:06 PM on April 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


It's neither gross nor unfair to expect us white people to shut that fucking shit down, rather than leave all the heavy lifting to--as in this case--people of colour. Same reason why men need to speak up about misogyny, cis people about transphobia, straight people about queerphobia.

We're part of the solution or we're part of the problem. And every time we go "meh" and leave the basics to the people who have to deal with the basics every. single. day. we are very much part of the problem.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:07 PM on April 14, 2016 [29 favorites]


Come get your boys who waltz in and start shitposting.

We don't expect people to moderate their peers here. We do appreciate and encourage when people notice the dynamics in threads and choose their behavior accordingly - as stav totally did with this particular thread on the blue. We're never going to require anyone to participate in a thread they don't feel they can be constructive in, and it seems sort of counterintuitive to insist on it.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:08 PM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


what makes sense is that each of us needs to own OUR words, not someone else's - and that includes not expecting other people to speak for us, or say what we want said
posted by pyramid termite at 5:10 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm Indian, lived for a while in the US, and rarely comment on MetaFilter. I love MetaFilter for what it has taught me about all sorts of things: US politics, feminism, racism, transphobia, ask/guess, emotional labor ...

But even when a thread is about India and I might have an opinion I don't comment because it's always the same thing. White people making it all about themselves.

When I lived in San Francisco a dear American friend, white, told me: "you're the first Indian person I've had real conversations with". I asked him, "that's nice, but why do you think that is?"

It's because I have taken the time to learn about your culture in depth. I have done this due to circumstance, because I'm a programmer and I worked in the US, and because I'm curious. Nevertheless, I have met you half-way.

Over and over I simply see clueless people barging into threads about India, cultural appropriation, about anything outside the western world really, and being completely oblivious to how much effort people from outside the west have put in to participate in these conversations. No one expects you to be an expert on every issue in the world. But if you have pretensions of being a citizen of the world, of having empathy for everyone who might visit this site, you need to listen more and talk less.
posted by Idle Curiosity at 5:11 PM on April 14, 2016 [81 favorites]


and that includes not expecting other people to speak for us, or say what we want said

Maybe take a step back and consider the privilege that lets you say that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:12 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


For all the "I just want to have an intellectual, philosophical discussion" crowd seems to long for (what they perceive as) real substantive hashing out of topics, it's funny. Whenever I've had PoC-to-PoC conversations about these topics privately, we end up covering more ground in 5 minutes than entire 100+ comment threads do here. It's an exchange of personal experience and opinions which are heavily informed from that experience, and stuff that's clearly been ruminated over prior to the discussion. That to me is meaty, substantive hashing out of topics. The philosophy 101 crowd imagines that they're asking really piercing, insightful questions, and it's just laughably not the case. What's that phenomenon where you don't know how much you don't know? Dunning-Kruger?

You don't have to waste time arguing first principles or basic definitions. You aren't challenged to demonstrate that your experience is what you say it is, much less have what you say summarily dismissed as invalid. You're not automatically wrong when you have feelings about a thing, and those feelings aren't proof of your irrationality and incompetence as compared to the dispassionate majority sitting in judgement. You know not to take the anger or sadness personally, or treat it as unjustified. Disagreements aren't about whether something is essentially so or not so, but where on a nuanced, multiaxial spectrum the thing belongs.

griphus' "brains in jars" analogy seems quite apt to me. So many of these gotcha questions end up being the equivalent of "how do you know that your blue is the same as my blue? you don't! nothing is real!", and it's just, like, ugh, this guy again. Nobody has time to summarize A Critique of Pure Reason for you, you're just going to have to read the damn thing.
posted by Errant at 5:14 PM on April 14, 2016 [47 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: "Again, punching up vs punching down."

I was pretty pro-punching-up and anti-punching-down when first exposed to the concept, but over time watching MeFi discussions, and seeing my own children fight, have generally just made me dislike punching altogether. On rare occasions it works well, but a lot of times it just seems like justification for being a jerk (I'm talking in the general sense here. I don't think Errant's Christian analogy was punching in any direction).

stavrosthewonderchicken: "as I said, I didn't want to say anything in the thread itself, not, as has been suggested, because of a lack of faith in people's ability to understand, but because of a lack of faith in my own ability to explain my thoughts. I've said as much many times in the past, ironically."

Stavros, either you or I need to jump the Sea of JapanEast Sea and get drinks sometime, because I suspect being in non-English speaking countries has atrophied our English abilities so much we can't communicate any more. I've had multiple discussions where people argue against something I say by making the same points that I'm trying to make. And it seems to happen in more and more contentious threads.

Krom Tatman: "If he's taking the side of logic and reason, doesn't it make sense for him to disavow people who use those as an excuse for bad faith?"

Disavowing is easy. Qcubed is saying that stavros has to somehow make people he probably has never even met stop being shitheads if he wants people to treat him in good faith. And that's something only mods can do. I can't even get my own son to stop being an ass to his younger brother, let alone shitposters halfway across the world.
posted by Bugbread at 5:17 PM on April 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


come get your boy
posted by qcubed at 5:18 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


Maybe take a step back and consider the privilege that lets you say that.

that's life - you speak up for yourself or you get screwed
posted by pyramid termite at 5:19 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm saying he has to make it obvious that he does not stand with them by shutting them down with his arguments too. I don't want to have to debate him and the shitposters.
posted by qcubed at 5:20 PM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Oh, and for this playing along at home and keeping count, now we have a fifth Desi pointing out how they don't want to participate because of well-meaning liberal, sensitive white folk with the bestest of good faith.
posted by qcubed at 5:23 PM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]


Ah, sorry, I wasn't familiar with the expression "come get your boy". I thought you meant it like "Your son is out here causing trouble, come pick him up and take him home" (i.e. "Pull those posters out of the thread, make them stop commenting"), I didn't realize it meant "challenge them / don't turn a blind eye to them". That makes a lot more sense (and also makes restless_nomad's "We're never going to require anyone to participate in a thread they don't feel they can be constructive in" comment make a lot more sense).

In conclusion: yeah, my English is deteriorating to the point of interfering in communication. Damn.
posted by Bugbread at 5:24 PM on April 14, 2016


Qcubed is saying that stavros has to somehow make people he probably has never even met stop being shitheads if he wants people to treat him in good faith.

It seemed perfectly clear to me that he meant "engage with people who are arguing in bad faith using your arguments is a way of demonstrating good faith." It would make no sense for him to say that an ordinary user should act as though they have mod powers.


But hey, let's all jump on him for the most ludicrous interpretation of his comment. He's probably being oversensitive anyway.
posted by Krom Tatman at 5:24 PM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm wasn't trying to do anything, really, other than help in my own limited, privileged, distanced-by-intellectualization-enabled-by-that-privilege way. I do apologize if (as seems to be the case) I'm actually doing the opposite. I still think that we have to do our best, collectively, precisely for the reason that there are always going to be people 'inclined to post whatever they want', and while new signups remain open, there's always going to be more of those people.

If you bowed back in, I guess I can too. Can you just FUCKING STOP pedantically nit-picking at what I, or anyone else, has to say? My reason for starting this thread was that I want to improve threads concerning cultural appropriation. Nothing that you've written makes it seem like you have the same goals in mind. Why are you even commenting in this thread? In what way is anything that you've had to say going to improve threads concerning cultural appropriation?
posted by 23skidoo at 5:29 PM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


Krom Tatman: "It seemed perfectly clear to me that he meant "engage with people who are arguing in bad faith using your arguments is a way of demonstrating good faith." It would make no sense for him to say that an ordinary user should act as though they have mod powers.

But hey, let's all jump on him for the most ludicrous interpretation of his comment.
"

Fuck, I'm sorry. I really was not familiar with that expression. Not only wasn't it clear to me, that interpretation didn't even occur to me. And that's not qcubed's fault, it's mine. Sorry to be ludicrous.

(This comment is an actual, earnest apology, but written while being upset at the fact that my English comprehension has declined as much as it apparently has, and while being hurt that this decline is being seen as intentionally being ludicrous.)
posted by Bugbread at 5:30 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Please don't be discouraged, Bugbread. This is a community of people who mean extremely well and show it by condemning each other vociferously. Also your English seems fine to me...
posted by uosuaq at 5:37 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


Now I keep thinking of the thread-that-wasn't, where Indian commenters (and folks who are capable of going beyond "is cultural appropriation even a thing" in general) could have talked about...I dunno, yoga in the US generally, or the complexity of there being traditional yoga (breathing, etc) and then the later yoga and how it all got to the West, or how Indian folks and Indian diaspora folks feel about different encounters with Western yoga. Or about whatever, really, obviously I can't know the contents of a thread that didn't happen. But there are fifty gajillion "cultural appropriation - PC thuggery or not?" discussions on these our interwebs, and it would be neat to read something else for a change.
posted by Frowner at 5:38 PM on April 14, 2016 [56 favorites]


We're cool, Bugbread. Though next time try not to put so many words in my mouth. :)
posted by qcubed at 5:45 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bugbread, I did not know the expression either and I am in the US. But I agree generally with the sentiment that Stavros messed up and I have been wrestling with how to express it.

I figure this is a genuine blindspot in many cases, but it doesn't change the fact that privileged people expect a base line level of respect that they frequently fail to give. The comment where he apologized had too much emphasis on the treatment he expected to receive and not enough on making things right with others. And privileged people are often simultaneously oblivious to their own faux pas and incensed by everyone else's faux pas. The problem is that is exactly the thing people are seeking a remedy for in threads like this.
posted by Michele in California at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


Here is my suggestion for how to improve discussions of cultural appropriation: Do your best to appreciate it is a complex topic and sometimes the examples will be shades of grey when we live in a connected and globalized world. Do your best to appreciate your words can be harmful. Listen to other people in the conversation.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


I've been around here long enough not to be surprised by this, but when I go back and read the OP, man, how the fuck can this turn into an argument? OP's proposal is incredibly reasonable, and if it weren't for (a) people wanting to relitigate the Rage Yoga thread or (b) people rushing in with knee-jerk comments about cultural appropriation, it would seem this thread should otherwise just be filled with things like, "Yeah, that's a good idea, thanks for the thoughtful post." But, fuck.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:49 PM on April 14, 2016 [32 favorites]


We cross-posted, Bugbread, so sorry if I came off a bit harsh--I hadn't seen your response to qcubed's link and I appreciate you reading and acknowledging. (Though, point of order, I did say the interpretation was ludicrous, not you.)
posted by Krom Tatman at 5:51 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


So this metatalk thread crystallized the unease I felt about a related thread on the trailer for the new marvel film Doctor Strange which went a bunch of comments and nothing about the huge anti-asian racism in it. I made that comment, and the thread has this weird split of dual conversations, people discussing the racism, and people enthusiastically discussing the film, almost no crossover between the conversations.

I felt so awkward posting that at first as a white person but now I'm thinking duh, lift the load and be useful. I am sensitized to anti-Asian racism in particular as the only white person in an Asian family, so I hear a lot of idiocy from outside and experience directly more privilege than they do in most situations.

We, collectively, should call out this stuff more. It shouldn't be the job of just the POC members, same as moving the boys club pattern wasn't just the job of female members.

We need more "this is the same old racist cultural appropriation argument stuff, let's go on to a more interesting discussion" posts from people to push the space wider so it's not endless 101 conversation derails.

I thought in the Doctor Strange thread "maybe it's just not something that matters to other mefites?" And it was oddly sad to realise there are mefites excited to see a film that is yet another superhero taken from my children for racism. But the other comments about the whitewashing and cultural appropriation were good, if slight - it's a tiny trailer.

But I promise to speak up more to say no to derails, and then listen more.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:54 PM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]


Yeah everyone needs to be self-aware, but pointing that out at the wrong time maybe sends the wrong message.

Oh crap, I just realized I phrased that really badly. What I meant to say was that it's bad for someone to make it sound like people want to call this appropriation because they haven't examined their assumptions, or something. And that self-awareness is always good, but asking for it at the wrong time can come across as presuming a lack of self-awareness...

I've gone into a self-comment-analysis spiral.
posted by teponaztli at 6:26 PM on April 14, 2016


Going back, briefly, to the "come get your boy" stuff. The reason why I say that, the reason why I emphasize that "allies" need to actually shut that shit down fast, is that in all of these discussions, regarding poc, it's painfully evident that the poc ends up having to do that.

Which leaves the poc never knowing, not really, who's there to help and who isn't. You guys are operating from a deficit, and so to demand, to have a presumption that you specifically, unlike all those other guys, should be taken in good faith, with the assumption that your philosophical arguments deserve consideration?

No. The credit has all been spent. Take those shitposters to task. Do the 101 level education. Prove that you are actually interested in a real discussion by making it so the deleterious, snide comments get starved.

Build your credit. Be a credit to your kind.
posted by qcubed at 6:36 PM on April 14, 2016 [30 favorites]


It isn't "101 level education," it's proselytisation. It's attempting to induce people to change their already-existing opinions. Some of you are very good at it and worth reading. Some of the people provoking your frustration disagree, and will persist in being wrong on the Internet. Personally I think you're in the right on rage yoga, would-be educators, though not on everything. In this venue you outnumber these troublesome people who hold different views to your own, you tend to out-argue them, the mods often seem to favor your side, and you usually end up being the last ones left standing in the contentious thread and the metatalk that follows. But please recognize that you can't convince everyone, and that not all contrary opinions are due only to ignorance.
posted by sfenders at 7:02 PM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Sure. Some of those contrary opinions are due to racism.
posted by qcubed at 7:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]


I'm hoping the "Not all contrary opinions are due only to ignorance" "Some of those contrary opinions are due to racism" exchange isn't meant to mean "combined, they account for all contrary opinions." I'll certainly grant that they may account for most, but I suspect there are disagreements on this issue that are neither ignorant nor racist in nature.
posted by Bugbread at 7:11 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Pretty much any opinion coming from a white person on racism is going to be the inevitable product of a system built entirely on racism and our alleged superiority. As such, they come out of the gate suspect at the very least.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:14 PM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


So I (Indian) also read both these threads really hesitating to comment even though I have Opinions. I see a strange parallel with the spider threads, for example. I study spiders, and have been doing so for 15 years. But every time a spider post is made, no matter how interesting or cool, the wall of Nopes and Kill it with fire comments just forces me to step out.
posted by dhruva at 7:16 PM on April 14, 2016 [62 favorites]


sfenders, you sort of seem like you're reading the OP as if the proposal is to shut down all discussion of cultural appropriation (or some other issues too?), but the OP's proposal is quite modest, so it also seems like maybe you either didn't read it, or that you read it but are ignoring it to focus on some non existent proposal instead.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:17 PM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Six.
posted by qcubed at 7:27 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


And no, it's not just ignorance or racism. But I mean, calling edcuation proselytizing?
posted by qcubed at 7:29 PM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


can't you go troll the debate thread if that's what's making you so mad
posted by Krom Tatman at 7:33 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Uosuaq, this is obviously not a thread you are interested in participating sincerely in. Please just skip it.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:35 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I suspect there are disagreements on this issue that are neither ignorant nor racist in nature.

Yeah, there are knowledgeable equal-opportunity assholes, too.
posted by Etrigan at 7:38 PM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


I disagree that sarcasm is the opposite of sincerity, but I know I tend to tick people off, and I'll always accept the judgement of the moderators if not the users. Here's hoping the thread improves.
posted by uosuaq at 7:39 PM on April 14, 2016


It isn't "101 level education," it's proselytisation. It's attempting to induce people to change their already-existing opinions.

So, those privileged people who sit there and pepper folks like Errant with questions....are you suggesting then that they have already-existing opinions that shouldn't be changed? Are you saying they aren't asking questions in good faith? Are you saying that they are, perhaps, Just Asking Questions?

And so responding to tiresome white privilege Wait But Why stuff is 'proselytizing.'
posted by Existential Dread at 7:39 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I suspect there are disagreements on this issue that are neither ignorant nor racist in nature.

Yes. For instance, by nature of being an individual human being, I have plenty of experiences that diverge from the experiences of other PoC and plenty of nuanced ideas on cultural reappropriation that I would like to discuss stemming from those experiences. However, I will absolutely not share them on this website because there is a 99.9999% probability that they will be used as ammo by white people to gun down the experiences of other PoC.
posted by Conspire at 7:40 PM on April 14, 2016 [43 favorites]


I disagree that sarcasm is the opposite of sincerity, but I know I tend to tick people off, and I'll always accept the judgement of the moderators if not the users. Here's hoping the thread improves.

I'm starting to think that having a quicker trigger finger on some well-deserved days off might be justified.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:41 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


but I know I tend to tick people off

He knows this, yet he persists in doing so. Why is this tolerated?
posted by MoonOrb at 7:43 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I disagree that the punchbowl wasn't lacking a proper "garnish", but I'll always accept the judgment of the authorities, if not the party-goers. Here's hoping the punch improves.
posted by gilrain at 7:45 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


Now I keep thinking of the thread-that-wasn't, where Indian commenters (and folks who are capable of going beyond "is cultural appropriation even a thing" in general) could have talked about...I dunno, yoga in the US generally, or the complexity of there being traditional yoga (breathing, etc) and then the later yoga and how it all got to the West, or how Indian folks and Indian diaspora folks feel about different encounters with Western yoga. Or about whatever, really, obviously I can't know the contents of a thread that didn't happen. B

I've talked about being Indian and a third culture kid on the Blue before. I generally have no problem with doing so. I missed the rage yoga thread, but now -having read the whole thing and seeing the crap that was being flung - I'm fairly confident I wouldn't have touched it with a ten foot barge pole.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:53 PM on April 14, 2016 [23 favorites]


I disagree that sarcasm is the opposite of sincerity, but I know I tend to tick people off, and I'll always accept the judgement of the moderators if not the users. Here's hoping the thread improves.

Accept this. You aren't as smart as you think you are. You think you're so clever, but in fact, you're not. How does that make you feel? Are you willing to accept the fact that you're not as smart as you think you are? No? Then maybe you should step outside. I've read you for a long time, and you always end up in an alley where you are wrong. Can you accept that? No? Okay. Then shut the fuck up.
posted by valkane at 7:56 PM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


The thing about 'proselytizing' is you're usually excited to do it, and welcome opportunities where people are asking you questions, because you get to spread your faith. Contrast that to the reality here where people are fucking ground down and one comment away from deactivating entirely. Does that look like eagerness to proselytize?
posted by naju at 7:56 PM on April 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


Seven.
posted by qcubed at 7:58 PM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


I mean, is seven enough for some of you to see a pattern? A problem?

Or do we have to go for the full Agatha Christie title here?
posted by qcubed at 8:00 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I have no idea what you're counting, and in my experience these conversations go better when people say what they mean.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:01 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]


"It isn't "101 level education,"

"It's proselytizing"

"...Though the word proselytism originally referred to Early Christianity...or any attempt to convert people to a different point of view, religious or not."
-wiki

At first read, seems to equate the two but apparently not. Non the less, assuming someone is prosetlyizing to another concerning an obviously sensitive issue is ignorant at best. In thread, I may see edumacation and even anger but not prosetlyizing, that smacks of privledge right there in its analogy.
posted by clavdivs at 8:02 PM on April 14, 2016


@restless_nomad:

I started counting here, at four.

Here, with Idle Curiosity. At that point, it was five.

Then after dhruva, six.

Now with his thoughts were red thoughts, seven.

Seven people of South Asian descent stating that they did not want to participate in the original thread because of how toxic it was. Several of them stating how they weren't sure if they wanted to participate in this one.
posted by qcubed at 8:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [32 favorites]


Yeah, I know that agatha Christie story, and it's subsequent title change, don't go there, as with the "come get your boy" don't wanna read that again, it's highly offensive.
posted by clavdivs at 8:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


will persist in being wrong on the Internet.

So, in the first place, the whole "WRONG ON THE INTERNET" meme taken from xkcd only works if you can assume that The Internet is in some significant way divorced from people's "real" lives, and that things said on the Internet are inherently insignificant. This may have been true back in like 1999, but it is no longer. The Internet is too common, too widespread, too ubiquitous in too many people's lives. Things written and said and ideas propagated on The Internet can be just as hateful and harmful and bigoted and affecting as anything said face-to-face. Being Wrong On The Internet is just Being Wrong, these days.

In the second place, lucky for them, MetaFilter is not The Whole Internet. I have no idea why it's somehow crucial to preserve the ability of people to be "wrong" in this particular corner of the web, nor why people need to be able to be "wrong" wherever and whenever they want. Which is the point of this entire MeTa (not proselytizing)- the suggestion is essentially that people would like to be able to have a discussion about topics without other people insisting on being "wrong" or ignorant in the middle of that discussion.

But please recognize that you can't convince everyone

Yeah. No-one expects this. No-one has claimed to expect this. There are plenty of racists who have learned not to say the N-word in public. No-one has convinced them NOT to be racists, but at least there's a little less shit being spewed directly in people's faces. This MeTa is asking for far less than teaching an entire culture to not use an incredibly offensive word. You are exaggerating the supposed goal of the MeTa, apparently in order to argue that things can't change. I believe you are wrong.

that not all contrary opinions are due only to ignorance.

So what else would they be due to?
posted by soundguy99 at 8:07 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


But I mean, calling edcuation proselytizing?

Eh, bad choice of word I guess. I didn't mean it in the religious sense. Call it what you will. Persuasion. I think some of it I've seen recently would be more effective if less angry, less about trying to teach everyone one version or another of the basics of cultural appropriation; more about yoga, what it means to people, and why rage yoga is terrible.
posted by sfenders at 8:11 PM on April 14, 2016


A PLAY IN ONE ACT


"That thing you are saying/doing seems pretty racist"

"What?! How is it racist?!"

"Because XYZ [at great length, and with exceptional patience]".

"YOU ARE PROSELYTING!"

"Well, no. Firstly, you asked. Secondly, I am just asking to be treated with some basic respect. That's not proselyting. It's a discussion about a difference of opinion. It's personal expression. It's self defence."

FIN

posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:12 PM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]


maybe if some folks stopped taking culture and history and ripping it to shreds small enough to fit into some yuppie aesthetic, the people who that was taken from wouldn't need to constantly reexplain that culture and history
posted by Krom Tatman at 8:12 PM on April 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


Also, goddammit qcubed, the very moment I got the reference the damn nursery song started playing in my head. I'm flagging that comment as "earworm."
posted by soundguy99 at 8:12 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this is something that I really wish people would keep in mind. Nobody in group X complaining about your Y doesn't mean much; it may just mean you've put off everyone in group X so much that they're assiduously avoiding your Y, or the way your Y is set up automatically excludes X, or a million other things.
posted by wintersweet at 8:13 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think some of it I've seen recently would be more effective if less angry, less about trying to teach everyone one version or another of the basics of cultural appropriation; more about yoga, what it means to people, and why rage yoga is terrible.

Here you go.
posted by qcubed at 8:14 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


Oh good now it's a tone argument? ffs
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:16 PM on April 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


Participating in the conversations that evolve from posts about marginalization and cultural appropriation is not compulsory. If you delight in getting marginalized people to "cross examine" their life experiences after they've told you in no uncertain terms that a specific system of oppression is hurting them, please do yourself and this community a favor and show yourself out more often.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:16 PM on April 14, 2016 [33 favorites]


I think some of it I've seen recently would be more effective if less angry, less about trying to teach everyone one version or another of the basics of cultural appropriation; more about yoga, what it means to people, and why rage yoga is terrible.

I'm really starting to wish I had brought that barge pole.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:19 PM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


I think some of it I've seen recently would be more effective if less angry, less about trying to teach everyone one version or another of the basics of cultural appropriation; more about yoga, what it means to people, and why rage yoga is terrible.

Yeah, that's kind of a bizarre thing to say considering how everything played out. It's not like everyone jumps into the thread going "let's rehash, for the millionth time, the fundamental definition of what appropriation is!" No, people said "this sucks because it's appropriation of my culture," and then other people said "no, it's harmless!" and then here we are. The thread most certainly did NOT turn out the way it did because of the people who thought this was appropriation, and I cannot imagine why you would say that.
posted by teponaztli at 8:21 PM on April 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


...also, if someone says that X is hurtful, demeaning, or diminishing to them, that's a really good opportunity to listen. Don't tell them why they're wrong to feel hurt or diminished!

As someone who's had a shitload of these conversations(specifically, and especially about native american culture) people especially on the internet seem to be afraid that's going to get used as some kind of "trump card". Like that if you don't like what they're doing, then you'll just tell them one of those 3 or more things and then they're not allowed to argue and you just get to ~win the argument~.

Is this dumb as fuck? Yea, but that's always where they're going with it if you push them, regardless of how they dress it up.

It always becomes not about people being hurt, but about people getting to "win". It's like the irrational hatred of affirmative action all over again. And honestly, yea, i've definitely gotten that vibe here in many threads in the past. Like "why do you get to be the judge of what is and isn't ok!"

I think this site handles a lot of things well, and i don't think it handles discussions like this unusually badly. I just think a lot of the failure that's happened even in this MeTa is the same old retreaded crap i and many others have shoveled out of the ditch a ton of times.

I don't even know how to try and get people to do, or even how to expect them to do better at this point.

The best i've ever really done is to explain well, that. And sometimes people get it instead of going "that's not what i meant!"
posted by emptythought at 8:30 PM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


teponaztli: No, people said "this sucks because it's appropriation of my culture," and then other people said "no, it's harmless!" and then here we are.

For me the harm question was slightly more nuanced than that - more "what punishment do you think Ms. Rage Yoga should receive vs. what harm are you experiencing?" - though it was too inchoate in my mind during the discussion to clearly express, and probably wouldn't have been terribly helpful anyway.
posted by clawsoon at 8:36 PM on April 14, 2016


clawsoon, where in the world are you getting the idea that anyone wants Lindsay-Marie Istace to be punished?
posted by bakerina at 8:40 PM on April 14, 2016 [32 favorites]


sfenders: " I think some of it I've seen recently would be more effective if less angry, less about trying to teach everyone one version or another of the basics of cultural appropriation; more about yoga, what it means to people, and why rage yoga is terrible."

As with most MeFi disagreements, I seem to be partly in the middle. There are folks who appear to think "Tone is nothing! No tone will ever be good enough! People use tone as a pretext to ignore others!" and folks who appear to think "Tone is everything! If only the right tone were used, people would be convinced en masse." I think that the reality is that some people really do believe that they'd be more convinced if a better tone was used, they're not just using that as an excuse, but in reality they'd still disagree, but would look back on a thread as a light, stress-free disagreement, while the person on the other side who managed to suppress their anger is seething inside. And some people really believe that since good tone won't actually convince the other party, any tone is just fine.

Honestly, I think the reality is that when person A and person B on MetaFilter are arguing, neither is going to convince the other, but person C who is lurking or making very few comments in the thread is the person who is going to be reached. So tone is important in the sense of "Don't make your side look like the assholes in this discussion", but not to the degree of "Be so saintly and calm that even the people on the other side are awed by your placid demeanor." Angry comes across as okay, asshole doesn't, and that's true on both sides of the discussion.

If you think someone else's tone is unacceptable, saying "Change your tone and I might be convinced" isn't going to do anything. Flag their comment and/or tell a mod. If they are actually being an asshole, their comment will get nixed or they'll get rebuked by the mods. If they aren't being an asshole, you're just being oversensitive, so readjust your "proper tone" parameters.

Or don't readjust your parameters. Honestly, if you're making that argument yourself you're probably person A or person B in that discussion, and your opinion isn't going to change anyway. It's all about person C.
posted by Bugbread at 8:40 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


That's not nuance, clawsoon. That's noise.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:41 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I read that whole thread this morning, and I don't recall anyone calling for the rage yoga 'inventor' to be punished. In fact, there is only one instance of the word 'punish' in the whole thread, and it is in one of your own comments, clawsoon, and in a completely unrelated context.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:41 PM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


Here you go.

Well thanks there, qcubed, but yes I did already notice the extremely good comments and parts of comments in there along with the various others that are more the subject of discussion intended over here. Such as those which:

1) compare the specific example of cultural appropriation at hand to some other form of cultural appropriation specifically chosen to be either benign or outrageous.
2) ignore the topic of the post and just talk about cultural appropriation in general, usually in a very binary/simplistic way.
3) bring up racism where it's not needed, even when it's probably there because it's everywhere.
4) demonstrate Godwin's law.

Then there are those who assume that by suggesting it's not people on just one side of this argument getting unfair at times, I meant to somehow defend the amazing "Just Asking Questions" comments, and deride the actually good ones. Ah well, I give up.
posted by sfenders at 8:43 PM on April 14, 2016


(Hit send too soon. Sorry about that.)

Seriously, we can have a conversation about cultural appropriation without wishing punishment of, or harm to, the appropriator. Indeed, when we talk about what punishment she "should have received," we are once again centering the conversation on the white appropriator, instead of on the people in this very thread who have told us how appropriation harms them.
posted by bakerina at 8:44 PM on April 14, 2016 [25 favorites]


Where is this miraculous reality where telling someone "you are being racist" means they automatically get shackled up and tossed into no-good-very-bad-racist prison by the social punishment police?

Because a lot of people in this conversation are making me want to move there, like, right now.
posted by Conspire at 8:49 PM on April 14, 2016 [55 favorites]


Then there are those who assume that by suggesting it's not people on just one side of this argument getting unfair at times, I meant to somehow defend the amazing "Just Asking Questions" comments, and deride the actually good ones

I'm sorry, do you - somehow - believe that you have made this suggestion and have been misinterpreted as you state? In this thread?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:51 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


For me the harm question was slightly more nuanced than that - more "what punishment do you think Ms. Rage Yoga should receive vs. what harm are you experiencing?"

I feel like this is part and parcel of the outdated ideas regarding racism that you spoke about earlier. No one thinks Istace committed a crime or needs to be sent to culture jail or rehabilitated in a re-education camp. She's doing something shitty, and it'd be cool if she would stop doing the shitty thing. That's about it. Why would I want anything more than that?

3) bring up racism where it's not needed, even when it's probably there because it's everywhere.

Oh. You're this person. Cool.

Ah well, I give up.

Please do.
posted by Errant at 8:51 PM on April 14, 2016 [52 favorites]


...along with the various others that are more the subject of discussion intended over here. Such as those which:

1) compare the specific example of cultural appropriation at hand to some other form of cultural appropriation specifically chosen to be either benign or outrageous.
2) ignore the topic of the post and just talk about cultural appropriation in general, usually in a very binary/simplistic way.
3) bring up racism where it's not needed, even when it's probably there because it's everywhere.
4) demonstrate Godwin's law.


In my experience these conversations go better when people say what they mean.

This is what you said:

Call it what you will. Persuasion. I think some of it I've seen recently would be more effective if less angry, less about trying to teach everyone one version or another of the basics of cultural appropriation; more about yoga...

I mean, that seems to focus primarily on those who are trying to explain what cultural appropriation is. So I don't see why you're taking umbrage that:

...there are those who assume that by suggesting it's not people on just one side of this argument getting unfair at times, I meant to somehow defend the amazing "Just Asking Questions" comments, and deride the actually good ones.
posted by qcubed at 8:52 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Then there are those who assume that by suggesting it's not people on just one side of this argument getting unfair at times

There aren't two equal sides to this argument. As such, the people speaking out against their own oppression (cultural appropriation goes hand in hand with colonialism and oppression) get a leetle leeway. For us, it's abstract. For them, it is every day, life and death stuff. Us policing their tone is profoundly unproductive.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:53 PM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


I'm sorry, do you - somehow - believe that you have made this suggestion and have been misinterpreted as you state? In this thread?

Perhaps I failed in my attempt to make the suggestion, but the misinterpreted part seems real enough.
posted by sfenders at 8:53 PM on April 14, 2016


3) bring up racism where it's not needed, even when it's probably there because it's everywhere.

This bit really is my favourite.

Racism is everywhere! Why even both discussing it? It's not 'necessary'!

It's necessary to us - you know, brown people - because WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT IN OUR DAILY LIVES.

It does not matter that the racism in this context - rage yoga - was unintentional. It doesn't matter that it was most likely the product of ignorance and obliviousness. It matters that it was there and - most importantly - caused harm.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:54 PM on April 14, 2016 [58 favorites]


Errant, sorry if I got on your nerves, the strength of your comments there was the only thing that kept me reading that thread, not your fault it unfortunately led me here.
posted by sfenders at 9:04 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I haven't read this whole thread, but holy crap that Rage Yoga thread is a shitshow, I support Errant, and good lord how have people not learned how to behave about cultural appropriation yet.

Stop the whitesplaining.
posted by zutalors! at 9:05 PM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


I'm just the partner and parent of people of colour, but watching them face racism daily has made me call it out every time I see it. It needs to be. Even if it makes white people uncomfortable. We (sensitive white liberals) all need to step up and make the world a more equitable place. I don't do it just for my kids, but they inspire me to never ever let it go. Not till someone has screamed racial epithets on a bus in front of your toddler and kindy kid do you realise how pervasive it is, how dangerous it is, and how unpredictable the violent outbursts of it can be.

So in the equation I caculated in my head about what amount of racism is acceptable racism.... I went with the NO FUCKING RACISM BECAUSE IT HURTS total. Your racism total may vary.
posted by taff at 9:08 PM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


I went into the discussion with the assumption that calling someone a racist is a call for punishment, just as with any outrageous, harmful act. If someone says, "That was sexual assault," you don't need to follow up with the question, "Yes, but do you think the assaulter should be punished?" It's implicit in calling out the act.

However, I'm realizing that I might be wrong in that assumption. Or maybe not. I'm still not sure.

[on preview]: Thank you, Errant. I've read a bunch of the links and threads that people have helpfully posted as 101 education material, and I never saw this point addressed - not clearly enough for me to understand, anyway :-) - until you did it now. It completely changes the threat level of the conversation. I was starting to suspect that what you say here might be the case; thanks for being clear about it.

One thing I got from an off-thread conversation: When people of colour say that something is racist, they know from repeated experience that nothing will come of it. Threat level 0. It's only if the white privilege stamp of approval gets put on a charge of racism that the machinery of shunning and social execution kicks into gear, and that pretty much never happens. Admitting that you're a racist, though, if you're white, puts that white privilege stamp of approval on your admission. And unless you're in a super-low-stakes situation with lots of context built in, what you're admitting to is the bad, old kind of racism, the kind that even the Klu Klux Klan says that it has nothing to do with anymore. Picture Hillary Clinton saying, "Yes, I'm a racist." She'd be done. That's something which makes honest conversations about racism with white people like me nearly impossible.
posted by clawsoon at 9:09 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well that's the crux bakerina, it comes back to the appropriate cause of the pain inflicted. For my example I relate an experience that appropriates then goes straight into racism.

At university I took a Vietnam war history class. First off, the teacher was "good" at his job but when visiting professors continued a conversation about anti-Chinese laws, said professor later referred to them as "Asian hoardes". So I got that going and my failing to run the Lit Mag led me to the dude running the paper who also was taking the VW class. So we get to section on Bao Dai and the next day two guys were saying "Bao Dai" in little cartoon fashion and looking to the dude who ran the news paper.

I'll never forget his look.

They do it next class.
And I turned and gave them my best Clav look.
They did it again so sat behind them.
Dude and I spoke only 4 words about it and he appreciated my concern but said leave it be.
And I wanna tear my syllabus into a Christmas cracker.
You don't need to steal apparel or a festival or some fucking half baked idea to offend.
They steal history and twist it to make fun of someone that isn't even from the same country let alone religion. Just imagine that.
posted by clavdivs at 9:11 PM on April 14, 2016


clawsoon: "However, I'm realizing that I might be wrong in that assumption. Or maybe not. I'm still not sure."

The phrase "everyone is a little bit racist" comes up in MetaFilter from time to time, so I think it would be fair to conclude that while some people think "X is racist" means "X should be punished", there are a fair number of people who think "X is racist" just means "X should work at reducing their racism".
posted by Bugbread at 9:13 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


(That expression also made me chuckle at Conspire's comment that she/he wanted to go to a reality where telling someone they're racist sends them to a"no-good-very-bad-racist prison by the social punishment police", because I'm thinking "Oh, great, so we'd be with the same people we are now, locked in the same discussions, but we'd be in jail on top of that")
posted by Bugbread at 9:15 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I went into the discussion with the assumption that calling someone a racist is a call for punishment, just as with any outrageous, harmful act. If someone says, "That was sexual assault," you don't need to follow up with the question, "Yes, but do you think the assaulter should be punished?" It's implicit in calling out the act.

The problem is, racism and assault are different. Assault is a crime - which is why there is a clear presumption of punishment.

Racism per se is not a crime, and it would be highly undesirable - from a western liberal democracy perspective - for it to be criminalised. Plus, people often do racist things without realising it. Punishing people for unwitting mistakes is or would be unproductive. But the only way they can know to stop the harmful behaviour is if they understand the consequences. That's why we call out racism. Not for punishment. For awareness.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:17 PM on April 14, 2016 [32 favorites]


I went into the discussion with the assumption that calling someone a racist is a call for punishment

This is a really upsetting and makes it impossible to talk reasonably about racism.
posted by zutalors! at 9:18 PM on April 14, 2016 [42 favorites]


I'm not sure why any of us are talking about "threat levels" or social exile or anything else. Have people really been imagining that pointing out instances of racial harm is equivalent to a DEFCON ONE national emergency? All white people on lockdown, stay in your homes and do not engage?
posted by naju at 9:19 PM on April 14, 2016 [20 favorites]


It would explain the defensiveness and fragility.
posted by qcubed at 9:20 PM on April 14, 2016 [42 favorites]


(Sends Bugbread recipe for millipede muffins)
posted by clavdivs at 9:21 PM on April 14, 2016


I'm not sure why any of us are talking about "threat levels" or social exile or anything else. Have people really been imagining that pointing out instances of racial harm is equivalent to a DEFCON ONE national emergency? All white people on lockdown, stay in your homes and do not engage?

I'm suddenly thinking that White House Down could have been a very different film.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:22 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


It'd probably still have some form of the yellow peril, though. Very popular these days in Hollywood.
posted by qcubed at 9:23 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have mostly white friends, and not one of them has never said something racially awkward. They're all democrats, some work on social justice, immigration etc. Most have known me since we were children, actually. But oh, they have all told me when I (Indian American) have been racist, reverse racist, etc. They don't have any problem reminding me they are Good White People, but if I point out a blind spot they might have, god help me.

White people. We don't want you to be punished. We just want you to think a little. Even a little.
posted by zutalors! at 9:23 PM on April 14, 2016 [47 favorites]


sfenders, you didn't get on my nerves. It's just that we get used to the same shallow arguments from people who are deeply discomfited by race and thus deeply invested in discouraging any discussion of it. "Racism is everywhere, but you don't have to bring it up every time" is kind of a nonsensical point of view, if you think about it. But racism is everywhere, and if we don't bring up, well-intentioned white people will conveniently forget or ignore that it's there, and ill-intentioned white people will use the cover of that ignorance for some real shady, deadly shit. We wouldn't have to keep bringing it up if y'all would remember to account for it every time, but you don't, so we do, because the worst racist stuff happens outside the spotlight.

I'll quote Hari Kondabolu here: "Telling me I'm obsessed with race in America is like telling me I'm obsessed with swimming when I'm drowning."

clawsoon: In addition to the other fine points made here, I think you are vastly overestimating how penalizing this society is to white racists. The racist frat kid leading n-word songs on his bus still gets to go to college, he just has to go to a different college, and he'll still have a job lined up for him when he graduates. Strom Thurmond remained in Congress for decades and had to die to lose his seat. The Duck Dynasty guys are gazillionaires. This society doesn't punish you for admitting your racism. It opens its arms to you and says, "finally, that's out in the open, now we can really get down to business."
posted by Errant at 9:26 PM on April 14, 2016 [59 favorites]


The thing that drives me batty is how the "contrarians" are always convinced they live in a bizarro fantasy world where members of oppressed groups are waiting behind every corner to gotcha Decent Citizens by forever tarring and feathering them with the shame of their one innocent mistake. News fucking flash, thoughtful people mess up and cause pain sometimes, and get back to work at doing right by others. Spoiler alert: if you're digging your heels in defending something that people are telling you hurts them, you're probably not someone who, as you imagine yourself, made one little slip-up in an otherwise life-long record of unrecognized respectfulness.
posted by threeants at 9:28 PM on April 14, 2016 [48 favorites]


But oh, they have all told me when I (Indian American) have been racist, reverse racist, etc.

Ahmer Rahman has the best response to this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:28 PM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


clavdivs, I might be missing something, but I have read your anecdote about your Vietnam War history class at university, and I honestly don't understand how this pertains to either of my comments, or to this MeTa as a whole, or to the original thread on the blue.

I'm not trying to be an asshole or pick a fight. I am just literally confused by what you wrote.
posted by bakerina at 9:30 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


If someone says, "That was sexual assault," you don't need to follow up with the question, "Yes, but do you think the assaulter should be punished?" It's implicit in calling out the act.

I've noticed that sometimes, people just want to correctly recognize and identify instances of sexual assault, so that they themselves and other people will better recognize it in the future. Naming it as such is part of that process - punishment doesn't even enter into it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:31 PM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


clawsoon you have treated this thread and the cultural appropriation thread, and at least one thread on sexism in which I've seen you participate, as some kind of sandbox for you to think out loud about whatever's going on in your head at the time, and muse about these ideas, which are personal and real and aggravating to the people you're discussing, in a way that is clearly just an intellectual exercise for you.

You should really think about writing all of this stuff down somewhere in a word document, or a journal, or some other place no one is going to be frustrated by it, and instead of posting it here, just keep reading more of the comments without making any more yourself.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:31 PM on April 14, 2016 [45 favorites]


clawsoon: In addition to the other fine points made here, I think you are vastly overestimating how penalizing this society is to white racists.

I mean, come on. Donald Trump is the Republican presidential front runner and he got there by being an open white supremacist.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:32 PM on April 14, 2016 [41 favorites]


And people have called that refreshing.
posted by zutalors! at 9:34 PM on April 14, 2016 [19 favorites]


I keep coming back to the concept of Privilege Fragility mentioned above. There's this level of defensiveness that can really blind us to the actual words on the page, because we're too busy thinking "I'm not like that! I'm not a racist/sexist/potential rapist!" And we then lash out back, or demand that the person saying these challenging things mediate their tone, or aggressively misinterpret what they have said. I know I learned about this reaction in myself in the Schrodinger's Rapist thread. My initial reaction was very much a classic Not All Men! I'm a Good Man! indignation. But as I continued to read I began to make sense of that feeling in the context of all the testimony on the page, and recognize it for what it is: defensiveness of my unthinking privilege.

It's not an easy lesson to learn for those of us who have always been the privileged ones, above the fray, who can look at these things from a pseudophilosophical framework because it's not real to us. I challenge my fellow white males to just listen to what people are telling us in threads about issues facing people of less privilege: people of color, women, LGBTQ folks, everyone. Stop one, two, three times before responding. If you feel defensive or upset, think about WHY you are having that reaction. Are you making the thread about you when it's not really about you? Are you recognizing a pattern that you have contributed to in the past?

Nobody's demanding you be punished, nobody's demanding you give up whatever rights you think are being attacked. They ARE asking you to be thoughtful and do better. We can all do better.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:35 PM on April 14, 2016 [32 favorites]


They're not racist but he says what they all think.

Such wonderful cognitive dissonance.
posted by qcubed at 9:35 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


zutalors!: "I have mostly white friends, and not one of them has never said something racially awkward...They don't have any problem reminding me they are Good White People, but if I point out a blind spot they might have, god help me. "

I'm having a hard time parsing this. They haven't said anything racist, or racially awkward, but you're pointing out blind spots? Doesn't that mean that they have said something racially awkward? Or was that "not one of them has never" double-negative intentional?
posted by Bugbread at 9:41 PM on April 14, 2016


For Desi people specifically, especially those of us in our 30s and older, you have to understand that we are used to a ton of appropriation and ridicule in America for our entire lives. Until Mindy and Aziz got TV shows (and I genuinely think that has helped a lot) we got swami jokes and taxi jokes and smelly food jokes. I remember blond women posing in Seventeen magazine in saris and bindis in the 90s. I burst into tears because I didn't understand why my culture was shown in this magazine, but not with people who looked like me? People told me that if the market wanted to see Indian people in magazines, it would happen, or that they can't do that because then they'd have to have purple people and spotted people and one armed people so, I mean, why get upset about blond models wearing bindis in magazines when strangers laugh at your mom wearing a sari to the mall?

If you don't have that experience, of people totally adoring the trappings of your culture but rejecting you as a person, I don't think you really have room to speak on this topic.
posted by zutalors! at 9:41 PM on April 14, 2016 [100 favorites]


Bugbread it was a double negative comment. They are racially awkward. I call out blind spots.
posted by zutalors! at 9:42 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Ah, okay, thanks.
posted by Bugbread at 9:49 PM on April 14, 2016


I didn't mean "you don't have to bring it up every time." What I meant was that racism is not needed in order to explain the existence of "rage yoga", and I thought it tactically unwise to accuse its inventor of that when it isn't certain. I mean given her apparently unusual understanding of yoga, she might not associate it with any race besides white women of Calgary for all I know. Having thought about it though (as advised) I can see how the idea itself is racist in a different sense, in retrospect obviously the one you meant. The same confusion led to some fighting among others there. So anyway, a usual "white people" kind of misunderstanding maybe, but a slightly different one.
posted by sfenders at 9:59 PM on April 14, 2016


I'm afraid that's pretty much the standard one, sfenders.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:00 PM on April 14, 2016 [42 favorites]


MoonOrb: in way that is clearly just an intellectual exercise for you

It's not, though. The threads you're talking about are the most stressful, scary ones I've participated in on Metafilter. "Don't act scared, be combative!", or, "Don't act scared, intellectualize!" are kneejerk reactions of mine that threads like this are helping me begin to see. Comments like Existential Dread's and similar ones upthread here and in Conspire's MeTa have been helpful.

these ideas, which are personal and real and aggravating to the people you're discussing

Aye. Thank you for saying this.
posted by clawsoon at 10:00 PM on April 14, 2016


It's not, though.

I'm going to try again:

IT IS, BECAUSE YOU ARE WHITE.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:03 PM on April 14, 2016 [21 favorites]


" we are once again centering the conversation on the white appropriator,"
Are we? Just centering there?

"instead of on the people in this very thread who have told us how appropriation harms them."

I see you may have equated my comment with punishment. No, not my intent with this example. Intent was to show how centering conversation on the cause is usually the best way to understand. In my example, I explained racism from the front of the class to the back. Being so, the two guys approperating history to fuel thier racism is the focus, the effect is evident. In this instance I choice to look at the center of the problem.
posted by clavdivs at 10:05 PM on April 14, 2016


I think one of the things that make this sort of thing aggravating is the insistence of us white people on talking about how "stressful and scary" these threads are, and how much they redound to our benefit. It's still doing the thought-exercise thing where 'wow this discussion made me examine some parts about myself and that was hard' is centred into the discussion over 'wow this discussion is the dominant culture asserting itself over me again' as though it's an even remotely beneficial thing to bring to the conversation. It's not about us when we insist on dropping our malformed opinions in, and it's really not about us when we thank the very people we're treating poorly for educating us.

Best for us to stfu and amplify what they're saying for the ears that won't hear it from them yet.

MoonOrb said this to you earlier, that maybe this thread and the rage yoga thread are not the places for you to muse out loud about issues that are so personal to people, maybe try listening eh?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:10 PM on April 14, 2016 [27 favorites]


Yet another thread where we're patiently walking someone through extremely basic concepts.
posted by naju at 10:17 PM on April 14, 2016 [31 favorites]


Admitting that you're a racist, though, if you're white, puts that white privilege stamp of approval on your admission. And unless you're in a super-low-stakes situation with lots of context built in, what you're admitting to is the bad, old kind of racism, the kind that even the Klu Klux Klan says that it has nothing to do with anymore.

I admit to my racism all the time. I have had some clunkers. Like serious "what the Hel was I thinking" nonsense that it took me years to recognize as jaw dropingly racist. I talk about it to white people because it's important for white people to tell other white people about racism. Know what those white people do?

TRY TO TALK ME OUT OF IT.

Seriously.

I have yet to have the "I did this thing and it was suuuper racist and I feel bad. Don't be me." with a white person who didn't try to explain to me that it wasn't really racist, and I shouldn't keep punishing myself by caring that I was an absolute shit to someone and ruined their day/week/month/year, and really the simple fact I brought it up means I'm punishing myself excessively and I should let it go. I have yet to have a white person take it seriously, much less compare me with the Klu Klux Klan. I often can't even get the white people to consider the feelings of the person of color I hurt! It would be funny if it wasn't such bullshit!

I highly recommend you start owning up to your racism to other white people and see if you have a similar reaction from white people. We're suuuper invested in pretending we can't be racist, and suuuper invested in never identifying with the people we hurt. Liberals in particular. Believe me - I was raise a colorblind racist and that is a comfortable trap for liberal white racists who want to make the world a more equal place by running it.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:17 PM on April 14, 2016 [73 favorites]


I have yet to have a white person take it seriously, much less compare me with the Klu Klux Klan. I often can't even get the white people to consider the feelings of the person of color I hurt! It would be funny if it wasn't such bullshit!

Ha, yes, one of the main reasons I (white person) don't talk about my (unwanted) racism very often is that I don't want other white people to make me feel better about it. I want to feel uncomfortable when I've screwed up, not have someone handwave it away with talk of "good intentions" or "we all make mistakes." I mean, we do, but I want to learn from mine, not pretend that racist behavior is somehow inevitable and therefore negligible.
posted by lazuli at 10:26 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


naju: "Yet another thread where we're patiently walking someone through extremely basic concepts."

True, but opinions are being changed, and yet (as far as I know) nobody has buttoned. I dunno if Big MeTa Threads like this are a net good or a net bad for MeFi, but as they go, this one appears to be better/less-bad than usual.
posted by Bugbread at 10:28 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hmm. I'm seeing this one as pretty bad, to be honest - like something I'd expect from 2007 or some other year where the discourse was cringeworthy on a regular basis - but I might be losing my sense of perspective. Could be a sign to step away.
posted by naju at 10:38 PM on April 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


What I meant was that racism is not needed in order to explain the existence of "rage yoga", and I thought it tactically unwise to accuse its inventor of that when it isn't certain.

Yeah, except I am certain, and in my experience it is a tactical necessity to continue to point out the myriad manifestations of racism beyond the stark white conception of fire hoses and burning crosses. That it will invariably make some white people upset is basically not my problem, because those white people were going to get upset anyway. It's not like there's a significant cadre of people nodding along saying, "yes, this is certainly appropriative, and I can see how it's culturally damaging, and it does seem very insensit -- DID YOU SAY RACISM? YOU'RE SO WRONG FREEDOM OF SPEECH CULTURAL INTERCHANGE IT'S PC GONE MAD WHAT A WORLD".

Or, I guess if there is such a cadre, I'd rather get to how they really feel and elide as much of the nice liberal lying as possible.

Whenever white people want to talk to me about what is tactically sound or strategically suspect, I would like them to stop and ask themselves if they're absolutely sure they know what I'm trying to accomplish. Because, invariably, the things they suggest are things that prop up white supremacy and maintain the polite fictions of civil discourse. I think it is worth your time to meditate on the following: I am never trying to convince any white person of what I am saying. I'll explain my reasoning all day long, but I could not give fewer fucks about whether anyone is converted by me. That's because I know a secret, and the secret is that people convert themselves. Something will happen to you, you'll start thinking about it, and you'll decide "oh, I was wrong" or "oh, I'm still right" all by yourself. I mean, possibly you'll remember something I said and that'll enter into that process, that would be kind of neat, but I can't trigger that process in anyone. There's no magic phrase that causes a person with power to question their own power. Instead, something will happen sometime to make you feel powerless, and only then, only then, will you start to wonder about the rest of it.

So if you're coming to me with advice on the correct rhetorical strategy to win over the undecideds, please understand that that isn't ever going to be a priority for me. There's nothing I can do to accomplish that reliably. There are many other goals to aim for that don't really involve white people at all. I'm sure that thought is a little alien, but it's true. When it comes to race, I kind of don't care what you think. I appreciate it if you're helping and I'm annoyed if you're not, but my efforts do not revolve around your state of mind.
posted by Errant at 10:39 PM on April 14, 2016 [113 favorites]


Eliminating the two kinds of comments outlined would help. I am recovering from surgery and declined to open that thread as an obviously bad idea precisely because of these kinds of comments. Pan-Indianism (Native American variety) often gets trotted out in examples of cultural appropriation. In this thread, it didn't take long for war bonnets to make an appearance. It's exhausting to be constantly ready to push back on that, and it means that I can't help lift the burden for people doing the patient explaining. If we could eliminate the dragging in of Native Americans, I would have so much more energy to support and rally around PoC Mefites.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:42 PM on April 14, 2016 [25 favorites]


I am aware of at least one person who buttoned over the original thread, for whatever that's worth.

If we could eliminate the dragging in of Native Americans, I would have so much more energy to support and rally around PoC Mefites.

Thank you for saying this. I will do my best.
posted by Errant at 10:50 PM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


True, but opinions are being changed, and yet (as far as I know) nobody has buttoned. I dunno if Big MeTa Threads like this are a net good or a net bad for MeFi, but as they go, this one appears to be better/less-bad than usual.

Wow. What a fucking white thing to say. Just because you are entirely oblivious to my misery and exhaustion, and my utter fucking patience at having to power through all of that - doesn't mean it's not there. That is not worth a few "changed opinions". This comment has grated upon me like no other in this MeTa and the original FPP combined. I didn't ask you to put your privilege in front of my pain for me, without my consent.
posted by Conspire at 11:05 PM on April 14, 2016 [44 favorites]


I don't think I communicated well. I tried to expressly say that this was less bad than it always is. If every time you leave your house it gets burglarized and catches and fire, and then one day when you leave your house it gets burglarized but doesn't catch fire, that's better/less-bad than normal. That doesn't mean it is good or that getting burglarized is not happening or that having your house burglarized doesn't matter. It just means "less bad than usual."

In a previous comment (which I ended up not posting) I wanted to say that peoples' utter fucking patience despite exhaustion and misery has been a really good thing, but I couldn't figure out a way to phrase it without it sounding patronizing or "white guy giving a cookie" or like, so I nixed it without clicking Post, which maybe I shouldn't have. I guess it's just...well, it's up to you, of course. I'm impressed by the patience that is being shown. If that pisses you off, and you'd be less angry seeing me as oblivious, then see me as oblivious. If you'd be more angry seeing me as {good emotion} about the patience people are showing, see me as {good emotion}. I'm not articulate enough to pick the right words to express the positive emotion I've felt towards members like Errant, so I'm going to bow out of this thread now.
posted by Bugbread at 11:23 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


True, but opinions are being changed, and yet (as far as I know) nobody has buttoned. I dunno if Big MeTa Threads like this are a net good or a net bad for MeFi, but as they go, this one appears to be better/less-bad than usual.

I'm glad that you are getting something out of this, but many people on the other side of the conversation has said time and time again that these conversations are in fact deeply unpleasant for them. If there is in fact a 'net good', it comes at the exclusive cost of the people explaining.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:26 PM on April 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


If every time you leave your house it gets burglarized and catches and fire, and then one day when you leave your house it gets burglarized but doesn't catch fire, that's better/less-bad than normal. That doesn't mean it is good or that getting burglarized is not happening or that having your house burglarized doesn't matter. It just means "less bad than usual."

As someone who's tried this sort of comparison in different contexts before: If you're getting to this point, clarification isn't really going to help, since you've already gotten in too far. It might make sense in your head, but it's not helping things. "I'm not saying X is good, I'm saying X is less-bad than Y!" is trying to put things in an absolute spectrum when it's a relative discussion.
posted by CrystalDave at 11:31 PM on April 14, 2016


I think this specific conversational eddy may be better to leave behind at this point.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:32 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Bugbread: True, but opinions are being changed

Has your opinion changed, though? This is a question that I am asking specifically to you, and no one else. Do you think that cutting out the two types of comments I listed in the original post would improve threads connected to cultural appropriation?
posted by 23skidoo at 12:16 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm specifically calling on people who want to participate in threads connected to cultural appropriation to consider (before commenting) if their comment is connected enough to the specific case of cultural appropriation being discussed to be worth leaving in a thread.
This makes sense. In a thread about, say, artificial intelligence, the participants (like me) probably don't want to be constantly distracted by people saying "But computers can't really do anything they're not told to do" or "Won't AI try to kill us all like in Terminator?" There's a certain level of basic knowledge and agreement you need to contribute to a technical thread, and the same goes for cultural and political ones.

That said, how about if we leave it up to the poster to tag it "culturalappropriation"? Take that as a signal that they believe it's relevant to their post, and that constant questioning of the very concept is unwelcome. If all it takes is one comment saying "This is actually cultural appropriation and we should be against it" for the whole thread to become About Cultural Appropriation, where anyone who says "But I like the thing!" is now "detracting", that gives commenters significant power to derail (rerail?) just about any culturally-specific post. (Neutral topics like cat videos would probably be safe.) If you think a post is so offensive that people shouldn't positively discuss it at all, how about flagging it and moving on?

At the very least, I think the original poster should be able to interject and say "I'd rather have this thread be for fans of the thing and not those who think it's appropriation", as well as "Let's agree that the thing really is appropriation and go from there".

(Sorry if something like this has already been suggested somewhere in the long and contentious thread.)
posted by Rangi at 12:47 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


. At the very least, I think the original poster should be able to interject and say "I'd rather have this thread be for fans of the thing and not those who think it's appropriation", as well as "Let's agree that the thing really is appropriation and go from there".

Absolutely not. The OP can frame a post but does not get to choose how it goes. They don't get to post "this cool example of white Americans wearing X traditional dress from Y country!" and then say "well I don't believe in cultural appropriation so this thread is only for oblivious racism thanks!"
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:08 AM on April 15, 2016 [22 favorites]


If all it takes is one comment saying "This is actually cultural appropriation and we should be against it" for the whole thread to become About Cultural Appropriation, where anyone who says "But I like the thing!" is now "detracting", that gives commenters significant power to derail (rerail?) just about any culturally-specific post.

As far as I can tell, no one is suggesting that people don't come in and say "but I like the thing!" The objection is to saying "never mind this thing, what about this other thing, which seems totally benign to me, is THAT cultural appropriation too? What even is cultural appropriation? All culture is appropriation!" Commenting on whether the specific thing is problematic would be part of a new conversation, and relevant, whereas commenting on whether cultural appropriation is a thing and isn't it the same as Arab numerals etc is a conversation that has been had pretty often, which keeps the actually interesting conversation about the specific thing from happening.

I have to say your point here slightly reminds me of the suggestion that we should really be careful before we call anything racist (or permit anyone to call anything racist) because the word has such awesome power that the accused will have no right of reply and will have to crawl away and die. There's no suggestion that, once someone says "this is cultural appropriation and bad", those are the words of power and now no one else is allowed to say anything in disagreement. But there are some things said in disagreement that seem to be, at best, ignorant and, at worst, a bad-faith attempt to derail the conversation about the specific example. Like the two kinds of comments mentioned in the post. That's quite a limited set of things you shouldn't say and it leaves you with a range of possible things you could say about the specific example.

Of course, saying any of those things may require you to know enough about the culture in question to evaluate what the specific example means. If you don't know anything at all about the culture in question, you may not find yourself with much to say about the specific example. But that's not someone silencing you, that's just a limitation you have. The solution to that is to go away and find out more or to move on to something you know about. Coming in to say that you don't know anything but you do have some thoughts you'd like to share about Arab numerals and Tex-Mex is not helpful.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:12 AM on April 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


I have to say, I am occasionally tempted to show up in a US presidential election thread and try the same approach on American culture. What is this primary of which you speak? Isn't a Republican in favour of the Republic, who could object to Republics, why do so many Americans hate Republicans? Are they secret fascists? I think they are secret fascists. Anyway I read somewhere that some Americans think it doesn't matter who wins an election so why is this such a big deal? Stop talking about this weird specific example and explain to me what every concept means, slowly. I'm just trying to get you to define your terms!

Obviously this would be trolling, and bad, but it seems to me a decent analogy to some of the questions that get asked about cultural appropriation. And no one would think it was a horrifying deprivation of free speech to say, look, could you go away and Google a little, we are talking about something that requires a bit more subject knowledge than you apparently possess. I think that's all that's being asked for here.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:27 AM on April 15, 2016 [86 favorites]


It's like the original thread is happening all over again. I came to this thread thinking it might be a warm fuzzy improvement on the original thread.... well... oh well.
posted by aielen at 1:32 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Based on this thread and the blue one, I've put together a list of guidelines for White people participating in CA threads.
  • Don't question whether CA exists.
  • Don't question of POC on their subjective, lived experience of CA and its emotional impact on them.
  • Recognize that in many cases, people are reporting on personal emotional injuries. Be compassionate about this, rather than emotionally disconnected.
  • Avoid questions or comments that are excessively abstract or philosophical ("In a world governed by the rules of quantum mechanics, how can we be sure that an act of cultural appropriation actually took place?")
  • Try not to play "lawyer", "police interrogation", "college debate team", "thought experiment", "devil's advocate", or try to pin things down to mathematical precision. It's not an exact science. ("So you're saying that if I'm 1/16 Indian, I should not wear a headdress to Coachella, but if I'm 1/8 Indian I could do that and it wouldn't be appropriation? Please confirm this critical information NOW.")
  • Don't ask people reporting subjective feelings to "justify" or "explain" those feelings.
I think these are reasonably easy for an individual person to do, but they do mean that we have to avoid the urge to respond to that knee-jerk "Someone is wrong on the internet" feeling, and perhaps pause before responding.

I can imagine that if all Whites in these threads went along with these guidelines, these threads would probably be shorter, more on topic, and less conflict-ridden.
posted by theorique at 2:51 AM on April 15, 2016 [35 favorites]


Oh these are good! I think I'll add another one, mostly for myself:
- I don't always HAVE to chime in. The discussion is not about me, and it will carry on without my input. Listening can be more valuable than posting.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:13 AM on April 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


Oh yeah, please add the list is not meant to be complete. I just wanted to condense some of the suggested responses to the "but, as a White person, what should I DO??" question. Maybe it could be added to a please-read-before-posting wiki or something.
posted by theorique at 3:18 AM on April 15, 2016


the person posting the first comment in the rage thread said above: "[...] the specific nature of my remark sort of colored the discussion in a bad way right off the bat" (i've removed an "if" to make the quote flow, but i hope i'm not skewing things too much).

since people would like to go beyond 101 to look at the nuances involved in particular cases i'd suggest adding to the list that people shouldn't post broad, absolute assertions of any kind (particularly at the start). if the opening had been "this is interesting because the history of yoga really illustrates the complexities in dealing with cases of cultural appropriation" then perhaps that could have set the tone.

i realise people are loathe to criticise the opening comment (i am too - honestly - i've been editing this comment for ages) because a big part of the following fight is establishing that cultural appropriation can exist at all. but by getting the first strike in you're not encouraging calm discussion later.
posted by andrewcooke at 3:56 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


If your comment includes the actual word "tone", maybe you're not reading the room correctly.
posted by Etrigan at 4:22 AM on April 15, 2016 [27 favorites]


ok, keep on shouting at each other.
posted by andrewcooke at 4:24 AM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Nah, they had nothing to apologize for. We should be able to handle someone saying "this is racist appropriation" without having to make the entire thread about why some people don't think that statement is true.
posted by teponaztli at 4:25 AM on April 15, 2016 [23 favorites]


Two threads, for that matter.
posted by teponaztli at 4:25 AM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


If the opening had been "this is interesting because the history of yoga really illustrates the complexities in dealing with cases of cultural appropriation" then perhaps that could have set the tone.

If the opening had been that, it would have meant something completely different; something that made no criticism at all of the actual problem and that offered no personal insight into what it means.

In other words, the difference you're proposing isn't a difference in tone, it's a difference in content. I assume you aren't saying we can't express a view on something - e.g. "this is bullshit cultural appropriation" - without being responsible for the range of depressing responses that show up to attack that view and to reject all reasoned arguments that are subsequently proposed in favour of it? But I can't tell what you are saying we should do to avoid this response, other than carefully avoiding saying anything that might count as a criticism of a white person. Errant supplied endless patient justification for his critical statements throughout the thread, and these also attracted a dismissive or affronted response. In fact, the awful responses seemed to me to become much worse after he showed up with his rational arguments; before, it was variations on LOL politically correct white people amirite and, after, it became a combination of "I don't believe you", "why are you so angry?", "I don't think you're a real Indian anyway, real Indians are all in villages in India without wifi", and "your religion is superstition". (These are crude paraphrases, but unfortunately not that crude.) Based on that, I would say the more nuance you introduce, the worse it gets. And if Errant had been the first commenter - explaining the reasons why this is bullshit cultural appropriation as well as calling it what it is - I don't think the response would have been more rational, based on how people responded when he did show up.
posted by Aravis76 at 4:34 AM on April 15, 2016 [29 favorites]


Also, just on a personal note, I was pretty grateful for that first comment when I first opened the thread. I read the article and my face went red and I thought "what the hell is this?" and it was great for me that the first comment from a MeFite absolutely validated my response. Of course, then I read the rest of the thread and the nice feeling went away, but still.
posted by Aravis76 at 4:48 AM on April 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


That's because I know a secret, and the secret is that people convert themselves. Something will happen to you, you'll start thinking about it, and you'll decide "oh, I was wrong" or "oh, I'm still right" all by yourself.

Truth. I've spoken of this before here but the best citation I can give is the story my father told me of his moment of revelation. Now that I think of it he also related another important thing that has been influential as hell on me ever since and that's to have a hearty distrust for those in positions of power if you are in any way, shape, or form of 'the other', however your society in question defines it. The Venn diagram of those two messages rings pretty damn true in this cultural discussions/situations like this and it's hard for folks to realize how pervasive the impact of those very things can be.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:44 AM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


but by getting the first strike in you're not encouraging calm discussion later.

Emphasis add by me. Calling something bullshit and cultural appropriation isn't the first in a serious of blows that one group of Mefites is using to attack another group of Mefites. It's a strong opinion, it's not an attack on some group of Mefites.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:37 AM on April 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


MoonOrb, thanks for being blunt.
posted by clawsoon at 7:26 AM on April 15, 2016


("So you're saying that if I'm 1/16 Indian, I should not wear a headdress to Coachella, but if I'm 1/8 Indian I could do that and it wouldn't be appropriation? Please confirm this critical information NOW.")

stoneweaver was fairly clear in asking us to stop doing this. I think it's a simple and easily honored request.
posted by Errant at 8:08 AM on April 15, 2016 [23 favorites]


Also, just on a personal note, I was pretty grateful for that first comment when I first opened the thread. I read the article and my face went red and I thought "what the hell is this?" and it was great for me that the first comment from a MeFite absolutely validated my response. Of course, then I read the rest of the thread and the nice feeling went away, but still.

The rage yoga thing popped up on my radar a couple weeks ago, and I was immediately so infuriated by it that I became physically nauseous. When I saw this get posted here, I thought, "oh no. oh god. oh no." Then I saw the first comment and thought, "whew, ok, it's going to be ok." Then I saw the next few comments and said "god damn it, metafilter." It's just so stupid and disappointing.
posted by Errant at 8:17 AM on April 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


ok, keep on shouting at each other.

This is the same tone-deaf thing that's been going on, and comes across as amazingly white.

People of colour (and women and QUILTBAG people and so on) get to shout because we've been silencing them for so long--they have to shout just to be heard. Our job is to listen and to tell our fellow white people to stop shouting, not, emphatically not to police the tone of the minority that is speaking.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:18 AM on April 15, 2016 [38 favorites]


stoneweaver was fairly clear in asking us to stop doing this. I think it's a simple and easily honored request.

Yeah, I was the one who originally mentioned the subject, and will not again. It's no problem.
posted by maxsparber at 8:21 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


stoneweaver was fairly clear in asking us to stop doing this. I think it's a simple and easily honored request.

Sorry, didn't see that one. I'll use different example in the wiki.
posted by theorique at 8:24 AM on April 15, 2016


"I've put together a list of guidelines for White people..."

Really? I understand that some people have an overwhelming desire to virtue signal in threads like these but white people really don't need a set of written guidelines from you.
posted by MikeMc at 8:40 AM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


The depressing predictability of the FPP and this MeTa suggests that you're wrong.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:44 AM on April 15, 2016 [21 favorites]


I understand that some people have an overwhelming desire to virtue signal in threads like these but white people really don't need a set of written guidelines from you.

Can you finish that thought? "White people really don't need a set of written guidelines from you because _____________".
posted by 23skidoo at 8:45 AM on April 15, 2016 [18 favorites]


Really? I understand that some people have an overwhelming desire to virtue signal in threads like these but white people really don't need a set of written guidelines from you.

I shall refrain from holding a gun to anybody's head, then. if you prefer, these are a list of guidelines that I wrote to remind myself to be sensitive to POC concerns in these racially/culturally sensitive threads. If they don't apply to you, no worries, nobody's making you read anything you don't want.
posted by theorique at 8:54 AM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


I understand that some people have an overwhelming desire to virtue signal in threads like these but white people really don't need a set of written guidelines from you.

The fact that you've cynically labeled this a "virtue signal" after the staggering amount of effort expended in this thread by PoC and others to earnestly explain cultural appropriation... suggests that a short checklist ain't maybe such bad idea.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:56 AM on April 15, 2016 [44 favorites]


Really? I understand that some people have an overwhelming desire to virtue signal in threads like these but white people really don't need a set of written guidelines from you.

Look, I'm honestly embarrassed by all of your behavior too that we even need to set these types of guidelines for engaging with PoC, but those guidelines are the basic, barebones analogy of etiquette advice like "don't pull up your pants and shit on the dinner table while we're all eating." If you think it's patronizing, the whole reason people even have to make it explicit is because people are actually shitting on the dinner table, repeatedly. If you think it doesn't apply to you for whatever special snowflake reason and we are unfairly holding demands over your head, I don't even know what to say.
posted by Conspire at 8:58 AM on April 15, 2016 [36 favorites]


No, most white people need a fucking service guide who will hold their hand with one hand and tase them into insensibility with the other, as required by whichever stupid thing they say of the only two things they know how to say. I have my suspicions about which one your guardian angel would pick in this moment, but I'm not getting paid enough to offer professional advice, so.
posted by Errant at 9:00 AM on April 15, 2016 [21 favorites]


The fact that you've cynically labeled this a "virtue signal"

I am very cynical about these things. I always question the motives of white people in these threads. At times it almost feels like some people are just trying to get their progressive bona fides on record. It one thing to have a PoC say " This is hurtful" it's another to be lectured by other white people.
posted by MikeMc at 9:01 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Virtue signaling" is one of those phrases that sounds like it describes a complicated idea, but is actually a thought-terminating cliche meaning "I don't have to take this seriously."

It was invented by James Bartholomew of the Spectator, the author of such marvelous examples of profound thought as "No golf, no bridge, scared of champagne – it’s tough being a leftie."
posted by maxsparber at 9:01 AM on April 15, 2016 [22 favorites]


"White people really don't need a set of written guidelines from you because _____________".

Because you are not qualified to write guidelines for hundreds of millions of people. Will that be sufficient?
posted by MikeMc at 9:03 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Because you are not qualified to write guidelines for hundreds of millions of people.

Okay, then who is qualified?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:05 AM on April 15, 2016


virtue signalling : racism :: white knighting : sexism
posted by gilrain at 9:05 AM on April 15, 2016 [39 favorites]


It one thing to have a PoC say " This is hurtful" it's another to be lectured by other white people.

It's one thing to continue to watch PoC say "This is hurtful," have that ridiculed and ignored, and then seeing them button.

But according to you, only PoC are qualified to do say, "This is hurtful". So, in short, you want PoC to button.
posted by qcubed at 9:06 AM on April 15, 2016 [25 favorites]


"Virtue signaling" is one of those phrases that sounds like it describes a complicated idea, but is actually a thought-terminating cliche meaning "I don't have to take this seriously."

I wonder if that's why it's so popular with white supremacist groups (warning: archive.us of popular white supremacist site).
posted by zombieflanders at 9:06 AM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


It one thing to have a PoC say " This is hurtful" it's another to be lectured by other white people.

So in addition to making PoC suffer by how we treat them, we're also going to summarily dismiss any attempts by white people to say "stop putting the work on them"?

Because you are not qualified to write guidelines for hundreds of millions of people. Will that be sufficient?

holy fuck. really. So who is qualified, pray tell, to tell white people how to behave in a less racist way? You've said no lectures from white people. You've said PoC aren't fucking qualified (as though a life of racist behaviour directed at them doesn't qualify, somehow). Who is qualified?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:06 AM on April 15, 2016 [25 favorites]


MikeMc, I think it's plenty sufficient for you to just not be interested in those guidelines and feel secure in the idea that another random person on MetaFilter isn't going to be able to enforce them and just leave it at that. So please leave it at that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:07 AM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


And more generally, this has taken a sharp turn downhill and I think maybe just everybody collectively easing off the throttle would be a good idea. Hard topic + frayed nerves makes for a pretty understandable feeling of volatility but I don't think it's gonna help anything to let that gain steam.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:10 AM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


[Of which, a few comments removed because I see zero way for some of this to not just spin up super badly. Please refresh and make sure you're not responding to comments that aren't there.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:15 AM on April 15, 2016


(aside)
So, in short, you want PoC to button

Sorry, what is "button"?
(/aside)
posted by theorique at 9:16 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Quit the site.

I can think of at least three I know of who no longer come to this site because of white people's feelings.

I feel like I count a lot of things here.
posted by qcubed at 9:17 AM on April 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


It's short for "push the (red) button," i.e. quit after taking too much shit from bigots and their enablers.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:17 AM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Close their account and leave the site, so named because of the "button" on the profile page.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:17 AM on April 15, 2016


It one thing to have a PoC say " This is hurtful" it's another to be lectured by other white people.

Something I have noticed in racial matters:

1. White people get dismissed when they say "but that's racist" because they're white and have not personally been hurt by the thing/don't actually have anything at stake. (Except "virtue signalling".)

2. People of color get dismissed because they show too much pain (that is, any pain at all) - it's too personal/subjective, they are too angry, etc. They have too much at stake.

So the very lack of personal investment that makes white people unreliable narrators when they say "that's racist" turns into the thing that make people of color unreliable narrators when they say "that's racist".
posted by Frowner at 9:20 AM on April 15, 2016 [49 favorites]


And more generally, this has taken a sharp turn downhill and I think maybe just everybody collectively easing off the throttle would be a good idea. Hard topic + frayed nerves makes for a pretty understandable feeling of volatility but I don't think it's gonna help anything to let that gain steam.

Trying this again. That reads as silencing justified PoC anger. That is not okay.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:22 AM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


People of color get dismissed because they show too much pain (that is, any pain at all) - it's too personal/subjective, they are too angry, etc. They have too much at stake.

Yes, but it's worse than that. I specifically wrote my MeTa to be non-angry, non-personal, and include no mention of pain or feelings, and yet the responses of some people in this thread seem like they imagined that I wrote all that stuff into my MeTa anyways.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:26 AM on April 15, 2016 [40 favorites]


Yes, but it's worse than that.

Yeah, I was thinking more of the way some of the conversation in the thread and the original one has gone, not of the meta itself.

posted by Frowner at 9:29 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I specifically wrote my MeTa to be non-angry, non-personal, and include no mention of pain or feelings, and yet the responses of some people in this thread seem like they imagined that I wrote all that stuff into my MeTa anyways.

Same as it ever was. Anybody that speaks up about issues like these has at one time or another been smeared as "angry" or "mean" or "nasty" no matter how they phrase it, up to and including "Please don't do/say X" or "Just an FYI, I prefer you use Y to describe people like me." And naturally those same people doing the smearing will whine about how their tone argument is totally valid, no matter how civil that tone is.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:32 AM on April 15, 2016 [29 favorites]


Yeah, having it referred to as a "rage thread" was disappointing to say the least.
posted by teponaztli at 9:34 AM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


Trying this again. That reads as silencing justified PoC anger. That is not okay.

One user criticized another user's favoriting pattern, and the mods deleted the exchange. Letting the exchange stand would have derailed this thread pretty badly. It was a good deletion.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:36 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, as mod behavior goes, I get why they delete references to comments that really needed to go.
posted by teponaztli at 9:38 AM on April 15, 2016


That comment was made before said deletions. I know what I was responding to.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:38 AM on April 15, 2016


I misread, then. Sorry!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:38 AM on April 15, 2016


Indeed it was made before those comments happened. I responded to cortex two minutes after cortex posted that comment, and wasn't referring to any other comments which had not yet been made.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:39 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


One user criticized another user's favoriting pattern, and the mods deleted the exchange. Letting the exchange stand would have derailed this thread pretty badly. It was a good deletion.

There was a lot more to it than that. But, you know. Whatever. I notice you have a favorite.
posted by qcubed at 9:41 AM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


qcubed I've hit my fave limit for the day, alas.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:43 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


There was a lot more to it than that. But, you know. Whatever. I notice you have a favorite.

If it makes you feel more validated, I notice this shit too. I think a lot of PoC do. It's how we figure out who's concern trolling, given it happens to us like, daily.
posted by Conspire at 9:45 AM on April 15, 2016 [17 favorites]


One user criticized another user's favoriting pattern, and the mods deleted the exchange.

While I can see why it was deleted, the comment was pretty eye-opening, and, honestly, I think it is fair to be able to call out users who constantly engage in shitty behavior in difficult threads, even when they do so in a manner that is sort of invisible. There are a few bad actors on this site who may or may not mean to derail these sorts of threads or shit in them, but regardless of their intentions (and I am not inclined to be generous and think it is accidental), do so again and again.
posted by maxsparber at 9:46 AM on April 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


I responded to cortex two minutes after cortex posted that comment, and wasn't referring to any other comments which had not yet been made.

Sorry, I think I missed whatever exchange got deleted, and the timestamps were misleading in this case.
posted by teponaztli at 9:47 AM on April 15, 2016


Trying this again. That reads as silencing justified PoC anger. That is not okay.

I'm not trying to silence justified anger, I'm trying to keep the thread from exploding. Lending full unfettered voice to justifiable frustrations is sometimes gonna be in tension with trying to keep something here from going deeply off the rails, and that's a hard tension to manage, but the site isn't and shouldn't turn into a free-for-all and that means sometimes nixing some stuff and asking folks to try and ease off even if I totally understand why being super chill isn't exactly what's on the menu.

Indeed it was made before those comments happened. I responded to cortex two minutes after cortex posted that comment, and wasn't referring to any other comments which had not yet been made.

It was a comment mixed in among a bunch of other comments that I deleted as a group, and you didn't quote what you were responding to in a fast-moving chain of comments so it wasn't even at all clear who you were talking to the first time or what about. Which, again, I can both appreciate the underlying drive of frustration/anger/etc involved and feel like some of the rapid-fire grumpy quippiness that ends up happening in busy moments in these threads ends up being part of the difficulty in keeping them from escalating because shit gets confusing and nobody wants to slow down.

It's a complicated dynamic, and I'm trying to catch up with this thread, stay on top of the latest bits of it, watch the flag queue, and manage like three other busy things elsewhere on the site, so it's gonna be a little bumpy. Again, I appreciate the fundamental frustration driving a lot of this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:47 AM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Virtue signaling" is one of those phrases that sounds like it describes a complicated idea, but is actually a thought-terminating cliche meaning "I don't have to take this seriously."

In this particular context, it also has the added "benefit" of serving as a bank-shot attack against POC who've explicitly called for allies to be more active in helping mitigate these kinds of behaviors among their own cohorts. Anyone who dares to listen to what POC are asking for and attempt to lend a hand is dismissed as doing so for self-aggrandizement.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:57 AM on April 15, 2016 [45 favorites]


Lending full unfettered voice to justifiable frustrations is sometimes gonna be in tension with trying to keep something here from going deeply off the rails, and that's a hard tension to manage, but the site isn't and shouldn't turn into a free-for-all and that means sometimes nixing some stuff and asking folks to try and ease off even if I totally understand why being super chill isn't exactly what's on the menu.

Not to backseat mod and I'm sure you're doing this already but looking at the folks who are constantly provoking PoC into justifiable frustration might be warranted rather than just clapping a lid on the pressure-release valve here because I don't know that that actually prevents explosions as much as forces the outlet to form in some other time and/or place.
posted by beerperson at 9:58 AM on April 15, 2016 [29 favorites]


Not to backseat mod and I'm sure you're doing this already but looking at the folks who are constantly provoking PoC into justifiable frustration might be warranted rather than just clapping a lid on the pressure-release valve here

Yes, I totally hear you on that. One of those doing-more-than-one-thing-at-a-time things.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:00 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I really thought long and hard about including a bit in my MeTa about how the mods may have blindspots regarding the words they use when leaving mod deletion notes in threads concerning cultural appropriation. I don't want be unsupportive of people who want to draw attention to it, but... how do I say this... no one's going to notice their blindspots immediately upon being told they have them. I don't think there's going to be a Eureka! mod-moment here in thread, but I do think it's something the mods should consider.

I know your job is hard and you're running around doing lots of difficult things, but one of the difficult things you should be doing is stopping to consider how much effort you should put into choosing your words as a mod in threads where you already know tensions are running high.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:03 AM on April 15, 2016 [17 favorites]


I get you, 23skidoo. And it is a difficult thing, and I am certain I'm doing an imperfect job wrangling it in real-time here while catching up on other stuff. When things are blowing up is when it's most useful for us to nail the wording of mod interjections etc. and also when it's most difficult to pull off, and that sucks for everybody and I sympathize.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:16 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


In this particular context, it also has the added "benefit" of serving as a bank-shot attack against POC who've explicitly called for allies to be more active in helping mitigate these kinds of behaviors among their own cohorts. Anyone who dares to listen to what POC are asking for and attempt to lend a hand is dismissed as doing so for self-aggrandizement.

Right. I mean, in this thread, and in a few others, I explicitly state that non-POC need to step up. And I'm not the only one.

So saying that white people stepping up are "virtue signaling" is extraordinarily dismissive.
posted by qcubed at 10:17 AM on April 15, 2016 [27 favorites]


As a woman, I get exhausted in threads about rape and sexism and assault where a bunch of men are saying hurtful things and I appreciate it when men stand up to other men. It's WRONG that men are heard more (though simultaneously shut down as annoying "white knights" trying to get attention rather than potentially doing the right thing.) To me, I would rather men take up more of that load because it's a heavy exhausting burden and I very much appreciate it. I do think when men try to do this, they can still have biases they don't see. They might be called out for doing something that actually hurts rather than helps, but even when this happens as long as the response is "Oh, sorry" even simply listening and changing the behavior I still appreciate the effort. We all have bias, none of us walk in each others shoes it takes work to understand.

I'm absolutely going to take it seriously if a POC says "Hey that doesn't actually help, maybe your voice isn't helpful right now or could you talk less about this"

But I am not at all going to respond to that lecture from the very white people saying hurtful things to POC with anything other than disagreement.

We're stronger when as allies in intersectional issues, we stand together. We uplift the voices of the people most affected, focus on their actual words rather than talking over them; we stand up to people trying to tear down their voices and make them defend themselves over and over again- and we listen to their feedback about how they want to be supported and take it in stride (as best we can) if we mess up as an ally and get told "hey thanks for the support but please not like that".

There are some threads that I know no women will touch because they already know the topic will be overwhelmed with male voices "just asking questions" or "just trying to discuss this rationally" and I feel a huge relief when there are men who are willing to address them and not just leave it all to women who may too exhaust, hurt, or even experiencing reminders of heavy trauma as a result of the content of the subject matter.

So, I will ask you, don't you think POC should have voice in whether and how they want allies to be involved?
posted by xarnop at 10:20 AM on April 15, 2016 [29 favorites]


Right. I mean, in this thread, and in a few others, I explicitly state that non-POC need to step up. And I'm not the only one.

So saying that white people stepping up are "virtue signaling" is extraordinarily dismissive.


And to extend this, I'm actually already very vocal when white people are stepping up in a harmful or patronizing way so they can cut that shit out. Like, yes, not everyone is as comfortable with that as me, and I suspect that most of us tend to run the spectrum from super charitable to cynical on white displays of allyship, but hey - enough of us are on the cynical end for good reason that if none of us are critiquing them and you, a white person, are, maybe you're the one in the wrong here.
posted by Conspire at 10:22 AM on April 15, 2016 [20 favorites]


I think the comments from a couple of White people in this thread have actually really gotten at the root of the reason this is likely to be a perennial issue: many Whites appear to literally feel that it is worse for someone to be called a racist, or to be identified as engaging in racist behavior such as cultural appropriation, than it is to be the actual victim of racism. There is no other explanation for the megrims and squirming to find another explanation, any other explanation, for why something isn't really cultural appropriation, or if it is, why that isn't racist.

It's the single most maddening part of our current "discussion on race." It's the same argument that gets made by MRAs about rape accusations, or by no one ever about non-politicized murder.

I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine what this says about those posters and their regard for the stature of people of color.
posted by OmieWise at 11:06 AM on April 15, 2016 [54 favorites]


"Not to backseat mod and I'm sure you're doing this already but looking at the folks who are constantly provoking PoC into justifiable frustration might be warranted"

Just to reiterate, you can always use the contact form and give us a heads-up when one of these people particularly stands out to you as problematic. We can totally miss things and, again, putting out immediate fires can make it difficult to step back and look at the larger pattern, especially when it happens across multiple, sporadic threads. When you see this happening, let us know. (As several people have been kind enough to do since yesterday.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:12 AM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think these discussions just keep highlighting why we need some more mod diversity.
posted by zutalors! at 11:34 AM on April 15, 2016 [27 favorites]


OmieWise:
"many Whites appear to literally feel that it is worse for someone to be called a racist, or to be identified as engaging in racist behavior such as cultural appropriation, than it is to be the actual victim of racism."
It goes beyond just race, it's privilege in general. This mirrors exactly a nightmare of a thread I read on another board about the "Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem". Pages and pages of arguments that it was worse to be falsely accused of sexual harassment and tossed out of a convention than to actually be the victim of sexual harassment. It's about the fear of having to actually suffer some sort of consequence and being willing to have someone suffer something WORSE just to protect yourself.
posted by charred husk at 12:11 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


"virtue signal"

This (and similar) arguments that the only reason white people might want to not hurt people of color is to somehow show off has been showing up with depressing frequency on MetaFilter recently. It's as if for some people the idea that not hurting people isn't enough reason to change one's behavior in public - there must be some sort of signal to other white people.

This assumption - that white people can only value and signal other white people - is part and parcel of racism. It's part of elevating white people as the only important people in the room. I'm here naming it for what it is - reinforcement of white supremacy by reframing any actions to help POC as something done to show off to other white people instead of a response to people in pain who are valuable and valued.

I strongly encourage anyone who is white who thinks other white people are anti-racist to feel superior to other white people to really think about WHO they are leaving out of their thoughts on race.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:20 PM on April 15, 2016 [40 favorites]


[A few comments removed. At this point I'm just sort of looking for a through-line for this thread to get back toward somewhere productive in the spirit of where 23skidoo started it, and I feel like neither page long "here's my perspective as a white person" stuff nor jabs at that are gonna help.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:20 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just want to reiterate: there are so few PoC here and we cannot shoulder the burden of dealing with this shit. Like, mentally and physically. I deeply appreciate everyone who speaks up. I don't care if there's a tiny part of you that's signaling something, honestly. We all signal one thing or another at any given time. You are making our time here at least partially bearable, though, and that's what matters.
posted by naju at 12:22 PM on April 15, 2016 [45 favorites]


I'm not sure that deleting clueless examples of racist behaviour is super-helpful here. I feel like it would be incredibly useful to be able to go "yep, like that thing right there, that's not okay, and here is why." I was doing exactly what--on preview--naju is getting at: speaking up. The comment wasn't helpful. Pointing out why is helpful, to prevent the same in the future.

Outright nastiness, sure. Blind-to-own-privilege, though? That doesn't seem delete-worthy.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:25 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure that deleting clueless examples of racist behaviour is super-helpful here.

People have argued the exact opposite as well, that "well it wasn't great but it wasn't that bad" in the face of recurring clueless or problematic behavior puts it on folks frustrated by that behavior in accumulation to just deal with it until something way worse finally happens to trigger action.

I think there's merits to both perspectives, and I don't think there's a simple-and-clear one way to do it. So we're going to have to rely on gut and flags and context to suss it out from call to call.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:28 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I see where you're coming from, fffm, but I think this meta already has had a bunch of different kinds of cluelessness and responses to it and having repeats of the same bad arguments because someone else thinks their white-hot (pun fully intended) take is just different enough is very tiring.
posted by Krom Tatman at 12:29 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


*shrug* okay.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:30 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


regarding repeat offenders - Just to reiterate, you can always use the contact form and give us a heads-up when one of these people particularly stands out to you as problematic.

Maybe the flags need an added option of "OMFG, this shit again"
posted by phearlez at 1:35 PM on April 15, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm not talking about people who are repeating their arguments, I'm talking about new folks coming in and repeating slightly dressed up variations on what's already been argued in-depth, like the world's least fun side scrolling platformer
posted by Krom Tatman at 1:40 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Could we have a PoC mod? I know resources are limited when it comes to hiring mods but... this could really help. I feel there have been many PoC who left Metafilter or just stopped contributing because of the regular racial micro-aggressions and very PoC-wearying/unwelcoming atmosphere here. And the current mods are great, but I feel having a PoC mod would help (in a more systemic way) alleviate the racist behavior and assumptions that keep happening here on Metafilter. I think a PoC mod could potentially go a long way in setting and regulating and being particularly attuned to a more positive, inclusive tone and atmosphere on Metafilter. (Or at least, making it more neutral instead of increasingly unwelcoming, as I feel it has become.) I know we like to imagine or believe Metafilter keeps getting better over the years, but this issue of diversity and racial insensitivity/exclusion/insularity here is one that I feel has become worse over the years.

It's a vicious cycle: the more PoC feel intimidated and excluded here, the less they participate and stay. And the less PoC there are here, the more white and insular it becomes.. which in turns seems to breed more racially-unwelcoming/aggressive behavior. I feel things are becoming worse, and I hope it can get better instead.
posted by aielen at 1:56 PM on April 15, 2016 [20 favorites]


I don't go into threads about subjects that disinterest me and drop the same half-dozen tired arguments about something not even existing.

I think this - not in the specific, but in the general, bringing it back to the original post - is part of the problem, though. Because I see two different types of FPPs that usually lead into cultural appropriation arguing on Metafilter. The first is "This instance of cultural appropriation happened, WTF". The second is "This really cool thing exists, isn't it neat?"

And it would probably, on a broad scale, be best if people who were uninterested in cultural appropriation discussion stay out of FPPs on cultural appropriation so people could have a conversation about it. But the second case is a little harder - because there's kind of a culture of "don't shit on the FPP", so when someone posts a "hey isn't this cool" and the first ten comments are "no it's cultural appropriation and sucks" it also is maybe not the greatest way to be engaging on that post. Because the post isn't about cultural appropriation, it's about "hey isn't this cool" and we generally have kind of pushed back on people commenting whose only answer is "no it makes me want to set it on fire." And I say this as someone who frequently feels "no it makes me want to set it on fire" and has been trying really hard to stay out of FPPs that I just want to punch in the face.
posted by corb at 2:12 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Could we have a PoC mod?

We talked about this a bunch in MetaTalk at a couple points, last year-ish. It's a hard question to address in a satisfying way because the practical issues have just about nothing to do with the aspirational ones, and the practical issues are pretty fundamental. We just don't have the budget to increase staffing, and barring fundamental changes in the web economy are unlikely to be able to do so any time soon. We're a very small shop that hires for long-term fits so there's minimal turnover even proportional to the staff size vs. a lot of other kinds of companies.

In terms of just aspiration: yes, I think it'd be great if the MetaFilter staff was more racially and culturally diverse. And given that I'm hopeful that the site will continue to be around for a long time, we may get a chance to accomplish that in the future as hiring opportunities come along. It's just very difficult to say anything more concrete than that because we hire so rarely and the job is a deeply idiosyncratic beast that I wouldn't wish on anyone without the right sort of very specific temperament.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:12 PM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


Which I was just about to surmise so thank you for letting me dodge that bullet.
posted by y2karl at 2:16 PM on April 15, 2016


Meaning I would have written something that would fall far short.
posted by y2karl at 2:18 PM on April 15, 2016


there's kind of a culture of "don't shit on the FPP"

Yes, but I don't think it's shitting on the FPP to engage with it in a way that includes responses that the poster didn't expect. Just because someone posts "Hey, look! Rage Yoga!" doesn't mean (to me) that people who are all "Ummm, what the hell, that's terrible" are doing anything other than clicking on the links, reading them, and presenting their reaction in a way that doesn't shit on other Mefites. I think we should value "not shitting on other Mefites" more than we value "not shitting on FPPs".

Plus, in this specific example, I really couldn't tell that the person who posted about Rage Yoga was intending it to be a fun, light-hearted thread. If I had read about Rage Yoga and wanted to post about it to Metafilter, I think I would have framed it in, like, the EXACT same way, down to the title, so that I wouldn't be accused of framing it badly. The framing of the Rage Yoga (to me) seems neutral, like anyone could have any reaction to it.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:25 PM on April 15, 2016 [25 favorites]


But the second case is a little harder - because there's kind of a culture of "don't shit on the FPP", so when someone posts a "hey isn't this cool" and the first ten comments are "no it's cultural appropriation and sucks" it also is maybe not the greatest way to be engaging on that post. Because the post isn't about cultural appropriation, it's about "hey isn't this cool" and we generally have kind of pushed back on people commenting whose only answer is "no it makes me want to set it on fire."

OK, from the FAQ:
Threadshitting is either early snark, noise, "who cares" or joke comments in a newish MeFi thread or someone repeatedly making off-topic or noise comments in a thread often as a way of derailing discussion. Early threadshitting comments are frequently deleted.
So just to be clear - are you calling criticisms of the FPP subject as cultural appropriation "threadshitting"? Which of the below are they, and why:

-early snark
-noise or off-topic
-"who cares"
-jokes

(I feel like any answer you give to this will make me unreasonably upset, so I'm not entirely sure why I'm asking.)
posted by naju at 2:29 PM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


I think we should value "not shitting on other Mefites" more than we value "not shitting on FPPs".

And to anyone thinking of trying to gotcha me, nope, comments like "this is bullshit cultural appropriation" are not shitting on other Mefites, but comments like "I've read why you said this is harmful, but really this isn't harmful" or "only white people on the internet are upset about this" or "you shouldn't take this personally" or "why are you getting so angry about this?" or "why is this important to you" or "this doesn't bother me, so it shouldn't bother you" ARE shitting on other Mefites.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:31 PM on April 15, 2016 [25 favorites]


To me, it really read as an attempt at a "hey, kind of cool" thread - which is why I didn't engage in it, because I have negative feels about yoga as currently practiced faux-spiritually by rich white ladies. But even despite my feels about that, which naturally extends to the Rage Yoga whatever, when I clicked on the link and saw the very first comment called the thing "bullshit cultural appropriation", I winced.

I think there's ways to broach the subject of cultural appropriation maybe even in a thread about 'this is pretty cool', but I think broaching it as the very first comment in a snarky way is not going to allow the thread to really be about anything /but/ cultural appropriation. And reading further down the thread, it looks like that thread is nothing but fighting about cultural appropriation all the way down, and may have been propelled into fightiness by the fact that that first comment was so harsh and snarky.
posted by corb at 2:34 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


or maybe the underlying topic wasn't that cool or interesting to most people, and the only notable thing notable about it was that it was bullshit cultural appropriation.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:35 PM on April 15, 2016 [22 favorites]


I guess we need a bunch of comments going "hey, this is cool!" before we can gently, gingerly voice our criticisms. If I opened the thread and saw that I would be extremely demoralized about this site and the people in it.
posted by naju at 2:37 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


"This is bullshit cultural appropriation" is strongly worded, but it's not snarky.
posted by Lexica at 2:37 PM on April 15, 2016 [23 favorites]


And reading further down the thread, it looks like that thread is nothing but fighting about cultural appropriation all the way down, and may have been propelled into fightiness by the fact that that first comment was so harsh and snarky.

Or maybe it was fragile white supremacy being challenged. Oh wait yes that exactly what it was.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:37 PM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


or maybe the underlying topic wasn't that cool or interesting to most people, and the only notable thing notable about it was that it was bullshit cultural appropriation.

I mean, yes? People like me, who aren't interested in Rage Yoga because it seems BS and our only contributions would be mockery? But I think maybe "I think this FPP sucks and should be drowned in fire" isn't really a response that leads to great conversation on Metafilter, which the ensuing conversation seems to have in many ways shown. I mean, I'm assuming we're all starting from the place of "the conversation on that post looks like a tire fire", but do you think it went well?
posted by corb at 2:45 PM on April 15, 2016


(Sorry if something like this has already been suggested somewhere in the long and contentious thread.)

I've said this before, possibly too often, but something I have become increasingly serious about is reading the whole thread before commenting. In threads like this, that's daunting, especially when it's well underway and my week is exceptionally busy, but it's well worth doing. Reading all the way to the end keeps down "answer this 101-level question (already asked and answered three times), helps one read the room, and usually kills the desire to "lighten the mood" in a contentious thread by throwing out lines that are supposed to be funny. The only downside is that MetaFilter might be denied my personal blend on wisdom and insight (or at least be delayed in receiving it), but, strangely, that doesn't seem to be all that much of a drawback....

Read to the end; it's usually for the best.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:46 PM on April 15, 2016 [26 favorites]


corb, I think "don't point out things you think are serious problems" is really not a productive suggestion in here.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:47 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think there's ways to broach the subject of cultural appropriation maybe even in a thread about 'this is pretty cool', but I think broaching it as the very first comment in a snarky way is not going to allow the thread to really be about anything /but/ cultural appropriation.

The amount of push back to my suggestions in this MeTa makes me think that if someone waited like 20 comments to say "cultural appropriation", the only difference between would be the first 20 comments, and everything afterwards would be about the same. Actually, I think waiting to say "cultural appropriation" would make things WAAAAAY worse, because then you'd get people saying things like "Why do you have to make this about cultural appropriation? It's just supposed to be a fun thread. Why does everything have to be about cultural appropriation? Everyone was having fun until you showed up."

Or, y'know, judging by the comments I read before they were deleted, things like that but even more clueless and more racist.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:47 PM on April 15, 2016 [22 favorites]


But I think maybe "I think this FPP sucks and should be drowned in fire" isn't really a response that leads to great conversation on Metafilter,

That response is not a response that actually happened. Try again.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:48 PM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


"I think this FPP sucks and should be drowned in fire"

Whoa, that's not what "this is bullshit cultural appropriation" means. At all. "This" in that sentence clearly refers to Rage Yoga, not the FPP itself.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:50 PM on April 15, 2016 [18 favorites]


"This is bullshit cultural appropriation" is strongly worded, but it's not snarky.

I read it the same way. It seems strikingly straightforward to me.
posted by maxsparber at 2:50 PM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


I mean, I'm assuming we're all starting from the place of "the conversation on that post looks like a tire fire", but do you think it went well?

I don't know how you failed to get this from the very beginning of this meta, but the problem certainly wasn't with the people criticizing the subject of the FPP - it was with the people interrogating, needling, and disbelieving PoC and throwing shallow intellectual exercises at them as gotchas. That's why the conversation was a tire fire.
posted by naju at 2:50 PM on April 15, 2016 [28 favorites]


People criticized the topic of the FPP — the "Rage Yoga" — not the FPP itself. "Don't threadshit" is not the same as "don't discuss a thread's topic critically".
posted by Lexica at 2:51 PM on April 15, 2016 [22 favorites]


Yeah, calling out the topic of an FPP is really different from calling out the existance of an FPP or a MeFite, and it's usually nott too difficult to see the difference between them. The only palce where it gets tricky is when the FPP is about a MeFite (which I've sen go really badly). Unless the Rage Yoga founder is a member, though, that's not the problem here.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:54 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


As happens often, corb, I'm at a loss to understand the point you're trying to make. On the one hand you seem to indicate that you understand what cultural appropriation is and why it's problematic, but on the other you seem to be suggesting that if people just want to engage in an appreciation of cultural appropriation without being challenged, well that aughta be ok. I can't reconcile your former claim with your latter position.

Can you explain why you think carving out a space for unchallenged cultural appropriation is a good thing for the community? Is that your position in re all cultural appropriation, or only for those cultures to which you don't belong?
posted by OmieWise at 3:03 PM on April 15, 2016 [15 favorites]


I believe the point of this meta is the idea of moving towards creating a safe space to have conversations. Safe spaces are truly where people feel free to express themselves and where ideas and people can prosper. I have no idea what that would look like here but it would be a responsibility everyone would need to carry, and that responsiblity would probably take different forms for different people. Again, I don't have the answers, but the uncomfortable burden of change is nothing compared to the burden of racism, domination, erasure, and real pain some people have to endure.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:04 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


But the second case is a little harder - because there's kind of a culture of "don't shit on the FPP", so when someone posts a "hey isn't this cool" and the first ten comments are "no it's cultural appropriation and sucks" it also is maybe not the greatest way to be engaging on that post.

I think that expectation is more for stuff along the lines of, "Your favorite band sucks." It's for stuff where the issue at hand is more just a matter of taste than an issue of harm being done to a culture or other serious issues.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:10 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Seriously?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:21 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Can you explain why you think carving out a space for unchallenged cultural appropriation is a good thing for the community? Is that your position in re all cultural appropriation, or only for those cultures to which you don't belong?

I think my position is that I really love this community and spend a lot of time in the community and thinking about the community and I'm exhausted and heartsick by all of the ugliness and fighting that I've been seeing over the last several months, so am maybe more sensitive to conflict that seems ugly and unnecessary than I would ordinarily be, and am looking for some mitigation strategies that might work.

I'm not trying to suggest that mefites shouldn't be able to challenge what they see as cultural appropriation or other mefites they think are engaging in it, though I recognize some mefites are perceiving it that way. I am suggesting, perhaps poorly, that maybe we could all be kinder to each other and the expectations people have, and maybe one way of being kinder to each other could be pausing for a minute to write our criticism in a way that is less certain of starting a contentious argument that no one actually enjoys and that is going to sap everyone's energy and hope in a year that is already pretty draining.

But it's also possible that I'm just expressing myself particularly poorly because I am feeling particularly drained by all of the fighting in a place I care about in a year where many of us are literally facing the possibility of HitlerLight for Leader. So my apologies if that's the case, OmieWise.

I'm going to bow out of the thread at this point - I don't know if I'm not being clear or if people are misreading me but either way seems like a recipe for me to just get more and more frustrated until I'm a miserable human being, and that is good for no one. I am as ever, available on memail if people want/need me/me to clarify anything.
posted by corb at 3:21 PM on April 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


The solution to that is for white people to be less bloody fragile about our cultural supremacy being slowly eroded.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:25 PM on April 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


Could Metafilter do fundraising specifically for a PoC mod? Would people give (enough) money for that?
posted by clawsoon at 3:26 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I believe the point of this meta is the idea of moving towards creating a safe space to have conversations.

I'll be honest: I'm not really comfortable with that description, mostly because I anticipate people are going to literally gnash their teeth and pull their hair and scream and say shitty, clueless things about how people are too sensitive because you used the words "safe space".

The point of my MeTa was this: I think Metafilter can take concrete, non-vague steps to identify and discourage certain kinds of comments that happen over and over in threads concerning cultural appropriation, and I think identifying and discouraging these kinds of comments would improve Metafilter.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:27 PM on April 15, 2016 [37 favorites]


23skidoo, I've really appreciated the way you've put these suggestions and kept the focus on them throughout this. Thank you.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:32 PM on April 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


I had literally no clue it was going to be THIS difficult. #naive
posted by 23skidoo at 3:34 PM on April 15, 2016 [17 favorites]


I suspect what's happening is most people are reading the suggestions, nodding silently, and simply not commenting in here. So skeptical comments are overrepresented in the thread. That's just my guess.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:36 PM on April 15, 2016 [35 favorites]


23skidoo, speaking as someone who reads to the bottom of threads before commenting, I appreciate your well-thought out meta. Not sure why you are receiving pushback at such reasonable suggestions, but, please know, people do come to MetaFilter to read and learn. I've dug myself into a hole at one time or another, from wanting to share what my experience is (aka white hot take (!?)), when it had nothing to do with the story at hand. It is always a learning experience for me. That's why I keep coming back.

Thanks also to qcubed for the Craig Ferguson link.

Does this need to be said? Does this need to be said by me? Does this need to be said by me now?
posted by Roger Dodger at 3:36 PM on April 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


I am suggesting, perhaps poorly, that maybe we could all be kinder to each other and the expectations people have, and maybe one way of being kinder to each other could be pausing for a minute to write our criticism in a way that is less certain of starting a contentious argument that no one actually enjoys and that is going to sap everyone's energy and hope in a year that is already pretty draining.

I hear you here. It's gotten so I am a little afraid to look at my contacts for fear that a member whose thoughts and opinions I find really valuable will have buttoned. As you say, it's really draining.

However, the problem I have with a blanket "be kinder" request is that it, like all calls for civility, hurts the disadvantaged. If you can't express anger, disappointment, frustration, etc after repeated attacks, small and large, every day for years, there is no way you can talk at all, not about the important things. I think that people who are privileged need to be kinder, to not take it personally, to accept that it's not about them, and that, in a particular discussion, that their opinions, curiosities, and theories just aren't that important, and, maybe, could be left unsaid.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:39 PM on April 15, 2016 [34 favorites]


I suspect what's happening is most people are reading the suggestions, nodding silently, and simply not commenting in here.

Ha, let's hope you're right.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:45 PM on April 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


I can tell you, as a long-time member of this site, that the dynamic playing out in my head re: commenting here is a sadly familiar one.

1. Someone brings up an issue.
2. Various long-time members of the site pop up like clockwork basically to say "OK, but what if I could make this post about me?"

Given the fucking wearisome routine above and the fact that I am at the very tip of the privilege pyramid as well as in basically the same long-time member quadrant that appears to be so troublesome, I can only set my bar for commenting here so high that it's very hard to understand when I would comment. (I already did make one post much earlier).

That said, I can confirm that I have been: reading the suggestions, nodding silently, and simply not commenting in here.
posted by selfnoise at 3:54 PM on April 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


I've just made it to the end of the thread. I've read your suggestions and agree wholeheartedly and will take your advice. I've been quietly nodding and I'm only commenting so you know LM is right. Thanks for posting this.
posted by billiebee at 3:59 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


most people are reading the suggestions, nodding silently, and simply not commenting in here.


this applies to me.

also worth pointing out -- don't discount how discussions such as these might inform someone's interactions outside of MeFi in a positive way.
posted by philip-random at 4:05 PM on April 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


Just to reiterate, you can always use the contact form and give us a heads-up when one of these people particularly stands out to you as problematic. We can totally miss things and, again, putting out immediate fires can make it difficult to step back and look at the larger pattern, especially when it happens across multiple, sporadic threads. When you see this happening, let us know. (As several people have been kind enough to do since yesterday.)


I've said this before in other MeTas, so I'll be brief in lieu of flogging a dead horse, but I really wish mod policy would shift towards deleting a lot less and banning a lot more. Deletions, in a value-neutral sense, have so many frustrating and deleterious effects on discussion. I appreciate that mods take the time to delete comments that contribute to an unsafe or toxic environment, but why should people who have crossed that line get to stay in the community?

I don't want to downplay the extent to which "regular" users commit microaggressions, but so many of the people who already receive the most mod attention are recurrent trolls who contribute precious little to the site other than to derail any thread they think they can latch their bigotry, concern trolling, and feigned ignorance to. I'm not sure what specifically the reluctance to banning is rooted in, but constant deletion of the same users' comments seems functionally the same, except that it's massively more labor-intensive and makes discussions much more confusing and frustrating for the community as a whole.
posted by threeants at 4:05 PM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


It's a hard question to address in a satisfying way because the practical issues have just about nothing to do with the aspirational ones, and the practical issues are pretty fundamental. We just don't have the budget to increase staffing, and barring fundamental changes in the web economy are unlikely to be able to do so any time soon.

I'm wondering, is there anything we as MeFites could do to help or get us closer to that point? Could we fundraise or donate specifically to help Metafilter become more PoC-friendly?

I love Metafilter, but the increasing level of racial/cultural micro-aggression has felt very unsettling (understatement) - to the point where I would really be glad to donate towards site-related improvements that would concretely encourage a more PoC-friendly atmosphere. I don't know how donations are allotted, or budgeting priorities... and I understand there's tremendous time, commitment and financials involved in running Metafilter, but if there's a way we as a community and contributors/donors could somehow help the process or work towards this goal, that would mean a lot. (Not just to PoC I hope - but the health and trajectory of our community as a whole.)
posted by aielen at 4:08 PM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


(sorry clawsoon, posted before I saw your earlier comment asking about the same thing.)
posted by aielen at 4:08 PM on April 15, 2016


reading the suggestions, nodding silently, and simply not commenting in here.

Me too. I think the original post has excellent, concrete suggestions that I entirely agree with. I just don't have any useful or thoughtful comments of my own to add, so I've kept quiet.
posted by langtonsant at 4:08 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think both people who appreciate and who dislike MeFi's moderation style would come to agreement that moderation is significantly more present and noticeable here than on most other open sites with comparable membership-- this is something frequently noted with pride in various MeTas. The mods make it very clear very often that this isn't some sort of libertarian free-speech-or-death zone. So I really don't understand the bashfulness around banning people who are chronically bad for the community.
posted by threeants at 4:14 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Count me as a nodder.
posted by josher71 at 4:16 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


most people are reading the suggestions, nodding silently, and simply not commenting in here.


this applies to me


I think there are a lot of us doing this. Lurking is often a smart thing to do, even if you do agree.
posted by aclevername at 4:19 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Nodder here.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:19 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


And as a guidelines supporter.
posted by josher71 at 4:19 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


We actually have stepped up our ban rate significantly in the last year or so - it's just the sort of thing that we don't announce, and you might not notice if you weren't specifically hate-following someone.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:20 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


*nods*
posted by duffell at 4:20 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


. I'm not sure what specifically the reluctance to banning is rooted in,

In this kind of instance, I have to say it baffles me too. I not so long ago ran afoul of the mods for bad behavior in election threads. I was, indeed, behaving badly, but only by vigorously disputing the narrative of other profuse and fighty posters. The mods set clear boundaries for me, which were appropriate and which I violated, and I was quickly banned for 24 hours and then another 24 when I did it again. I took a break for myself (buttoned) to get myself together, and when I tried to come back, found that I was de facto banned unless I agreed to stay out of election threads.

If all that can happen, and did, for calling supporters of a political candidate deluded or disingenuous (or in one case sexist), then it seems strange that bannings aren't deployed to greater effect here.
posted by OmieWise at 4:22 PM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


You were banned for 24 hours, repeated the behavior, and then banned again for another 24 hours?

😲

(Man I would be shitting myself.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:28 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


(I mean I would be on my very, very tippy-toe best behavior. Glad you're still here!)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:29 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


I suspect what's happening is most people are reading the suggestions, nodding silently, and simply not commenting in here.

+1, and thinking about ways in which I can be most helpful on this front. I missed out on a lot of this particular thread, but I heard about how crappily it went. I'll be recalibrating my flagging levels (never great!) and making it more of a priority to call this stuff out when I do see it.
posted by sciatrix at 4:30 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Nodding here
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:36 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry to thrice post but I just wanted to give a textual +1 to aielen's two previous comments. I don't see how things aren't going to sail down the same stream we've been on if there isn't more diversity on the Mefi staff - either an advisory board, temp-mods rotated in, volunteer mods, or what-have-you. Call it a Diversity Steering Committe. I don't know. Just _something_. It would be a great leadership thing to see happen, and would no doubt foster goodwill.

Love the crowdsourcing idea but it really should come from the Mefi coffers. I know a mod was just hired, and I know 'things are tight'. I'm working in the dark, we don't know what that means, specifically, as financials are private here.

However more POC members will leave if this continues, that much seems obvious to me.

So: what is MetaFilter going to do about it?
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:37 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


So: what is MetaFilter going to do about it?

Certainly nothing right this second, hiring-wise - even if we had the money, I don't think we have the bandwidth to bring on a new mod right now, as the travel and general outages we brought Eyebrows on (partially) to cover are just ramping up. Training a new person takes time, and we'd want to do it right. We're talking about it behind the scenes, though, and I think we're all generally on board with the idea that new hires ideally bring new perspectives, and we're sorely lacking non-white ones.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:44 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


A trans mod would also be good.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:55 PM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


You were banned for 24 hours, repeated the behavior, and then banned again for another 24 hours?

Yes. Quite apart from anything having to do with my internal state of mind, and notwithstanding that I didn't agree with all of the mod positions, most of them are kind and reasonable. I was quite surprised that buttoning could become a ban, which doesn't really seem to square with how BND has always been presented, but they were kind enough to let me back after I agreed to their strictures.
posted by OmieWise at 5:00 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's not any actual connection between the buttoning and the restriction, as we've told you repeatedly. Topic restrictions are a tool we sometimes use with people who we can't come to an agreement with on finer-grained behavior changes. Your buttoning, from our perspective, was completely irrelevant and affected nothing but the timing of the conversation.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:08 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


most people are reading the suggestions, nodding silently, and simply not commenting in here

Lurking and nodding here
posted by poxandplague at 5:16 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


corb: "I mean, yes? People like me, who aren't interested in Rage Yoga because it seems BS and our only contributions would be mockery?"

Then, and I say this with the utmost seriousness, stay out of the thread. Close it. Move on. Your voice is not needed.
posted by scrump at 5:17 PM on April 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm not trying to relitigate this, but what you've said makes no sense. You wouldn't allow me back until I agreed to the restriction. That's a ban. It's not irrelevant that I couldn't come back without that content restriction. Had you turned on my account and then made the restriction then your claim that the timing is irrelevant would hold water.

And, just for the record, I'm not disputing the content restriction. I think it's reasonable and that I earned it with my hardheadedness.

But all of this is beside my original point, which is that if I can be banned and content restricted for conversations between people with no asymmetrical privilege (at least with respect to the conversation we were having) then the mod response to issues like the ones raised here seem oddly anemic.
posted by OmieWise at 5:20 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm not trying to relitigate this, but [relitigates this]
posted by tonycpsu at 5:23 PM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


i was making the timeline clear since the mod wanted to present one that makes no logical sense.
posted by OmieWise at 5:34 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


joseph conrad is fully awesome: "I'm sorry to thrice post but I just wanted to give a textual +1 to aielen's two previous comments. I don't see how things aren't going to sail down the same stream we've been on if there isn't more diversity on the Mefi staff - either an advisory board, temp-mods rotated in, volunteer mods, or what-have-you. Call it a Diversity Steering Committe. I don't know. Just _something_. It would be a great leadership thing to see happen, and would no doubt foster goodwill."

The idea of an advisory board seems like a good one, because it's a solution that potentially could be accomplished without a huge financial or logistical outlay. Say, five to seven members, with missions to represent the voices of specific marginalized MetaFilter communities?

There are any number of marginalized communities here on MetaFilter, but there are three that leap out to me as experiencing particularly recurrent issues: women, PoC, and transgendered members (and the various intersections of all three).

That's not to say that these three communities represent the totality of marginalized groups on MetaFilter, but they seem like the three communities most likely to benefit from representation in MetaFilter's operations, even if it's on a voluntary advisory board.
posted by scrump at 5:36 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


OmieWise: "i was making the timeline clear since the mod wanted to present one that makes no logical sense."

Please stop making this discussion about you and your very specific circumstances, especially as those circumstances have nothing to do with the purpose of this MeTa.
posted by scrump at 5:38 PM on April 15, 2016 [24 favorites]


Good point. Sorry.
posted by OmieWise at 5:41 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is not a conversation we preferentially have in public with people, so whether or not you're seeing in in this MetaTalk doesn't really tell you anything. Generally what will happen, as prelude to a ban for a larger pattern of behavior, is we talk about it a bit behind the scenes (and because we're all scheduled sequentially, that conversation often takes at least 24 hours.) Once we've come to a decision on what message is the right one, we send an email to discuss what behavior changes we need, we give the person some time to show improvement, and then if we don't get it, we drop the hammer. (This is different from temp-bans, which usually happen either independently or after a quick sanity check with whoever happens to be online, and are basically "you don't seem to be able to cut that out so we're cutting it for you." They're an optional first step in the process if the problem is immediate.)

Even before that, we note patterns (literally put them in the Notes field on a user's admin page) and keep an eye on them, which is why people dropping us a line to tell us patterns *they've* seen is really helpful. It not only alerts us in the moment, but can help six months later when a particular behavior crops up again. This is a relatively (since the beginning of my tenure, I think) new tool, and it's been super helpful to give us perspective and help newer folks get up to speed fast on older sub-banning-level problems. It also helps with people who button right as we're contemplating a ban - we go to that page to reopen an account, so it's really easy to see a note that says "Before reopening, make sure user knows to stop doing that thing they do." It doesn't come up that often, but when it does, it's *really* nice to have.

The main change in the last 18 months or so is that now, when someone with a ton of notes/temp bans/whatever about a particular behavior does it again, we're *much* more likely to say "This isn't working, bye" rather than just doing the temp ban/email discussion thing again. It's made a perceptible difference from our end, and I hope it's helped a bit from yours, too.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:42 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


The idea of an advisory board seems like a good one
To what end? Not hat I disagree with you, but there would have to be some value added. WHat would this group do, and what powers would it have?

As a queer, disabled, aboriginal woman, I'd volunteer, but I'd want to know what this advisory board would actually DO.
posted by aclevername at 5:45 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'd want to know what this advisory board would actually DO.

I'm curious about that, too, and how it would differ from MetaTalk.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:46 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's made a perceptible difference from our end, and I hope it's helped a bit from yours, too

*search*

Yes, yes it has.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:50 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


aclevername: "To what end? Not hat I disagree with you, but there would have to be some value added. WHat would this group do, and what powers would it have?"

Off the top of my head, I'd envision it advising the staff on changes to improve or fine-tune site policy, in harmony with MetaFilter's stated mission and policies. Something very like this Meta's original premise, on a recurring basis.

It seems to me that the advisory board's members would be most likely to be involved in discussions that affect them, and would possibly have a better radar for recurring problem behaviors related to the communities they represent than the moderators, who are responsible for the entire site.

Essentially, I'd view the advisory board as providing a steady feedback loop to the moderation team of "here is a problem behavior that's cropping up a lot in discussions about <X>, and here's our recommendation for how to address those problems at a site-policy level".

These are just my thoughts, are not intended to be representative of anyone's viewpoints but my own.
posted by scrump at 5:52 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


restless_nomad: "I'm curious about that, too, and how it would differ from MetaTalk."

It wouldn't differ much from Meta's like this one, I think, but the idea would be to get a handle on problems like these before they become acute, through greater early awareness.

Put another way, the idea would be to get out ahead of problems like this so that they're seen and addressed before the point where there have already been several years of "Cultural Appropriation 101" heavy lifting.

With a lot of Meta's like this one, there's an undercurrent of exhaustion, where the people involved have been trying to fix the issue for literally years, with very little progress; maybe something like an advisory board could get these issues into the foreground, and addressed, before that exhaustion sets in for members?
posted by scrump at 5:56 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well I threw out alot of ideas off the top of my head, let's see here.
"An advisory board is a body that provides non-binding strategic advice to the management of a corporation, organization, or foundation. The informal nature of an advisory board gives greater flexibility in structure and management compared to the Board of Directors."
So that sounds fairly corporate, bearing in mind that Metafilter is a private company, right?

Next search result (this is quick googling here):
"People driving enterprises often find that their jobs are lonely. For some, the issue may be that they have yet to build trust in any person or group to provide ongoing, meaningful guidance. For others, the complexity and speed of their business makes it difficult to reach out for help on any particular topic. In these and similar cases, advisory boards provide the degree of consistency, longevity and background knowledge that can allow advisory board members to know enough and have enough interest that they can advise reliably on particular issues. Having an advisory board position and receiving compensation for the position (or being committed in some other way) help to ensure that a request for assistance will be taken seriously and that thoughtful advice will be provided."
I see an advisory board as breaking into the 'mod bubble' and providing breadth of experience and knowledge from a POC and / or trans point of view (nod to feckless fecal fear mongering for comment above).

_How_ this is achieved is for those paid by Metafilter to devise in a more detailed way than this 'back of the napkin' (or half-assed) comment - I'm off to do a run, sorry I cannot do more! Will check back.

Basically, it would be up to others to shape but certainly would have more power than a regular community member and there would be more communication between the advisory board and the mods, maybe weekly Skype meetings or HEY I'M NOT IN CHARGE HERE YOU PEOPLE DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:58 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's no particular reason people need to make MeTas reactively - maybe a first step would be people deciding to discuss patterns they're seeing a little earlier. We're still probably going to want to work with people on precise timing (policy MeTas over the weekends aren't great for us, ditto when half the staff is traveling) but the whole design of the subsite is to do just that (plus we're *always* open to email conversations with anyone.)

I'm a little puzzled by the idea we need a separate structure for non-binding strategic advice, because... this is it! Right here! You're all advisors! If I'm missing something, I'd love to hear more.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:02 PM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


knowledge from a POC and / or trans

I politely submit that these are major issues for the site, but not the only issues, It should be a"minority" advisory board. Says the queer, native, disabled woman.
posted by aclevername at 6:02 PM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


joseph conrad is fully awesome: "I see an advisory board as breaking into the 'mod bubble' and providing breadth of experience and knowledge from a POC and / or trans point of view (nod to feckless fecal fear mongering for comment above)."

This. This is what I was trying to get at with my "awareness" comment. In the past, the moderator team has mentioned that they've missed some context because they're not members of a specific marginalized community, and just didn't pick up on something.

It seems like an advisory board might be a way to improve that awareness; the advisory board wouldn't be making policy, but instead recommending policy; at the least, even if a recommendation weren't adopted, it would provide visibility.
posted by scrump at 6:03 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Basically, it would be up to others to shape but certainly would have more power than a regular community member

I think anything that gives some members more power than other members is such a break from the historical norm and the purpose of Metafilter that I hope it's a non-starter.
posted by Justinian at 6:08 PM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


aclevername: "I politely submit that these are major issues for the site, but not the only issues, It should be a"minority" advisory board. Says the queer, native, disabled woman."

I tried to explicitly make this clear, but it's worth saying again: the three communities I mentioned were not intended to represent all marginalized communities on MetaFilter.

The issue of constituting an advisory board to provide adequate representation is something I am completely unequipped to address, and I'll leave that to others.
posted by scrump at 6:08 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Mods are a different category; while they are community members they are also mods. They aren't "community members with more power".
posted by Justinian at 6:09 PM on April 15, 2016


Justinian: "I think anything that gives some members more power than other members is such a break from the historical norm and the purpose of Metafilter that I hope it's a non-starter."

I'm definitely not suggesting that, for the record.

I think any advisory board should be advisory only, and limited in scope. No power to implement policy, just to suggest, full transparency, and recommendations coming from the board, not individual board members.
posted by scrump at 6:14 PM on April 15, 2016


Mmm. I'm not sure whether or not I'm in favor of such a board; it seems to me that it'd be asking a lot of emotional labor from the participants for not necessarily a lot of gain, and I've come out against proposals like that in the past. Especially when it gets into "well, how do you choose them?" questions; I'm uncomfortable the idea of elections to such a board, because I've seen those create structural problems with communities in the past. (And aside from everyone else: who chooses? Marginalized posters are not a monolith, and choosing some subset of those posters to make the Official Minority Judgement Calls Of Metafilter seems needlessly fraught.) That said...

I'm a little puzzled by the idea we need a separate structure for non-binding strategic advice, because... this is it! Right here! You're all advisors! If I'm missing something, I'd love to hear more.
Opening a MeTa is a lot of pressure, especially if it goes badly. Especially if you are part of a group that doesn't have safety in numbers on this site. I'm queer, and I'm a woman; well, if I need someone to back me up on a question, there's an informal network of feminist women and other queer folk who have my back, within reason, and who I trust to be at least as sensitive to issues like this as I am. Knowing that gives me a lot of confidence that I otherwise might not have, especially on the grey. That's not the case for a lot of other marginalized identities. This may be especially true on topics of racism where the perspective and worries of, say, an Indian poster may differ dramatically from an African-American poster may differ dramatically again from a First Nations poster--to name three groups of people with very different experiences of racism and marginalization who are nevertheless all lumped under the catch-all "PoC."

I think the question that I have is how to help foster those networks of "hey I got your back" "got it", where we can, and I think a relatively private space in which to let people with X marginalized identity serve as a sounding board on mod discussions might do that. Ordinarily, a MeTa would be a fine place for something like that, but MeTas have this terrible history of entitled white folk wandering in and centering the discussion around themselves. Something like the recent Asian-descent meet-and-greet, maybe, would be a good basis for what I'm thinking of--and hey, that did work okay openly on the grey.
posted by sciatrix at 6:19 PM on April 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


I know this idea of formalizing advisory roles is coming from a good place, but I think we already have two strong advisory channels -- Metatalk and the contact form. The community and moderation changes around here in the last few years have been driven by members making the case to the community in Metatalk, and in private correspondence with us via the contact form. Both are venues where mods are already 24/7 available and listening (to the greatest extent possible) to community input.

Moderation here doesn't proceed by writing policies or issuing firm declarations; that's not the process. It's case by case. And we change how we handle cases based on Metatalk threads like this. This is the advisory process in action.

Also I think with a lot of these privilege-blindness things, moving the needle within the community is what makes the biggest difference, and that has happened through Metatalk, where members talk directly about the problems they're seeing and why it's a problem. My sense is most people are on board with the more intensive moderation we do today, and that's so because they've heard what other members have said here. The moderation changes aren't being imposed seemingly from nowhere by the mods, they're responding to community discussion that all members can go back and read.

For anybody who wants to bring something to the attention of the mods as an issue, but doesn't want a public conversation about it: please do come to the contact form. (The link is at the bottom right of every page.) We do want to hear from you. There doesn't need to be a particular thread that's going wrong -- you can just write to us to let us know you've noticed an issue generally. The contact form is staffed 24/7 and you'll get a quick response -- and even in cases where we don't take immediate action, you're putting stuff on our radar and that's often a cumulative thing.

sciatrix's point about the usefulness of fostering supportive critical-mass/sounding-board networks is a good one too.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:26 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


:( missed the intro thread. Then again, I tend to stay on the blue, lurk on the green, and only occasionally hop into the grey.

I have not taken the black.
posted by qcubed at 6:33 PM on April 15, 2016


I'd like to hear a podcast monthly roundup from our diverse and intersecting members. (If they felt they had the strength/interest in it.) I'd love a panel of clever and diverse mefites to listen to (interpreters so deaf members can participate too) without them having to 101 everything. The idea of a bunch of mefites sitting around and talking about the extraordinary range of topics that appear across the green grey and blue would be something I would listen the hell out of.

Any interest?
posted by taff at 6:53 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I hope it's not out of my place to ask this, but could I ask why a PoC mod was not hired when a mod position opened up (or was created) in Dec 2015, especially after there was very hopeful talk previously (in response to the requests in Conspire's thread) about hiring a PoC mod in October 2015? People wrote far more and far more eloquently than I can about the inherent problems in having an all-white mod team. At that time (after considerable discussion and emotional labor), it seemed like the community expressed strong hope that the next mod hired could be PoC.

It feels like after all the work Conspire and others, both PoC and allies, did in that thread, and after all the understanding and consensus created by that thread... things still haven't seemed to improve (as evidenced by, for example, this thread and the original "rage yoga" thread). We have had suggestions for an advisory board and mod training before. It feels like we just keep having the same conversations, albeit with less overall enthusiasm and less progress each time. And I think that also stems from PoC and allies become increasingly tired of having to repeat themselves to no or very little avail, and dropping out of future conversations (and dropping out of Metafilter).

I don't know. I'm very tired.


posted by aielen at 6:56 PM on April 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


You could do an advisory committee. Limit the agenda to several recommendations to decide on, supply all the supporting documentation ahead of time, which would include the confidential information about the mefites involved which is what is hindering MetaTalk here. Mods can't and shouldn't post publicly about private things they know about members through anonymous posts, direct communications, BND accounts etc, but a decent NDA for a small advisory committee would help legally and ethically help them share that info with the advisors.

Then have the discussions limited to specific decisions of policy, and go for a consensus recommendation that is not binding, but that does get reported in summary back publicly. That way during the meetings, individual people can speak up freely and argue, with full internal minutes for legal ethics, but the final outcome will be publicly shared and reported back to the user base.

Then Metafilter can report whether it will implement the recommendations, or not. Trying to think of an example like - "Mefites who have active restraining orders against another mefite in a stalking case can request their stalker be banned", then it is a matter of record for all metafilter users that there has been a discussion and disagreement, rather than an opaque sense of 'the mods move in mysterious ways'.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:00 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd Patreon a DivFi podcast.
posted by taff at 7:00 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


could I ask why a PoC mod was not hired when a mod position opened up (or was created) in Dec 2015,

We had very narrow schedule requirements for that job and not a whole lot of applicants. I honestly have no idea what the race of most of them is, but we had a very short short list. One of the things we may have to do next round is commit to opening up the applications to non-community members, because we're starting from a statistical disadvantage. (That wasn't really feasible for this position, which required someone who could quickly work without supervision, so the rest of us didn't have to keep pulling double shifts - my forecast is that a non-Mefite hire, even someone with a decade of general community management experience, would take around six months before they'd be fully trained and comfortable with all the pieces of the site/job.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:05 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I think that if you're going to do a podcast... why not just commit to transcripting it rather than finding an ASL or BSL interpreter? There's people like me who have a really hard time processing audio-only communication, for example, who would find a podcast difficult to access but would find it easier to process written text. It's a much better workaround for accessibility.

(Transcripting is a pain in the ass to do, but is also likely to be a skill that more people have access to than people who can both do ASL or BSL translation and have access to materials to make decent-quality videos of their translations on a semi-regular basis.)

in no way do I commit to doing this, I have done transcripts before and I find making them is a special kind of hell.
posted by sciatrix at 7:09 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


What I seem to be hearing in this thread is that one active thing I can help do, as a white, American, cis/het/male who would like to be a part of the solution, is to work to shut down misogyny, racism, transphobia, etc. when I see them popping up around here and I feel I'm on solid ground in calling it out and trying to unpack it. This is something I've cautiously, occasionally started trying to do already. Is that something that people would like to see more of from the likes of me?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:09 PM on April 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


Mods can't and shouldn't post publicly about private things they know about members through anonymous posts, direct communications, BND accounts etc, but a decent NDA for a small advisory committee would help legally and ethically help them share that info with the advisors.

no, that's not what a lot of us signed up for, to have our personal information shared with "advisors" - or to have decisions made about us without any knowledge of them
posted by pyramid termite at 7:11 PM on April 15, 2016 [15 favorites]


Yeah, we won't be sharing private communication with anyone not on staff. I've run things with NDAs, and they're hilariously unenforceable on the internet. Hell, we don't even know some of y'all's *names* - how are we going to find out if you're passing stuff to your buddies via IM?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:13 PM on April 15, 2016 [15 favorites]


Honestly, I think that if you're going to do a podcast... why not just commit to transcripting it rather than finding an ASL or BSL interpreter? There's people like me who have a really hard time processing audio-only communication, for example, who would find a podcast difficult to access but would find it easier to process written text. It's a much better workaround for accessibility.

Kind of weird to have to do Deaf 101 here all of a sudden, but ASL and written English are different languages. They are not interchangeable accessibility provisions.
posted by Conspire at 7:13 PM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


and you might not notice if you weren't specifically hate-following someone.

just wanted to go back a bit and mention that if you aren't hate-following people I do not understand you at all
posted by beerperson at 7:16 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh god, hope I didn't add unnecessary and insensitive ablist derail. I was thinking of how to get deaf members discussing stuff in real time for a podcast. I apologise unreservedly for any hurt I caused to anyone. I just remembered a few brilliant posts by deaf members some time ago which raised things I'd never considered and thought it would be great to get their input too.

Very sorry for any cluelessness.
posted by taff at 7:17 PM on April 15, 2016


Life is short, hate-following is possibly not the best use of it.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:18 PM on April 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


Kind of weird to have to do Deaf 101 here all of a sudden, but ASL and written English are different languages. They are not interchangeable accessibility provisions.

Right, yes, I know that--was assuming that anyone following along on MeFi was fluent in written English, and that transcribing whatever metaphorical podcast would make the content of such a podcast accessible to everyone.

It didn't, for whatever reason, occur to me immediately that taff might have meant translating while actually interviewing a Deaf person in real time, for which I do apologize. *facepalm* That's my bad.
posted by sciatrix at 7:18 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm a little puzzled by the idea we need a separate structure for non-binding strategic advice, because... this is it! Right here! You're all advisors! If I'm missing something, I'd love to hear more.

The sealioning and well-actuallying in this Metatalk alone should give you pause about this being a viable substitute for advisory by stakeholders.

If you can't add non-white staff, an advisory board or something like it is the only way to get those voices heard.

Think of it as a subcommittee of the greater MeFi conglomeration. They go investigate and discuss and report back to the larger body with recommendations.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:19 PM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


...or something like it is the only way to get those voices heard.

OK not the *only* way necessarily, but it is a good idea worth more than quick dismissal because that's not how things have been done historically.

How things have been done historically isn't working.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:21 PM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


What I seem to be hearing in this thread is that one active thing I can help do, as a white, American, cis/het/male who would like to be a part of the solution, is to work to shut down misogyny, racism, transphobia, etc. when I see them popping up around here and I feel I'm on solid ground in calling it out and trying to unpack it.

Not picking on you, but you were the last thought on my stack when I finally reached the end of the thread.

I think flagging bullshit -isms with comments to the mods may be preferred over calling out in thread. Refuting and clarifying bullshit with facts is also maybe worthwhile.

I noticed you said "active thing", and I want to promote one passive thing for white or dominant culture people to do on appropriation and racism threads. That is listen, absorb, consider and really refrain from posting and let other people with access to greater insights speak.

I read the whole CA thread about kimonos with my forehead wrinkled wondering why "if this was okay as a museum exhibit in Japan, why isn't it okay as a museum exhibit in Boston?" And by the end of the thread, due to the thoughtful and heartfelt content typed into the comments, my brain had had a micro-epiphany and I figured that the answer was: Context. (And I've typed to long, so I won't expand on that.)
posted by puddledork at 7:28 PM on April 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'd see a podcast (Patreon funded so members were paid for their time) as kind a board but fully transparent. But it's just an idea which I will step away from here as I wouldn't be a contributor and wouldn't want to be imposing my ideas on other members.

Just a thought on how to quickly/easily find space for voices that aren't routinely heard, pay them, and allow them to determine their own agendas /contributors. I'd actually pay to hear it. I love the people here and I don't want to only hear majority voices all the time.

/Being quiet now.
posted by taff at 7:32 PM on April 15, 2016


Think of it as a subcommittee of the greater MeFi conglomeration. They go investigate and discuss and report back to the larger body with recommendations.

What I'm struggling with is what the staff's role in this is. As it stands, literally any member or group of members could do this, and send a report via email. They could choose to post their findings to MetaTalk, or not, as they saw fit. I am *super uncomfortable* with the idea of being part of choosing a select group of people who could do that and get more influence than any other member. I am not particularly interested in silencing marginalized people who don't happen to be in that small group but disagree with their recommendations. I am *very* interested in hearing about Metafilter-related things of any sort *from any member*.

For instance, dorothyisunderwood's example confuses me, because we don't need a committee meeting to resolve that members can ask their stalker to be banned. Of course they can ask, and we'll investigate and act based on the specifics of the case, like we do with just about every other decision we make. We don't have a handbook or a list of Rules That We Follow or anything concrete enough that it really works as part of a committee decision. (And looping a group of outsiders in to routine mod decisions would add enough time to the process that it'd be useless.)

The job requires that we make quick decisions based on our best judgment, and the larger gestalt informing that judgment consists of our internal chat (somewhat - even having live chat is recent), conversations on MetaTalk (a fair bit), and our individual foresight about the consequences of the decision (the majority.) I am totally eager to enhance the latter with any info I can get - I've been binging on Ask A Manager lately, because good management and good community management overlap a lot. We all read MetaTalk thoroughly, and have before we got hired on. (If you're interested in applying for a mod job someday, that's... not quite a requirement, but it's a damn good idea.) I love the idea of more input! I'm just not understanding the need for more structure around the input.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:34 PM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


when I see them popping up around here and I feel I'm on solid ground in calling it out and trying to unpack it. This is something I've cautiously, occasionally started trying to do already. Is that something that people would like to see more of from the likes of me?

Flag, and shut them down. So. Yes.
posted by qcubed at 7:39 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, wouldn't mind helping transcribe.
posted by qcubed at 7:39 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Your best judgment is - I'm sorry - lacking - when it comes to POC issues and trans issues.

Thank you, *thank you* Celsius1414 for your comment - I was going to say something similar.

How things have been done historically *isn't working*.

It. Isn't. Working. Status quo = more metas like this, more losing great community members (and simply lurkers!) who are POC/trans because this KEEPS HAPPENING.

It is madness - sheer madness - to keep the status quo on this issue. It would be nice if the mods could be a bit more open to these ideas and perhaps (if they are able to) share some of their own.

THIS. ISN'T. WORKING. That's what people are telling you, over and over - and this white person who has been reading at least two mega MetaTalks about this issue (and no doubt more) is chiming in to say enough is enough.

Do something. Lead with a response, action, something - a statement, an action, a call - that will instill hope, goodwill and real change. Don't just sit there giving us reasons you cannot do something to address this issue.

People have said they're hurting. And they're leaving. Come on, now. It's long past time to do something substantaive.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:44 PM on April 15, 2016 [35 favorites]


Joseph, I flagged that because I know mods look at flags. I encourage others to flag jcifa comment as fantastic too. A vote, you might say.

To make things better.
posted by taff at 7:50 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


We're not so much with the big sweeping changes. Not because we don't want to, but because, in our at this point 17-year collective experience, they don't work all that well. The actual proposal in this MetaTalk is a solid one, and a good thing for a) people to flag and b) us to delete. That's a change. It's not a big dramatic one, but it's the kind of change Metafilter runs on. I wish we could just strongarm everyone on the site - hell, everyone in the world, if we're being ambitious - into behaving, but it doesn't work like that.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:53 PM on April 15, 2016


I'm just not understanding the need for more structure around the input.

I wish we could just strongarm everyone on the site - hell, everyone in the world, if we're being ambitious - into behaving, but it doesn't work like that.

How is forming a subcommittee of stakeholders to advise you, the white staff, in any way strong arming everyone on the site?

One clear message from the MeFi ownership and mods has been "we don't have enough personnel resources nor enough money to add more". Well, here's a way to add an advisory group. It sends another clear message -- that the white staff cares to listen, and more than in just a laissez-faire, market-based way.

"Market based" because there is a limited supply of moderator time, and there is a limitless demand on that time for everyday operations, never mind a systemic response to the needs of multiple minority groups that are dwindling in energy to fight back, in belief that they count here, and in actual numbers.

Let the users help you.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:02 PM on April 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


I am *very* interested in hearing about Metafilter-related things of any sort *from any member*.

I think the idea of a committee is appealing to people because it's not just lone wolfs sending in their personal opinions via a Contact form.

What about this workaround: using MeMail and offline email, groups of interested POC could talk stuff out, compile a list of suggestions for things we'd like to see happen at Metafilter, and then submit a message via the Contact form outlining the things and ideas that were discussed, with like all the names of all the contributing MeFites. These sorts of conversations could happen more than once, on some sort of schedule, so that people could have multiple opportunities to be involved (or step back from involvement).

The upside is that POC can have actual conversations about ways to improve how Metafilter deals with race/racism/cultural appropriation. The biggest downside is (and no disrespect to any mod patrolling the thread) that mods could read everything that was submitted, and nothing might come of it. (Other downsides: it sounds like a shit-ton of work, and it may be hard to come to any sort of consensus.)
posted by 23skidoo at 8:03 PM on April 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


Let the users help you.

I am asking *what specifically* you guys need, that you don't already have, to do this.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:06 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Junior Woodchucks
posted by beerperson at 8:13 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


We totally want to hear from people, especially on issues that we have blind spots on. People already contact us about stuff, and we already take action on things they point out. And people make Metatalks where they make the case about why something's a problem, and thereby change other members' minds and change the actual case-by-case moderation practices we apply. The site is improving by these means.

If people are reluctant to use the contact form solo, and feel better doing it as part of a group or reporting ideas from a group, that's totally fine, whatever works best - we're happy to get ideas/feedback/etc that way too.

As you say, it's not guaranteed that whatever a group proposes will be something that's workable on Mefi. But probably many things will be. We're always here (by email or contact form or Metatalk) to have that conversation about ideas for how to better handle situations case-by-case, or things to be aware of, etc
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:16 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Moving back from the advisory committee thing to the nodding thing, I've been doing that but here's what confuses me. I know that it was mentioned above that drawing parallels between experiences doesn't necessarily help, but it just seems so obvious to me that if for instance women are asking to be heard and not talked all over and questioned about their living experiences etc, then why would that behaviour not also be expected by any other group that has been historically shat upon by the (capital M) majority (majority as in political power, not numbers obviously)? That probably reads as naiive because its not like sexism has been eradicated from this site but it does seem that it's recognised more and is pro-actively being seen by mods and other members as something worth fighting against.

So what I'm saying is, if you've historically been someone who might have questioned a woman about her experiences but have stopped doing that because of enlightenment through conversations on here, why would you not apply that same way of thinking to what people are saying about cultural appropriation? And indeed, it's not as if it's only been white men who have been questioning PoC in this and other threads so it's something for everyone, regardless of background, to think about. Finding common ground is a good thing, even if it comes from a not particularly good place. And this applies to homophobia, sexism, ableism, racism. Being shat on may come in different forms but it's the same old shit and if you wouldn't do it to one of those, why do it to any?

I do a lot of sitting back and listening now. I still get stuff wrong all the time.
posted by h00py at 8:16 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think what r_n is getting at is that if people want to form an advisory committee they can do so right now and the mods would be happy to look at their input.
posted by Justinian at 8:19 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


The actual proposal in this MetaTalk is a solid one, and a good thing for a) people to flag and b) us to delete.

Seriously, thank you for saying this as a mod. I feel like I can finally stop babysitting this thread and go do my freelancing.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:22 PM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


Think of it as a subcommittee of the greater MeFi conglomeration. They go investigate and discuss and report back to the larger body with recommendations.

Does Crone Island do this already? I'm not quite sure how CI functions. If so, can some Islanders chime in on how it's worked?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:23 PM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


I would love to hear CI input as well.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:24 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Having an Official Advisory Committee would communicate to a lot of people who are currently under-represented on the MetaFilter staff that their concerns are being heard in an Official way.
posted by Etrigan at 8:37 PM on April 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


I would expect that any committee members should be paid. It isn't right that we would expect them to do racial/minority emotional labour for our privileged edification for free.
posted by taff at 8:40 PM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


As to why not MetaTalk? If there were a way to compose and post a Meta anonymously, I might consider it. Otherwise, the personal cost is too high. I'm already burned out, adding contentious thread that will be forever attached to my username? Ugh. That is so much. There's been an epic amount of work in this thread to get to the point where the OP feels like they can step away from it. Where they finally feel heard. The hope behind an advisory panel is an upfront acknowledgement and agreement from the staff that the work will not be in vain. That it won't be throw it out to the wolves and hope it's all worth it in the end. It's a way of saying "we value your input and will listen to what you say" in a more concrete way than just any random group of members. It's being told your judgement is trusted and this isn't an exercise in futility.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:53 PM on April 15, 2016 [20 favorites]


There's a huuuuuuge difference between a group of people unofficially coming together on their own to give feedback and an officially supported Metafilter Feedback Committee.

One is a group of people having to use their own time and energy outside an institution, another is a group that has a direct feedback channel to the people in the institution, and a structure that is formalized and hopefully supported by the institution to give the volunteers respite and help.

The mods will have to figure out a way to give context to questions of policy without violating privacy then which means the volunteers will be limited to some degree in what they can do. A POC mod would be much much more helpful.

I'm also a little surprised there's no policy or guidebook internally. Setting aside the risk of personality conflict or biases, that means the institutional knowledge of metafilter's mods isn't anything to be developed or discussed except what's in their heads. All of jessamym's wise contributions evaporated when she left?

A POC mod would be great, but I'd be amazed at who could manage the burden of that job given the simple idea of POC/Women/Trans committees giving advice that is officially organised and supported by Metafilter is being seen as way too hard or unnecessary.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:58 PM on April 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


beep boop

There’s been a rash of this kind of comment lately. Hurling personal insults at people who may not relate to or understand other people’s emotions in the same way seems kind of ridiculous in a thread about being less insulting to people who aren’t in the majority (which is where they always seem to show up).

I suggest that if you feel that your level of empathy is so superior to others you keep it to yourself.
posted by bongo_x at 8:59 PM on April 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


Does Crone Island do this already? I'm not quite sure how CI functions. If so, can some Islanders chime in on how it's worked?

Crone Island is a place for people to hang out, at least from my point of view; brought together by the EL thread, but that's about it. (I don't speak for anybody. That's just my perspective.)
posted by wintersweet at 9:01 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Does Crone Island do this already? I'm not quite sure how CI functions. If so, can some Islanders chime in on how it's worked?

Bzuh? No, Crone Island doesn't do anything like that. It's basically a loose, very non-centralized network of IRC-like channels within an overarching Slack, most of which in theory discuss emotional labor in some way. It functions sort of like the official Metafilter IRC Chat, if anything. Given how poorly the annotated emotional labor thread worked out, I think Crone Island is pretty leery of doing anything else past that in any sort of official capacity.

It's a group of people talking to each other, not a shadowy cabal.
posted by sciatrix at 9:05 PM on April 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


It's my sense that Crone Island isn't official anything, except perhaps official Crone Island. Maybe, sort of. It's a very loose community.
posted by kalessin at 9:13 PM on April 15, 2016


There's a huuuuuuge difference between a group of people unofficially coming together on their own to give feedback and an officially supported Metafilter Feedback Committee.

(I just wanted to chime back in to say that I totally get this, and that my suggestion wasn't intended to distract from people promoting the idea of an official feedback committee.)
posted by 23skidoo at 9:19 PM on April 15, 2016


An advisory board that has any sort of power over the mods would be a democratization of the site that I think few people want to see and I do not think fits with site culture in the least. An advisory board that steps in when they disagree with mod action is a lobby group, and considering the existence of MeTa, however imperfect, I don't think it is at all a good idea to empower a lobby whose collective opinion is somehow weighed higher or considered deeper than the rest of us unruly mob. An advisory committee with whom the mods would consult before making decisions would on top of everything else create more work for the mods that isn't actual modding. I think if people want to organize, they should organize autonomously. If we all have as much a say as I would hope and have seen evidence that we do, an official sanctioning of a small group as some sort of cabinet wouldn't be appropriate and honestly shouldn't exist.
posted by griphus at 9:21 PM on April 15, 2016 [34 favorites]


I am asking *what specifically* you guys need, that you don't already have, to do this.

...the frustrating thing is.. I feel a lot of this was hashed out in the earlier Conspire thread. Maybe it would be good to go back and read the Conspire thread, to review what we (PoC) have been saying about the current system not working, and what specifically is needed, and why certain functions on the site that are ostensibly meant to serve as resources for PoC aren't adequate? I guess I should go back to the thread and cite all the relevant comments / critiques here but.. it feels like the burden is on us PoC, to somehow justify to you (repeatedly) why your all-white system isn't working, in detail, and maybe people like Conspire and Errant have the stamina and patience to keep doing this but... I'm personally so tired right now.


To be honest, after reading your reply, I still feel very let-down by the way the December hiring was carried out and planned. It feels like promises were made (or hinted at) but not really taken seriously. After giving the community the impression that a sincere effort would be made to hire a PoC mod... there wasn't even any note made of each applicant's race, during the selection/application process? Or maybe you could have explicitly said in the hiring post that you were hoping PoC would apply, and actively tried to encourage PoC members to apply. Something... anything. Was there really any conscious, deliberate effort to try to hire a PoC mod in December, after the October thread?

And if you are encountering difficulties (e.g. the statistical disadvantage etc) hiring a PoC mod, doesn't that make it all the more clear that you could perhaps use some input, help and advice from those with experience in diversity issues and diversity hiring - like people in an advisory committee?

I guess I want to know that you aren't just paying lipservice to these very serious issues with Metafilter - that something is actively being done or will be done (goals, timeline, plans...).
posted by aielen at 9:32 PM on April 15, 2016 [23 favorites]


I'd like a metatalk thread started, completely devoid of majority white voices, where people of colour and minority voices can discuss what they'd like to see happen. I won't start it, and wouldn't participate but would read and learn. But I think we need to give space and respect to our diverse members and listen to them about what they want. First rules of action are always consultation and self determination.
posted by taff at 9:35 PM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


An unofficial channel is in lieu of hiring a PoC mod, since when it was brought up before the mods responded they'd love to hire a PoC mod, but don't have the money. Then, when they had the funding for a new, part-time mod, recently, there was a lot of community discussion about how they should hire a PoC mod... but that didn't happen. Not enough appropriate applicants, apparently?

I love Eyebrows, but... this has happened more than once, now. It's so hard to hire somebody not white, really? I find it hard to believe, and it begins to feel a little bit hollow. "But, everyone we know and trust is white! Surely, we're not expected to go beyond our comfort zone?"
posted by gilrain at 9:36 PM on April 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


here wasn't even any note made of each applicant's race, during the selection/application process?

Just to be clear, we *legally cannot* do that. We cannot, by law, make hiring decisions based on a person's race. Even asking about it during the application process is tricky, because it opens us up to potential lawsuits. We can talk a bunch on MetaTalk about how we'd really like to hire a more diverse staff, and put it in the job post to encourage more people of color to apply, but we can't actually base decisions on that, and we didn't.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:38 PM on April 15, 2016 [27 favorites]


And yet all the mods are white.
posted by kalessin at 9:41 PM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


r_n is right, it would be a clear violation of Title VII and opens you up to a world of hurt.
posted by Justinian at 9:41 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


All right, you can't legally ask. So, it's just by chance then that every single Mefi mod thus far has been white? Any statisticians here to tell us if that's the expected result of an unbiased hiring process over several iterations?
posted by gilrain at 9:41 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's a group of people talking to each other, not a shadowy cabal.

I didn't intend to imply that it was.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:43 PM on April 15, 2016


For future reference.... in Australia they word job advertisements as "indigenous Australians/Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people are encouraged to apply ".
posted by taff at 9:43 PM on April 15, 2016


ny statisticians here to tell us if that's the expected result of an unbiased hiring process over several iterations?

It depends on too many unknown factors, most notably what fraction of the applicants are white. If 100% of the applicants are white then the chance of all the mods being white is 100% regardless of the number of iterations.
posted by Justinian at 9:43 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I got directed here by taff over the DivFi podcast suggestion, and I was forced to read the entire thread to see what "DivFi" was even referring to.

Firstly, I missed the Rage Yoga thread mostly because I was more interested in the final Homestuck update as well as life stuff, but from what I've heard from other people, it would have been an aggravating waste of time, so hey count me in as person number eight. (Except now I've read this thread and I'm feeling the aggravation I was trying to avoid!)

I am against the podcast idea, because it would take a lot more time and effort for something that could have been solved by Metafilter writ large actually reading and paying attention to the fifty zillion threads about POC that have taken place over the history of this site. I am co-producing a podfic right now and it's taken eight months to even get the first episode going, because editing is a nightmare. Not all us POC are even in remotely similar timezones and the tech to host & record a live conversation (as compared to people sending in their own recordings, which is still difficult) is tricky. The only way the podcast is going to be even remotely worth it is if everyone involved is paid good money to devote time and attention to it, and if there's any actual engagement from Mefites to listen to it - but you can't force people to pay and you can't force people to listen especially when threads like these are going nowhere fast. If you're so interested in funding a Patreon for a podcast, maybe just find the Patreons or Paypal buttons or whatever for the POC on this site and give them money directly.

I did consider applying as a mod, but the hours are completely the opposite of what was feasible (it would have been literally during my sleeping hours) so I didn't bother. Also, I'm burnt out by having been the only POC mod on other spaces before and finding myself doing 99% of the labour because the other mods were too reluctant to ban troublemakers and were more invested in white people being educated than marginalized people being safe. So sure, a POC mod would be a good idea, but it's also incumbent on the other mods being able to foster an environment where it's not all up to the POC mod to do the work, and I'm not totally convinced that's the case here.

An advisory committee would be interesting, but again how would this be different than all the other threads about racism on here? Or all the other material written across the Internet on managing racism in online communities? Why are POC expected to put in much more emotional labour to help White members be better?
posted by divabat at 9:46 PM on April 15, 2016 [29 favorites]


If 100% of the applicants over the past few hires have been white, I'll eat my hat. And it's a shitty hat. Mefi may be whitewashed, but it ain't that whitewashed.
posted by gilrain at 9:47 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Statistics-wise, you'd probably need to combine a list of countries by English-speaking population, with the official census demographics of each country, along with whatever the demographics are that translate into online users.

Making linkages to the MetaFilter user base would be real tricky, and you'd probably have to come up with reasonable estimates.

I still think that a rough guess would be doable. If we focused purely on US users it would be easier. Not every government has detailed demographics and census data available online, in English.
posted by kalessin at 9:48 PM on April 15, 2016


(Basically I feel like the podcast idea and even the advisory team to some degree cuts too close to "hey POC enlighten us with your wisdom like a genius dancing monkey" when all the other initiatives by POC to educate/inform/change community have gone awry - just look at this thread!)
posted by divabat at 9:48 PM on April 15, 2016 [16 favorites]


Yeah, true... sorry. I'm backing off now.
posted by gilrain at 9:51 PM on April 15, 2016


I think there is is a difference between volunteering to educate (ie, as part of an advisory board or in a podcast) and being demanded or effectively dragooned to do so in a contentious thread.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:51 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


His thoughts were red thoughts: the problem though is that the podcast idea was proposed by a White person, who I know means well, but it felt like it was coming from a place of "you know, I wish I could further be educated by POC giving their time and energy for my benefit rather than already engaging with the material that's out there, or even engaging when the times where they actively chose to speak up". And asides from the Patreon offer - which would take some effort coordinating because then you'd have to figure out how the money would be split and how to divvy it up between contributors and how to get money to begin with - and some discussion re transcription, there hasn't been any offers of recording equipment, editing, or any other practical aspect involved in putting this together. The burden falls further on POC to make this podcast happen and White people get to relax and assume they've done their part by listening.
posted by divabat at 9:57 PM on April 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


If 100% of the applicants over the past few hires have been white, I'll eat my hat. And it's a shitty hat. Mefi may be whitewashed, but it ain't that whitewashed.

Right, but we don't know (and probably can't know) what the actual demographics are, which your question unanswerable. 100%, 90%, 50%, 20%, they all give hugely different answers.
posted by Justinian at 9:59 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


One of the things we've done is move from direct hires - where we reach out to a person we already know we want and invite them to a job, which is how taz and I believe Jessamyn and cortex were hired (or me, which was the same thing but in reverse) to an actual job posting open to the community. Next step if we're not satisfied with the candidate pool is a truly open hire, where we're willing to hire outside the community, too.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:06 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


(...I think taz was hired that way. Now I can't remember for sure.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:09 PM on April 15, 2016


divabat, thanks for coming to the thread! Sadly I agree with your reasoning and questions. but at the same time, if not an advisory committee and if not a PoC mod, then what then? Just a sinking ship which we (PoC) should abandon, because it seems hopeless and wearying and impractical to attempt to fix? I feel sad about the way Metafilter has come to this, because I used to like it so much - and we've been members of Metafilter for years.

I think it will always be tiring to work towards more diversity, because most of the time the burden of educating, of lobbying for more diversity, falls to the marginalized groups themselves - and that just seems how it is by default due to the pre-existing power differentials. It shouldn't be that way, but... it is. And we have to start from somewhere, I guess.

(that said I understand if PoC (and other marginalized groups) don't want to comment or participate, and just want to leave quietly. It is exhausting. and often I don't speak up in threads like this when I should, because of the emotional labor and baggage involved.)
posted by aielen at 10:13 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Can I just clarify. I suggested this and contacted diva bat and red thoughts to get their feedback. I offered any background technical help I could give. I'm white and well meaning, but not at all hoping to get a 101 from any one of colour or in any other area. My idea was that cortex would support this idea fully and promote it and offer informed technical help. Mine would be amateur. My husband was born and grew up in a culture/religion/language/family structure different to mine and in addition to those areas, I enjoy his perspective on the world because he looks at it differently to me. I don't expect him to race 101 me, nor would I expect this of any mefite. But a safe place where people from different backgrounds could be paid to discuss things they see on the green grey and blue, the way Jessamyn and Josh do..... and I'd like them paid for their effort the way I contribute to mefi. Because it is a lot of work. If they wanted to do it. I also know red thoughts is funny, clever and has a magnificent singing voice and diva bat is smart and analytical and uncompromising and creative.

I'm a podcast fiend and love hearing from people with different perspectives. And some with the same. That's all. I really do apologise for any offense given. Not my intention, I"m very sorry.. I will be quiet again now.
posted by taff at 10:14 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not my intention, I"m very sorry.. I will be quiet again now.

Personally, I appreciate your efforts and suggestions. They at least feel like sincere and concrete suggestions, and I guess it's good to brainstorm and discuss ways of actually doing something. (also I don't think the podcast idea was suggested in the Conspire thread so it's at least something new :p :) )
posted by aielen at 10:18 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


*puts hand up* another nodder and favoriter here. I am flabbergasted that there is a segment of this community (a community which generally prides itself on being brainy) for whom the concept of cultural appropriation is contentious. Not a specific example of cultural appropriation - the entire concept of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation and the structural racism that underpins it are so both so thunderingly obvious that it just...it makes me feel like some people here are kind of dipshits. I'm sorry, I don't have a nicer way to put that.

I'm so sorry POC that you have to put up with this, both on Metafilter and in the wider stupider world. I kindly invite people who are clueless about really any subject at all to do the bare minimum of work, google a damn article or use wikipedia for things you're not sure about, put the work in to understand stuff, and stop wasting people's fucking time. Stop trying to externalize the work of learning shit to other people. And if you don't have the decency to even do the bare minimum then for craps sake keep your mouth shut.
posted by supercrayon at 10:18 PM on April 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


Just wanting to update/underscore the running tally.

We're at eight now.

Previously

I mean, humans are very good at seeing patterns were they don't exist, but I'm thinking this might actually be one? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by qcubed at 10:24 PM on April 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


MeFi threads will always be 101-level discussion because it is part of the open internet: there are always a bunch of newbies. Unless you close the doors — stop allowing sign ups — it will always be eternal September. It is intrinsic to this form of social media.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:31 PM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


(also I don't think the podcast idea was suggested in the Conspire thread so it's at least something new :p :) )

Would it be worth opening a new MeTa to discuss it, away from the heat of the 6 other discussions going on here?

Mods - would that be something you think would be of assistance?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:35 PM on April 15, 2016


The podcast thing? Sure - we might request that we wait a few days to post it, because the last couple have been slammed, but this MeTa is at the point where breaking off the bits that aren't directly relevant to the original post will probably only help.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:39 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish: Does it need to be? We don't expect 101-level discussions for any other topics, why do we expect it for anything related to marginalized people? (Well, I know why, but still.)

taff: Has cortex offered technical help? Was cortex contacted about the idea? What technical help can they or are they willing to provide? I feel like any safe space for POC to communicate would need to be something proposed by and built by POC, because then it's clear that it's for us rather than from well-meaning but logistically-unthinking White people who might then try and control what we're saying either directly or implictly.

aielen: I kinda missed who proposed the advisory board. It could work as an idea, we just need to make sure it isn't a case of marginalized people being taken advantage of, which is my main worry through this whole thing.
posted by divabat at 10:40 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


We don't expect 101-level discussions for any other topics

We don't? I assert that graduate-level discussions on MeFi are few and far between. We have the occasional special moment when someone drops a knowledge bomb on us all, but seldom do we entertain sustained, deeply informed discussion on the Blue.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:47 PM on April 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm going to pull an IE here, because this has been kinda tumbling around in my head.

Going back to corb's comment, specifically the part about everyone being kinder, particularly in a year that's particularly draining for PoC, given that we've got a wannabe Bigot-in-Chief in the lead...

I mean, yeah? It'd be nice if we could be nicer. The problem, though, is that even though there's that saying "it doesn't cost anything to be nice," it's not quite right. This These year years are draining, what with a lot of us seeing the white rage being directed at us because we're off-white. The temperature of the pot just keeps going up, what with constant, consistent erasure (hi Marvel! sup Paramount!), with people cheering at the thought of rounding up "undesirables" and dumping them somewhere else, with white terrorists murdering non-whites (but described as an isolated crazy), with all of this... crap, how can we expect the well of generosity and forgiveness and lovingkindness to not be dry?

We're not all saints. I'm not. All of this background radiation that is racism and bigotry poisons us every day, putting many of us into painful, defensive crouches... and then you just have all these random people for whom the radiation just doesn't exist. People for whom it doesn't register, no matter how many skeletons and ashes are strewn about in the wasteland, that think maybe, just maybe, they're saying something new, or something that hasn't been discussed over and over and over.

It'd be nice if we could be nicer. It just feels like it's always the minority, the PoC, the ones discriminated against, that have to be nice. It feels like it's always us that has to take the beating with a smile, to turn all of the hate, the dismissals, the toxicity, and try and transmute it into something else.

It'd be nice if threads like this didn't feel like some weird, gross fugue, and subsequent threads didn't feel like some midi remix. There are lots of things that would be nice.

It just feels like being nice doesn't actually make things nice. It makes things Minnesota nice, at best.
posted by qcubed at 10:49 PM on April 15, 2016 [33 favorites]


I'm possibly being a bit cheeky divabat. He hasn't technically offered but I reckon he might just give it in lieu of not being able to employ a POC mod right now. Couldn't hurt to ask. There's a whole lot of mod good will in the bowels of the screen. I'd give time but don't have much else to offer.
posted by taff at 10:50 PM on April 15, 2016


MeFi threads will always be 101-level discussion because it is part of the open internet: there are always a bunch of newbies. Unless you close the doors — stop allowing sign ups — it will always be eternal September. It is intrinsic to this form of social media.

This comes up a lot in threads like this one, usually taking the form of sneering about how Metafilter is not a "safe space". And no, it's not; it's a general discussion site and so won't really operate on the same level and the same assumptions that communities that are more geared towards anti-racism will. But, that said, I think that what it strives to be, what the Platonic Ideal of Metafilter means, is a general discussion forum that is better-than-most at handling issues around marginalization and oppression. The way that happens is by having a baseline respect towards people who are talking about their experiences with that. That's the difference between being a message board and being a community.

Moderation is one tool to help shepherd conversations in the right direction (so is metadiscussion), but it's not a panacea. 23skidoo's original post here was calling on posters to be more thoughtful about their posting.

I don't want to have to run for Junior Minister for Mixed Race Women on the Subcommittee on Cultural Appropriation to be taken seriously when I talk to other posters about this. I don't want cultural appropriation to be a "special interest issue" that people of color always have to point out and explain. I want white Mefites to care about making discussions less racist because they care about making this community better and broadening the range and the sophistication of conversations we have here.

Like griphus said, I think when there are glaring, clear problems (and I think the original FPP being discussed is an example of that), there is organization that happens organically--in thread, through Metatalk, over Memail and in off-site chatter. I'm not really sure there needs to be a way to further codify that; IME, Mefites are pretty good at reaching out to one another.
posted by Krom Tatman at 10:50 PM on April 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


You know what.

I'm done with this thread. I can't anymore.
posted by qcubed at 10:53 PM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


cortex is already busy enough as it is, just because he may have the goodwill doesn't mean he has the ability. What might work better is if an upcoming episode of the Mefi Podcast was dedicated to POC (with POC guests and such) but I'm not sure how that works out logistically.

telstar: woooooow. All you other White people who talked about speaking up against racism? Here you go.
posted by divabat at 10:54 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


On post: it's gone, sorry for continuing a thread with a deleted comment but thanks for doing so.
posted by divabat at 10:55 PM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that was not a hard call, sorry it took as many minutes as it did to get that cleaned up.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:59 PM on April 15, 2016


I flagged that comment the second it popped up. It was gross and offensive. I hope the user got a time out as well. Sorry I didn't comment on it, I was hoping it would zapped before anyone even saw it. But to reiterate: gross and offensive.
posted by supercrayon at 11:01 PM on April 15, 2016


I flagged him divabat. But just in case he's lurking around TELSTAR said one of the most offensive racist and defensive things I've read in a very long time. Telstar that's unacceptable, wrong, ignorant, stupid and trolling. Why the fuck would you think that would be 1) ok to think and 2) ok to say out loud?

I have no idea who you think you're hanging out with.... but it's not ok here. Or fucking anywhere. THIS is why we need more done. That although we have THAT thread, and now this thread, that hunk of excrement still wrote such a disgusting comment about an entire nation of people.

Hope my comment is a place marker for future white readers to remember that a heinous racist dickhead dropped in and wrote something hatefilled and racist in a thread filled with pain from racism.
posted by taff at 11:02 PM on April 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think that should result in a ban. Way beyond the line.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:04 PM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


MeFi threads will always be 101-level discussion because it is part of the open internet: there are always a bunch of newbies. Unless you close the doors — stop allowing sign ups — it will always be eternal September. It is intrinsic to this form of social media.

So, I looked at this whole thread again just to be sure, and every comment that got under my skin here came from someone who has been on the site for years. Plural years. The join date on telstar's account was over a decade ago before that very welcome and appreciated ban.

You yourself are suggesting we just give up - admittedly far from the worst thing that's been said here, but certainly of no help at all - and you've been here *forever*.

Sorry, but you can't just blame this shit on newbies, shrug your shoulders and say it's intractable. Moreover, even if that position were correct, all it means is that you have nothing further to contribute to this discussion, and can safely move along.
posted by mordax at 11:09 PM on April 15, 2016 [24 favorites]


An advisory committee would not have any power. It's advice. It's the same damn thing that these metatalk threads do, but it would be essentially a space for a limited group of people with expertise in a particular subject and trust in each other to respectfully discuss difficult topics towards thoughtful recommendations.

The recommendations don't have to hold any weight at all except what the community and mods choose to give them which is why official Metafilter support would be crucial for this - otherwise it's just one group shouting over another.

The point of a committee over Metatalk is that only a few people would get to participate. No 101 derails, committee-agreed rules of discussion, a level of shared knowledge - you'd get a much tougher deeper discussion going fast.

The idea that this is a lobby group - these aren't binding rulings by a court. This would be advice on member and mod raised issues brought to the committee, rather than an activist group pushing some agenda. It's paranoid to imagine that there's some group of trans-asian-women out there plotting an overthrow of Metafilter.

It is not paranoid sadly to recognise there is a large contingent of metafilter members who want metafilter to go back to the good ol' days.

I think this is a sort of community ombudsman role. Metafilter is at the forefront of creating and defining community moderation and spaces online and that includes handling contentious issues like racism and sexism in communal spaces.

Metatalk and the contact form and flagging aren't enough or the right tools for it now.

Metafilter feels kind of like it's coasting on goodwill from being a great place compared to how bad the rest of the internet is, but that's not entirely true now. It feels kinda like Salon, echo-chambering rather than pushing forward into being more welcoming and more diverse in all directions.

Eh. If something so straightforward - "Hey, we could regularly check in with POC members who agreed to feedback on important issues" is already too terrifying a prospect to contemplate without catastrophizing "Oh no, it's lobbying! it's power by cabal!" then, seriously.

Enjoy your metafilterSalon.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:11 PM on April 15, 2016 [17 favorites]


this is the committee.
posted by philip-random at 12:12 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


You yourself are suggesting we just give up

Not in the least; indeed, the opposite: a 101 class is understood by more people and shapes more opinions than a graduate studies course.

Moreover, even if that position were correct, all it means is that you have nothing further to contribute to this discussion, and can safely move along.

Fine. It's no skin off my ass. Best of luck. I honestly hope you get what you want.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:17 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone believes it would be reasonable to have 101 level comments utterly dominating every thread - the question is only which topics we assume general ignorance on. I think it's problematic to assume knowledge on stuff white Americans normally know - eg US politics, US cultural norms and anxieties - while assuming that the rest of us belong to such aberrant cultures that we have to explain again and again what we are talking about, to the extent that we can't really talk to each other. Again, I'd like to propose the thought experiment of imagining a flood of 101-level comments taking over and dominating every thread you care about (for example, what on earth is a "101 level class"? Is that some kind of numerology?) The only reason this doesn't happen is that white American culture is so globally dominant that educated Indians (for example) have to know something about it to navigate the world. The proposal is that white Americans also try and take on the burden of understanding the world from someone else's perspective in navigating certain conversations on this one website. Is that really so much to ask?
posted by Aravis76 at 1:10 AM on April 16, 2016 [19 favorites]


The last thread about cultural appropriation that I participated in had choice gems such as:

"Yes that is very very bad, but come on it looks great, doesn’t it? It’s a music video, it’s a fantasy"
"The point is we all are cultural appropriationist from someone's perspective."
posted by yaymukund at 2:33 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Like gilrain, I see an advisory committee more in lieu of hiring a PoC mod. My first preference would actually be to have a PoC mod. And I think there are some who have expressed an interest and willingness to have a fundraiser, or specifically donate to / sponsor a PoC mod on Metafilter, but it seems funds/money is not the only limiting factor at this point.

I feel there has been some (hopefully unintentional) bait-and-switch going on, which compounds the problem and issues at hand.

First, in October, we had that feel-good Conspire thread where we came to the consensus that a PoC mod was needed. From that thread, it seemed the understanding was that it was financially unfeasible to hire a PoC mod, even though people generally agreed we should ideally have a PoC mod. So, in light of the understanding that hiring an additional (PoC) mod was not financially possible, people started raising alternative solutions such as diversity training and an advisory board.

Then just 2 months later, in December, we had an announcement that Metafilter was hiring - that Metafilter was looking for a new mod. According to the announcement, site finances had improved to the point where hiring a new part-time mod was now happily possible. There was the mention that "we're looking for someone interested in and enthusiastic about the site; someone with a passion for MetaFilter but a cool-headed and diplomatic disposition toward conflicts and communication challenges; someone who has the right kind of schedule and availability to join the team and help keep this place kicking along like it has for the last sixteen years. " No direct mention of diversity, and nothing that might read as any specific appeal or encouragement to PoC members to apply, in the original post. Later in the thread, someone asked about diversity, saying "it seems critical that you all hire a mod who can be responsive to a diversity of users" - which started a small discussion on diversity hiring in the thread (which then seemed to go off tangent). But the general understanding from the discussion within the thread was that the application/selection process would now include consideration of the applicant's ability to handle diversity, who would hopefully have some relevant background wrt diversity.

At the end of the month, the new mod was announced - and there didn't seem to be much reference to the mod's background in diversity, although the mod seemed like a great choice otherwise. There were some murmurs of disappointment regarding the decision with respect to diversity, but they were few. (And honestly, who would want to express or consider that kind of disappointment in a congratulatory thread?)

In this thread, we've again asked about hiring a PoC mod. Again, we're told that site finances are an issue. When we suggest the possibility of having a fundraiser, or donating specifically towards a PoC mod, we are told that even if we solve the problem of money/funds, there isn't enough manpower ("bandwidth"?) to bring on a new mod now. That "training a new person takes time, and we'd want to do it right" - which does sound like a good principle, and the right thing to do in itself.

So then we wind up trying to suggest the advisory committee, the podcast, etc as solutions (again) - since it seems like having a PoC mod is (again, somehow) not possible in the near future. And then we are asked to justify the need for an advisory committee, and questioned on all sorts of points - from our motives for wanting an advisory committee, to how this committee would fulfill needs the site doesn't already fulfill, to questions about how this might potentially challenge the power of the (uh... all-white) mods, etc.

I don't want to believe this is a deliberate attempt to disregard PoC here... but I do wonder if this issue of diversity is really being treated with the kind of urgency and seriousness it deserves. And again, perhaps this sort of unconscious shuffling of priorities/effort reflects on the all-white composition of the mod team. So much has been written and expressed about how the Metafilter team believes this is a serious issue that should be remedied, but have any concrete steps been taken, have any real plans been made towards a solution? It's heartening to read comments and sentiments about how diversity should be supported, but how will it be supported, and what is actually being done? (What has been done thus far?) It's been about half a year since Conspire's thread.
posted by aielen at 2:40 AM on April 16, 2016 [34 favorites]


"The point is we all are cultural appropriationist from someone's perspective."

I wonder how much contemporary "white" U.S. culture *isn't* the result of some form of appropriation or other. The majority of popular music is right out, for example, and it's hard to identify a popular element of U.S. cuisine, fashion that doesn't have some history of cultural appropriation, racialized economic injustice, or plain old imperialist violence lurking in its genealogy.

Dominant culture in a settler colony *is* appropriation, on those rare occasions when it's not more direct forms of imperialism.

This isn't to say that appropriation is no big deal; it's to say how fundamental and massive the problem is in the U.S.
posted by kewb at 4:24 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


#notallappropriators ????
posted by taff at 4:34 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


this is the committee.

If that's the case, you have a lot of people in this very thread committee saying explicitly that it isn't working, so maybe there needs to be a new committee or something.
posted by Etrigan at 5:06 AM on April 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


Just to be clear, we *legally cannot* do that. We cannot, by law, make hiring decisions based on a person's race. Even asking about it during the application process is tricky, because it opens us up to potential lawsuits. We can talk a bunch on MetaTalk about how we'd really like to hire a more diverse staff, and put it in the job post to encourage more people of color to apply, but we can't actually base decisions on that, and we didn't.

There is a lot that an organization can do to foster greater diversity in the hiring process without going near that legal line. You always want to be hiring the best qualified person, but there are ways to broaden and diversify the candidate pool that did not appear to be a visible part of the last hiring process.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:04 AM on April 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


maybe people like Conspire and Errant have the stamina and patience to keep doing this

I'm surprised anyone would consider me patient at this point. I've noticed that over the past few months, my interactions on racism have been limited to snarky lines of "you stop that shit" whenever whitey decides to act out. I used to write long comments sharing my experiences with racism, but I don't anymore. I think that's sad, but then again, it hasn't really been my choice.

I'd like a metatalk thread started, completely devoid of majority white voices, where people of colour and minority voices can discuss what they'd like to see happen

Immediately after my Metatalk on racism, another Asian Mefite started up a Meta intended to do just this for Asian mefites. After it got rolling for a while, I had to sent a memail to the poster going "holy shit, I don't want to say this in your thread because I don't want to start a fight, but isn't it grating that there are so many white people introducing themselves as "practically Asian" because they're married to an Asian or because they studied Japanese or compared to actual Asians in that topic?" The response I got was (paraphrasing) "I felt the same way, but I didn't want to start a fight either. Thanks for speaking up, hope it gets better."

I bet every white mefite left that Meta patting themselves on the back. I bet every Asian mefite left that Meta vaguely discomforted, but too silenced by the egos of white people to point that shit out.

I don't know if this is the stuff you can moderate. White fragility and cluenessness just operates on too many levels. I feel like not a single white person even noticed that. It's not my responsibility to point that out to white people. They don't let me be safe when I do.
posted by Conspire at 7:39 AM on April 16, 2016 [44 favorites]


Fine. It's no skin off my ass. Best of luck. I honestly hope you get what you want.

Or we could listen to people of colour and support them in what they want instead of offering vague hope from the sidelines.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:57 AM on April 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


We don't expect 101-level discussions for any other topics

We don't?


Here's the thing: you're high-school-debate-team-ing this subject, and you damn well know it, and it's bullshit. While "cultural appropriation" is not the ONLY topic that the mostly-white Metafilter audience has historically engaged with embarrassingly, the vast MAJORITY of topics in Metafilter get treated with more respect, which leads to better conversations. In the last 6 months, we've had two threads connected cultural appropriation end up so shitty that someone felt the need to make a MeTa about them. Is that really how the majority of topics on Metafilter are handled? Bullshit, man. BULLSHIT.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:00 AM on April 16, 2016 [25 favorites]


I really hate that the "inevitability of 101 discussions" idea keeps coming up. First, there are plenty of threads that assume familiarity with topics -- physics and math are popular examples, but no one goes into a Star Trek thread and goes "Who's this Riker guy and why does he matter?" There are occasionally comments that get information wrong, and they are corrected usually without derailing arguments, digging in, or repeated waves of basic-information demanding commenters.

However, those aren't really great examples, because issues of society and oppression have additional hurdles to clear. Everyone has a relation with race, gender, class, sexual attraction, so everyone tends to feel that they have significant experience in those areas and their opinion and insights matter., which is not really true. There is a bar to active participation which requires work. It's not remotely insurmountable, but it exists. You must be this tall to go on the ride; you need to graduate high school before you can sign up for 101, much less the conversation that's going on.

So we need to have a higher sensitivity to our lack of experience in social issues threads rather than less. Not only is 101 level discussion not inevitable, it's actively damaging to the site, and the expectation that people do a little research and build up their knowledge before jumping into a thread (or even learn from any given thread by lurking and reading attentively). It damages by destroying threads; it damages by driving away members from less-privileged groups who would otherwise participate productively (and *gasp* often on topics not related to their oppression); it even damages by encouraging toxic behaviors in the "101ers" that lead to bannings or buttonings when those members, too, could have been productive. It really is a bleeding sore on this site.

So what to do? I'd like to see more mod action on shutting down 101 derails. Additionally, I'd like to see the mods responding more quickly to member distress (to be fair, I think this have gotten better in the last 5 years, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of room for improvement). I'd like to see the membership do better, and I'd like to see the assumption that members do better be more visible. I think more diversity in the mods should be vigorously pursued. 'm not so sure on the "advisory board" model; I've been on advisory boards in the past, and it can be super-depressing when it leads to a lot of work that gets lost between conception and application.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:04 AM on April 16, 2016 [37 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. Sorry, this is really, really not a good time and place to throw out general "hey what about this other example, does it count as appropriation" questions.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:12 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do a fair amount of 101ing in military topics, and it never gets the pushback that any cultural appropriation topic gets.
posted by Etrigan at 8:31 AM on April 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


And then we are asked to justify the need for an advisory committee, and questioned on all sorts of points - from our motives for wanting an advisory committee, to how this committee would fulfill needs the site doesn't already fulfill, to questions about how this might potentially challenge the power of the (uh... all-white) mods, etc.

Is this inappropriate? I am really, genuinely confused as to how an official cabinet created for whatever reason wouldn't be a huge shift in the balance of power between that cabinet and the rest of the userbase even under the unlikely scenario that every individual in the cabinet would be working for the greater good. We just had an enormous dust-up about Cool Kids and Social Capital and many users expressed discontent with particular users being favored over others. A committee that was not wholly independent would codify exactly that: a small group of privileged users whose opinions, even for good reason, would be privileged.
posted by griphus at 8:42 AM on April 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


And maybe that's where things need to go, but yes it would need to balance all the other existing finely-balanced mobile stuff that goes on here.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:48 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


A committee that was not wholly independent would codify exactly that: a small group of privileged users whose opinions, even for good reason, would be privileged.

This image illustrates my concerns with what you're saying.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:55 AM on April 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure how that picture applies?
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm just imagining the rules-lawyering that would go on if such an advisory board existed -- not from the members of the committee, but from others on the site who wished their opinions were represented. The benefit of having the committee would have to exceed the negatives of people complaining about it, and I'm not at all convinced that would be the case. It seems like a half-measure to me that would do more harm than good. If we want better representation of marginalized groups -- and I think we do -- we need it among people with [staff] badges who have the full authority to influence policy, not some panel that will just draw the ire of people who don't see their preferences reflected in that panel.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:57 AM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Would an ombudsperson be a possibility that could achieve many of the same goals but present fewer of the perceived drawbacks?
posted by MoonOrb at 8:57 AM on April 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure how that picture applies?

Some people need to be elevated a bit more to address issues of disparity.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:59 AM on April 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


This Meta started with a very intelligent, very simple suggestion for users to better behave in order to reduce some shitty recurring problems on the site. I've read this whole thread and I still don't really understand how we got from there to this current solve-the-problem-by-totally-rearranging-how-moderation-on-the-site-works thing.

Look, I get that not acting shitty is hard, and with so many users around it'll never be a perfect thing. But why do these threads always turn into an attempt to massively overhaul in-place longstanding site norms -- either technological or mod-wise -- instead of simply going 'Yeah, let's do better, guys.'
posted by beerperson at 9:01 AM on April 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


Because "yeah, let's do better, guys" hasn't worked, per the PoC commenting in this thread and the FPP and the previous MeTa and...
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:05 AM on April 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


I guess maybe I can address my concerns better with a specific example to which I can actually speak directly form personal experience. MeFi can be not-great about Jewish stuff to the extent that we've had at least on MeTa about casual anti-Semitism, in which a lot of MeFi Jews agreed that maybe it wasn't being dealt with as effectively as it could be. Certainly members who are people of color have much, much more trouble than that to the extent that I find making this comparison distasteful but bear with me.

So let's say we have a Jew on the Advisory Committee. I don't know how that person is picked, but they're on the board, they have a say, they become, in many ways, the MetaFilter Jew who is seen as having an elevated status and in many ways a representative of Jewish MeFites and their needs in the community.

I don't know if many of you have noticed, but we MeFi Jews have had drag-out arguments on MeFi. We're able to do it more visibly than people of color for many reasons, most of which revolve around our privilege. But I can see myself having a serious problem with the Committee Jew because I have serious problems with the opinions-on-Jewishness with many MetaFilter Jews in general. I dare say it comes with the territory.

Now amplify that as many times as there are members of the committee. What will this do but sow discontent?
posted by griphus at 9:06 AM on April 16, 2016 [31 favorites]


I have mostly been nodding along with the good suggestions, and GenjiandProust (while not the only person to raise these points) has most recently summarized what are emerging as my hopes for the outcome of this thread - more mod action, taking action earlier, and higher expectations among mods and users for user behavior.

For my part, I'm reminded that flagging and using the contact form are current tools that I can use, as well as explicitly saying things like "we have discussed this in depth on MetaFilter, I suggest you read these threads" when 101-level derails start.

I was glad to see divabat raise the issue of the pressure on a sole PoC mod - it's a concern that had been percolating for me, because it is isolating to be "the representative," and because I'm deeply concerned about the pattern of new mod hazing in the userbase, and how it's played out with our female mods. I absolutely support a more diverse mod team, and would like to see (in another thread) transparent discussion of recruitment and support approaches for mods who from currently underrepresented groups. Even if hiring a new mod is a longer-term fix, I think it would be helpful to discuss what the process should look like.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:06 AM on April 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


I've always been partial--in a general sense--to the idea of an omsbudperson, someone who reported regularly on whether they felt things were working as advertised or not. Someone who wasn't a mod. Someone who had the trust and respect of the community and could untangle some of these issues. I'm sure everyone had their own read on how these things unfold.

Mine is that there are simmering issues that often don't really come to a boil until there's an incident that sets them off (maybe more visible from the back end than the front end, a lot of people were away from their desks this week) and then a whole bunch of past stuff gets re-litigated in view of the less-agile recent mod responses. And it's hard to see the overall patterns (people having bad interactions about cultural appropriation that are somewhat-managed but not totally managed by the mods) as anything but a failure to care or be aware of these issues and so that, people feel, needs to be addressed with some urgency.

But the mod team can only do so much. That is part of the reality of how this site has worked, does work and will continue to work. Hiring a new mod is something they've said is not happening now and may not happen for a while into the future. This is a business with six decently-paid employees. The process needs to move forward with that as a given. My thoughts are: given that, what's next on the list of things that might be helpful? What are other options?
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:07 AM on April 16, 2016 [18 favorites]


I'm not sure how that picture applies?

Not speaking for fffm, but it's worth considering whether giving a group of MeFites from less-privileged backgrounds more "power*" wouldn't lead to better outcomes for everyone by identifying and addressing some of the imbalances on the site that are causing constant distressing problems. I look at my contacts list and the darkened names of members who have buttoned, most because of constant grinding of "that's not really racism/transphobia/etc**, and it's almost too much to bear; on bad days, it makes me want to button myself.

ow, I have some serious issues with the Advisory Board model myself. Not so much fear that the Committee for Public Safety will come for me with their tumbrels and guillotines as for such a board would invest energy and time into a project that might well not return the change we need, much the way that the suggestions at the top of this thread (and elsewhere in similar threads) would go a long way to solving the problems if the bulk of the members would just read and do their best to follow them, except with a lot more personal investment by a small group of people many of whom are probably already exhausted. On the other hand, so I don't wander into concern-blabbing too much, if there was a group of MeFites eager to take this on, I would wish them the best and try to work within their suggestions to improve the site.

* Given that voluntary work for a site driven by voluntary association might well be more work than mad authority.

** based in some cases on speculation from their comments just before they left, some based on conversations after they left
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:09 AM on April 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Look, I get that not acting shitty is hard, and with so many users around it'll never be a perfect thing. But why do these threads always turn into an attempt to massively overhaul in-place longstanding site norms -- either technological or mod-wise -- instead of simply going 'Yeah, let's do better, guys.'

Well, as the person who started this MeTa, I think concrete suggestions like "Let's start an advisory committee" are more in the spirit of my MeTa than "Let's do better".

"Let's not act shitty" is vague and, let's be honest, people who act shitty on Metafilter either 1) don't feel they're acting shitty, or (and this one is more likely) 2) don't care that they're acting shitty. "Let's start an advisory committee" is at least a concrete suggestion that doesn't rely on assholes becoming self-aware.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:10 AM on April 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm actually not in favor of a committee or anything myself as well. I echo divabat's comments on it just being more emotional labor and aggression stacked upon PoC. But the other thing is that I'm kind of noticing a trend here in regards to white people championing these suggestions that flavors my distaste. It goes, basically like this: a white person finally starts noticing racism, and they start doing better, which is great. But then they all of a sudden notice all of the other white people around them being racist, and the way they react is not as ideal. They flip out at other white people, they propose engineering solutions to social problems, they hyperparticipate and moderate the interactions of people, they complain that we're not doing enough to address things top down.

And I'm viewing that from my vantage as a PoC, and I'm like, you guys don't seem to know how to deal with facing racism. I've been doing this for a lifetime, and these all seem like incredibly naive and overwrought reactions. Sometimes you gotta pick your battles, sometimes you gotta be patient, sometimes you gotta make compromises. That's just how it works when you're fighting against something that permetes through every aspect of your life. And I never know how to communicate this to the white people who "get it" because life experience isn't something that gets across in a white allyship primer. I don't want to say stop that shit, because I know they mean well, but every time they overreact like this, it always splashes on me. Your aggression is my fault. The structural solutions you propose invoke more anger against me. Sometimes, I just want a break, you know?
posted by Conspire at 9:12 AM on April 16, 2016 [69 favorites]


And you know, I've actually brought this up with some white people in my life who do this, and it's just genuinely scary how they believe their slam-it-down-and-be-loud responses to racism are helping. In the long term? Maybe. But they keep doing it every time in front of me. They always raise the heat and I get burned. I'm their incubator for addressing systematic issues. It's like, they're so fixated on solving racism as a systematic issue and as a long term thing, they forget I'm a human too. I don't want to fight all the time. I don't want to have to think about my oppression all the time. I don't want to be in a nice party, in a low key discussion and then have it suddenly escalated to IT'S GO TIME in any given moment. I don't have that much emotional energy.

Sometimes I worry white people care more about racism than they care about PoC.
posted by Conspire at 9:22 AM on April 16, 2016 [54 favorites]


We totally want to hear from people, especially on issues that we have blind spots on. People already contact us about stuff, and we already take action on things they point out.

In my experience, this has not been the case, and I think the reason people are asking for a more official, more structured way of raising concerns is that it has not been the case for then as well.
I don't think a committee is the way to end these concerns.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:27 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anyway, I'm going on about this, but seriously: do any of the white people who constantly go "that's fucking racist" at people ever nix that urge and send a non-threatening memail instead? Like, I get that PoC have expressed they like visible shows of support, and I do too. But it's not black and white. And I feel like sometimes white people are just frequently stuck with their volume dials at 11 all the time, with no tools in their arsenal... and that's just not what PoC do, you know?
posted by Conspire at 9:27 AM on April 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


I don't think a memail implying that someone is being insensitive to POC, however non-threatening, would go well. Generally, the people I notice taking liberties are people who have demonstrated in previous threads that they know precisely what they're doing, are utterly convinced that they're not being racist (because they don't think they are racist) and therefore aren't going to be moved off of their opinions by someone asking them to dial it back.

I'm not saying I won't try it if the feeling is that it would be a better way of handling things -- I'm just explaining why I've always preferred flagging / pointing out the behavior in-thread over MeMail.

Also, people can disable MeMail, meaning those who don't want to be reached can put themselves out of reach.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:35 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've had a fair amount of luck engaging people in MeMail and folks are often pretty open to going 'Oh I get why I was disrupting the thread/misreading something/etc' and worst-case scenario you are pulling their attention away from the thread where they're otherwise putting on a shitshow.
posted by beerperson at 9:38 AM on April 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm a person who's against this proposal for an advisory board or something similar because it really does make sweeping assumptions about the way some of us non-white people engage with this site, and being a spokesperson for your race, even with the best of intentions, is something I don't want to do, and a lot of people don't want to do. I feel this would create pressure to do this. I really don't see how anyone could be on a board that's supposed to represent minorities without putting themselves up as a spokesperson for that minority. Many of us don't want to be spoken for in certain ways, or be the speaker. If someone does, it should be unofficial.
posted by girlmightlive at 9:39 AM on April 16, 2016 [25 favorites]


I think a lot of people on this site see the members who are in some way a minority as existing as a unified front ready at any point to dispatch their Best and Brightest as ambassadors to the rest. I think that is a dangerous idea of what it means to not be in the majority and from it spring dangerous ideas of how such people can deal with the lack of power that comes with not being the majority. And we should always be careful to whom we give power because they were the ones who stepped up to Represent.
posted by griphus at 9:53 AM on April 16, 2016 [26 favorites]


Oh, and yes, last comment in this chain, I promise. I've noticed a few things that now get me worried that my calls for a little self-moderation from white people are going to be used against other PoC, later if not here. And even though I really shouldn't have to say this at all, I'm expressing my own feelings only, and they should never be used to override any one else's experiences. Like, I feel like this is why it's so hard to talk to white people about this shit - every time you talk about racism, it gets interpreted as "tell us what to do." I feel like they're stuck in binaries with behavior. I'm not saying what I'm saying because I want white people to drop what they're doing and do my thing, but because I want them to behave in more complex ways. But these conversations never seem to have that outcome for me.
posted by Conspire at 9:57 AM on April 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


And I don't mean the above as some sort of fever dream where there is a Minority Coup. I mean there is a risk of alienating a lot of people when these people are told that they either need to pick a leader or one will be picked for them.
posted by griphus at 9:57 AM on April 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


I have a strong suspicion that just as subtler forms of racism go unnoticed by the majority, ways of dealing with subtler racism also go unnoticed and therefore unmodelled. So what white people see are the big conflagrations that it would be hard for anyone to miss, and they see people of color in them going "well, I guess we have to go to war now, time to get out the cussing thesaurus", and I think that sets up for people a mode where the appropriate response to racism is overwhelming force, because that's what people of color do when I see them fighting racism, isn't it?

I think "don't be shitty" is perfectly reasonable advice, at least as formulated in this MeTa with concrete ways in which to not do that, I just think there has to be some emphasis on the clause that should naturally follow, "and if you can't stop being shitty yourself, we're going to do it for you."

I am not really in favor of an advisory board or the "next mod must be person of color or else" stuff either, for whatever that's worth. I mean, it'd be cool if they were, of course, but I don't really see how that by itself would improve things significantly beyond the basic additional moderation. I don't think the issue is that shittiness isn't getting dealt with, I think the issue is that people still feel free to say deeply stupid stuff, and there's lots more people saying dumb shit than there are people who can address that, formally or otherwise. Feminist stuff didn't improve just because jessamyn was a mod and a woman, it improved because she put in a lot of time and effort on it and then also people took it on themselves to sort out their own and each other's shit and have long, painful, fraught conversations. I feel like there's a lot of desire to short-circuit that process, which is totally understandable because that process sucks, but I'm not convinced that the shortcuts are less flawed. Especially because my guess is that there's a much smaller percentage of people of color on the site than there are women on the site, and I think lots of people of color here already frequently feel tokenized by default.
posted by Errant at 9:59 AM on April 16, 2016 [56 favorites]


We just had an enormous dust-up about Cool Kids and Social Capital and many users expressed discontent with particular users being favored over others.

[Puts envelope to forehead]

"Some people were all, 'Oh grow up, guys' and then it turned out they were percieved as the Cool Kids and in the end they ended up buttoning."

[Reads MeTa]

Oh MeFi, you're the MeFiest.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:13 AM on April 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's unclear to me that being agreeable is any more effective at fighting racism than table flipping. MetaFilter mirrors the rest of society in this respect. When we recognize what we think is "progress," we attribute it to appeasement rather than backlash. It's really hard to determine what works.

Now, I'm not saying that policing our language to appease whites is wholly useless. However, I often wonder if it operates in the aggregate as a conservatizing force. These days, I try to restrict the amount of time I spend rewriting sentences to sound agreeable to liberals… admittedly with mixed success.

Anyway, I don't have any satisfying takeaways— I'll leave that to our race representatives.
posted by yaymukund at 10:13 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't think a special committee would solve things. Metafilter is quite resistant to this sort of supervision: every new mod has had to deal with a lot of unnecessary criticism and imagine the same but on a greater scale. I think , as with the boyzone threads etc, this will take time and perhaps the best option is pushback within the threads in question. This will take a lot of time, but it's been done before and it will work. It will just take a lot longer.
posted by dhruva at 10:15 AM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


"I mean there is a risk of alienating a lot of people when these people are told that they either need to pick a leader or one will be picked for them."

Yup. Dennis Brutus expressed similar concerns in the post Aparteid South Africa and in committees formed before. The issue was nationality and skin color for him.
posted by clavdivs at 10:28 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about this a lot. I'm also on the side of 'our current model does not work,' with the addendum of 'I don't think an official advisory board is going to work either.' I feel like others have covered my concerns about it fairly well already, so I don't want to go over it a bunch.

A few suggestions from earlier posters did stick out as potentially helpful with fewer side issues though, and did I want to highlight a couple that I do think might help:

So what to do? I'd like to see more mod action on shutting down 101 derails. Additionally, I'd like to see the mods responding more quickly to member distress (to be fair, I think this have gotten better in the last 5 years, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of room for improvement). I'd like to see the membership do better, and I'd like to see the assumption that members do better be more visible.

I agree with the notion of greater visibility that This Is Not Okay Here. If there's one thing I've learned on Metafilter, it's just how big a difference it makes when stuff gets nipped in the bud early. I think it would be okay to simply snip dumb shit with a link to a 101-grade FAQ. "Yes, cultural appropriation is a thing here, we've hashed it out often enough, here's a link to the highlights." No, like, autoban or anything like that, just... making it clear we don't need to rehash this in every single thread, especially not if the same idea is floated more than once inside the same discussion.

As to why not MetaTalk? If there were a way to compose and post a Meta anonymously, I might consider it.

I think stoneweaver might be onto something with this. I flag stuff more than I used to. I have used the contact form a couple of times, but I don't really like it because it is my lone voice. I don't have the benefit of either a bunch of people saying 'me too,' or more eloquent people expressing the problem in a manner I am likely too upset to manage or I wouldn't need the contact form. I found that mode of site interaction discouraging even though the mods here really are the best I've interacted with. I suspect I am not alone in feeling like that.

I think our present model of 'hash stuff out in an exhausting manner in Meta' is still probably the most democratic and open tool we have to create change in the culture here. People engage with it at their own comfort level, it's transparent to people who don't want to speak up necessarily. Anyone can contribute. It's great...

Except that I would never, ever post one. *Initiating* this kind of discussion sounds about as appealing as sticking my hand in a hornet's nest and seeing how long I can keep it in there. If there were a better way to get these discussions going, I think that might help a lot of people. Anon AskMe questions already have good tools in place to prevent abuse - I don't see why similar guidelines couldn't be used to make this sort of thing work out.

I guess tl;dr, I think some of the burden of dealing with this could be removed from the shoulders of PoC members of this site without necessarily needing big and potentially fraught changes to our organizational structure. Some small tweaks could maybe be a big help.
posted by mordax at 10:36 AM on April 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


Metafilter likes to pride itself on being a beacon of intelligent discourse on the internet. In posts concerning cultural appropriation, POC will invariably chime in to say that we don't get intelligent discourse in threads about cultural appropriation. I think cutting back on comments of Type 1 and Type 2 would help improve threads concerning cultural appropriation, and I can't see any downside to not leaving comments like these (but if you'd like to explain their benefit, please go for it.)

I feel you - but I have an issue with the very premise. Personally, I know exactly where I want to go for deep, "graduate level" analysis on topics I hold dear. It's not MeFi. MeFi is where I go when I want to drop knowledge when privileged people with graduate and/or professional degrees tell me what they think about things of which they're mostly not experts - because they'll always let me know. MeFi is where I get to see where that slice of society is at the moment. Reddit is where I want to go when I want a younger, less educated, and less seasoned take. FWIW - both places can be hella ignorant, only MeFi's student loan debt and total vocabulary are probably both higher, on average.

If anything, I think the moderation here is too hands on. Let the comments and ideas stand as a true-ish representation of where the community is right now. Cutting off threads or deleting comments shapes the conversations into something they're not. That even the better educated are still making comments of Type 1 or Type 2 tells me something about where we stand. Moderating those out would not only be difficult in practice - even if it could be done perfectly it leaves the impression that we're good, or that random smarty pants commenters aren't struggling with issues like this anymore.

Goes the other way, too - there's plenty of stuff I don't know shit about. I WANT other members of the community to give me their take. I want them to take the time to teach me something. The worst threads are those where it's a bunch of people who don't know anything about the topic yapping at each other. FWIW, while I understand where it's coming from - I'm really not fond of the "can't be bothered to engage" angle that's coming up more and more often. I get that you're tired - but if people don't get your take, then whose will they get? Maybe it's on you to come up with a more scalable way of sharing what you know (links to previous comments or threads come to mind).

Short version: more moderation or committees or ombudspeople or whatever are not only an answer that I don't think will work, even if it did, I'm not sure that results in MeFi being a better place. If I wanted an intelligent or informed discussion, then I'd go someplace where curation of both ideas and participants are part of the mission. Internet message boards - even this one - are simply not those kind of spaces.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 10:38 AM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


MeFi is where I go when I want to drop knowledge when privileged people with graduate and/or professional degrees tell me what they think about things of which they're mostly not experts - because they'll always let me know.
[...]
The worst threads are those where it's a bunch of people who don't know anything about the topic yapping at each other.


I'm having a hard time reconciling these.
posted by Krom Tatman at 10:44 AM on April 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


> The worst threads are those where it's a bunch of people who don't know anything about the topic yapping at each other.

But that's "a true-ish representation of where the community is right now".

> Maybe it's on you to come up with a more scalable way of sharing what you know (links to previous comments or threads come to mind)

This happens, a lot, and it's boring to do because of the "people who don't know anything about the topic yapping at each other" won't stop yapping and picking and yahbutting long enough to listen/read/think.

> If I wanted an intelligent or informed discussion

There is actually quite a bit of this on this site (in this thread, in fact). It's odd to me that you think the moderation is too hands-on but at the same time that we should take intelligent discussions to places where there is curation of topics and participants. Those things don't happen by magic.
posted by rtha at 10:46 AM on April 16, 2016 [19 favorites]


comments of Type 1 or Type 2...Moderating those out would not only be difficult in practice - even if it could be done perfectly it leaves the impression that we're good

It's not difficult to aim to do it more, and we're going to do that. Where we can cut repetitive basic stuff from conversations, they often improve -- it's happened with other topics and it can happen with this topic.

I don't want to overpromise here because as a staff we're imperfect and we're stretched thin. Case in point, sometimes we have a day of scanty coverage and something like this thread happens. But 23skidoo's proposal is exactly the kind of actionable thing we can implement, and that other members can look at with their own participation and see if they're accidentally doing something that's a problem for other members.

If it gave the impression we as a site are "good" enough that more underrepresented groups felt ok commenting, well, that would be a good thing.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:52 AM on April 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


Goes the other way, too - there's plenty of stuff I don't know shit about. I WANT other members of the community to give me their take. I want them to take the time to teach me something. The worst threads are those where it's a bunch of people who don't know anything about the topic yapping at each other. FWIW, while I understand where it's coming from - I'm really not fond of the "can't be bothered to engage" angle that's coming up more and more often. I get that you're tired - but if people don't get your take, then whose will they get? Maybe it's on you to come up with a more scalable way of sharing what you know (links to previous comments or threads come to mind).

People are tired because of all the ignorant people yapping and then attacking them, rather than learning from them, when they try to give their more informed take. It's not because POC are too stupid to come up with "scalable ways of sharing what they know," it's because white posters are being exhausting and insulting.
posted by lazuli at 10:56 AM on April 16, 2016 [23 favorites]


If anything, I think the moderation here is too hands on. Let the comments and ideas stand as a true-ish representation of where the community is right now.

This is nonsense. All of civilization is an exercise in preventing people from acting on their baser impulses. This place is comfortable to you right *now* due to efforts that range from clever, ($5 entry is genius), to Herculean, (our mod staff). Through that existing effort, this place looks a certain way that serves a particular purpose to you. It isn't 'natural.' It isn't 'accurate.' It is what everyone here has made it.

Suggesting this just sort of *happens* is exactly the sort of ignorant white privilege that needs to be addressed a bit. This place already caters to a particular desire of *yours*, and... you know, that's actually great. I'm not actually looking to remove that - no one is.

The rest of us just want it to offer us an *equally* comfortable spot, one where we can fire up a thread without expecting the same clueless racist bullshit over and over again. This should be a laudable goal from your perspective - leaving stuff toxic to broad demographics, driving them away, means less knowledge floating around here. Fewer perspectives, fewer experts. It's better for everyone to improve that.
posted by mordax at 11:04 AM on April 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


I feel you - but I have an issue with the very premise. Personally, I know exactly where I want to go for deep, "graduate level" analysis on topics I hold dear.

You've misunderstood my premise, I'm afraid. Removing the two types of comments from cultural appropriation threads isn't a push for graduate level analysis, it's just a call to allow the possibility for a civil conversation to happen. I don't see any benefit to keeping these conversations on a... shit, it's not even a 101-level, it's like grade-school-insult-level. It's really bad.

Do we really need to have Metafilter serve as a reminder of how bad people treat each other when they're not pushed to try harder? I mean, there's tons of places you can go to get that reminder: why does Metafilter have to be that place?
posted by 23skidoo at 11:05 AM on April 16, 2016 [24 favorites]


NoRelationToLea: If anything, I think the moderation here is too hands on. Let the comments and ideas stand as a true-ish representation of where the community is right now.

I disagree. I believe that this would come at too high a price, and a price that's paid by certain, small groups. I do not want these people to have to pay that price. They deserve better, and it's not worth it.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:12 AM on April 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


Suggesting this just sort of *happens* is exactly the sort of ignorant white privilege that needs to be addressed a bit.

NoRelationToLea is a PoC.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:13 AM on April 16, 2016


I wouldn't want there to be any kind of official member committee. Also, I'm really enjoying Eyebrows McGee's modding.
posted by michaelh at 11:15 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I agree with what five fresh fish said earlier; that there will always be people needing a 101 style education on whatever topic is being discussed in a community where a five dollar fee is the only entry barrier. It's bad that five fresh fish was told that he has nothing to contribute to a discussion about site policy and should leave the discussion because he disagrees with proposed changes. Engage the ignorant and educate them, ignore them or drop a link to an educating site or discussion.

I get that "white posters are being exhausting and insulting" - ignorant posters in almost any topic that has profound importance to an individual can be tiring and offensive, but that appears to be the burden of participating in a community built like Metafilter is, and we already have very active moderation with contact forms and flagging as options to draw their attention to problematic situations. I'm not sure what the committee would add to that, let alone the practicalities involved in how that committee would be structured, who would get a voice on it and what powers they would have.

Perhaps hiring another moderator (and a more ethnically diverse moderator base couldn't hurt) is the solution, so that reaction time to problems is enhanced. How do we overcome the money and time obstacles to that goal?
posted by dazed_one at 11:16 AM on April 16, 2016


It's bad that five fresh fish was told that he has nothing to contribute to a discussion about site policy and should leave the discussion because he disagrees with proposed changes.

It's not like his comments occurred in a vacuum; maybe he's made it onto your radar for the first time, but this is the kind of predictable thing he's been saying as long as I've been visiting this site. So what you're seeing probably isn't kneejerk dismissiveness toward his thoughtful, useful contributions, but frustration and fatigue at predictable, low-value contributions.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:20 AM on April 16, 2016 [24 favorites]


NoRelationToLea is a PoC.

I stand corrected, thank you.

Apologies for tossing you in with the Man, NoRelationToLea. Everything else I had to say stands though: this place doesn't 'just happen.'

So what you're seeing probably isn't kneejerk dismissiveness toward his thoughtful, useful contributions, but frustration and fatigue at predictable, low-value contributions.

As the one who told him to piss off: yeah, that.
posted by mordax at 11:24 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've just made it to the end of the thread. I've read your suggestions and agree wholeheartedly and will take your advice. I've been quietly nodding and I'm only commenting so you know LM is right. Thanks for posting this.

Coming in late, but another one for this.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 11:28 AM on April 16, 2016


I'm sick of white people in general, but there are some specific white people I'm especially sick of.
posted by Conspire at 11:28 AM on April 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


Delurking to say...
thank you for this MeTa, 23skidoo.

Thank you to the POC voices fighting to try to be heard, post after post. I'm sorry it's so hard, and the costs so high. Though I can never know personally (white privilege), I imagine it must feel like shouting into the wind. For what it's worth, I'm listening, and trying to do better based on and thanks to what I'm hearing you say.
I'm not trying to make this about me. You don't need my (white) approval, and I'm not looking for (POC) approval, a pat on the head, response-in-kind, or acknowledgement. Just a sincerely offered expression of empathy and gratitude.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:32 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've been reading this thread for two days now, nodding along and wondering what I can do, as a white woman, to either help or at least not hurt. I'm sorry. I'm just...I'm sorry this shit happens, I'm sorry people are hurt, and I'm sorry the world is shitty to PoC. I promise to listen more and not let racist stuff slide when I'm present.

I sincerely hope that MeFite PoC don't button. I truly believe your experiences and opinions and thoughts are so, so valuable for this (and every) community.

and yeah, no cookies or pats or anything...I just wanted to lend support.
posted by cooker girl at 11:46 AM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Chiming in as a Desi Muslim woman now that I have gotten to the bottom of the thread . I think the OP's suggestions are great. In the combination of "Yes, obviously this is what people should do," and "How I wish these guidelines did not require being explicitly suggested in a MeTa" that I would guess many users recognize.

It can be incredibly frustrating to deal with the obdurate obliviousness of some Mefites in threads on topics close to my personal experience. My way of dealing with it is often to comment from my perspective, and then if the cluelessness continues, to note that I am stepping away from the thread because of how frustrating the cluelessness is. Sometimes that improves the discourse. Even when it doesn't, I feel better for the breather. Sometimes I return to those threads, sometimes I don't. I enjoy the Metafilter community a great deal. It provides me with a refuge of sorts quite often. That makes the obliviousness on some topics even more alienating than it is in other contexts.

I don't know that hiring a POC mod would necessarily help. I find the advisory council idea weird and impractical. Figuring out the various axes along which people can be minorities on the site and then figuring out who would represent those groups would be difficult. I think the mods on the whole do a great job and am supportive of continuing with the kinds of incremental changes that this MeTa proposes.
posted by bardophile at 11:55 AM on April 16, 2016 [25 favorites]


I guess I like the idea of an ombudshuman or perhaps a couple of them. I suppose given the current mod team and the profitability of the web site that they'd have to be volunteers, which is a shame, since so many minorities are regularly expected to work for free.
posted by kalessin at 12:02 PM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


NoRelationToLea is a PoC.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:13 AM


It actually shouldn't matter if I am or not. My position is that bolting on curation on a place that's not really designed for it kind of scuttles the point. It's more than a little weird that my race informs the validity of that position, either way. If you really wanted to come after the messenger - while a PoC, I'm also a heterosexual male - so you could always deploy the patriarchy cannon.

On curation: who can comment? Anyone with $5. Where? On the single active thread, in the single available forum. Reddit can be a cesspool, sure - but it actually has the notion of curation in its bones. This place does not - so you get threads like this trying to figure out how to do it after the fact. Sure, it doesn't "just happen" - but there are things about the very structure of this place that are not only kinda square peg/round hole with curation - I (personally) prefer (and remember) when things were moderated less.

You've misunderstood my premise, I'm afraid. Removing the two types of comments from cultural appropriation threads isn't a push for graduate level analysis, it's just a call to allow the possibility for a civil conversation to happen. I don't see any benefit to keeping these conversations on a... shit, it's not even a 101-level, it's like grade-school-insult-level. It's really bad.

Do we really need to have Metafilter serve as a reminder of how bad people treat each other when they're not pushed to try harder? I mean, there's tons of places you can go to get that reminder: why does Metafilter have to be that place?
posted by 23skidoo at 11:05 AM on April 16


I don't disagree with your experience. I do disagree with the idea that MeFi remains head and shoulders better than any other place for discussion on the internet. For me, MeFi operates like any elite institution in that even here, there are astounding levels of offensiveness and ignorance. At least I know - at least I can see it. We also differ on what to do about it.

A discussion with someone ignorant of what could be done better isn't just an attempt to sway them. Maybe they never come around. Honestly a large part of me DGAF if they do or not. My point is there's enormous value in the discussion, even if it's messy (maybe especially if it's messy). There are people reading beyond the participants, thinking on their own. There's value for me in that I get to work stuff out in my own mind. All I'm really saying is that I think everyone should have the opportunity to see how those discussions go, that I think there's more value to us collectively working through the grade school level insult stage vs. making that stuff just magically go away, whatever the mechanism.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 12:21 PM on April 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


I find the advisory council idea weird and impractical.

Yeah, I have no idea how people imagine that working in a practical sense.

They would of course have to be paid.
So what hours do they work? On call 24 hours? Shifts?
If it’s 3AM does the mod need to consult with the advisors before making a decision?
What if the mod, or members, disagree with the advisors?
Are they sitting around waiting for flare ups, or scouring the boards looking for trouble?
If it’s simply consulting, you’re going to pay someone to give their opinion every couple of weeks? Or are you going to ask them to do it for free? They’d have to be current on most of the discussions on the site for context. What if they weren’t?
Are you going to fire them if they aren’t doing a good job? Who determines that?
How many advisors would you need to cover represented groups? What groups are represented?
What if you couldn’t find people willing to do this that represented those groups?

The whole thing sounds like jury duty, I’m not sure who you’d get to do it for long.

I’m also just uncomfortable with the "tell us about your people, so we may understand your ways" aspect of this.
posted by bongo_x at 12:23 PM on April 16, 2016 [16 favorites]


I posted this comment on sciatrix's MeFi post about the scientific way to stop being racist, but it probably belongs in this discussion too, especially as an idea of things the mods could to do help fix MeFi for minorities to experience. Unsure if it's practical, but it's an idea:
"On a couple of Slack servers I'm on (both politically progressive), there is a special channel for precisely that kind of processing. It's called #white-people-feelings. Because of how Slack works as a technology, these channels are opt-in for both white people processing feelings around antiracism "awakenings" and for minorities and people of color who might be inclined to help talk it out or process it. But no one gets forced into the role, and if white folks start processing in other channels they can be redirected to #white-people-feelings.

I feel like if there were a MeTa thread where that could happen and that just sort of stayed open for further commenting, and discussion, that would be a good thing for MetaFilter as a whole."
posted by kalessin at 12:24 PM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


By "that kind of processing" above, I mean the kind of processing where white folks who are becoming aware of social justice have to process out all the hurtful stuff they did before becoming aware, and all the attendant emotions.
posted by kalessin at 12:25 PM on April 16, 2016


[Couple comments deleted. Don't comment in here to needle people or make things worse.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:31 PM on April 16, 2016


I agree with what five fresh fish said earlier; that there will always be people needing a 101 style education on whatever topic is being discussed in a community where a five dollar fee is the only entry barrier.

Of course this is true, but it's missing the point. The question is not whether there will always be people who need 101-level education on topics, it's whether MetaFilter is the place for that education, whether MetaFilter wants to be the place for that education, and whether users should expect MetaFilter to be the place for that education.

My answer to all of those questions is "no." If a user wants a 101-level education on pretty much any topic they are going to come across in an FPP, they are already online. About 5 minutes of searching and 30 or so minutes of reading should give them a start. More searching and reading based on the questions that are raised in their heads by the thread in which they are lurking should get them a pretty good idea of what people are talking about. After that, they might feel up to speed enough to contribute without derailing the whole enterprise. It's not like this is a huge ask for a site fll of adults....
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:41 PM on April 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


The whole thing sounds like jury duty, I’m not sure who you’d get to do it for long.

Having just completed jury duty (again! whyyyyyyyy...) I couldn't agree more. It seems like forming such a committee would only make sense if it had actual power rather than being purely advisory, and that doesn't appear to be in the cards. If it's an advisory committee what would make it superior to Metatalk except now with added bureaucracy.

An ombudsman type of situation makes more sense to me when talking about an advisory position although that has its own issue so I don't know that even it would be super helpful. But at least I can forsee far fewer problems.
posted by Justinian at 1:07 PM on April 16, 2016


Problems for whom, exactly?
posted by kalessin at 1:58 PM on April 16, 2016


I don't disagree with your experience. I do disagree with the idea that MeFi remains head and shoulders better than any other place for discussion on the internet.

I don't think I've said anything that could be construed as thinking that MeFi remains head and shoulders better than any other place for discussion on the internet. (I did imply that MeFi thinks it's a great place for discussion.) But I do think it's better than average, because to me "average" is "ughghgh, don't read the comments, everyone there being horrible because there's no moderation at all".

All I'm really saying is that I think everyone should have the opportunity to see how those discussions go, that I think there's more value to us collectively working through the grade school level insult stage vs. making that stuff just magically go away, whatever the mechanism.


I think Metafilter's been working through the grade school level insult stage for like over 15 years. It seems like "do nothing, maybe it will get better" isn't working. I don't think my suggestions are going to make that stuff "magically go away". I think my suggestions are going to make people think more about what they're doing when they're commenting.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:09 PM on April 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


It seems like "do nothing, maybe it will get better" isn't working.

Ughghg, that wasn't right. I know the mods put in a lot of work. But I think there's nothing wrong with trying to do more.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:19 PM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I get what you mean, 23skidoo, and we totally agree on the whole trying-to-do-more thing. The details of what's doable are a trickier question but I wanted to pop in briefly at least (nominally my day off, but I've been trying to at least read along as I'm able) and echo the sentiments from other mods up thread that the concrete tweaks in your post here are definitely a good and workable example of how that trying-to-do-more can happen.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:44 PM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Problems for whom, exactly?

See bongo_x's partial list above; organization, rules, representation, and so on. It would be a very complicated process.
posted by Justinian at 2:53 PM on April 16, 2016


(Just the other day I said to the other mods, "Argh, that person is doing that thing again in a thread of personal interest to me," and the other mods were like, "Oh, does that happen a lot with that person?" because it was not a topic that tended to get a lot of flags or was of enough interest to other mods that they'd paid attention to the way a couple people frequently derailed the topic. To me it was glaringly obvious but to someone who doesn't devotedly read those threads, it doesn't stand out.)

This is a perfect description of why the next mod needs to be somebody with some serious background in dealing with diversity issues. Because right now it doesn't seem like there's anybody on staff whose personal interests align with the problems being discussed in this thread. The solution is not simply to have users flag it and contact the mods about specific bad actors because that's relying on PoC to do unpaid labor within this community. The solution is to hire a mod who notices and tracks the bad actors on their own because things like cultural appropriation are of personal interest to them. And the excuses given so far as to why the current slate of mods isn't as diverse as it needs to be are exactly the same excuses given in every other industry. It wasn't a problem with the hiring process, it was just that there weren't any qualified candidates who fit the bill. Ok.
posted by one_bean at 2:54 PM on April 16, 2016 [16 favorites]


does the admin panel / backend not track which users are flagged most often? it could also provide tag clouds that describe threads associated with users so that systematic posting on certain subjects is clearer.

posted by andrewcooke at 2:57 PM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


On curation: who can comment? Anyone with $5. Where? On the single active thread, in the single available forum. Reddit can be a cesspool, sure - but it actually has the notion of curation in its bones.

I don't understand what you mean by this. Do you mean, the single active thread on a particular topic? Because of course there are many, many active threads on a whole lot of things running simultaneously here, as on e.g. reddit, and mefites can choose which ones to just read and which ones to actively participate in. Some part of curating must fall to the personal responsibility of mefites choosing when and how to expose their ignorance on a topic (doing so certainly isn't required), and some falls on other mefites to deal with that (by pushing back, by ignoring, by just noping out entirely) and some falls on mods to delete and leave notes like "drop this derail/take it to memail/take the day off." I see these as various kinds of curation. Do you not?
posted by rtha at 2:59 PM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


does the admin panel / backend not track which users are flagged most often? it could also provide tag clouds that describe threads associated with users so that systematic posting on certain subjects is clearer.

Sometimes a few lines of code can't actually replace decades of lived experience.
posted by one_bean at 3:12 PM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


At this point I feel like the advisory committee discussion has a lot of POC saying "eh I'm not dead against it but I'd need to know how it would avoid certain problems/more details about what it would do", a few people who are actually trying to tussle with said details, and a whole lot of people, mostly white, who want to argue about whether or not such a committee is prima facie a good or bad idea. Can I gently request that if your comment is mostly in that third vein, consider going to Memail/elsewhere, as I think that's diverting energy from and interrupting the attempts at hammering out if and how such a thing would work?
posted by Krom Tatman at 3:13 PM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


So let's say we have a Jew on the Advisory Committee. I don't know how that person is picked, but they're on the board, they have a say, they become, in many ways, the MetaFilter Jew who is seen as having an elevated status and in many ways a representative of Jewish MeFites and their needs in the community.

I totally agree with griphus here, and I just want to say, because this makes me cranky, I am fucking Jewish. And that hasn't seemed to make any particular difference in how people talk about mod decisions around Jewish issues. More perspectives are better, but they're obviously and provably not a panacea.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:14 PM on April 16, 2016 [29 favorites]


Sometimes a few lines of code can't actually replace decades of lived experience.

i wasn't arguing it would. i just thought it might help. the comment i was replying to had a surprised admin. this could help remove that surprise.
posted by andrewcooke at 3:20 PM on April 16, 2016


I've been thinking more on the question of how we can improve diversity and make the site more minority-friendly (or at least minority-neutral....) here.

There have been good questions raised pointing out some potential problems in some of the bigger solutions: an advisory committee may result in a disproportionate amount of emotional labor/work being required of PoC/marginalized groups, as might a podcast - and both require a lot of time, some money (and time is money, too), organizing etc. And in this thread we are all still debating and discussing the merits and drawbacks of these potential macro solutions.

So I also started wondering what I could do as an individual. And I remembered how I joined Metafilter: a MeFite (dobbs, who has since left) announced on his personal website that he was giving away 5 free Metafilter memberships in the interest of increasing the diversity of voices on Metafilter.

I actually hadn't heard of Metafilter before that, but I wrote in to dobbs explaining a bit about myself, and he was kind enough to gift me (and I assume 4 others) a Metafilter account. And I'm still so glad for that.

Perhaps another way we can encourage greater diversity and a healthier, more inclusive attitude towards minorities is to encourage them to join, or return. To try to turn the tide back; to turn things around. People have been leaving, and like I mentioned before, it's become a vicious cycle. More PoC leaving leads to even more white insularity and racial micro-aggressions, which in turn makes...more people leave. So I'm thinking: maybe we could somehow try to start a more positive cycle on the same note?

I don't have a website/platform like dobbs did, but if any non-MeFite PoC/trans/minority person is lurking or reading this and would be interested in contributing positively to discussions on Metafilter (and not just for minority-specific issues of course), I'd be willing to gift them an account. (If you are reading this somehow, believe this applies to you and are interested, contact me at [my MeFite username] at gmail.) (...I hope that was ok for me to say here in Metatalk?)
posted by aielen at 3:25 PM on April 16, 2016 [23 favorites]


I think Metafilter's been working through the grade school level insult stage for like over 15 years. It seems like "do nothing, maybe it will get better" isn't working.
posted by 23skidoo An hour ago


I generally agree with regard to race. I disagree with regard to gender - there's been real progress there and I challenge anyone to find a MeFi thread around gender issues from near the beginning and one recently where the discussion remains completely unchanged. Are we good there? Of course not - but to argue that nothing has changed simply isn't true.

The question in my mind is whether or not there's anything that can be done to accelerate the process here beyond what's seen in the world at large. We disagree on methods. I think discussion on say, a discussion board, is a better option. Others think more curated participation is better. Ultimately - both are probably small potatoes compared to acts in the world - so take your pick.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 3:27 PM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


We do have ways to look at which users are most-flagged; the idea of a tag-cloud or word-cloud is intriguing, especially for users who act up in an irregular fashion so may have fallen out of memory between episodes. I'm not sure if it'd be a bunch of random gibberish or if it'd highlight trends and be a helpful memory jog; I've forwarded the notion to pb so we can at least ponder it.

While high volume of flags is a useful metric for seeing who's participating in problematic way, it isn't perfect: Some non-problem users get flagged a lot just because they're really prolific; some HUGE PROBLEM users are assholes on one or two specific topics and go up in relatively spontaneous flames with no flagging history. Flags are intended to draw our attention to specific comments more than specific users, but we can think about whether we can make them more useful in identifying user trends as well as problem comments.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 3:28 PM on April 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I generally agree with regard to race. I disagree with regard to gender - there's been real progress there and I challenge anyone to find a MeFi thread around gender issues from near the beginning and one recently where the discussion remains completely unchanged. Are we good there? Of course not - but to argue that nothing has changed simply isn't true.

My comment was specifically about race, and I totally agree with you that discussions regarding gender used to be an absolute shitshow, and now they're better. I think repeated MeTas concerning how Mefi used to be a boyzone, and mods listening to the ideas in those MeTas are what led to more mod attention being paid to those threads, which over time has resulted in an improvement with regards to gender discussions on Metafilter.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:37 PM on April 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


if any non-MeFite PoC/trans/minority person is lurking or reading this and would be interested in contributing positively to discussions on Metafilter (and not just for minority-specific issues of course), I'd be willing to gift them an account.

Yes, excellent idea! The site is happy to sponsor some number of new memberships.

Anyone in these categories (or anyone who wants to join, but finds the $5 to be a hardship) can get in touch through the contact form or email mods@metafilter.com and let us know you'd like to join. Or get in touch through a current member if that feels like a more welcoming way in.

We've been talking about ways to bring in new good members, and this seems like a great first step to experiment with.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:44 PM on April 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


[Couple of comments deleted. If you're antagonistic to this whole deal, please don't pop in here, you will make things worse.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:56 PM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


If any PoC (or other marginalized person) ever wants to start a MetaTalk thread but doesn't want it associated with their account, feel free to MeMail it to me. I'm happy to post it and say that it's for someone who prefers to remain anonymous.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:58 PM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Could a tech solution be tried?

Pseudo code:

Add a check box to the Post form: "This post has potential to be controversial"

Add a metric to the Comment box that calculates a sum of indicators:
+ 1 for each flag
+ 2 for each deleted comment
+ 2 for the controversial check
+ 3 if the poster has an entry in the problem poster
+ 3 if the poster has been banned within x weeks/months

If the metric > 10
Add a big red blinking banner reminding that comments should be very civil and consider a walk in the park.


(actual implementation details to be resolved in committee :-)
posted by sammyo at 4:03 PM on April 16, 2016


No. That's not how we do things, and it's not a great time and place for goofy joking.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:06 PM on April 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


My comment was specifically about race, and I totally agree with you that discussions regarding gender used to be an absolute shitshow, and now they're better. I think repeated MeTas concerning how Mefi used to be a boyzone, and mods listening to the ideas in those MeTas are what led to more mod attention being paid to those threads, which over time has resulted in an improvement with regards to gender discussions on Metafilter.
posted by 23skidoo 12 minutes ago


Has MeFi outpaced society, in general, with regard to gender? I don't know that it has - those same discussions are occurring in many other places. If it has - what was the acceleration mechanism? Was it the mods? I'm not sure that's true.

I think what actually happened is the community worked the relevant issues through their minds and each other - and therefore things improved. I don't know how that happens without (often very messy) discussion. I think that's what this specific medium is particularly good at - and as I said above - there's just a level of impedance or cross-purposes there that doesn't seem to work. I'm not sure how you curate participation/comments/etc. without becoming something more akin to a magazine or newspaper with full editorial board. It's telling that some of the ideas being tossed around are basically editorial boards in everything but name.

My claim is that discussion boards, in all their ugliness, are basically what allows non-sanctioned ideas to flourish (including those coming from PoC). I think there's ample evidence the rate at which collective opinion changes is actually much slower before the internet vs. after - so I'm not sure how much we win by moving back towards a curatorial model. So we throw aside the old curators and old editors for what? New curators/editors?
posted by NoRelationToLea at 4:07 PM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


To be clear, it’s not that I don’t think some advice wouldn’t be useful, it’s that implementing a system like this could only end in tears and confusion. There’s pretty much zero chance that it would actually effect positive change. Because it would involve people.

It seems like "do nothing, maybe it will get better" isn't working.

It seems like I’m constantly reading about how much better it is than it used to be, even a few years ago. Is the problem that we haven’t solved racism yet? Because I don’t think that’s going to happen this quarter.

Sarcasm aside, I don’t think "slowly getting better" is failure. It seems like, and I could be wrong, that the discussion is really about whether this should be a community of a large number of people learning together and slowly getting better, or a small number of people who know the world they want and want to build it here. Literally about building a private Utopia, The same debate people have always had.

But life is complicated, and the more rules you make the more people you exclude. Everyone who’s ever done this of course was only excluding the wrong kind of people.
posted by bongo_x at 4:08 PM on April 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I meant to say it’s a balancing act. Did I say that?
posted by bongo_x at 4:11 PM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Talking about how people who want change are talking about an "idealized Utopia" (redundant, btw) and how "Everyone who’s ever done this of course was only excluding the wrong kind of people." does not communicate "balancing act", no.
posted by Krom Tatman at 4:14 PM on April 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Has MeFi outpaced society, in general, with regard to gender? I don't know that it has - those same discussions are occurring in many other places. If it has - what was the acceleration mechanism? Was it the mods? I'm not sure that's true. I think what actually happened is the community worked the relevant issues through their minds and each other - and therefore things improved.

Yeah, those same discussions are happening in other places, but at what frequency? You can find decent gender discussions many places, but you can also find, like, current discussions in 2016 that are like 1000X worse than how Metafilter discussions from 2001.

I'm starting to not understand what you're talking about: I started this MeTa as a discussion about cultural appropriation threads so that the community could (start to) work the relevant issues through their minds and each other. I focused on two specific types of comments so that we could have a focused discussion, because I think if I started a discussion that was like "C'mon everybody, we're better than this! We have to try harder!" it would have gone nowhere.

How is this very MeTa not the kind of discussion that can help the community work things through in their minds?
posted by 23skidoo at 4:16 PM on April 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


It seems like, and I could be wrong, that the discussion is really about whether this should be a community of a large number of people learning together and slowly getting better, or a small number of people who know the world they want and want to build it here. Literally about building a private Utopia, The same debate people have always had.

You're wrong. Go read my suggestions again (or maybe for the first time) and explain why you think that removing those two kinds of comments would leave it impossible for a clueless person to leave a comment that would help them learn something about cultural appropriation in a thread.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:21 PM on April 16, 2016 [21 favorites]


I wasn’t responding to a specific suggestion, just the bigger picture of the gigantic discussion going on here. It seems to have left your simple suggestions.
posted by bongo_x at 4:27 PM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wasn’t responding to a specific suggestion, just the bigger picture of the gigantic discussion going on here. It seems to have left your simple suggestions.

No it hasn't. I've had to babysit this thread non-stop for days because people keep trying to make it into something that it's not, and reading words into what I wrote. I'll do it for 30 days if I have to, I guess, because this is not the place to start putting words into my mouth. I'm not asking for Utopia, and it's shitty to suggest that I am.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:30 PM on April 16, 2016 [26 favorites]


I'm not asking for Utopia, and it's shitty to suggest that I am.

You're telling white people they probably should self-filter when it comes to saying two things! Can't you see that is basically the end of the world and free speech as we know it? Society, collapsed. A new, cyberengineered breed of Racism Police, tracking down THOUGHTCRIMINALS in their Social Justice Wheelers. What kind of radical Orwellian fantasy are you really after, cough it up.
posted by Conspire at 4:36 PM on April 16, 2016 [34 favorites]


Sorry, your suggestions seemed pretty clear cut and simple, but hundreds of comments later there’s been all kinds talk of advisor committees and such.

When I say I wasn’t addressing your comments I meant I wasn’t addressing your comments. I’m not I’m putting words in your mouth.
It’s pretty clear I didn’t suggest you said any such thing.

I leave you to wrangle your thread.
posted by bongo_x at 4:41 PM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorry, your suggestions seemed pretty clear cut and simple, but

But you wanted to pontificate about something else. Got it. How doubleplusungood of you.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:51 PM on April 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


One of the patterns is 'the mods are stretched and this slipped', and it comes up in every meta about this. It's a bit old. Why is your energy always elsewhere? Why are threads about things that affect PoC not given the same consideration, the same need for careful attention, as the current bugbear, election threads? From the start?

And if other threads are so toxic and sucking so much air from the moderators that a thread like that was allowed to progress as it did, why is it always 'sorry, we were busy' when it comes to PoC concerns? How come?

This pattern of mod inattention is really concerning.
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:06 PM on April 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


At this rate, let's just give the SJ dystopia a try already, it can't be any worse than the alternative.
posted by Conspire at 5:08 PM on April 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


23skidoo, they are good suggestions, and an excellent place to start.

We've had these lists before, but maybe we could build some guidelines again. When commenting in race (gender/trans/etc) and you aren't part of the oppressed group, keep in mind:

1. Your experiences probably aren't very relevant, so invoke them sparingly, if at all

2. Your opinions aren't very significant

3. Armchair theorizing does not trump people's lived experience (also: it's not detached logic, it's cluelessness)

4. Don't come up with analogies; they aren't going to help and it's going to read like you'd rather talk about the other thing (the suggestions at the head of this thread fall in this category)

5. Listening is a good tactic

Anything else that should be there?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:13 PM on April 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


I just wanted to signal boost and strongly agree with two comments from 8am, by 23skidoo and Genji and Proust. I think they really speak to the heart of what white commenters like me need to be more aware of.

1.
While "cultural appropriation" is not the ONLY topic that the mostly-white Metafilter audience has historically engaged with embarrassingly, the vast MAJORITY of topics in Metafilter get treated with more respect, which leads to better conversations.

2.
I really hate that the "inevitability of 101 discussions" idea keeps coming up. First, there are plenty of threads that assume familiarity with topics -- physics and math are popular examples, but no one goes into a Star Trek thread and goes "Who's this Riker guy and why does he matter?"

... Everyone has a relation with race, gender, class, sexual attraction, so everyone tends to feel that they have significant experience in those areas and their opinion and insights matter., which is not really true. ...

So we need to have a higher sensitivity to our lack of experience in social issues threads rather than less.


I notice that I personally don't post on threads about Philosophy, largely because I know almost nothing about the topic and I don't want to look stupid. But that might not typically prevent me from posting on a thread that seemed to be about Yoga. I think there can be racism and US-centrism and Anglo-supremacist attitudes that makes me treat with respect the things that are labled as respect-worthy in my culture and not respect things that are respect-worthy from other cultures. Oversimplifying here, yoga is a deep topic in India and mostly a shallow topic in Canada and the US. Many mefites feel free to jump into 'shallow' discussions without fear of being over their heads.
posted by puddledork at 5:23 PM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


As a heavy participant in the election threads, I would not mind at all if there is a determination that this cycle's 24/7 always on threads have to go so the mods can focus on more important priorities.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:24 PM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


On the subject of "why wasn't a PoC mod hired?": it actually reminds me a lot of some of the diversity questions the PoC Caucus at my large nonprofit were struggling with/talking about: "Hey, why are most of the speakers/staff white?" And when we dug into it, we found a reason which I suspect is similar to possibly what's going on with Metafilter: that PoC have disproportionate struggle and economic struggle, and so far more difficulty adapting their life around low pay/strange hours/etc. Fewer PoC are in a position where part time employment can work for them.

So it may have been less poor intent on the part of the mods, and more: the position is not POC friendly by structure.
posted by corb at 5:54 PM on April 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


One of the patterns is 'the mods are stretched and this slipped', and it comes up in every meta about this. It's a bit old. Why is your energy always elsewhere?

Because when we're fully staffed those problem threads don't get a chance to develop as much, so they don't turn into MetaTalks. So when we do have a Metatalk like this (and it's not just on PoC-related topics), it's almost always been spurred because there was a hot button thread coinciding with a time when we were stretched on coverage. It's not an excuse, it's just the fact.

People's expectations for how intensively the site should be modded have ramped up a ton in the last couple of years. We've been trying to keep up with those desires and be responsive to people's concerns, at the same time that our staffing has been lower.

We're a small staff trying to cover 24/7/365, and there will be times when it's just a fact that we're stretched and the coverage is not as intensive. And in those times, a thread that needs super-intensive moderation can get out of hand. We already delete some threads like this, maybe we should be deleting more.

It's also harder, yes, while there are a bunch of other angry things like perpetual election threads happening, because they divide mod attention and feed angry cycles in the community.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:03 PM on April 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Having a space with other white anti-racists to debrief together without bothering POC is exceptionally helpful, in my experience. Where I live, there is a POC Caucus and a White Caucus and each meet on their own for that very purpose--in the case of the White Caucus, to talk about racism and our journeys in an environment that allows (white) people to screw up without POC needing to take the time AGAIN to explain to well-meaning white people why what they said/did was problematic. White people who are farther along their journey can and will do that. And I believe the POC caucus is a place to find support dealing with/venting about oppression with no risk of having to deal with fragile white people figuring out about white supremacy, talking about it as though it's new, and being continually re-traumatized. All people who attend either caucus have completed training in racial equity analysis, so you are starting from a shared basic 101-level understanding of our white supremacist society and are working toward the same goal of eradicating it.

I am not suggesting we host a set of protected spaces like that here, because Metafilter does not have the internal capacity to do so. It's a huge job. There aren't likely many/any people who both are trained in racial equity analysis AND have the time to donate. Nor is there a mechanism to do the 101 to ensure productive discussions.

What I DO propose however is people sharing resources on racial equity so that those who are interested and willing can get training and join a local or online caucus.

The resource I know and work with is the Racial Equity Institute. They have trainings across the country and there are often scholarships to attend.

Hat tip to kalessin for their comment that made me think of this.

If anyone else has resources for white people to learn more about anti-racism outside of Metafilter. please chime in.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:07 PM on April 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


One of the patterns is 'the mods are stretched and this slipped', and it comes up in every meta about this. It's a bit old. Why is your energy always elsewhere?

It's not always elsewhere, but now and then it is, and when that collides with some sort of doozy of a situation getting going that leads to a bad thread. And that sucks, and "hey, this thread sucked and we need to talk about why" is a totally reasonable reaction to that and I think 23skidoo took a really good approach to it here.

But sometimes it does just happen. I know no one is asking for perfection, but realistically speaking stuff is gonna be pretty baseline solid most of the time in terms of moderation attention and prompt responses and so on, and then now and then it's gonna be one of those shitty situations that plays out way below average because of some combination of factors. And it happens in threads related to people of color, and in threads related to trans issues, threads related to feminism, threads related to politics or sexuality or some high-profile person dying, or any of a number of other things that can end up going badly under the right circumstances.

That doesn't mean that it's not a problem when it's something that affects PoC just because other shit has problems too, or anything like that. But it's also not something where everything's going super smooth for every area of discussion but that. Shit falls over sometimes. It sucks. We try to avoid it, and mostly do a pretty good job of avoiding the avoidable perfect storms that make shit falling over more likely but between bad luck and blind spots and other whammy factors that's not something we can manage to be 100% about.

Why are threads about things that affect PoC not given the same consideration, the same need for careful attention, as the current bugbear, election threads? From the start?

We try to do just that, when we manage it. There's a lot of "this just went up" discussion that goes on when two or more mods are around, regarding posts hitting the front page, where we'll try and note likely trouble spots or recurring Doing That Thing Again issues that come up on a topic, and even when handling it solo make notes for other mods about it so there can be ideally some continuity of attention from shift to shift. It's not perfect, but it's something we do take seriously and try to be proactive about to the extent we're able.

So, election threads right now are trivial to watch from the start because we've been keeping a tight lid on them and each new one is basically announced from the hills when it goes up as an election thread, in older threads. If there were that kind of klaxon-level alert every time something on any complicated or difficult subject came along, we'd be able to be more responsive there too, but election threads right now are a unique creature on that front for how they make their presence known.

For all that, feedback like this thread is useful for getting us to tune our gut-level alerts for similar topics coming along so we can look at whether it's a post that's gonna go well, and at how to make sure someone's watching it sooner, in the way I mentioned above.

And, yes, it completely sucks that as a result of the election being a massive topic of discussion on the site we are more strapped right now on an average day than we would be this time last year; it sucks that it's a distraction from other stuff and it sucks that it drains our overall energy reserves to have to be constantly on top of it. Part of why we're keeping those to one thread at a time is so we can try to keep our heads more above water and keep an eye on things other than whatever great big political argument is currently going on.

"We're stretched thin and this slipped through" is an understandably tiring thing to hear and doesn't offer an explanation about how things can improve, but it's also the truth, and it's not one we can easily fix. We have limited resources and we are imperfect.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:15 PM on April 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


I had always assumed that the answer to the "why is mod attention always elsewhere" question is survivor bias. MeTa focuses on bad threads, and bad threads are most likely to arise on those days when mod resources are stretched thinnest.
posted by langtonsant at 6:16 PM on April 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


Should add - my previous comment was addressing specifically the point about there being times when mod coverage is stretched.

We're going to have those times. But still there are a lot of other ways we can improve how we mods and we as members deal with threads on cultural appropriation and other topics of concern to PoC. Those ways are totally worth talking about and I appreciate everyone who's helping with that. We're already trying to implement people's suggestions from the threads last fall and will be taking 23skidoo's suggestions here. These threads are super helpful both in crystalizing things for us and to help the community understand why we might delete a particular thing before it causes a problem, why that thing was likely to lead to that problem.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:17 PM on April 16, 2016


(Oh, I see that's been mentioned by LM and cortex. Oops. Okay, will be silent now).
posted by langtonsant at 6:20 PM on April 16, 2016


I would like to note that I've put a link to my Zotero-hosted research bibliography in my profile. I've most recently updated it while working on paid antiracism writing/educating work that I did in late March.

Another output of that work was a briefing meant for both new Asian antiracism activists and for Gilbert and Sullivan production companies planning to put on a performance of The Mikado. Two warnings for those interested in having a look:
(1) The document is in about 2nd draft or pre-final draft form - it has some organizational issues in the Resources section at the end, which I plan to fix.
(2) The perspective and tone of the document is, intentionally, dismissive of common default white defensive rhetoric. Because it's written primarily for Asians who are interested in but new to antiracism work, it assumes that a lot of phenomena that social justice activists like me observe day to day are completely real and valid. Because of this, many white readers and reviewers have observed that it can be difficult for them to read, but most have also noted that while it is tough, it's also fair, so take that as you will.

Here's a link to that document: http://bit.ly/1RCakss
posted by kalessin at 6:39 PM on April 16, 2016 [23 favorites]


I have no special power here, but to the extent that I have been name-checked as a person doing work in the thread in question, I wish to state clearly for the record that I have no problem with the moderation of that thread. Moderators didn't tell me I wasn't really Indian, that my people need to be in reservations before I may complain, that I am arrogant, that I am a Hindu nationalist, that my culture is the domain of colonizers. Whatever problems I have with MetaFilter on account of that thread, they aren't moderation problems.
posted by Errant at 10:18 PM on April 16, 2016 [35 favorites]


Just got caught up on the thread. A few thoughts:

Our current system for addressing these issues (FIAMO, contact form, MeTas like this) is not working and this failure is hurting many of our members. IMO it is worth making big changes to "how we do things here" to stop the hurt and to avoid losing those members of our community.

If one or more advisory committees are created for PoC, trans*, etc. issues then IMO the committee members should be paid some sort of honorarium and not expected to just volunteer their time and energy for free. Perhaps a targeted fundraising drive could be held?

Regarding all the "but how would the committee WORK?!" details: Other organizations have these sorts of committees and many have had them for some time. We don't need to re-invent the wheel; there's probably even some established best practices.

Regarding why all the mods "just happen" to be white: I'd guess that it's because (IIRC) most of the mods were hired via matthowie's network (people he knew personally or friends of friends etc). He lives in Portland, Portland is super-white, and white people tend to mostly know other white people.

Unfortunately, this sort of hiring-through-networking regularly produces racist results despite a lack of racist intent. That's why many industries and larger companies have minority recruitment and mentoring programs: to counteract this bias.

While MetaFilter is too small to have its own internal diversity program, please consider reaching out to industry associations for PoC in tech next time you need to circulate a mod job opening and if/when you recruit for the advisory committee(s).

It might be helpful to recruit one or two committee members who aren't current site members but have been on similar committees before. Such people could bring both a fresh perspective to our specific problems as well their knowledge of how other organizations have tackled these issues.

Thanks to our PoC members for all their patience for us ignorant white people. I'm sorry that so many of us suck. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 11:13 PM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have to acknowledge that thhe lack of diversity among the moderators is starting to look weird to me. It's like those SF convention panels on women in science fiction, presented by three guys from Portland named Bob.

It's not that an individual trans/POC/whatever moderator could or should be expected to correct systemic moderation problems, any more than businesses should attack sexism in the workplace by appointing a female director. It's just that there are lots discussions here about the subordination of minority groups, and it's a bit awkward that people defending the status quo in those cases raise the exact same reasons for the lack of minority representation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:50 AM on April 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


we need to have a higher sensitivity to our lack of experience in social issues threads rather than less

If only there was a simple way to do this; an ignoramus is unlikely to admit they are ignorant prior to (and often even after) being engaged on the topic in a manner that reveals their ignorance. Perhaps a link to a page on the Metafilter wiki that collates posts/threads/comments that cover the 101 type stuff could be helpful? When someone oblivious pops into a new thread on a complex social issue thread they could be pointed in the direction of that page and the discussion could move on without having to rehash the same old shit.
posted by dazed_one at 2:56 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


If only there was a simple way to do this; an ignoramus is unlikely to admit they are ignorant prior to (and often even after) being engaged on the topic in a manner that reveals their ignorance.

This is why the mods need to police that kind of behavior and we need to find better ways of visibly stating community standards that MetaFilter is not really a place to get basic education (except, I suppose, in the case of an FPP that was specifically focused on tools for self education on an issue). Someone may not recognize their own ignorance, but the community can react to it, and the mods police the damaging behavior; if the member chooses to educate themselves and do better, that's great, but, in the meantime, the community does not suffer from that member's ignorance and/or obviviousness (too be kind and assume that obliviousness is the most usual cause).

I'm usually in favor of treating causes rather than symptoms, but, in this case, treating the symptoms will give the community (and especially members from less-privileged backgrounds) relief from the pressure and pain. It's important to do this not only because it's the right thing to do, but because members from non-privileged groups have other things to offer the site and its discussion than their non-privileged viewpoints. if members aren't constantly forced to participate as "a black member/an Asian-Austrlian member/a neuroatypical member/a trans member/etc, they could do more participating as a physicist member/a fan of Hamilton member/ a member with a unique cultural/geographic/employment experience/etc etc.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:29 AM on April 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'd guess that it's because (IIRC) most of the mods were hired via matthowie's network

Originally site participation was just friends-of-mathowie as well back in the day. I want to mention that mathowie and I made the hiring decisions together after I was brought on. And those decisions were predicated on working towards mod diversity (except for cortex there are no other "white guys from Portland" on the mod team, though pb lives in Oregon but doesn't mod). With an organization with six employees there are only so many ways to slice it. MeFi has a decent amount of gender diversity, age diversity, religious-background diversity, urban/rural diversity and some geographical, LBGTQ and time zone diversity. It does not have any PoC or trans* diversity. It's always hired from within. The jobs have very little advancement potential within the organization, though they are otherwise good jobs.

I am not saying this as any sort of defense nor arguing against any critiques, just pointing out that this is always a topic that has been present during hiring even if the outcomes are not the ones that people might have preferred.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:30 AM on April 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


I am not saying this as any sort of defense nor arguing against any critiques, just pointing out that this is always a topic that has been present during hiring even if the outcomes are not the ones that people might have preferred.

I'm sorry to keep harping on this because I respect and appreciate the work that all of the moderators (past and current) do on this site, and I especially don't want to present the problems of the last hiring as a problem with the person who was hired. When I suggested however many months ago that the description of the new mod position include some language related to experience with diversity issues, I was initially brushed off by cortex because (paraphrasing) "it's illegal to hire somebody based on their race." That response to my request could only be made by somebody who has never had an intro level diversity hiring training. Yeah, it's illegal to hire somebody because they are a PoC. That doesn't mean there aren't a wide range of techniques (covered in that thread and this one) that will result in you hiring more PoC. The most basic being, make the position explicitly one that a PoC would be more qualified for. The other basic being put the ad where PoC will see it. If you don't know where that is, pay somebody who does to put it there. If you don't, you will continue to have racist outcomes in your hiring practices. Not because you are racist and not because you want to have racist outcomes. This is like ground zero for social justice problems among privileged white folks - wanting not to do something that is structurally racist but not wanting that enough to equip yourself with the tools to avoid it. And then explaining away the racist outcome as not a problem with your hiring practices but with the kind of job you were offering or its schedule or there just not being enough PoC who could do the job well.
posted by one_bean at 9:22 AM on April 17, 2016 [39 favorites]


Yes, what one_bean said. I've heard pretty much the exact same reasoning before, while at the same time, places like my current institution (in a state where affirmative action is illegal--which, by the way, isn't true in all states) have decided to actually put a focus on equity. If you just google diversity hiring best practices, there are LOTS of different approaches out there. I'm sure some of them are shitty and not applicable, but not all of them.

I love Metafilter and respect the mods and staff a lot, but after you have heard the same reasoning over and over again from organizations that somehow just keep winding up with all white (etc.) boards/faculty/guests of honor/panelists/employees, it begins to ring very hollow.

(The types of things I've heard way too often, and that I feel typically are signs of organizations that are not genuinely invested in doing the hard work of changing, include:
We do have certain kinds of diversity
Our organization is very small
It is illegal to hire somebody based on their race
We picked the best candidate from the people who applied
We can't control who applies
We're trying
We're sorry it's not perfect

etc.)
posted by wintersweet at 9:32 AM on April 17, 2016 [24 favorites]


One of the things I did when working with the organization I worked with over The Mikado and how their current staff is all white was talk about ways to, in the long game, diversify staff.

There are plenty of ways to get this done. It doesn't have to be done immediately. I don't think any of us would suggest doing anything to change staffing immediately. But for the next hiring decision, there are many approaches to consider.

(1) Just saying that "You can't hire based on race - it's illegal." and then throwing up one's hands about it and refusing to consider alternatives is, to be honest, disappointing. The mod team has done a lot of work and made a lot of progress on social justice issues, but this is classic privilege. I understand that the laws are frustrating, but it's quite possible to work with them and around them, not just let them stop you from making a conscientious choice. Let's talk about some of the possibilities.
(2) In the job description, specifically use language that is social justice-friendly and that talks about experience with diversity activism, with social justice, with activism, with antiracism activism, with trans rights activism, with other political activisms that represent, to you, the kind of experience you are looking for in a candidate. Talk about demonstrated skills. Talk about a year of experience. Put it in the job description. Make the language open and welcoming and encouraging. Speaking solely for myself, if you put that stuff in the job description and found a candidate with these qualifications and experience, I wouldn't care if she or he were white.
(3) With this job description in hand, publicize your job posting with minority organizations. Publicize it with activist organizations. Ask your users to publicize it. Incentivize publicizing it with minority and activist organizations. Do a contest or other promotions. Promote the shit out of it with organizations that may already have written off MetaFilter as a white liberal haven.
(4) Speaking of that, network. Find people who've blogged about how MetaFilter is lily white. Reach out to them and ask them to promote the job posting. Make friends. Invest in long term networking with these bloggers, writers, and activists. Put real effort into building these social, professional networks. Use other social media than MetaFilter. We already know MetaFilter is self selecting for white liberals who aren't fabulous at self-education.
(5) Speaking of that, cultivate antiracist literacy within the mod team. Don't just have one minority mod on whom all of this load goes. Sort of like point 2, if I knew you all (the mod team) were deeply and irrevocably literate in antiracist fundamentals and knew you were on the bus and I could, for example, trust cortex to not rear back when I said something radical and imply I should calm down, then I'd be a lot more comfortable with the whole mod team being all white. Not only will it build a stronger network with your remaining minority members, but it would take some of the load off of us to teach your uneducated members, it would build trust and a strong social network that you could rely on to help out with hiring decisions and related issues going forward. Which is part of the problem that MetaFilter has.
(6) But only do this if cultivating diversity truly, really, deeply matters personally to every one of the mod team. Because we'll be able to tell if you're not genuine and just bullshitting us.
posted by kalessin at 9:46 AM on April 17, 2016 [28 favorites]


And I hope I don't have to say this is an open-ended list. I don't intend to speak as an authority, though clearly I have some experience. But do ask others for their ideas too.
posted by kalessin at 9:48 AM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


This last hiring situation was not favorable for the things it turns out we may need to hire a PoC mod -- a longer hiring window, being able to offer better hours to attract a larger pool, and being able to take the time to train someone who isn't ready to jump in as-is (being up to date on the last couple of years of Metatalks on this kind of issue was one of our criteria, because we needed someone who could start more or less immediately). As we said in the original hiring Metatalk, we did talk with candidates in the interview stage about their their experience supporting diverse communities. Eyebrows had the best answer and the most experience on that criterion.

Thank you all for all the suggestions for next time.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:05 AM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


The most basic being, make the position explicitly one that a PoC would be more qualified for.

Tweaking the nature of the position wasn't really in the cards, though: what we specifically needed was a mod to do standard mod work on weekends and oddball fill-in shifts. We needed that at a basic, operational, "the current schedule has us stretched to the breaking point and we need to do something about these 16-hour weekend shifts" level.

I get the idea of trying to create a position more specifically tailored to e.g. diversity awareness and outreach and how that could affect who was a good fit and who might apply, but that doesn't change the fact that we'd been scraping by on too little staff for a couple of years and needed to get a body in a seat to take the pressure off, and that we were hiring part time specifically because that's all we could afford. Expanding the scope of that position to e.g. part-time modding + some additional compensated diversity-centric responsibilities wasn't doable.

The other basic being put the ad where PoC will see it.

We made the job listing as high-visibility as anything we're able to do for an internal hire. We stuck it on Jobs, sidebarred it, put a banner at the top of the whole site, talked about it a bunch on the site, tweeted it, talked about it on the podcast, posted reminders, etc. MetaFilter doesn't have a marketing organ but to the extent that we're able to shout HEY GREATER METAFILTER COMMUNITY, WE'RE HIRING, we did that, and that includes everybody in that group.

All that said: I can accept the criticism that if that didn't get the position in front of enough PoC candidates, that's still a structural problem, and to that end what restless_nomad noted up thread is a good step from there: next time we're able to do hiring, we can look at hiring from the larger internet community instead of hiring only within the userbase as we've done in the past, even if that makes for a more uncertain and protracted hiring and training process. And I do take seriously the idea that hand-in-hand with that goes the idea of actively searching out resources and guidance for how such a search could go.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:07 AM on April 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


cortex, my feedback about creating a position tailored is that if cultural diversity and social justice are really a priority for the mod team on MetaFilter, then ALL MODS should be expected to be experienced and literate in those realms, not just one mod.

Which goes back to our original points that part of the problem here that is creating a site with a mod team that obviously self selects for white mods is systemic. It's only recently that diversity and social justice are coming to the forefront in mod consciousness/conscience, so the systemic, default choices have not been cultivating diversity and social justice, because those are not the default.

But I think that thinking about hiring a SPECIAL mod to help handle diversity/social justice is part of the systemic problem. If you care to hear it, my opinion is that the change you want won't happen without all mods getting literate in these things and really investing personal social responsibility to get there.

Like I said, we minorities can tell if you aren't all in.
posted by kalessin at 10:14 AM on April 17, 2016 [16 favorites]


Or at the absolute worst minimum, you, cortex, the leader, should get really woke, really quickly. Because without institutional investment in making MetaFilter wholly just, hiring one mod who knows it won't be enough, especially if you lose that mod later.
posted by kalessin at 10:16 AM on April 17, 2016 [11 favorites]


From where I sit, we seem to be talking about two different things:
- the MetaFilter mod team needs to be more diverse
- the MetaFilter mod team as a whole needs to know about diversity and social justice.

Cortex has spoken about ways to address the first one, not the second one. That doesn't mean that the second one could/should not happen as well. But they're two different things and one does not automatically come with the other (as you seem to be saying as well).

People have specifically said that the team itself needs more diversity. Cortex seems to have heard that. It's not the whole solution to the whole problem, clearly, but could it be a solution to a part?
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:25 AM on April 17, 2016


Sure, I'm glad that he's heard that, but this thread is about improving MetaFilter as a whole, so I'm promoting what I think will help comprehensively work.
posted by kalessin at 10:27 AM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wasn't under the impression that a special mod to handle diversity/social justice threads was needed. I think our current mods do an excellent job, but that more coverage was needed so that attention to problems could be more expedient. Should a new mod be a from a different ethnic background than the current group, this would also be positive.
posted by dazed_one at 10:46 AM on April 17, 2016


From where I sit, we seem to be talking about two different things:
- the MetaFilter mod team needs to be more diverse
- the MetaFilter mod team as a whole needs to know about diversity and social justice.

Cortex has spoken about ways to address the first one, not the second one. That doesn't mean that the second one could/should not happen as well. But they're two different things and one does not automatically come with the other (as you seem to be saying as well).

People have specifically said that the team itself needs more diversity. Cortex seems to have heard that. It's not the whole solution to the whole problem, clearly, but could it be a solution to a part?
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:25 AM


It started with 23skidoo's request of members. It morphed into a request of what the mod team looks like/acts like. I'm of the opinion that this is not a mod team issue. This whole discussion is around privileged voices. Mods are - via their power to shape the conversations in flight - the MOST privileged voices. Many people think putting in traditionally underprivileged voices on the mod team will help solve the problem (either by membership or training) - this is the "we deserve privilege too" position. What about going the other way? What about less privileged voices all around - in the form of less moderation than we already have? Hence my comments about curation or editing. I don't believe there's anyone or any team of people out there that can fairly moderate these kinds of discussions. Therefore, I don't want someone speaking for or editing me - or anyone else, for that matter. Subtle, systemic racism - right? Does that get addressed by modding away comments exhibiting those kinds of sentiments? I don't believe that to be true.

Someone in a recent thread offered an anecdote about how very angry their relatives were that BLM protests even occurred. I think that's because their relatives were being confronted with uncomfortable positions. I have a hard time reconciling how some people sympathetic to BLM's tactic of eliciting discomfort also have expectations of people who aren't well-versed in this stuff to spare them the discomfort of even their well-intentioned ignorance. Comfort chasing is kinda near the root of much of this, for both in-group and out-group. I'd rather we all be more uncomfortable.

Yes - on one hand PoCs are being asked to do unpaid labor to educate or illuminate. On the other hand - those PoCs now have final edit on the product of that labor. I'm tired of people presuming to speak for me, in general - and that would include a PoC mod.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:07 AM on April 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


The most basic being, make the position explicitly one that a PoC would be more qualified for.

Tweaking the nature of the position wasn't really in the cards, though: what we specifically needed was a mod to do standard mod work on weekends and oddball fill-in shifts. We needed that at a basic, operational, "the current schedule has us stretched to the breaking point and we need to do something about these 16-hour weekend shifts" level.


"Preferred qualifications: experience being in, working with, or supporting communities struggling with social justice issues."

That could be "standard mod work" if the default on this site assumed that "standard mod work" is prioritizing an understanding and support of the topics that keep turning into 600 comment Metatalks. The fact that it doesn't fit what you think of as "standard mod work" is telling, don't you think?

I'm not and never was suggesting hiring a bunch of faculty into critical race and gender studies. I was suggesting hiring a chemist who knows how to teach students of color. Not an HR position to deal with diversity, but a coder who happens to be a PoC. jessamyn wasn't hired as the "woman outreach coordinator," she was hired as a mod. And within her modly duties, she shaped the position and the site's policies for the better so that (among other things) dealing with sexist shit became "standard mod work."
posted by one_bean at 11:45 AM on April 17, 2016 [15 favorites]


Metafilter is a really small enterprise; they handle things so well that it seems like a bigger thing than it actually is. I feel like people are greatly overestimating the amount of resources available and, say, the number of applicants for positions. Systems that works for organizations of hundreds of people aren't going to work for four people.
posted by Justinian at 12:06 PM on April 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


To repeat something from the early parts of the committee discussion, there are many shades of gray between the Reign of Terror's Committee on Public Safety and doing nothing. As I mentioned above:

Think of it as a subcommittee of the greater MeFi conglomeration. They go investigate and discuss and report back to the larger body with recommendations.

One definition of a subcommittee is investigatory:
  • It is a small subset of the greater whole (MeFi/Metatalk), not a ruling body.
  • It is meant to be temporary, limited by either timeframe or direction.
  • It goes away, researches, and reports back to the whole group.
A great example of research that might be gleaned is something like what kalessin mentioned about their work with The Mikado -- how does one thoughtfully navigate community dynamics where various minority stakeholders are more or less at the mercy of a majority?
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:10 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


But I think that thinking about hiring a SPECIAL mod to help handle diversity/social justice is part of the systemic problem.

So one of the things that happens in these discussions is we cover a lot of ground, and a lot of people put forward ideas and concerns and complaints. And that's good; that's part of MetaTalk being a useful part of the community's feedback and evolution over time. People aren't going to agree even when they're coming from pretty similar places, and so we have a complicated discussion with disagreements about both premises and methods.

But when a lot of folks are bringing up different, sometimes overlapping and often partly conflicting ideas, and we respond to as many of those as we can, what we sometimes get is someone with Idea A being bothered that a response to someone else's Idea B doesn't satisfy their concern. That we're talking about X when what you want is Y. Regardless that the question we were answering was "what about X, though?"

And that's both sort of understandable in the big tangle of a long MetaTalk thread and also really pretty frustrating from the mod side to keep running into. It's a frustration that I basically kinda try to take in stride because, hey, hard topic and worth muddling through and I think with a little forbearance we can make it work okay. But it does make it way harder to keep responding constructively in a long and tense discussion.

So: the idea I was responding to was about tailoring the job opening we had last winter to "make the position explicitly one that a PoC would be more qualified for." Which is one of several points one_bean made in that comment, and thought it was a good comment with stuff to think about, but as something specific to the actual situation we had during hiring, that wasn't practical and I wanted to talk about why because I otherwise totally get the impetus behind what one_bean was saying.

If you want to take exception with the idea of a specific mod having a diversity or social justice role, that's fine; you're not the first or only person to bring that up in the discussions we've had about this, and I think the points several people have made in those discussions about why that's not a panacea or the only or necessarily best way to look at the problem are good. But I wasn't answering that entire history of discussion, nor was I pulling the "we'll hire a SPECIAL mod!" thing out of my hat and presenting it as the big solution. I was responding to the specific suggestion of another person in this discussion and trying to answer that in detail and good faith.

And I may have misunderstood or not totally grasped that idea or suggestion, and I'm okay with that and am entirely on board with fixing that on my end. But "no, actually, what I meant was..." from the person bringing it up is way more useful for moving this forward than "wrong answer, get woke" from somebody else jumping in as a third party on it because I responded to someone else's question instead of rejecting it outright.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:12 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


way more useful for moving this forward than "wrong answer, get woke" from somebody else jumping in as a third party on it because I responded to someone else's question instead of rejecting it outright.

I'm not sure you considered how this reads. It reads really, really badly and really, really dismissive of kalessin's well-thought-out contributions to this discussion.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:20 PM on April 17, 2016 [19 favorites]


That could be "standard mod work" if the default on this site assumed that "standard mod work" is prioritizing an understanding and support of the topics that keep turning into 600 comment Metatalks. The fact that it doesn't fit what you think of as "standard mod work" is telling, don't you think?

Ah, I see what you mean. I think we're mostly agreeing past each other, then; I do consider that standard mod work, and made a point of talking with candidates during the hiring process about their familiarity with and sensitivity to a lot of the social issues we've been paying closer attention to on the site the last few years, to make sure it's something they had a solid grasp on and an understanding of working on that stuff as part of the job.

I hear you more generally about concerns about the framing of the job posting not being more elaborated on that front. I felt like for an internal-hiring situation the additional context that comes with the MetaTalk discussions about and adjacent to the hiring were a big part of the hiring context and expected good candidates to be aware of and able to talk about that stuff since having a capacity to do so is literally a big part of the job, but I recognize that that can read as a bit inside baseball.

One thing I've taken from that process and surrounding discussion, and this is very much in line with what you were suggesting I think, is that it'd behoove us to involve some extra expertise in how we put together and frame future job posting stuff. Doubly so if it's in a context where we're looking beyond just the existing membership for candidates and can't treat familiarity with past and concurrent MetaTalk discussion as a given.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:24 PM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure you considered how this reads.

Again: I mostly leave try to leave this stuff alone, because I know "oh, look, a mod's being snipe-y" never reads well and it's a hard discussion. But I both appreciate that kalessin has put a lot of thought and effort into communicating about this stuff and think he was being crappy and unfair there in a way that is not an isolated thing and that it should not be assumed we just plain don't get to push back on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:36 PM on April 17, 2016 [24 favorites]


jessamyn wasn't hired as the "woman outreach coordinator," she was hired as a mod. And within her modly duties, she shaped the position and the site's policies for the better so that (among other things) dealing with sexist shit became "standard mod work."

To elaborate, yeah, I follow you there. And that seems like a really good way to look at the idea of the long-term positive effect of making the MetaFilter staff more racially and culturally diverse: not to put someone in charge of Being The Anti X-ism Mod but to bring a more diverse set of perspectives and experiences into the team in a way that helps improves outcomes on the site in general.

As far as a goal in future hiring, that resonates with me a lot. In any case, I'm sorry I misunderstood you earlier about what you were aiming for with the idea of a specifically fitting a role to a more diverse set of candidates. Thanks for clarifying.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:46 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Consider how a white person dismissing "get woke" from a person of colour, in a way that appeared to misread the original comment, sounds. In the middle of a discussion about how PoC voices are marginalized around here. Specifically, in the middle of pointing out that the mods are all white and are thus subject to and perpetuating racist systems. Which would include blithe dismissal of PoC concerns.

I feel like you had the chance there to model, as a mod, exactly what PoC are asking for.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:49 PM on April 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


It feels a bit like you're avoiding just flat out saying that making a more diverse mod hire wasn't the top priority when it's really really really apparent for all of the reasons that you and the rest of the mods have laid out, that making a more diverse mod hire wasn't the top priority. It's a pretty uncomfortable truth in a thread like this one, but it's the truth, right? For the record, it's a decision that makes a lot of sense to me, and appropriate under the circumstances, but I feel maybe that everyone is sort of talking around this in a way that's weird.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:49 PM on April 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


Um, I didn't say "wrong answer, get woke", cortex. Summarizing what I said as that is, to be perfectly frank, disingenuous. I'm done with this discussion.
posted by kalessin at 12:50 PM on April 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


That's what, two? Three? People of colour who have now noped out of this discussion.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:53 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


I know the mods can't say it, but it feels like there's a pile-on with cortex , who it is clear to see cares and tries way harder on this stuff than most people, and is not just some white hipster from Portland or whatever, and its bewildering. Like I've argued with the mod team on like seventy five different fronts, but they are all good guys and I think that's being lost here.
posted by corb at 1:09 PM on April 17, 2016 [31 favorites]


I know the mods can't say it, but it feels like there's a pile-on with cortex , who it is clear to see cares and tries way harder on this stuff than most people, and is not just some white hipster from Portland or whatever, and its bewildering. Like I've argued with the mod team on like seventy five different fronts, but they are all good guys and I think that's being lost here.
posted by corb 6 minutes ago


I agree - and I'm the person saying I have an issue with the current degree of moderation.

In fact, that's one of the reasons I'm saying do less of it. It's thankless, and even with the best of intents actions or comments from mods carry too much import.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:21 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


It feels a bit like you're avoiding just flat out saying that making a more diverse mod hire wasn't the top priority when it's really really really apparent for all of the reasons that you and the rest of the mods have laid out, that making a more diverse mod hire wasn't the top priority.

I haven't been trying to avoid that, I just didn't think it was in question. It wasn't the top priority, as in the over-riding, trumps-everything-else priority; it was one of few priorities, and a significant one. The top priority was getting a qualified butt in a seat from within the community quickly to reduce some breaking-level strain on the existing team so we could keep functioning at all long-term.

If we had been in a place time- and money-wise where we had more flexibility in the structure of the position, more to offer for it, and a longer window in which to manage the candidate search and interview process, things could have been different. I'm hopeful that the next time we're looking at hiring, those things will be so, and I think folks have laid out both in those older discussions and this one some of the things that we can do differently and better to make it a more overtly inviting process to diverse candidates.

The thing is, it was a priority but it couldn't be a guarantee. There's a huge element of chance involved in the process; we got the candidates we got, from the folks who saw the loud site-wide announcements and were available and interested and could fit the really idiosyncratic needs we had for scheduling. And we got the best fit we got from that pretty small pool. If that had been a person of color, that'd have been a great outcome. It was something very much on my mind as we made our way through the pool of candidates. That's not how the chances played out in this case.

But unless the argument is that hiring a person of color was the only acceptable outcome—and I don't think that's what anybody's been saying—then ending up hiring someone who wasn't is one of the likely outcomes of the process. Even if it's understandably disappointing compared to someone's ideal outcome. Even if that disappointment is understandably compounded by larger systemic shit in the world.

I think there's a tension between the discrete event of going through a single hiring process and wanting to see justice and representation manifested in the larger question of inequality in hiring processes. And it's a tension that's hard to resolve, because, yeah, "it didn't shake out that way" for a given case isn't any comfort when the larger concern is that shit keeps not shaking out that way and a lot of people are inclined to handwave it away as "well, whaddaya do" instead of acknowledging it as a problem and something to try and actively fix. I can't blame anyone for wishing for it to shake out differently, wanting to see chance break in the direction that feels more just and heartening. I get that. And I'm hearing folks on wanting us to more clearly and effectively work to fix that part of how we hire.

So I'm trying hard not to handwave, and I want to be clear that this isn't a casual Whaddaya Do thing for me. I'm trying to talk through in detail the context of this discrete event in our tiny company because I want to be transparent about where I'm coming from and what the details were; I care that this community gets that kind of communication from the mods. But that tension does make it hard. Hard for me to find a way to communicate detail with the right balance; hard for folks who feel this is emblematic of those larger issues to want to hear that detail instead of just hearing that it's going to shake out better on the next chance. I appreciate that frustration, I know it's real.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:23 PM on April 17, 2016 [24 favorites]


FWIW, despite not being PoC herself, Eyebrows McGee actually has a lot diversity experience due to her years of work on her local school board. While I understand that there are some things that white people likely will never fully comprehend due to not experiencing them ourselves, it's not like they hired just another clueless white person.

Next time, let's all pitch in to help distribute the job posting to places more likely to attract more PoC to the applicant pool. In the interim, let's try to recruit more PoC members and make the site more PoC-friendly. Personally, as soon as I have some extra money for gift memberships I'll invite some of my Tumblr friends who regularly write about racism in Dragon Age fandom. I think they'd fit in well here.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:35 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Last thing for me, and I'm sorry for turning this into such a big derail and for causing a mini pile-on. The hiring thing is obviously done and probably not going to happen again for a while, so I feel a little weird to keep hammering it. But, I do think it's kind of a nice synecdoche for the other issues we are talking about here and potential blind spots in moderation. When I was saying "I hope you'll prioritize diversity hiring," (here and in the other thread), I was using that for shorthand what's taken me three or four comments to be explicit about: that any new mod should by default have that experience, it should be a priority and part of standard modding, and there are a set of tools and approaches that people who care deeply about this have developed so that the process you have in hiring maximizes your chances of success. Sounds like you did a bunch of that in the last go around, so thank you. I wasn't clear that's what I meant, and it's certainly not the first or last time my brevity will cause problems.

That said, I also suspect that anybody who'd grappled with trying to promote diversity hiring practices (even if through a mandatory training at work) would see the shorthand I was using and understand what I was really trying to say. Which, again, not directly relevant at this point because you're not going to fly another position for a while, and it's always incumbent on the speaker to make themselves understood. But in the grander scheme, hopefully it'll help to think about other mod blind spots where people might have more experience or a better set of tools and they're using a short hand and you're just missing it. One of the best ways that kind of learning happens is through these kinds of threads, and I do think the community's gotten better over the years and it's a lot to do with users shouting about something and all the mods trying to take it all in and respond. So ultimately, thanks for trying to dig into what I was trying to say, however roundabout way I was saying it.

How about a "Creating a socially just community" book club on Fanfare?
posted by one_bean at 1:44 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Personally, as soon as I have some extra money for gift memberships

On this point, I want to reiterate that we're also basically always happy to comp folks accounts or send off gift memberships as well. If you want to arrange something there, just let us know.

The goal of the $5 is not primarily to get that sweet fiver, it's to provide a good-judgement speedbump; revisiting the signup page to in some way explicitly communicate the "if you're interested in joining and $5 is a hardship, just drop us a line" thing is on our to-do list.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:46 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


"How about a "Creating a socially just community" book club on Fanfare?"

Go for it, and if you want to hash out any of that, feel free to e-mail or memail me, since I've been running one of the pilot book clubs and have a little experience with it. Otherwise hit the contact form and pb can get you set up.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:47 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


That said, I also suspect that anybody who'd grappled with trying to promote diversity hiring practices (even if through a mandatory training at work) would see the shorthand I was using and understand what I was really trying to say.

I hear you, and, yeah, I think both potential blind spots and just me getting into sometimes too-literal MetaTalk Q&A mode where getting in the way of me getting what you were going for there. I appreciate the followup.

How about a "Creating a socially just community" book club on Fanfare?

Sounds like a great idea, yeah; what EM just said about wrangling the mechanical details, I'm also happy to chat about it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:52 PM on April 17, 2016


Another thing you could start doing now in preparation for the next hire is to make a list of threads like these that external candidates could use to quickly catch themselves up so that internal applicants (who are more likely to skew white due to the networking bias problem) have less of an advantage in the hiring process.

The job posting could then not only include some language about how we're looking for someone with diversity experience, but also something along the lines of "Preferred qualifications: Familiarity with the site's history tackling diversity issues, specifically [list of links]."

This might scare off a few potential applicants (we can be pretty awful sometimes) but at least the ones we got would know what they were getting themselves into! And ideally, it would help attract someone who has enough training and experience helping other organizations and communities work through these issues that they could say, "Oh yeah, typical X, Y, Z. The best way to handle that is A, B, C."
posted by Jacqueline at 2:02 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


it'd behoove us to involve some extra expertise in how we put together and frame future job posting stuff.

If we had the proposed advisory committee, you could delegate the task of finding that expertise to them. You could delegate a lot of suggestions for diversifying MetaFilter's membership and putting future job postings in front of more PoC candidates to them.

(Again, I think that members of any advisory committee formed should be paid a honorarium, so this is not a "ask PoC members to do extra work for free" suggestion)
posted by Jacqueline at 2:12 PM on April 17, 2016


That's what, two? Three? People of colour who have now noped out of this discussion.

Personally I'm kind of burnt out on how this discussion has hyperfocused on Monday-morning-quarterbacking one very specific, small possible remedy (hiring) that is very unlikely to be implemented any time soon (just because of the practicalities of how often hiring is done.) I know that this may be my own cynicism and I don't want to ascribe motive, but it feels like the end result is to move the focus off of regular commenters having to examine their own role in racism on the site and move it on to a very far-off decision that they are not ultimately responsible for. I appreciate those folks who are staying focused about smaller changes that can be put in practice by rank-and-file users (inviting people, flagging/commenting/memailing when you see the kind of dismissiveness in the rage yoga FPP.)
posted by Krom Tatman at 2:19 PM on April 17, 2016 [81 favorites]


Personally I'm kind of burnt out on how this discussion has hyperfocused on Monday-morning-quarterbacking one very specific, small possible remedy (hiring) that is very unlikely to be implemented any time soon (just because of the practicalities of how often hiring is done.) I know that this may be my own cynicism and I don't want to ascribe motive, but it feels like the end result is to move the focus off of regular commenters having to examine their own role in racism on the site and move it on to a very far-off decision that they are not ultimately responsible for. I appreciate those folks who are staying focused about smaller changes that can be put in practice by rank-and-file users (inviting people, flagging/commenting/memailing when you see the kind of dismissiveness in the rage yoga FPP.)

THANK YOU FOR EXPRESSING THIS, THIS IS MY FEELING EXACTLY.
posted by Conspire at 2:20 PM on April 17, 2016 [37 favorites]


I think there's a tension between the discrete event of going through a single hiring process and wanting to see justice and representation manifested in the larger question of inequality in hiring processes. And it's a tension that's hard to resolve, because, yeah, "it didn't shake out that way" for a given case isn't any comfort when the larger concern is that shit keeps not shaking out that way and a lot of people are inclined to handwave it away as "well, whaddaya do" instead of acknowledging it as a problem and something to try and actively fix.

Part of the tension or frustration here, at least in my reading, is that there are a whole set of pretty standard strategies that companies and organizations use these days for increasing the diversity of a hiring pool and increasing the number of diverse (writ large) hires, but those suggestions/comments were actively rejected in previous discussions (and at points in this one) with some pretty clueless answers that communicated loud and clear that this is not a priority and that many of the people making hiring decisions here are not fully up to speed on this issue.

It's genuinely great to see the much more positive comments being made now and to see a pretty direct commitment to experimenting with new approaches whenever hiring occurs again in the future.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:21 PM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is setting up a diversity advisory committee an actual option you're open to, cortex? Because if it is, I think it would be helpful to have a new MetaTalk post to hash out the scope and goals of such a committee, how committee members would be selected, what would be a reasonable honorarium to pay for their work and how to fund it, whether the committee should be ongoing or a one-time task force lasting X months, etc.

I don't see forming an advisory committee as a "these members have more power than regular members" thing but as a "these members have been selected for their expertise in these issues in general and site history in particular to research best practices for tackling our problems and then teach them to management" thing.

Basically, all the stuff you and the other mods know that y'all should know more about but don't know where to start and don't have enough free time to research on your own, you can delegate to the committee and they can come back and present to you the Cliff Notes version and a list of specific recommendations for MetaFilter.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:37 PM on April 17, 2016


qcubed asked me to note that they're happu to kick in some cash for gift memberships also.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:38 PM on April 17, 2016


> THANK YOU FOR EXPRESSING THIS, THIS IS MY FEELING EXACTLY.

Me three.
posted by rtha at 2:43 PM on April 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


I know that this may be my own cynicism and I don't want to ascribe motive, but it feels like the end result is to move the focus off of regular commenters having to examine their own role in racism on the site and move it on to a very far-off decision that they are not ultimately responsible for.

I wrote and deleted a comment last night saying basically this, but I was much less polite about it and absolutely did (and do) ascribe motive, so it didn't seem like a good idea. Also, I don't especially appreciate the attempts to use people of color's participation or otherwise in this discussion as some kind of point-scoring by white people against other white people. We're not beads on a fucking abacus.
posted by Errant at 2:44 PM on April 17, 2016 [42 favorites]


It wasn't meant to be point scoring, and it's on me that it came across that way. It was more like "This is how badly we are doing at this." Entirely my fault for being not clear, and I am sorry for any hurt that I caused.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:47 PM on April 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


Personally I'm kind of burnt out on how this discussion has hyperfocused on Monday-morning-quarterbacking one very specific, small possible remedy (hiring) that is very unlikely to be implemented any time soon (just because of the practicalities of how often hiring is done.) I know that this may be my own cynicism and I don't want to ascribe motive, but it feels like the end result is to move the focus off of regular commenters having to examine their own role in racism on the site and move it on to a very far-off decision that they are not ultimately responsible for.

You're right, I'm sorry for leading that derail.
posted by one_bean at 3:07 PM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, I don't especially appreciate the attempts to use people of color's participation or otherwise in this discussion as some kind of point-scoring by white people against other white people.

Yes. Saw the below comment in an unrelated thread:

It's interesting how winning the rhetorical war over racism - we are good educated northern white liberals who are against racism, and you are bad southern conservative racists - allowed educated northern white liberals to redline and segregate freely. It's almost as if opposition to racism was sometimes adopted more as a bludgeon in inter-white power struggles than as a genuine commitment.

...and it made me reflect on what Conspire had said a few comments up:

But the other thing is that I'm kind of noticing a trend here in regards to white people championing these suggestions that flavors my distaste. It goes, basically like this: a white person finally starts noticing racism, and they start doing better, which is great. But then they all of a sudden notice all of the other white people around them being racist, and the way they react is not as ideal. They flip out at other white people, they propose engineering solutions to social problems, they hyperparticipate and moderate the interactions of people, they complain that we're not doing enough to address things top down.

The discussion here needs to not involve white people using this as an opportunity to pat themselves on the back while using our POC members as a shuttlecock in their game of white-person badminton. This is just another form of (clueless) racism where the most important people in the discussion are still white people. This thead should not be The Story of White People, complete with white heroes and white villains, while our POC members are relegated to supporting parts.
posted by supercrayon at 3:14 PM on April 17, 2016 [24 favorites]


Heya fffm I was worried people who weren't from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds were white (urgh) knighting and that I may have inadvertently been one of those people. Yes, we all need to call out and flag the macro and micro racist shite, but now cortex is here I'm happy to bow out and let him engage in this thread with the very community members who deserve/need his ear as director and ultimate hirerer/decision maker. I'm suggesting we sit quietly and allow time and space for people to respond. One thing I know my husband gets annoyed with me about is wanting answers fast when he's processing things from several different positions (and in his third of five languages). In music, the pauses are as important as the notes. Perhaps we could have a pause and allow some other voices to germinate.
posted by taff at 3:16 PM on April 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


. In music, the pauses are as important as the notes. Perhaps we could have a pause and allow some other voices to germinate.

This is beautifully put and would be much appreciated.
posted by TwoStride at 3:34 PM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Personally I'm kind of burnt out on how this discussion has hyperfocused on Monday-morning-quarterbacking one very specific, small possible remedy (hiring) that is very unlikely to be implemented any time soon

Agree with this. 23skidoo's original post had nothing to do with moderation at all! It was a request to the users to take a little time to think about whether a certain class of comment is useful. It doesn't even say don't comment if you don't think XXXX is cultural appropriation. It's the really pretty modest request that we think about whether our comment is actually directly relevant to the case at hand and adds something, or whether we're just jumping in to rehash a no-longer-very-interesting and to-many-people-incredibly-annoying argument which, if you want to read on MetaFilter, you can read in three dozen old threads. Only the names change. Sometimes not even the names change.
posted by escabeche at 3:55 PM on April 17, 2016 [15 favorites]


Really, for all of the white people who are suddenly going, "WE NEED TO MAKE A MASSIVE DRAMATIC REVOLUTION TO SOLVE RACISM" and agitating for a PoC mod - I'm perfectly happy to take this incrementally. Like, I'm perfectly happy to say "hey, let's not do this" after every thing that I notice that makes me feel dissatisfied, even if it's a long effort of checking all the boxes. What would make it better is if folks would be more calm about things and just accept feedback, instead of either a) arguing for hundreds of comments, or b) escalating to the nuclear option whenever small points of etiquette are raised. I mean, I guess the other nice thing would be if I didn't have to repeat myself too much, but it's not like I'm asking for much, you know? You don't have to answer my request for a small glass of water by turning a firehose on me.
posted by Conspire at 4:09 PM on April 17, 2016 [29 favorites]


Personally I'm kind of burnt out on how this discussion has hyperfocused on Monday-morning-quarterbacking one very specific, small possible remedy (hiring) that is very unlikely to be implemented any time soon (just because of the practicalities of how often hiring is done.)

Same, especially because I personally do not feel that a change in the moderator team, or even the current moderator philosophy (which I personally do not think is particularly problematic or at the centre of this problem) is the cure all that some people are making it out to be. Moderation is not a perfect tool, and it's certainly not all powerful.

Conspire: I'm perfectly happy to take this incrementally.

Yes, me too. Common social attitudes don't change overnight. Ignorance is not remedied overnight. Day by day. Piece by piece. The incremental approach is not easy. It's not emotionally satisfying. It just is.

Worth noting that this MeTa started out with a simple request for people to think before they post, that's all.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:16 PM on April 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


It's just that it seems like we've had a zillion of these think before you post / can we try to do X better MeTas about racial issues but our PoC members are still getting hurt on a regular basis and many have been driven away from threads or have left the community entirely.

Meanwhile, conversations about racial issues don't seem to be improving at anywhere near the rate that we saw improvement in conversations about women's issues. So while FIAMO, contact form, and MeTa discussions may have worked for addressing sexism, they don't seem to be enough for addressing racism.

Of course the member base in general should make an effort to think before they post, but I think the problem has shown itself to be intractable enough that a more significant change is called for.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:33 PM on April 17, 2016


Are you kidding me?

We have PoC people saying "It's not about moderation, we're happy to try and take it slow, incrementally" ..

And then we have white person literally saying "Nope, significant change is called for."

Am I .. am I missing something here?
posted by dotgirl at 4:37 PM on April 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


There are also lots of PoC people in this thread asking for more significant changes because the current system isn't working. Enough of them that I think we should listen.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:41 PM on April 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm a PoC and would like more significant changes. It's kind of embarrassing that we keep having these problems and honestly, the worst of it is around Asian issues because those often don't seem "real" enough for white people.
posted by zutalors! at 4:57 PM on April 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


We have PoC people saying "It's not about moderation, we're happy to try and take it slow, incrementally" ..

Just to be clear, I was speaking as and for myself, not as an ambassador for my people or whatevs. There are certainly going to be a spectrum of views on this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:10 PM on April 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


Like honestly if the existing mods took a half day off to do a diversity teleconference with a trainer even that would be cool. it's not that a special mod needs to address special "identity" issues, it's that the existing mod team is kind of clumsy in commentary on these topics. And defensiveness of that clumsiness by members (well, they're not THOSE types of white people) is kind of offensive.

The handling of PoC topics comes out really wrong and it needs not to. That's all.
posted by zutalors! at 5:18 PM on April 17, 2016 [18 favorites]


supercrayon: Saw the below comment in an unrelated thread: "It's interesting how...

I made that comment. I'm also partly responsible - for the wrong reasons - for this MeTa. FWIW, I wouldn't apply my point in that comment to the situation here. As uncomfortable as receiving the attention of white anti-racism allies on Metafilter has been, I don't think that they or the PoC who called me out are acting in bad faith or being hypocritical. I don't question their commitment to anti-racism.
posted by clawsoon at 5:31 PM on April 17, 2016


I remember being around for the boyzone discussions but don't remember what the proposed solutions were beyond "hey Mefites be better". Were there calls for a new mod? Some other structural change?
posted by divabat at 5:39 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Paging pb: Is it possible to tweak things so that mods could temporarily or permanently ban someone from a particular thread instead of from the entire site? Right now this is handled by a mod note in the thread saying "So-and-so, stop posting in this thread or you will be given the day off" but I think that sort of public chastisement tends to piss people off and make them dig their heels in even harder next time.

Also, I understand the mods' reluctance to even temporarily ban people because someone who is being a shithead in one thread may be making great contributions in other current threads or be a regular helpful answerer on AskMe or whatever and it sucks to lose their input in those areas. But kicking someone out of an individual thread for X hours or even forever isn't that big of a deal, and thus I'd hope that mods would be more willing to use thread-level bans. It's basically a technical enforcement of the advice to go take a walk and cool down.

Some of those temp bans from threads could even come with reading assignments drawn from an established list of helpful links about the stuff that comes up again and again. "You have been banned from the X thread for Y hours for reason Z. Please read this link about Z to understand why it is not tolerated here before you return." That could deal with a lot of the 101, JAQ, etc. derails in a way that not only saves a lot of aggravation for members sick of responding to the same old crap and mods sick of moderating it over and over but also help the genuinely clueless learn how to participate better in the future.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:40 PM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]



Really, for all of the white people who are suddenly going, "WE NEED TO MAKE A MASSIVE DRAMATIC REVOLUTION TO SOLVE RACISM" and agitating for a PoC mod - I'm perfectly happy to take this incrementally.


Uh. I'm PoC. And I believe I was one of the first commenters to inquire about the PoC mod issue. So... it's not all white people "agitating" for a PoC mod. This PoC is, I suppose, "agitating" for one too - if you call asking about improvements to be made to the way the site is run/organized, "agitating".

I also proposed and mentioned smaller changes (e.g. inviting more PoC members to Metafilter), but that does NOT mean I don't hope for and desire bigger changes as well.

(And I don't know if one_bean is PoC or not, but I still appreciate his/her comments on the hiring issue, regardless.)
posted by aielen at 5:41 PM on April 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


Some other structural change?

Well, Jessamyn was hired, and while she wasn't hired to be the "women's issues mod" I think it helped a lot to have a woman on the mod team because her life experience means she's going to notice things that even the most well-meaning male mods won't. And while she's not a mod anymore, there are still female mods and thus that perspective is still represented.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:42 PM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]



Really, for all of the white people who are suddenly going, "WE NEED TO MAKE A MASSIVE DRAMATIC REVOLUTION TO SOLVE RACISM" and agitating for a PoC mod - I'm perfectly happy to take this incrementally.



Yea, I think this comment erased other PoC voices and that's annoying.
posted by zutalors! at 5:43 PM on April 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


Right, sorry. I'm just frustrated because the last time I made this exact same MeTa, asking white people to think before making certain comments, it got derailed with the exact same big picture ruminating. And now we're back here again. With the same behaviors, six months ago. It feels like everyone just pushed any personal accountability to the side, with no one learning any lessons. How do you expect me to believe in a future bigger than white people not calling me a KKKer, when it's been six months and they still haven't learned not to?

I'm going to take a break from this thread now.
posted by Conspire at 6:12 PM on April 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


"I remember being around for the boyzone discussions but don't remember what the proposed solutions were beyond 'hey Mefites be better'. Were there calls for a new mod? Some other structural change?"

A sexism flag was added (it also includes "racism", but the sexism MetaTalk discussions were the impetus for the flag). And jessamyn took the initiative on a few, specific things.

It's not that there needs to be a sudden, big change or that more racial diversity on the mod team is "the" solution. Making it all about big changes is problematic because, as Conspire pointed out, it's a difficult process that takes time and hard work and people need to be thinking about that hard work, and themselves, and less on demanding an instant solution.

However, as the sexism example illustrates, there can be talk and talk -- and during that long period of frequent discussions about longstanding problems, those most adversely affected leave -- but it does take some noticeable, specific changes to sort of corral people into moving the whole community along into collective improvement. The collective improvement is what is necessary, it's the only thing that will really solve the problem, but you don't get there merely by having people periodically explain how they're unhappy. That with no real evidence of change causes people to give up.

The mod diversity issue isn't that important in itself, it's absolutely not a panacea. But it's one of the more conspicuous ways in which the institution of MetaFilter can signal that it's working on these issues, that it's taking them seriously. This and some noticeable changes on how threads are moderated would form a kernel around which the whole community could begin to change itself, as it did with regard to sexism. It's not going to happen on its own, it's not going to happen merely because people periodically post MetaTalk threads and exhort the community to improve.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:17 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


And jessamyn took the initiative on a few, specific things.

e.g. people posting "I'd hit it!" or "She's hoooooooooooot" on every post about a woman celebrity/musician/athlete/anyotherkindofwoman.
posted by Justinian at 6:20 PM on April 17, 2016


I do think the idea of gifting accounts to folk who are under-represented is kind of nifty, I'm going to float it by some of my radical Queer friends who previously might not have thought of joining, not because :5bux: but because it didn't seem like a useful space to be in.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 6:47 PM on April 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


And now we're back here again. With the same behaviors, six months ago. It feels like everyone just pushed any personal accountability to the side, with no one learning any lessons. How do you expect me to believe in a future bigger than white people not calling me a KKKer, when it's been six months and they still haven't learned not to?

Well - exactly. Isn't this a big reason why some of us PoC have been asking for more systemic/site-level improvements? Because it's pretty clear that we can't expect everyone on Metafilter to self-police and hold themselves personally accountable (not in the near future anyway). When we called for members to engage in self-reflection and asked them to improve their own behavior, threads like the "rage yoga" thread still happened.

It would be great if everyone were able to learn and do better of their own accord. But I think that at this point it's impractical and really overly-idealistic to expect everyone to self-adjust and self-correct. Some people do learn and reflect, but others don't, and that's why we're still seeing hurtful and offensive behavior/comments directed at minorities here.

That's why it would be good to have mods actually hold people accountable for their behavior more often, and more promptly. And maybe, if we have better modding in minority-sensitive threads, more people will learn to think twice before they say certain offensive things (if only because they don't want to get banned or have their comments deleted).

It's really not an either-or thing - I really think that site-level ("macro") changes work together with smaller, individual-level ("micro") changes. We can appeal for Mefites to be more sensitive and racially-aware when engaging in discussion here - and we can also hope and ask that bigger improvements (mod policies, mod team structure, etc) be made too.
posted by aielen at 7:00 PM on April 17, 2016 [16 favorites]


Conspire: It feels like everyone just pushed any personal accountability to the side, with no one learning any lessons.

A few Caucasians that I'm aware of, myself included, are lurking in this thread. I know at least a couple of us have been following along but deliberately not commenting, in part because of that previous metatalk post. An incremental change, as you described.
posted by zarq at 7:06 PM on April 17, 2016 [24 favorites]


Shit, sorry. I hit post too soon and didn't want to make a huge comment edit.

I think that holding ourselves personally accountable for our words and actions can also include keeping our mouths shut so we don't make situations worse. My own opinion is that if we can support our minority members then we always should. But steering the conversation to the point where our voices drown out PoC's is a shitty thing to do and we'd be better off listening and paying attention.
posted by zarq at 7:09 PM on April 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


Some white people have written me notes of thanks and I just want to say that I get a real kick out of those! It's awesome. Also PoC people have written me notes of thanks and I get a kick out of those as well!

So it's not all public, I guess.
posted by zutalors! at 7:16 PM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


A few Caucasians that I'm aware of, myself included, are lurking in this thread. I know at least a couple of us have been following along but deliberately not commenting, in part because of that previous metatalk post.

*raises hand*
posted by asterix at 9:58 PM on April 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


...also reading, not commenting, my opinion isn't relevant here

Same here.
posted by fatbird at 11:45 PM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


So while FIAMO, contact form, and MeTa discussions may have worked for addressing sexism, they don't seem to be enough for addressing racism.

It literally took years for the changes in site culture to come about, in regards to sexism and misogyny. In the meantime since the boyzone thread kicked off a new era for MeFi, there were dozens and dozens of related FPPs that were the starting point for very long, contentious threads and fights going around in circles, and of course Meta posts related to the very long threads and the shitty behavior, which never seemed to go away as much as ebb and flow. People buttoned, got banned, etc., on a regular basis.

At the time when the boyzone was first discussed and for a long time after, there was enormous pushback against the notion that MeFi should change its moderation policies due to feminism or even common decency, or indeed tell anyone what they could say, and it came from a not insignificant number of members who always showed up in the various FPPs and Metas that inevitably turned round upon round of trolling and fighting. Getting banned was rare at first, but over the years a lot of the worst offenders got booted. I'm grateful for the work of everyone involved and for the changes, but by no means was it quick or easy.

I'm all for changes that help make MeFi more inclusive, and I'm very glad MeFi has come as far as it has, but it has been a long and often painful process. I'm not suggesting that's ok, but Meta discussions only "worked" in the sense that it's where the policies and culture were hashed out, but it wasn't like anyone planned it the way it went down.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:40 AM on April 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


MeFi has a decent amount of gender diversity, age diversity, religious-background diversity, urban/rural diversity and some geographical, LBGTQ and time zone diversity. It does not have any PoC or trans* diversity.

LGBTQ people are represented. No no, not you. If ever there was an illustration of why 'LGBTQ' as a generic term, this is it. If you mean LGB, say LGB. It's really makes no sense to say that we're represented but also that we're not.
posted by Dysk at 5:50 AM on April 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


A few Caucasians that I'm aware of, myself included, are lurking in this thread. I know at least a couple of us have been following along but deliberately not commenting, in part because of that previous meta talk post.

Plus one.
posted by carmicha at 6:44 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also commenting to say I'm not commenting. I am listening though, and it's been very instructive for me. As someone with the privilege to have largely unexamined thoughts and opinions on appropriation, I can say that this thread and the one that inspired it have given me a great deal to think about and consider. I appreciate it, and I really appreciate the PoC that have taken the time and performed the labor of making their voices and perspectives heard, and I'm very sorry that MetaFilter in general and my demographic in particular (old white dudes) are not always very good at listening.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:59 AM on April 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


LGBTQ people are represented. No no, not you.

Sorry, absolutely my mistake.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:19 AM on April 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


krinklyfig: "It literally took years for the changes in site culture to come about, in regards to sexism and misogyny. In the meantime since the boyzone thread kicked off a new era for MeFi, there were dozens and dozens of related FPPs that were the starting point for very long, contentious threads and fights going around in circles, and of course Meta posts related to the very long threads and the shitty behavior, which never seemed to go away as much as ebb and flow. People buttoned, got banned, etc., on a regular basis."

I'd like to complicate this argument:

• The site's also improved because we have feminist moderators.
• We're also reacting to broader cultural shifts on the internet. I think there's an industry of feminist/women-inclusive spaces on the internet that simply didn't exist 10-15 years ago.
• As people have already said, POC are a much smaller % of the site than women.
posted by yaymukund at 8:28 AM on April 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


If any PoC (or other marginalized person) ever wants to start a MetaTalk thread but doesn't want it associated with their account, feel free to MeMail it to me. I'm happy to post it and say that it's for someone who prefers to remain anonymous.

Same here. I can guarantee I will post you question unedited & without revealing anything about your identity.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:15 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am white, and I have considered whether it is a good idea for me to make this post. As the idea I want to suggest is something that white people can do to (I hope) make their own participation in race-related threads better and more thoughtful, I am going to go ahead and make it.

My suggestion is that Mefites who identify as white should make it a habit to consistently make that identification known whenever they comment in a race-related thread, whether it is about cultural appropriation, Black Lives Matter, or other similar issues.

I feel this would have symbolic value in two ways. One is that white people aren't accustomed to self-identifying their race at all and doing regularly could help remind them that they are not, in fact, the default state of humanity. The other is that it would symbolically change the default assumptions about the participants in those threads. Instead of having PoC call themselves out as different from the norm, the assumption would be that in a discussion about the cultures and communities of PoC, they are the norm, and white people are the other.

I hope it might have practical value, as well, in that having to take a moment to stop and identify themselves as white might be just enough of a hiccup in their thinking to get white people to question whether what they are about to post is actually adding to the discussion or if they are simply about to splooge some privilege all over the place.

I don't know if we would want people to self-identify once per thread or once per comment. If they were expected to self-identify in every comment, it might also dissuade one-line throwaway comments from white people in race-related threads since they would not necessarily want to write a sentence of self-identification in order to make an otherwise low content remark.

I wouldn't imagine this as an enforceable norm, with mod intervention for people who don't do it, but perhaps early commenters in race-related threads could take a moment to ask that white people self-identify in those threads. White people who don't read MeTa would likely also pick up the habit by example if a sufficient number of MeTa regulars started doing this.

I am not certain that this is not a terrible idea. It is possible that this would simply bring more attention to white commenters and less to PoC commenters, which would be exactly the opposite of my hoped for outcome. It might also serve to mark race-related threads themselves as other, and not the norm on MeFi in a way that is damaging to PoC. It might also tend to serve as a kind of excuse, "you can't expect me to not be ignorant about this stuff because I am white."

It potentially has other drawbacks that I haven't thought of, as well.

I tried to think of something that white people could do on our own without significant systemic support (new mods, changes to the site coding, support from PoC) to make our participation better. It is possible that the same people who could be expected to adopt this habit are the ones who are already posting thoughtfully in race-related threads, but I think the problem of thoughtless white posting is broad enough that even those of us white people who mean well in general can fall into our own privilege and this might help us avoid that in race-related threads.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:29 AM on April 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Jacquilynne, that sounds potentially interesting to me as a white person, and I'm curious to find out how PoC feel about this idea.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:42 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


My suggestion is that Mefites who identify as white should make it a habit to consistently make that identification known whenever they comment in a race-related thread...

I think this has been brought up before and I just want to say that "white" does not map easily onto cultural experiences and structures outside of the US and/or North America. If anyone wants to self-identify as white, maybe it will help, but a social expectation that people who others see as white (and who may be told they are, but not actually see themselves as white) should do this is I think rooted in one particular kind of culture which I think does no favors when trying to broaden cross-cultural empathy.
posted by griphus at 9:44 AM on April 18, 2016 [20 favorites]


zarq:
"A few Caucasians that I'm aware of, myself included, are lurking in this thread. I know at least a couple of us have been following along but deliberately not commenting, in part because of that previous metatalk post. An incremental change, as you described."
The trick I've learned is that if I have some question I want to ask in a post about PoC or feminist issues, I revise the question over and over again, taking into account what has been said before in order to make it as harmless as possible. Eventually I realize I've figured out the answer myself and can just stay quiet and listen.
posted by charred husk at 9:59 AM on April 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


I feel invisible rather than tokenized, but I've also sort of made peace with it.
posted by yaymukund at 10:07 AM on April 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the discussion. I come from a field, the cultural sector, where the lack of diversity in organizations and practice has been a diagnosed issue for some time. +1-ing the things about hiring that have been said by Dip Flash and One Bean about crafting a job description that will result in the selection of individuals whose experience with diversity issues is greater than secondary. I'm sorry that some consider it a derail, but I agree with Ivan Fyorodich that explicitly stating that greater mod perspectival diversity is a goal would send a strong message that it's an issue that is recognized and taken seriously. In the kinds of organizations that I work with, this would be positioned as a strategic goal, endorsed by the various stakeholders, and we'd all agree on the intent to work toward it. I don't really find the idea that "we needed a warm body immediately" to be sufficient reason to rush a permanent hire. In that sort of situation, with long-term organizational direction in play, you can make a temp hire while you spend more time crafting a job description and planning the recruitment process. Yes, this one's behind us, but it would be great keep that option in mind next time.

Second, advisory groups. That's another thing that you find extensively in cultural organizations. THey can be very successful, or useless to the point of being tokenizing and offensive. They must be implemented thoughtfully and with transparency and sensitivity and a clear structure in order to be successful. There's a lot of professional literature and expertise about doing this well, which, if it is seriously in consideration, it would be a good idea to consult.

Finally, I loved the podcast idea. I think I'd love a "users respond" podcast no matter the participation and subject, but I'd really love one that raised the voices of PoC and other folks marginalized in the wider society and discussed their perspectives on what goes down on MeFi. It would be especially terrific to hear such a group talk without salting in the voices of everyone else parsing their every argument. It's one thing I love about listening to culture podcasts that are presented entirely by non-white-majority people - not having to devolve to 101, just presenting viewpoints generously enough that the rest of us can listen in without weighing in.

Anyway, definitely would like to see a strategic goal of increasing diversity of participation, diversity of leadership, and safety of participation.
posted by Miko at 10:12 AM on April 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


I feel like this recurring podcast suggestion is really a "someone else should do this elaborate, time-consuming project" thing and that's been bugging the hell out of me. I could be wrong but I don't think a single person in this thread has expressed any interest in actually doing the work, and at least a couple of people relevant to a diversity podcast have expressed explicit disinterest in the concept either ethically or practically.

I think that's a lot of the problems the site is having in a nutshell: lots of people have Great Big Ideas and many fewer people seem inclined to actually organize and execute them on their own without the House's Blessing, essentially shifting the blame in a circle until we get back to "no one is doing anything about these great ideas I had! I guess they just don't want to try."
posted by griphus at 10:29 AM on April 18, 2016 [27 favorites]


I've said this before, but I really hate when people announce their whiteness, especially with "as a sweet white lady, "nice polite little pasty lily white lady" etc (not to pick on ladies but that seems to be how it manifests.)

It just reinforces that the white guys are the good guys, or there should be some inherent fear of PoCs, even though the commenter is trying to make the point that that's what THOSE people think.

See also all those times when white people boast about all the laws they broke as kids when black children are getting shot for no reason, and it's supposed to be some lesson on privilege.
posted by zutalors! at 10:38 AM on April 18, 2016 [20 favorites]


I've said this before, but I really hate when people announce their whiteness, especially with "as a sweet white lady, "nice polite little pasty lily white lady" etc (not to pick on ladies but that seems to be how it manifests.)

The "pasty" word tends to come up far too often in these kind of "confessions of whiteness". Like, I'm not just White! I'm really white, like unpleasantly pale. I sunburn easily. And so forth.

It can be useful when a person's qualifying his personal experience around some racially-sensitive topic. ("I'm white and you should probably really listen to some POC about this topic, but anyway here goes...") But the enthusiastic adjectival self-flagellation gets kind of old the more you see it. If it's relevant, and you have to say it, just say it.
posted by theorique at 10:46 AM on April 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


zutalors!: "as a sweet white lady, "nice polite little pasty lily white lady"
That always weirds me out. Maybe we are so very much used to seeing whiteness as a thing that doesn't need to be said, that if/when we do so, we get nervous and we feel the need to dress it up in silly frills like that so it doesn't sound so blunt, instead of simply saying 'I'm white'?
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:46 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


My suggestion is that Mefites who identify as white should make it a habit to consistently make that identification known whenever they comment in a race-related thread, whether it is about cultural appropriation, Black Lives Matter, or other similar issues.

It's a completely terrible idea to have white people chiming in that they're white in a thread that is specifically about some other group. It'll be constant, and bizarre, derail.

If one feels the need to identify themselves as white, then consider not making any sort of comment. It's ok, the thread will go on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:52 AM on April 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


In contrast to zutalors!, I don't mind it and actively appreciate it.

Sure, there are assholes who use it as a club or theater, but I find it exhausting to have to look for clues about whether the person writing the comment is white or POC or non-American/non-Western. In threads about cultural appropriation, I put the most weight on opinions from the people whose culture may be being appropriated, then on opinions from other POC, and then on opinions from white people who sound like they have put thought into what they're typing, and then on opinions from that one white person who looked it up on Wikipedia/took one class in undergrad 20 years ago/googled to find links to three blog posts that agree with them.

If more people are up front, it saves me time and energy. Not everybody has to do it, but for every person that does it, that means I don't have to rack my brains to see if I remember them/go look at their posting history or whatever.

Plus, I bring up my ethnic/cultural background a lot when posting to certain kinds of threads because I think it has bearing on what I type. It's nice to have that validated and/or not feel like we're in some ridiculous space where white people think their whiteness has nothing to do with their opinions or behavior PEOPLE ARE JUST PEOPLE DID I MENTION THAT I DON'T SEE COLOR etc.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:53 AM on April 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


zutalors!: I've said this before, but I really hate when people announce their whiteness, especially with "as a sweet white lady, "nice polite little pasty lily white lady" etc (not to pick on ladies but that seems to be how it manifests.)

American citizenship historically is tied to protecting white womanhood from threatening, uncivilized black slaves (youtube). I think that well-meaning white women say that as if it lends credibility to their subsequent antiracist statements. However, it's sorta problematic, because it only lends credibility inasmuch as you buy into the premise.
posted by yaymukund at 10:57 AM on April 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


white people aren't accustomed to self-identifying their race at all and doing regularly could help remind them that they are not, in fact, the default state of humanity.

I dunno, I get the impression that some people (in places like the United States) who think that whiteness is part of the default state of humanity think that BECAUSE most of the people they encounter are white. Instead of reminding white people they are not the default state of a Mefite, it could help to reinforce that (for some people).

I think it works better as a thought experiment than as a thing to encourage.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:00 AM on April 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Re: self-identifying as a white person, here's what I said in that previous cultural appropriation meta, and though it's a bit harshly worded, it still fits how I feel:
To me it often translates to, "As a white person, I know I lack the crucial information and first-hand experience to weigh in on this nuanced, difficult topic in which I don't know what I don't know, but at least I'm acknowledging that before delving into my opinion, so don't crucify me! *sheepish grin and look around the room before continuing* Anyway, [OPINION]"

It absolutely is a way of self-inoculation against criticism. Well, if you know that you lack the required perspective and experience to talk about this subject, and you're able to acknowledge it, maybe take the next step and consider refraining from being a part of the discussion!
posted by naju at 11:14 AM on April 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


Personally I've found it amusing that often when I post people have assumed I am a white person. It says more about them than me.
posted by zutalors! at 11:16 AM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a type of trolling that relies on strictly obeying the letter of the law in order to skirt or even break the spirit of the law, and I think the "announce your race thing" would work really really well for that type of troll.

Can you imagine it? Someone popping into any thread tangentially related to ethnicity/race and saying they're white? "Gorgeous pics of Bali in this link! I'm white btw" or "I'm a white person. I loved these blues songs!" or "The Nashville hot chicken trend has been great, because I LOVE chicken! I am white"

It would be like a little constant weird aggression, starting as a small strange irritant and slowly accumulating more recognizability over time, as it gets repeated (think: Todd Lokken, and the way there was kind of a gradual build in people noticing the idiosyncrasy).

And eventually someone who never read this here MeTa would be like "wtf dude, you dont need to say you're white constantly" and the poster could point back to this MeTa: "Oh, I was just doing the suggestion that was brought up over here! Please don't derail the thread just because I'm white and I announced it."

One could even pair this technique with cryptoracist or out-and-out racist sentiments, if one wanted to be really aggro about it! But that would be kind of amateur move, imo. A cleverer use, more sustainable for long-term trolling, would be just appending it to totally neutral comments. Constantly. And then doing a kind of po-faced "aw shucks i'm just trying to be conscientious" if people are like "okay fucking stop"

It's an impressive idea! It could really fuck up the site in a whole new way!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:16 AM on April 18, 2016 [35 favorites]


Perhaps a reasonable rule of thumb is, if a post is of personal import to commenters—for example, religion, race, gender, cultural heritage, social class—then the discussion should stick to the topic, instead of question/challenge/criticize/over-generalize the topic.

For example, if somebody wants to explore their skepticism on trigger warnings or cultural appropriation, then make a separate post about that critique; find the articles and put something together, making a space for that discussion.

I think such a standard would be fair to others, healthy to the site, promote intellectual habits, and be truer to Enlightenment values.
posted by polymodus at 11:22 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I feel like this recurring podcast suggestion is really a 'someone else should do this elaborate, time-consuming project' thing and that's been bugging the hell out of me."

That's a good point and a fair criticism, griphus. I've been wanting to do an "interview mefites" podcast for a while, but, on the one hand, with regard to this particular diversity of voices suggestion, it's not appropriate that I do it even if I'm willing to take on the responsibility; and then, on the other hand, expecting that a person of color do it is also problematic, obviously, in terms of (especially!) white people suggesting that people of color take on all these various responsibilities. Ugh. This is an example of the general problem with some of these suggestions, as you're pointing out.

The goal here is to make MeFi less unfriendly to people of color, so asking them to do work and visibly represent and act as spokespeople and whatnot -- well, that isn't making the place more friendly, that's assigning homework or a job. Those of us who are white should be the ones making the effort. But also while not making it all about us. That can be hard to do -- even talking about how we're listening is still talking.

This is my fourth comment in this thread, which I fear is three too many, but I just feel that it's very important to repeat my argument that
  1. this long-running trend of microaggressions against people of color in threads takes a toll and it both drives people away from the site and keeps people from joining
  2. these repeated MetaTalk threads are also difficult, they always end up recapitulating the problems they're trying to address, and they also always end up driving some of the very people away whose voices the posts are trying to get heard
  3. the required change is a long process that is about shifting the whole community's notions of acceptable behavior; but
  4. this won't happen on its own, it requires some specific, visible changes around which the larger change crystallizes and grows, and that
  5. by far the single most powerful actor involved is MetaFIlter LLC, as represented by its policies and its mods
  6. therefore, we still do need some specific actions from MetaFilter proper. Otherwise things are just going to mostly remain the status quo, moving on inertia, with people of color suffering the same hostile threads, deciding to leave, with the same MetaTalk posts and painful arguments while nothing much changes.
Maybe people aren't remembering the years of 2004-2007. There were quite a few women who complained about sexism on the site, there were MetaTalk posts. I very strongly believe the the watershed moment was the very painful MeTa threads in late 2007 that were the impetus for the creation of a sexism flag. That flag wasn't a panacea, clearly, and it took a couple more years for things to become much better, but it was important in that it was a very visible change that signaled to the entire community the direction it needed to move. I don't think you get the sort of change we need without a moderately sized nucleus of active community involvement, and you don't get that without some tangible things for that nucleus to form around. I don't know why people need specific, visible things rather than the more nebulous "we've had a lot of MetaTalk threads about this and we agree it's a problem". But that's how groups of people behave.

I don't know what the specific changes could or should be. But I'm very uncomfortable with the view that continued MeTa posts and discussions about how white people should better behave is sufficient because, to me, that seems an awful lot like the 2004-2007 period where there was a lot of talk and pain about sexism on the site, but no real change. I think that Conspire's criticism of white people advocating for big change, and how that redounds negatively on the people of color involved, was very pointed and apt. We're not going to solve racism on MetaFilter today, we're not going to get all of us who are white mefites to suddenly change how we behave. Those expectations are counterproductive and, yes, to some degree unwittingly reflect a white progressive self-involvement and self-congratulation -- "let's solve this and then go have a party!". But I think there's a middle-ground between a long series of difficult MetaTalk posts every four months for four years and this advocacy for immediate, big changes. And that middle-ground is discussion of and advocacy for some modest-but-tangible immediate changes that signal to everyone involved that we're moving forward, that this is a change the community is making.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:22 AM on April 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


The way I usually end up thinking about the disclosure thing when I'm doing my personal commenting calculus is, I ask myself if there is some demographic context to whatever I want to say—my race, gender, sexuality, location, sociopolitical situation, etc.—and then ask myself why I'd need to disclose that, and try to figure out if the answer is something like "because that detail may underscore that I'm out of my depth or talking out my ass" and then say, well, is this a situation where me talking out my ass is going to actually be a contribution? And if that's not a firm yes, I try to just skip it.

And, like, sometimes it's e.g. a goofy media discussion or something where ass-talking isn't a problem and that's fine. I don't mind being slow on the uptake in a no-stakes conversation where everyone is just dorking happily around.

But if it's something where it's people talking about difficult experiences, harm or struggles they've experienced, things about the world that make life hard for people in different situations than my own: I'm probably just skipping it. I end up just skipping it a lot, and that's a-okay.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:23 AM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I did notice that no one was volunteering to make a podcast, and totally understand why no one wants to.
posted by Miko at 11:30 AM on April 18, 2016


I agree with Ivan F. The simplest approach may be the creation of a specific flag reason that reflects the comments of Type 1 and 2 as mentioned in the OP. This way, the lurking non-whites can also participate in the 'course correction' of potential derails. Of course, knowing MeFi, this will also lead to a few bajillion meta talk threads about why the comment was deleted etc, but as with the other examples in the past, there will be a learning curve, it will take time.
posted by dhruva at 11:31 AM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Re: announcing poster's race identification. I kinda hate this idea. Arguments in the form of bits on a screen should be able to stand on their own merits. Ultimately, all I want here or IRL is to be treated (and to treat others) in a way that isn't first and foremost informed by their identification - racial or otherwise. Tying in the poster's race in doesn't just put it back into the conversation, it overwhelms the conversation - to the point where it changes how comments are read (see the exchange between mordax and DrinkyDie about my race earlier in this thread).

And this ties in with the unpaid labor/being tired bit. By saying the poster's race matters, you're also saying people not of that race have no valid opinion on the matter, and therefore the only people who can bear the burden of the position are those of that race (a position btw, I see regularly on MeFi - and one with which I couldn't disagree any more strongly). Don't you want help with this labor? Don't you want to be less tired? Yes, sometimes helpers will be clueless or offensive - but I'd much rather see those conversations happen on screen than have them hidden away or not happen at all. It's very likely multiple people don't understand or could use some clarification. That lack of understanding is so often seen as microaggression instead of an honest effort to engage, and by shutting those questions or instances of ignorance down, you're depriving us all of both the former (which is good)...but also the latter (which actually runs counter to what I think we'd rather accomplish). On balance, I'd rather hear what someone has to say, even if it's clueless or offensive - cause I can work with that. I can't work with silence, or by being silenced.

At the same time, I totally see where Jacqueline's proposal is coming from. For a long time, I actually made a point of keeping both my gender and racial identification under wraps here precisely because it seems to matter too much. I also found that I needed to deploy both in certain circumstances to be heard, or to re-frame my comments. It sucks that anyone has to do that, but world as it is, not as I'd like it to be, blah blah blah.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:31 AM on April 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


I used to find it maddening when people assumed I was a white dude, zutalors! but now I just laugh.
posted by corb at 11:33 AM on April 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


I like the idea of a new flag in theory. In practice, we already can flag it for "racist/offensive." I don't know how another flag helps there.

I did a post on the blue about vegan butcher shops and a Muslim asked some questions about faux bacon and got some incredibly shitty answers about being Muslim. I replied with, in part, "Ninety percent of everything is crap." which they faved, so I kind of felt they appreciated that reply. I thought it was really gross that people were making this about the asker's religion. Most fake meat is pretty awful. Disliking it is not evidence of prejudice.

I didn't bother to flag the comments that were all about "Well, you are Muslim." I am routinely told that I have overly sensitive sensibilities and my desire to see people treated with respect is crazy talk.

And maybe I should just flag that shit and other people should flag it too when they see it and maybe eventually the mods will get the idea that it offends a bunch of people.

And that isn't intended to attack the mods. I think they do good work. But I also think they are human and they are part of a world that dismisses the notion of respecting people as crazy talk and they just don't see an issue with X -- unless enough members repeatedly say in some form "I have an issue with it."

Flagging is a low friction way to say that. As far as I know, if I flag it and they don't agree with me and don't delete it, it doesn't put me on their shit list or whatever. So maybe I need to get over my own hesitation and just flag more.
posted by Michele in California at 12:17 PM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The simplest approach may be the creation of a specific flag reason that reflects the comments of Type 1 and 2 as mentioned in the OP. This way, the lurking non-whites can also participate in the 'course correction' of potential derails.

Here are my concerns with new flag creation:

1) These two types of comments are not the only types of comments that screw up threads related to race/racism/appropriation, so like in 6 months when another thread like this pops up wanting to talk about a different kind of comment, then what should we do? Another new flag? Plus like, what do you call the new flag that quickly and succinctly describes the type of comment we're talking about here to people who haven't read this thread? I'm not coming up with anything good. I mean if you call it something like "Microagression" (I am totally NOT suggesting this), get ready for extreme pushback when people encounter the flag for the first time wanting to have specific definitions for what is and isn't a microagression and then we're going 'round in circles again.

2) I think adding the sexism flag was powerful because it made people think "Holy crap, we can flag something for being sexist? FUCKYEAH". I'd flag these 2 Types of comments of using the "offensive/sexism/racism" flag, but that's just me. If you're unsure if you want to use that flag, I think "noise" and "derail" succinctly describe these 2 Types of comments.

3) As others have noted, one of the problems with racism on Metafilter is that there's lots of unexamined racism in society at large, and Mefites are just people from society at large. I don't think the problem is so much "I didn't have a good flag for these comments", it's more "Whoa, I didn't really understand that these comments were flag-worthy until I read an 800-comment MeTa." It's like, if you add a new flag, it's only going to be useful if people know what to do with it.

I mean, I totally understand and support how people want the mods endorse something that they can point to and say "THAT is the thing that mods did to show they understand that this is a problem that Metafilter should be taking steps towards improving", but I don't think a new flag is that thing.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:30 PM on April 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


As others have noted, one of the problems with racism on Metafilter is that there's lots of unexamined racism in society at large, and Mefites are just people from society at large. I don't think the problem is so much "I didn't have a good flag for these comments", it's more "Whoa, I didn't really understand that these comments were flag-worthy until I read an 800-comment MeTa."

That rings pretty true to me, yeah. I think more flagging is a good idea—I basically always think that, really—but while on the one hand I think part of that happening is more folks deciding to flag rather than to just assume flagging will do nothing, part of it is definitely having more folks think that there's a reason to flag, and that's a challenge with a broad general audience with a constant influx of new folks who haven't caught up on some of this stuff.

And I basically share your skepticism about the idea of new 1&2-specific flags. What may help there as a more general thing is providing a free-form text field so folks don't feel stuck trying to communicate strictly by flag label; that's something we've been simmering mod-side for a while and are currently trying to get into a working, testable state the last few days. It'd be a pretty big experimental change for the flagging system but I'm really interested to see whether and how well it can help make that feedback mechanism more useful for communicating to us in a lightweight daily bit-by-bit way.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:42 PM on April 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


"Whoa, I didn't really understand that these comments were flag-worthy until I read an 800-comment MeTa."

You nailed it. Background radiation level racism won't likely get many flags from white mefites (like me) because that level of racism is so normalized it often isn't even noticeable to the people who aren't on the receiving end of it.

Flagging stuff for sexism has probably been more successful than flagging for other things because women are such a numerically large "minority". Seems like other flavors of microagressions may need a different solution.
posted by puddledork at 12:42 PM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


What may help there as a more general thing is providing a free-form text field so folks don't feel stuck trying to communicate strictly by flag label; that's something we've been simmering mod-side for a while and are currently trying to get into a working, testable state the last few days.

This is the best site news I've heard in recent memory, and something I've wanted to see for a long time. Regardless of where one is on the spectrum between believing this is about changing individual behaviors vs. site-wide moderator action, I feel like a higher-bandwidth channel for people to communicate their problems with a post or comment seems like a vast improvement over the status quo.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:47 PM on April 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


re: a new flag ...

I have a friend who's proven very successful in hiring (ie: almost everyone she hires ends up being a valuable addition to her organization). I asked her what her secret was. She said, simply, "If you haven't found the right person, don't hire anyone. Search harder, or maybe just rethink your organization from within."
posted by philip-random at 12:48 PM on April 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


The goal here is to make MeFi less unfriendly to people of color, so asking them to do work and visibly represent and act as spokespeople and whatnot -- well, that isn't making the place more friendly, that's assigning homework or a job.

This is one of reasons I really do hope the moderators here put a real effort into actually enacting the initial proposal made by 23skidoo - it places the homework/job squarely on those who get compensation for being here, requires no big shift mentality to implement, and if even just the few dozen white people commenting in this thread alone commit to re-reading this thread, better identifying these comments, and flagging the shit out of those comments in silence when we see them - we can hopefully push past where we are today at a minimum.
posted by scrittore at 12:50 PM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


What may help there as a more general thing is providing a free-form text field so folks don't feel stuck trying to communicate strictly by flag label; that's something we've been simmering mod-side for a while and are currently trying to get into a working, testable state the last few days.

I remember you mentioning this potential feature in the last couple threads on this topic, and I had been meaning to ask you if there'd been any progress on this front. I'm very pleased to hear that it's moving into a testable phase; I think it would be an extraordinarily beneficial addition to the site functionality.
posted by Errant at 12:58 PM on April 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


Yeah, this is good. I had a situation the other day where the flag ended up needing explanation, I knew to use the contact form to explain but a lot of people seem to not know it's there or otherwise don't use it.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:05 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm happy we've been able to finally crack in on it. Right now we have a front-end interface that seems pretty decent, and pb's working on wiring up the db side of it to play well with the existing flag architecture, so I'm hopeful we'll be able to do some testing in the next few days. I'll talk more about the details then.

I've also appreciated that we've been getting what feels like a small uptick in folks doing the contact form to provide details thing on subtler flags after the last couple conversations where that idea has come up. Has definitely helped us better understand what was going on, both for prosaic things like typos or spoiler issues and for more complicated "this is dicey/offensive/worth-watching because..." stuff. Hopefully the free-form flag thing will make for a useful intermediate channel there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:17 PM on April 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Can you imagine it? Someone popping into any thread tangentially related to ethnicity/race and saying they're white? "Gorgeous pics of Bali in this link! I'm white btw" or "I'm a white person. I loved these blues songs!" or "The Nashville hot chicken trend has been great, because I LOVE chicken! I am white"

Something like this has happened in communities I'm part of that have experimented with everyone naming their pronouns when they introduce themselves, as a way to take the pressure and stigma off trans people. People don't take it seriously, so you start to get jokey things like, "Hi, my name is So-and-So and my pronouns are sparkle and sparkles." Meanwhile, some trans people experience it as being required to re-assert their gender over and over and over again instead of ever having it simply accepted and taken for granted. It's a well-intentioned practice that can go very wrong is not everyone understands the reasons for it and is prepared to participate in good faith.
posted by not that girl at 2:16 PM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Isn't the level of moderation being suggested kind of expensive? Does MetaFilter have the resources to attempt such moderation? Or is a higher per-user fee being considered to implement such moderation?
posted by My Dad at 2:19 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


What? Isn't what expensive ?
posted by zutalors! at 2:30 PM on April 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Isn't the level of moderation being suggested kind of expensive? Does MetaFilter have the resources to attempt such moderation? Or is a higher per-user fee being considered to implement such moderation?

I'll kick in to pay your share so you don't have to worry about it.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:31 PM on April 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Isn't the level of moderation being suggested kind of expensive?

Anyone who's been reading this in good faith should recognize that the goal is to put the kibosh on problematic behavior before it gets out of hand, saving moderator effort in the long run. Unless you're concern trolling or don't understand the idea of putting out fires before they develop into raging infernos, I don't understand this "we can't afford it" objection.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:31 PM on April 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


Yes but it does cost money. I'm not sure if you recall, but a few years ago MetaFilter had a near-death experience. Fundamentally, is MetaFilter sustainable? Can this added cost be built in?

Sure more moderation would make this a safer place to stamp out problematic behavior but as far as I can tell someone has to be hired to do it, right? And that person has to be paid.
posted by My Dad at 2:40 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


...but it's not "more moderation", it's "earlier moderation" which leads to "less moderation." Do you not understand that concept?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:42 PM on April 18, 2016 [21 favorites]


I think you should reread the various mod comments in this thread, since you seem to be missing pretty much everything they've said.

Anyway, my understanding of this is that it's not really about *how much* is modded - which I think isn't a great way of understanding the moderation here - but rather of *what* is modded. It might be an incremental change in the effort/energy required, but it (23skidoo's suggestions) isn't some drastic change.
posted by sagc at 2:42 PM on April 18, 2016


My Dad, you're coming into this pretty late and with a pretty basic question. Please don't do that. If you want to talk about this more please bring it to the contact form, not this thread.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:43 PM on April 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


Somewhere earlier up in the thread, cortex indicated that there won't be new mods hired anytime soon, so yeah, it sounds like current staffing levels will remain as they are.

Yet even within that limit, the mods have indicated they'll try a few new and/or different things. If there's specific concern about a specific thing you have, feel free to ask, one of them will give an official answer.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:44 PM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


[Comment removed. My Dad, your behavior in here is lousy and it's not the first time; you need to cut this out pronto and give this thread a pass going forward.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:48 PM on April 18, 2016 [24 favorites]


And here I thought moderation followed a Jungian paradigm.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:35 PM on April 18, 2016


I appreciate those folks who are listening and apologize succinctly and sincerely when a fellow mefite says "hey that's kind of hurtful"

I especially appreciate those who do it without making a big production of how much they've learned while invoking imagery heavily associated with white violence towards black Americans as an example of what they fear about political correctness gone maaaaaaaaad.

Which feels like a super weird thing to have to be grateful for instead of just being an expected part of common human decency, but all of you who don't do that, you're awesome!
posted by Krom Tatman at 5:54 PM on April 18, 2016 [22 favorites]


Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to my idea. It's clear that it's not workable or desirable for a wide variety of reasons.

I done the "I'm the whitest white woman who ever did white" thing that some of you brought up. In the future, if there are situations where mentioning my race is necessary, I will attempt to do it in a manner that is more straightforward and less troublesome.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:29 PM on April 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


cf. "As a regular boring old white guy", etc. Ugh. This really bothers me because the whole point of self-identifying as white in these situations is to de-center or de-normify whiteness, but adding this type of qualifier has the opposite effect.
posted by threeants at 9:52 PM on April 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yall really good at doing these giant racism MetaTalk threads when I am on vacation, but that's okay since I am losing energy for them anyway. I have been following along the whole time though. I agree with the proposal in the OP, and based on other things that have come up in the course of the discussion, I have two thoughts.

1. I actually very rarely flag things I find racially offensive, for reasons that are rather complicated and probably have a lot to do with internalized racism (a particular user has an ax to grind and shows up to shit in every single thread about Asian anything = staying on that shit and flagging all their comments makes ME feel like the problem user, because clearly I have an unsubstantiated grudge against them!), but short version, reading some of the conversations in this thread has really helped me feel empowered to just flag that shit and forget about it. I don't know if I'm unique in my behavior there, but if this thread is having the same effect on other POC, maybe the needle will shift a bit. So thank you all.

2. If you're white and STILL reading this thread, you're probably interested in learning about Asian perspectives on race and racism. You could do worse than to read Angry Asian Man, which is an Asian American general-interest news and culture blog. On the front page right now: New Super-Man, Viet Thanh Nguyen wins the Pulitzer Prize, film festivals, a bunch of stuff about Hollywood whitewashing, Asian American poets' responses to a weak-ass racist poem in the New Yorker, Conan and Steven Yeun go to Korea, etc. It pulls together all those pop culture (Conan, whitewashing) and news (Daniel Holtzclaw, Akai Gurley/Peter Liang) items and lets you know what Asian Americans are thinking and saying about them. It lets you know about cool things Asian Americans are doing that you might not know about (documentary projects, comics) and things you might not know we're upset about (the New Yorker poem). There's also a reader of the week feature that sometimes features famous people, sometimes not. It's good stuff. Read it.
posted by sunset in snow country at 12:06 PM on April 19, 2016 [33 favorites]


I think it's actually good to do something like add NBC Asian America to your FB feed if you add news feeds to your FB and stuff. I did that's and it's kind of interesting, because rather than follow a "name" person in identity politics, it just looks like regular news, and it sort of helped me understand how little representation we have in the regular mainstream news as Asian Americans. All the stories told *could* be told in mainstream news, but they're not.
posted by zutalors! at 12:09 PM on April 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


"When you feel you are being responded to unfairly by someone who is "punching up" in a discussion of privilege, please bear in mind that thing about how this is not a philosophical discussion for that person, and how they have probably been having this exact same conversation over and over again for a long, long time, and that you are vanishingly likely to convince them that you weren't doing that thing they think you were doing, at least by arguing about it."

When I was reading that thread, my first thought was that the article was thin and kinda LOOKIT THESE ASSHOLES, then saw the first comment and figured it would be a shitshow.

First couple of Errant comments, I was like, "Damn, he's on blast. There might be some things that I'd quibble with, but at least that should shut it down."

Then it kept happening, again and again — to the point that each successive pipe-tugging chin-stroker kept making me more and more apoplectic. Like, did we not just cover this six comments back? What the fuck? The fucking Christians again? (Which never works, since so many Christians have "persecuted minority" as an article of faith.) Which is a handy reminder for me that on shit like this, where I tend to start from a position of syncretics and sacrilege as virtues, that folks more often on the sharp end are opening the thread from a position of OMG WILL YOU FUCKING STOP?! because this isn't the beginning of the conversation for them. Those of us who are guests don't necessarily mind a little fetch with the Golden Retriever of Reasoned Debate, but those who live there don't want to spend all their time throwing the fucking ball.

Honestly, so much of this wailing and gnashing could have been avoided by just axing the post to begin with. I mean, if the mods had jumped in earlier to curtail the derails or obliviousness, I can't actually imagine how that post would have actually led to a better discussion — while I can imagine, like some others, that there are interesting things to talk about within the broader spectrum of cultural appropriation and the colonialism of angry stretching, that's relying on the conversation to save the post.

And, as a question, if we're dealing with limited mod resources and we can tell that thread's getting shitty like all-day Huggies, might the better solution be to just axe that rather than trying to keep the conversation within on moderately decent levels? One of the comments in the thread that seemed to miss at the last moment was someone noting that it was only 540-some words, but rather than the conclusion of 'nothing that short should make anyone mad' (I'd wager I could make anyone mad in fewer), if something that short is making people that mad — and not just mad, like, legit hurt over a relatively immutable part of their identity — why bother keeping it?

I know that MeFi has a general norm of not deleting threads once they get going, and instead spending that energy within the thread itself, but in general I think I'd prefer to see less modding of comments and more axing shit like that in its entirety.

I don't know if this is something that folks who didn't want to participate in that thread would prefer as a general solution, but it seems easier to effect than the more nuanced observations from 23skidoo in this post. In general, I am skeptical of schemes that heighten the distinction between mods and members — I tend to favor things that are based on member-to-member interaction rather than mod power, so I definitely see the appeal (and support) the kind of suggestions outlined in this MeTa post — but this seems like something where pruning boughs rather than branches and twigs seems like it would help more.
posted by klangklangston at 2:20 PM on April 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


For times when we're stretched, I'm definitely looking at deleting posts like that more freely, yes.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:23 PM on April 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was late to that post but it was pretty thin. I'm not sure why it stayed up at all.
posted by zutalors! at 3:43 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't find myself saying this often, but, uh, I agree with klangklangston.
posted by corb at 4:03 PM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


sunset in snow country wrote: I actually very rarely flag things I find racially offensive, for reasons that are rather complicated and probably have a lot to do with internalized racism (a particular user has an ax to grind and shows up to shit in every single thread about Asian anything = staying on that shit and flagging all their comments makes ME feel like the problem user, because clearly I have an unsubstantiated grudge against them!), but short version, reading some of the conversations in this thread has really helped me feel empowered to just flag that shit and forget about it.

We really need a way to add a brief note - even just a line! - to things flagged for racist or objectionable content, because the mods are not necessarily able to recognise when someone is repeatedly pushing the "I WANT A MEFI RACIAL WAR HERE" button and they don't know why a comment has been flagged. If they can't see what's going on they may not respond (and fair enough) but if they do respond they tend to drop an anodyne note about how people need to stay focused or settle down. That's not the response that is called for, but how are they to tell?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:18 PM on April 19, 2016


Joe, looks like the note option is coming
posted by Pink Frost at 4:23 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think they should do some sensitivity training so they can tell what's racist and what's not? Maybe try some of the "how do I learn about racism" suggestions mentioned here? I mean.
posted by zutalors! at 4:23 PM on April 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


if something that short is making people that mad — and not just mad, like, legit hurt over a relatively immutable part of their identity — why bother keeping it?

But I'm not quite getting this - is it deletion-worthy because the FPP is short and thin and not of much substance? Or because the subject is causing hurt/anger? Or a combination of both? Because I think the FPP was more or less fine - it was short, thin, and lulzy, but so are lots of FPPs. And we also don't axe many FPPs that feature people engaging in troubling or offensive activities. That the subject of the FPP causes me pain or is offensive to my identity is not necessarily evidence that the FPP is bad.

Maybe this one should've been deleted, but I don't know if there's a takeaway like "things like this should be deleted in the future."

For me, it comes back, again, to what people seem to be tempted to get away from over and over in this thread. What will correct this is not so much a quick administrative fix, or a technical solution, or some mod actionable bullet point. It's cultural change permeating the community, which is slow, and difficult, and not satisfying or easily measurable. I don't know how to emphasize this in any way other than to hold posters' feet to the fire, again and again, and us as a community all pitching in to make point out unacceptable comments and explain why they are unacceptable.

(Edit: and on a personal level, for each commenter to think more carefully about their own contributions and whether to contribute)
posted by naju at 4:26 PM on April 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


I don't know if this is something that folks who didn't want to participate in that thread would prefer as a general solution, but it seems easier to effect than the more nuanced observations from 23skidoo in this post. In general, I am skeptical of schemes that heighten the distinction between mods and members — I tend to favor things that are based on member-to-member interaction rather than mod power, so I definitely see the appeal (and support) the kind of suggestions outlined in this MeTa post — but this seems like something where pruning boughs rather than branches and twigs seems like it would help more.

I can't really argue with anything you wrote, but I don't think it needs to be an either/or. Like, ax threads like that? Sure, I can support that idea - it was a thin post and I know it must have sucked up a lot of mod resources. But the same types of comments pop up even in more in-depth posts related to cultural appropriation, so I think "ax thin posts related to cultural appropriation if needed" and "discourage specific types of comments in threads related to cultural appropriation" are both things that Metafilter can do without prioritizing one over the other.

(Also, if you're going to delete a thread like that? Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease take some time coming up with a mod deletion reason that isn't going to make POC feel even shittier than leaving that thread up.)
posted by 23skidoo at 4:29 PM on April 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


I think they should do some sensitivity training so they can tell what's racist and what's not? Maybe try some of the "how do I learn about racism" suggestions mentioned here? I mean.

That may be the case in general to get the moderation where it needs to be. In the short term though this can help with some stuff for sure. The flag that I needed to explain I mentioned earlier...the reason the mod didn't recognize the comment as sexism is because they didn't know the full name of a professional hockey player. I think that's the kind of thing an explanation with a flag can help with, it was a knowledge gap that had nothing at all to do with sensitivity to the issue.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:35 PM on April 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I mean, if the mods had jumped in earlier to curtail the derails or obliviousness, I can't actually imagine how that post would have actually led to a better discussion

Okay, I lied, I can disagree with this sentence. I think without those types of comments, the post would have gone slightly better. I still don't think it would be great, but I think that by discouraging/deleting comments that broadcast that the poster thinks cultural appropriation is an unserious topic, people who are willing to go into a thread like that and explain why Rage Yoga is harmful don't have to start their explanations after like 10 people have left crappy comments.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:43 PM on April 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


To add something to my comment that might reframe it a bit: I know it's tempting to shift the burden to the mods. It makes us feel better, because we're advocating for change (but not ourselves having to change.) Make no mistake, it IS shifting the burden. Don't let yourself forget: the burden is primarily on YOU - to be a better poster, to be more conscious and aware during discussions, to do your part in making others better posters. There are tools provided for you to do so, if you're willing to listen - plenty of excellent points and guidelines mentioned in these big threads. You just have to read, think, apply, and understand that the responsibility is incumbent on you, not others.
posted by naju at 4:45 PM on April 19, 2016 [19 favorites]


And the more I think about it, I think it would have nipped a couple of the crazy-making spirals in the bud. (Seriously, some of the deleted comments were INSANE.) While I'm glad that the mods have said they feel these kinds of comments are delete-worthy, my post was really a call for the membership to think about how these kinds of comments affect a thread. I really don't think that everyone who left comments like are unsaveable trolls: rather, I think lots of people who leave comments like that are just clueless folks who actually might avoid comments like that on their own after reading a thread like this.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:50 PM on April 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Joe, looks like the note option is coming

Oh, good!

The other thing is, I really do appreciate mods' notes about why they delete things. A deleted comment solves the immediate problem but it doesn't set a standard or provide any education to commentators. I presume that it's a lot more work at the time, but I think leaving more notes could pay off in the long term.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:14 PM on April 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Or a combination of both? Because I think the FPP was more or less fine - it was short, thin, and lulzy, but so are lots of FPPs. And we also don't axe many FPPs that feature people engaging in troubling or offensive activities. That the subject of the FPP causes me pain or is offensive to my identity is not necessarily evidence that the FPP is bad. "

Bit of both. That it's slight means there's not a lot of benefit; that it was basically a honeypot for oblivious, repetitive stuff that was pretty obviously causing pain means that the cost was at least significant.

"Maybe this one should've been deleted, but I don't know if there's a takeaway like "things like this should be deleted in the future." "

In general, the norm is to leave things once they've got a bit of discussion going. I think this is an edge case that can show the limits of that norm — the "conversation" was mostly (from where I sat) Errant being exasperated at having to explain the same thing over and over again, with the usual amount of MeFi straw man mixins (e.g. the whole "punishment" derail).

So rather than letting the norm of conversational momentum prevail, requiring active moderation to cut out the obvious shitty comments, why not delete it?

"I can't really argue with anything you wrote, but I don't think it needs to be an either/or."

I don't think it needs to be either/or either, just that the argument for prioritizing axing the post versus pruning the thread is that axing precludes pruning.

"Okay, I lied, I can disagree with this sentence. I think without those types of comments, the post would have gone slightly better. I still don't think it would be great, but I think that by discouraging/deleting comments that broadcast that the poster thinks cultural appropriation is an unserious topic, people who are willing to go into a thread like that and explain why Rage Yoga is harmful don't have to start their explanations after like 10 people have left crappy comments."

Fair enough. Instead of "better," I should have written "good enough." I think it may have gone better without the comment types that you mentioned, but it still would have been pretty thin and crappy and required both active moderation and a fair amount of work to get it to something decent, rather than starting with a better post to begin with.

"Make no mistake, it IS shifting the burden. Don't let yourself forget: the burden is primarily on YOU - to be a better poster, to be more conscious and aware during discussions, to do your part in making others better posters. There are tools provided for you to do so, if you're willing to listen - plenty of excellent points and guidelines mentioned in these big threads. You just have to read, think, apply, and understand that the responsibility is incumbent on you, not others."

Right, and in general, I support solutions like that. However, in this case, and in other, similar cases, the general rebuttal is that the solution of shifting the burden to the membership is too vague and hasn't been working sufficiently after posts like Conspire's earlier one, so some sort of increased mod action is necessary to address this. From there, rather than increasing that burden through active modding on yet another thread, which increases the burden substantially, deleting the post would have increased the burden only to one immediate decision, and I have a hard time believing that a MeTa requiring this level of mod engagement would have resulted from a deletion that said essentially, 'This post is too thin to deal with this topic, and repeated comment deletions are the best use of nobody's time.'

"I really don't think that everyone who left comments like are unsaveable trolls: rather, I think lots of people who leave comments like that are just clueless folks who actually might avoid comments on their own like that after reading a thread like this."

Yeah, I agree.
posted by klangklangston at 5:17 PM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Someday I really want to read a deep, beefy, nuanced conversation about cultural appropriation here on MeFi. I feel like I'm at the stage where I accept that cultural appropriation exists, accept that it causes harm, can refer to a few of the most textbook examples of it, and can spot it in the wild when I'm actively looking for it. That's pretty basic stuff obviously, but it's real progress compared to where I was at on this even six months back and I attribute most of that progress to reading threads on the subject over on the Blue. I would really like to learn more, but that's not going to happen (within the context of MetaFilter, I mean—obviously outside resources exist) if our resident experts keep having to defend the very existence of this phenomenon every time it comes up.

As someone who started out with zero knowledge of this subject and who has absorbed a lot of the 101-level information that people here have been so tirelessly repeating of late, I'm really interested to see what our community's experts have to say about this topic when they are given the conversational space to really dig into it and start getting into the subject in depth. It's a fucking shame that they aren't able to have those conversations here because of all the bozos who don't realize that they aren't the first person ever to say "but are you sure you aren't all just overreacting?" or "but is it really a big deal if the people doing the appropriating aren't doing it maliciously?" or "but without cultural appripriation there'd be no American Chinese food, so shouldn't we all just learn to love it?"

Do these same people come into threads about gravitational waves and argue that heliocentrism isn't really any more right than geocentrism because there are no privileged reference frames? Do they show up in threads on advances in Alzheimer's treatment and bore everyone by telling us at great length about how biology is all just applied chemistry when you get down to it? Do they appear in threads about cutting edge neuropsychological research and try to tell everyone that the whole field of psychology is a sham because Freud was kind of a crank? Would anyone give them the time of day if they did?

I get why we can't just ignore similar levels of boorishness in threads that concern identity issues—unlike the hypotheticals above, identity stuff is stuff that we all deal with every damn day just in the course of living, and for many of us it's a constant source of pain and aggravation. People have a need to challenge the racists and the boors, I'm not questioning that. But god dammit people, when will some of us realize that we are not fucking experts on every single topic ever, and that if we want to see interesting and enlightening discussions here on MeFi, we need to make room for the experts to talk about this stuff in depth? I've learned a lot about cultural appropriation already here, and I can't wait to see what else I'll learn when the people who have actual knowledge on the subject are given room to talk about it. Commenting is not the only valid way of doing MetaFilter! Reading is also a totally valid and often much more enlightening mode of participation! Seriously, really, try it sometime, it's great!

I fully support the idea that the mods should crack down a lot harder on boorishness in cultural appropriation threads, and in other identity issues threads where people insist on coming in every time and making everyone hash out the issue from first principles while rhetorically dragging their feet the whole way in the most predictable and melodramatic fashion possible. Deletions, time outs, bans, etc. Whatever needs to be done to make space for real conversations to happen, before the people here who are qualified to have those conversations all just totally give up on the whole endeavor. For my part I intend to flag more, contact more, and—where I feel confident that I'm qualified to do so—take up some of the work of calling out bullshit, doing 101-level explaining, re-railing conversations, and generally trying to create room for and lift some of the load from the people here who could be bringing us the deep and nuanced discussions that MeFi is so proud of if only they didn't have to expend all of their energy constantly reasserting their right to exist.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:24 PM on April 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


Fair enough. Instead of "better," I should have written "good enough." I think it may have gone better without the comment types that you mentioned, but it still would have been pretty thin and crappy and required both active moderation and a fair amount of work to get it to something decent, rather than starting with a better post to begin with.


I think there's a danger in saying "start with a better post", because it ends up neutering discussions about cultural appropriation except when the poster understands and intends the post to be connected to cultural appropriation, and I don't think that's a good thing. I don't think the thinness of the post caused the crappiness. The kimono post from 6 months ago was much less thin, and it still went to the same place the Rage Yoga thread went to.

I think I'm looking more for 1) a more civil (or less uncivil) discussion concerning Rage Yoga rather than 2) an actual "good enough" conversation about how Rage Yoga is connected to cultural appropriation, but we're never going to get to 2) if we don't work on 1).
posted by 23skidoo at 6:07 PM on April 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


For my part I intend to flag more, contact more, and—where I feel confident that I'm qualified to do so—take up some of the work of calling out bullshit, doing 101-level explaining, re-railing conversations, and generally trying to create room for and lift some of the load from the people here who could be bringing us the deep and nuanced discussions that MeFi is so proud of if only they didn't have to expend all of their energy constantly reasserting their right to exist.

Same, and parenthetically I wish it was an unofficial principle of Metafilter in general, regardless of the topic, that things not be litigated on first principles. It so rarely leads to a good conversation irrespective of the intent behind it.

I'm just slowly reading the beginning of the rage yoga thread and geez it's really bad. No chance of an interesting conversation with all the hurf durfing going on. I stand by my earlier comment re: dipshits.
posted by supercrayon at 8:27 PM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


[Krom Tatman, I'm not sure what your goal is here but please don't invoke cross-site weirdness... ironically? Passive-aggressively? I can't tell. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:57 PM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just hope the plans to do more deleting of FPPs does not become some variation of what Greg Nog described.

This thread basically asks the white members here who choose to actively participate in some subset of threads on the blue to show a hair more respect to people of color and let them find their voice or even have a voice here. And if we just start deleting stuff because "Oh, god, this is always a shit show" instead of clamping down on certain kinds of comments, then the racists don't need to learn and the people of color don't need to find their voice. The racists can potentially just happily threadshit out the gate and get the entire discussion of anything they don't like deleted.

I think that would be a really unfortunate outcome. It would amount to this MeTa, started by a person of color asking for a little support in finding his voice and being able to comfortably express himself here, could be an excuse to further silence people of color in the name of keeping the peace.

And that strikes me as "We can't be bothered to stop standing on your foot and we find it uncomfortable to have you keep asking us to move our foot a tad and merely squish fewer of your toes, so we just aren't going to have that conversation anymore. At all." And that strikes me as a much bigger problem than what we currently deal with, as well as a bigger problem than the work involved in actually trying to move the needle a hair on this one issue for this one forum for some small subset of discussions.
posted by Michele in California at 1:50 PM on April 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure if this is the right place for this, because it's more "identity issues" and less straight "cultural appropriation" so please delete if it's not, but: as a POC, one thing I would personally like to see is white posters not mocking or being dismissive of POC concerns about the danger they personally or their families may face. I'm seeing an uncomfortable amount of this in the election threads, when POC are talking about how they are concerned about what a Trump nomination or victory might mean for them personally in increased racism or violence. This could be my perception, but it feels like a majority-white group of posters can sometimes, perhaps with the best of intentions, get so caught up in fighting about the election that they are riding kind of roughshod over those voices.
posted by corb at 2:37 PM on April 20, 2016 [15 favorites]


I second that.
posted by zutalors! at 2:38 PM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hm, that's really disappointing. Are the comments in question still there, or were they deleted? I've been following the election threads pretty closely and hadn't noticed anything of the sort. Any examples of the problematic behavior we should be looking for and flagging?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:44 PM on April 20, 2016


I don't know if it's flaggable. I know that corb has raised concerns about Trump based on racist,violent rhetoric and people sort of downplay it like "well you know Cruz is worse and Trump is more liberal so I'm more scared of Cruz" etc etc, meanwhile there has been lots of violence aimed at PoC and women by the Trump campaign and supporters.

Even if it is totally illogical, I think a fear of escalated violence is understandable for PoC. And I don't think white people understand it in the same way.
posted by zutalors! at 2:50 PM on April 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


That sounds like it should be flaggable, though. I mean, anything is flaggable, the question is whether we would expect the mods to act on the flags. I would expect them to act on anything that's dismissive of a PoC's safety concerns, and if they aren't, that's some BS.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:54 PM on April 20, 2016


It's weird though because there aren't a lot of PoC, especially outside of PoC focused threads, so if you protest or flag or something maybe it's just you doing it, or one or two. So nothing happens. But then if you mention it more often, you get snark about saying it so many times, stuff gets deleted, you're bickering, etc.

And then I get memails that are like, wow thank you for saying something. So I dunno.
posted by zutalors! at 2:57 PM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've deleted some stuff in there that seemed to be dismissing the race-related dangers of Trump. Flag it and drop us a note when it's happening; thanks for bringing it up in here to put it more firmly on the radar.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:03 PM on April 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


It's weird though because there aren't a lot of PoC, especially outside of PoC focused threads, so if you protest or flag or something maybe it's just you doing it, or one or two.

Well yes, but some POC above said please help us by flagging offensive shit and/or email the mods about it, and I'm just trying to get an idea of what to look for. In that thread, nothing registered to me as insensitive to corb's experience as a POC, so I was wondering if some of the offensive stuff was already deleted, or if I just didn't notice it because I wasn't reading it the right way.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:03 PM on April 20, 2016


Sure, totally. Just wanted to let people know that yes, some was deleted, so some of what corb and zutalors are referring to may not be visible in there anymore. Some may remain, I haven't caught up in there today. In any case, it's good to be nudged about it in here and by people flagging.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:07 PM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, as a general rule if you're feeling like "this bothers me but I'm not sure about flagging it and/or contacting the mods", go ahead and flag it and/or contact the mods. Even if it's not something that turns out to be specifically actionable it'll help put/keep it more on our radar.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:14 PM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hey, corb and zutalors!, I apologize if I've contributed to that dynamic. I think part of it is just a failure to acknowledge that there are a lot of different levels of political engagement. So when a PoC says "I find Trump terrifying," they mean it in a more direct way than I, as a white person, do when I say that I find a candidate terrifying. So a PoC might say "I am terrified that people in my neighborhood voted for Trump," and two comments later I might say "Ted Cruz sure is scary," and I might be invalidating or trivializing their actual concern for their physical safety in a way that I'm not conscious that I'm doing. And I don't know that it's flaggable or if the mods are going to delete it, but it's probably worth making sure that white posters are aware that it's an issue.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:18 PM on April 20, 2016


Maybe the right place to draw the line is when someone goes beyond their own opinion of a candidate vs. statements like "you should find candidate X scary." The former is just someone stating their own opinion, the latter is sort of a condescending "I know what's better for you than you do" thing.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:23 PM on April 20, 2016


The problem comments I've deleted have been even more pointedly "how dare you treat Trump as a greater threat than Cruz. Cruz is clearly worse and you must not care about the people Cruz is a problem for."
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:25 PM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


yep. that sounds about right.
posted by zutalors! at 5:51 PM on April 20, 2016


I don't often say this, but I agree with corb. It's pretty condescending to tell people what they should and shouldn't be alarmed about. And it does happen in the election threads.

I don't know how to link to the Rachel Maddow show without hitting a paywall, but I want to mention one of her segments leading up to the NY primary. As background, she talked about Reagan kicking off his campaign in Philadelphia, MS, where Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney were murdered for their civil rights activism. She showed a clip of Reagan stating his allegiance to State's Rights on that spot. (And in the past I thought, "gee, maybe it's a coincidence that he started his campaign there, but I no longer believe that.) Then Maddow drew a parallel to racially motivated murders of Mexican Americans in a specific part of NY. And Trump making a campaign spot at a theater on that street. Then to really drive it home she showed a Trump-proxy and then The Donald himself getting the crowd to do a call and response: "What'll we do?" "Build a wall!" "Who's going to pay for it?" Mexico!" This was flat out scary. It was sneering and vengeful and twisted and hate-filled. And worse, it was really popular with the crowd.

The stuff about stopping remittances from workers to their families in Mexico unless Mexico pays for that wall suggests that the Trump campaign isn't interested in what policies are fair or even legal, but knows that if the policies are cruel, then angry and vindictive people will be excited by them.
posted by puddledork at 8:57 PM on April 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


Then Maddow drew a parallel to racially motivated murders of Mexican Americans in a specific part of NY. And Trump making a campaign spot at a theater on that street.

I don't want to take away from the larger point of this post, but as a measure of respect to Marcelo Lucero, who was murdered a few blocks away from the site of a Trump rally scheduled in Patchogue, Long Island, let's acknowledge that he was not Mexican-American.

Lucero was an immigrant from Ecuador who was killed by a group who admitted to targeting Hispanics for violent attacks, including two earlier on the day that Lucero was killed. It's a good thing to remember what happened to him, to condemn the insensitivity of the Trump campaign, and to do both those things with attention to the details of the incident.
posted by layceepee at 9:40 AM on April 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


Thanks for the correction. My Maddow show episodes vaporize off of my Apple box after 24 hours and I wasn't remembering the name of the man or the town.
posted by puddledork at 11:51 AM on April 21, 2016


I wasn't remembering the name of the man or the town.

Or his nationality. I wouldn't normally be this nitpicking, but lumping people under a label that doesn't even apply to them and then doing them real harm is a serious current problem.
posted by bardophile at 11:57 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Essay on MTV.com re: Justin Bieber's "Sorry" video. Discusses on overt and casual racism, their insidious effects and cultural appropriation. The Lonely Hurt Of Beautiful Things.
Being black, and thinking about race all the time, means that there’s a moment where you start to worry that you’re just making things up, imagining racial problems where none exist. So much of your personal and professional life, not to mention your sanity, depends on keeping a relatively smooth, relatively working relationship with whiteness. You fear lapsing into unchecked paranoia or, worse, a bitterness so perpetual that it makes it impossible for your heart to ever work properly. You want to be woke, but carefully so. Just on pure due diligence you have to question if what you think is subtle but persistent racism is really just your own deep-seated resentment, vulnerability, and hurt about past transgressions. You have to wonder if you’ve become your own unreliable narrator.

That’s a particularly fucked-up concern to have because as soon as you start to entertain it, you’ll notice that a whole lot of people around you are happy to confirm it for you. Especially if you’re on Twitter or other social media, or any forum where race is discussed publicly. It’s not the Confederate-flag racists you worry about. Those people are like horror movies: unsettling but relatively easy to dismiss. Proud racism is a simple and avoidable foe.

The ones you have to worry about are the self-congratulatory ones. The PBS documentaries of people, who don’t think they’re racist at all and are therefore qualified to offer their candid opinion on where you’re getting it wrong. “I don’t see the problem,” they might begin with, before a qualification that claims some imagined authority equal to a lived experience of blackness: “I have a black wife/friend/cousin” or “I was on a diversity coalition in college” or “My parents marched with Dr. King.” And then finally, having established their credentials, they come with the dismissal: “… and I don’t think there’s a problem here. This is not about race. You’re reading into things.” It’s a sadly predictable pattern. Some part of you really wishes they were right.

posted by zarq at 6:16 AM on April 22, 2016 [22 favorites]


I'm a minority POC and the idea that there is a "correct" set of views of cultural appropriation that everyone must acknowledge and absorb and accept (and if they don't, they should shut up ) or that we must always treat minority group people's opinions and feelings with kid gloves makes it me really really uncomfortable and worried. And I'm also disturbed by the simplistic idea that there is a general POC view that all POCs have.

If a thread's discussion is getting derailed (e.g. people not talking about rage yoga but talking about cultural appropriation in general instead) or people are being uncivil or trolling - sure, I support giving warnings, deleting comments etc. But please, I hope there will be no official preemptive guidance about how people are expected to think and respond in relation to issues like cultural appropriation....
posted by Bwithh at 10:37 AM on April 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


But please, I hope there will be no official preemptive guidance about how people are expected to think and respond in relation to issues like cultural appropriation....

I don't think there's been any suggestion of this in this thread. I think lots of people may be worried that some people in this thread might want that, but no one's suggested anything like that. Think whatever you want, as long as you can come up with a non-deraily, civil way to express it.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:07 PM on April 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


I don't think there's been any suggestion of this in this thread.

And just pre-emptively: We're over 850 comments, and while I've read them all, it's hard to remember them all, so someone might have suggested something like that. But it's not the point of the thread, and it's not the overall theme of the thread, and it's not really something that anyone needs to worry about, in my opinion.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:17 PM on April 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


The podcast I had suggested was for diverse voices, not just of people of colour. And my suggestion wasn't them telling anybody what to do or say, but just for other members to hear their take on things on the green blue and grey of people from different perspectives-not just Josh and Jessamyn (who I adore, but they don't share many characteristics or life experiences as someone like my husband- a person of colour refugee, nor with my family member with complex health issues, nor me as a non American, nor my blind friend, nor my queer friend in a poly relationship- all members here or lurkers ) . I wasn't a fan of the committee idea because I think it wouldn't recognise the real life intersections people live nor give time , space, or recognition of the diversity of life experiences represented in the membership. / end of clarification.
posted by taff at 3:07 PM on April 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you wanted to hear stories of diversity from Mefites, why not just read and appreciate the comments made by POC Mefites across the site? Or read/listen/watch all the other content out there about diversity? What can a podcast specifically add to the understanding of diversity here especially given the amount of work it requires?
posted by divabat at 4:39 PM on April 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


My suggestion, which appears everyone has resolutely decided against, was so they were not overwhelmed by majority voices. The beginning of this thread was discussing how diverse voices were shut down here and everywhere. I do read the opinions of people from diverse backgrounds (when they identify their diversity, but not because). Well, I read every voice in threads that interest me/I have time to read. The podcast is a derail at this stage but I wanted to clarify. I apologise for raising it and for asking if it's something you'd be interested in. Australia has SBS tv and radio and NITV and community/student radio stations run by volunteers and they're often pretty great. I enjoy them and so does my husband.

Some people like to make podcasts because that interests them. I thought it might interest a few mefites (including you) and was hoping to find a way to get them paid something for their time and as a mark of respect for their effort and nice to put on a resume. I wasn't demanding excellent production values or hours of effort. (Have you listened to the mefi podcast?! It probably takes longer to record than to prepare/produce. And it's brilliant. )

The mefites that Im friends with are pretty diverse in their diversity and the idea of another bunch of majority voices making a mefi podcast nauseated me.

Anyhoo, please forget about it. I'm disappointed that suggesting it hurt and angered people and regret that. It was never going to be my project, I just offered assistance if no one else wanted to do it. Sincere apologies to the original poster. I promise I'm out of this thread. I won't raise the podcast again.
posted by taff at 5:44 PM on April 23, 2016


Thank you for shutting down clawsoon's axe-grindy cultural appropriation derail in the Ruggadah thread on Friday.
posted by zarq at 5:25 AM on April 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


It seemed like an interesting question after another user brought up the topic, zarq, though I guess I'm not the right person to create an insightful conversation about it. Errant's explanation about cultural appropriation and quality got me thinking, which is always a dangerous thing to do out loud.

(I'm still interested in hearing answers to my question in that thread, though MeMail might be a better venue.)
posted by clawsoon at 5:45 PM on April 24, 2016


It seemed like an interesting question after another user brought up the topic, zarq

Sure, you're Just Asking Questions. *eyeroll*
posted by zarq at 9:52 PM on April 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


I did not see clawsoon's comment but am legit confused -was it that cultural appropriation got brought up or was there more? I am not Jewish, though my stepmother was, and when I just went to the thread it seemed kind of wtf and not cool to me. If I had been in the thread, I might have wanted to post something upset, but also I know zarq is Jewish and I thiiiink one or two of the posters liking it were too, so maybe even if my conservative stepmom would have had apoplexy it's not necessarily insulting or maybe I just don't know? I could use more explanation of that delete or maybe context.
posted by corb at 5:48 AM on April 25, 2016


corb: the OP of that post is Jewish too
posted by Jacqueline at 5:57 AM on April 25, 2016


(I'm still interested in hearing answers to my question in that thread, though MeMail might be a better venue.)

I'm completely UNinterested in hearing answers to your question that was deleted and described as a jerkish derail. Seriously, we have a whole section of the site called AskMetafilter. If you have an actual good-faith question that you need answers to, you can do it there.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:00 AM on April 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


Context:

A number of the people commenting in the thread are Jewish. The OP is Jewish. And without knowing if the person who has been creating the tumblr for the last three years is Jewish or not, there's no way to even know if this is cultural appropriation in the first place.

Cultural appropriation of Judaism is an actual thing in the real world. It isn't an abstract concept.

Clawsoon made a couple of comments referring to the tumblr's content as cultural appropriation and then left a final one saying something along the lines of "I'm not even sure whose culture is being appropriated here."

After this long meta, he's continuing to treat the concept as an intellectual exercise. I'm glad his comments were deleted.
posted by zarq at 7:32 AM on April 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


[This thread is talking about how we talk about cultural appropriation. Please don't try to relitigate specific cultural appropriation arguments from other threads, especially if they were deleted in that thread.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:14 AM on April 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


jumping in and jumping out:

fwiw, the creator of that tumblr thing is jewish, has been doing it for years, and is also queer.
posted by qcubed at 9:10 AM on April 25, 2016 [14 favorites]


Thanks for shutting that shit down!
posted by griphus at 9:23 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Qcubed, thank you for that. Good to know.
posted by zarq at 10:46 AM on April 25, 2016


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