Let's Talk About Race (baby) June 12, 2020 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Since Cortex has requested we not bring these concerns into other existing Metas, I thought it would be a good time to introduce a dedicated Meta on the State of the Site vis a vis racism and general improvements in the POC-member experience.

Some background. I am focusing on the through-line of the anti-bias training because it is a small, concrete action that has been promised and is easy to assess whether it's been completed. But I want to be clear that I don't think the training is the most important or effective way to improve Metafilter site culture, and I don’t want this post to be limited to discussing it.

In June of last year, we had a Meta that started as a discussion of post deletion policies, and ended in a discussion of how POC members felt there was an ongoing pattern of unthinking bias in Metafilter's moderation. The idea of some anti-bias training for the mods as a first, initial step towards improving the site culture was brought up, and Cortex agreed it was a good idea.

The Outragefilter Meta prompted the first POC Meta, in which there was a lot of support for anti-bias training to form part of the toolkit in improving MeFi culture, as well as general discussion of MeFi failings around race.

In July, Cortex posted two updates with more detailed plans to improve the site:

The planned immediate actions were:
1. Improving mod communication and procedures
2. Creating ongoing PoC-centric spaces on the site
3. Outside consulting for the mod team

The longer term actions were:
1. Diversifying the mod team
2. Resetting community expectations, asking white/dominant-group members to change behavior, and providing social justice resources
3. Updating and supplementing the site's documentation
4. Documenting the specifics of moderation practice
5. Limited resources and political megathreads - this was around balancing resources between megathreads and other important elements. The megathreads have since been closed so this has been addressed.

As part of the State of the Site adjustments, some updated language was added to site documentation.

Then in October, nightrecordings initiated a Meta asking about policy change to how push back comments in response to racism are moderated. As part of the subsequent discussion of updated moderator praxis, LobsterMitten gave the update that while they hadn't yet scheduled that initial anti-bias training, they were actively working on it. This Meta ended pretty contentiously (as do most of those linked), but with the promise from Cortex that he would work through and consider the many suggestions for adjustments to moderating habits that members had made.

This Meta in January was a snapshot at how those policy changes had been implemented. It ended in a pretty unresolved space, with a lot of dissatisfaction by POC members on how moderation appeared to be evolving.

In February, meaty shoe puppet made a couple of attempts to get an update on the status of the moderator anti-bias training. His original Meta wasn't posted, but a locked post which incorporated the anti-bias news (still being scheduled) into a general site update was. The explanation for disallowing comments was to "offer status updates or informational announcements about things-in-process without a resource-intensive Metatalk thread being a required corollary." Interestingly no subsequent Metas have had locked comments, including those simply giving information about the server migration. I don't think I am alone in saying that locking comments on this update and no others left a bad taste in my mouth.

All of which brings me to this post. meaty shoe puppet's most recent ask for an update was met with a request that we not bring these questions to unrelated threads. So here is a related thread. I am interested in the following questions, but I'm sure other members have related ones that would be valuable to discuss:

1. Has the anti-bias training promised a year ago happened? What did it consist of? What conclusions did the mod team take out of it?
2. Eyebrows McGee mentioned going through her own training with an anti-racism educator. What did that training consist of or what were the results?
3. Have the other long and short term site changes been implemented? How? How does the mod team feel about the resulting impact of those changes?
4. What are the current moderation policies around racism on site? Is there proactive analysis of questionable comments and support of responses to those comments by moderators? Or are we still relying on a "user flags -> mod deletes -> no follow up discussion allowed" structure?
5. How do Mefites feel about the current State of the Site? Are you comfortable here? Do you feel that you've seen a decrease in the number of micro or full blown aggressions you've been exposed to since last June? Increase? Stayed the same? What would you like to change or improve about the site culture?

Note: I know that there are a lot of other marginalized identities that Metafilter does not always "do well." I would love to see more discussions on those as well but I would prefer to keep this thread focused on race related issues only.
posted by arabidopsis to MetaFilter-Related at 12:23 PM (327 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble



First of all, I want to apologize for the limited updates on this stuff the last few months. It's been a really complicated 2020 so far, but both despite and because of that I want us to find our way to more consistently providing updates and that's something we need to work on. I know it's a source of frustration and I'm sorry about that.

The bulk of what I've written below is stuff that I had intended to collate into a post on MetaTalk some time in the last couple weeks; it'd have been better if I'd gotten that up sooner rather than later, and that's of a piece with the above issues with delaying and worrying about the details instead of just putting stuff out there. I appreciate the nudge from arabidopsis on this and the structured timeline of this post.



So: we've done a couple of direct group video sessions with the anti-racism & anti-oppression consultant we've been working with, in February and March, with followups late this month and TBD as the year progresses and we figure out scheduling. We'd done some discussion and interviews and resource sharing with them in the months prior to that but between their travel and some logistical disasters we had to push the actual sessions a few times from the original plans for fall 2019.

We were really hesitant to say "it's gonna happen soon" without an actual firm date underway and had gotten shy about making promises there after having to reschedule a couple times. We got locked up in overthinking that and under-communicated as a result, which sucks and I'm sorry about that. We have been letting the perfect be the enemy of the good too much with updates and we need to shift that habit.

The work we've done with consultant has included first making sure we were all up to speed on anti-racism and anti-oppression basics and language, and then extending that to looking at the specifics of MeFi's structure, history, moderation practices, community needs, and existing concerns and frustrations within the community especially among our members of color. We've talked about a lot of the stuff that came up in last summer's MetaTalk discussions and the discussions since, and tried to dig in on where the moderation team and the broader MeFi community can rework old assumptions and patterns to more actively support an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, affirmatively social justice oriented approach.

We've talked a bunch about inclusivity and representation, and about the challenges involved in making space for a variety of marginalized voices and international voices and deemphasizing the structural whiteness and systemic racism that comes from having US white cultural defaults as the majority basis of MeFi's user background. We've gone over ways we can try to reckon with the impact of MeFi's historically white mod team and to mitigate that.

A couple things they've underlined as key: improving representation on the team itself, and finding ways to bring folks in the community in general into a place of more consistently feeling included and empowered in site discussions and community self-direction. The first we've happily been able to make progress on with the recent hire of two new mods, both people of color with international backgrounds; the latter is something I want to put more work into in the next couple months and would love to talk about more.

And one of the main takeaways we've gotten from the consultant is: there won't be any "great, we're done" outcomes of this. Which isn't surprising to anyone I don't think, but I want to reiterate that and echo what a lot of folks had said in discussions last summer and what arabidopsis averred above: this training is good and helpful and we're getting useful stuff out of it, but it's not The Answer To Everything and it's not something that will have some straightforward end state. This is one part of the work, that's gonna be ongoing for as long as we're doing this work.

I'm looking forward to our next followup session which we've got scheduled for the end of this month, to come back around to some of the stuff we've been doing in the mean time and to get the new mods involved in those discussions as well.

EM arranged to work independently with an anti-racism educator back in November to talk through the MetaTalk thread that had been mentioned and some of the surrounding site context, and got some insight on where her intention and her impact fell apart there. I talked with her some after that, about strategies for avoiding creating that kind of situation in the future and taking greater care with conversational participation on subjects where the gap between user voice and mod voice had the potential to cause people hurt or frustration, and we've been checking in since then about how that's going.

I've also had some lengthy one-on-one discussions with a few folks from the MetaFilter community over the last several months, about a mix of this stuff and general community facilitation possibilities and getting folks more engaged in community self-direction stuff. No specific bullet points from those but really helpful as far as giving me additional perspective outside my own head on things we can try. Hoping to followup with those folks time permitting.



Other short- and long-term changes:

- We started making some immediate changes to some mod language and focused on adding more context to moderation notes and more frequently reaching out to individual users in cases of complicated post/comment/deletion situations vs. traditionally waiting for folks to come to us. I think this has borne out pretty well on average in terms of more and clearer communication within threads. Something we'll continue to tune as we go.

- PoC-centric spaces on the site: we hands-off facilitated folks having a series of PoC-only MetaTalk threads last year, and have been putting more active emphasis on having folks in threads on the blue be thoughtful and/or basically hush up where the topic of the thread is PoC or marginalized group issues, to try and keep more space for folks with a stake in the topic vs. random "well I'm white and I've got an opinion" interjections that have often been a frustration in the past.

Folks on the site also independently organized an off-site PoC slack as a more private, self-organizing discussion space for stuff. I'd like to do more work with people on the site to figure out how to support and liaise with that where it'd be helpful, but obviously that's ultimately a self-determining thing and not something I should make a call on.

- Rewriting the guidelines and adding the microaggressions page last fall was a good start. It was a pretty major undertaking in terms of putting a far more visible and explicit emphasis on the site's expectations from and for the community and outlining explicitly a lot of the concerns users had previous expressed and the mod team had been taking action on tacitly prior to that point. It has felt good to be able to refer people explicitly to documentation of much of this stuff during mod communication since then.

But from discussion both at the time and some further thoughts I got from some of the folks during the interview process and direct discussion with MeFites there's a slate of changes and additions we'd like to make to those.

One major point that came up at the time and folks have reiterated since is the need to revisit the voice and framing of the microaggressions document especially to have it be less of a "you, the cishet white person reading this" thing. There's an aspect of needing that somewhere in how we talk about guidelines on the site—like, it's genuinely an issue here—but it feels important to separate that out as it's own thing. Because more we want to be communicating most of the guidelines and microaggression stuff more from an inclusive position of "this is what you shouldn't have to deal with, these are the expectations you can have about this place" rather than the exclusive in-group addressing-the-white-majority feel it breaks toward now.

Both of the new mods have expressed interest in tackling some of this, and loup in particular has some history doing guidelines work for other online entities; it's something I'm hoping we can dig in on in earnest in the next month or so as we move out of the fairly intense training mode we've been in the last couple weeks.

- We've done some initial collating of resources on anti-racism and social justice in addition to what's in the guidelines docs, but haven't gotten them put together in a thorough way and made them a permanent fixture on the site. That's another thing I'm hoping to turn to in the next month and the new mods have been enthusiastic about helping with, and something I'd like to make a living community document out of as we get it in place.

- Documenting moderator practice has been more of a challenge than we'd hoped. We revisited some of that in the prep for hiring—the new mods have had access to a 19-page training manual originally written by jessamyn in the early 2010s and revised a couple time since, and it's clear that that is both a lot of info and not remotely thorough. So we've been trying to take the prospect of training as a way to look at possible new documentation as well. We'll see what comes out of the training process and revisit.

- As noted, we decommissioned the US politics megathreads last summer, which freed up a lot of mod headspace for focusing on other issues on the site. The surge of headaches from the US dem primary season and then the rise of COVID have eaten up some of the gains there at times, but we're still better off in general in terms of mod resources than we were. Bringing new mods on will also open up our schedule a little; I'll be able to set aside more time for doing non-active-moderation work which I hope will help with more consistent communication and progress on stuff.



Current moderation practices around racism and anti-racism:

- We've continued with the changes made in the short term last summer in mod practice:
-- aiming for more, and more thorough, mod notes in threads that need attention or steering
-- intervening sooner and more explicitly in threads where borderline or trope-ish or microaggressive stuff is burbling up
-- explicitly warning and/or banning folks who have shown repeated guidelines-violating behavior, vs. a more passive watch-and-see approach
-- being detailed in mod notes about deletions etc. to clarify not just that deletion happened but what, and why, and reiterating the site guidelines more explicitly
-- analyzing grey area comments and posts and trying to affirmatively make room for stuff that in the older style might be deleted on neutral principle but would be better left up and accommodated
-- reaching out more frequently to folks to talk about editing or reframing posts/comments/replies that have substantial value but have some problematic element that previously might have just been a deletion without further discussion
-- much more actively assessing chains of replies to deleted comments and opting to leave in substantial replies even when the original is deleted

We continue to rely on flags and contact form messages a lot for becoming aware of things that need attention. It makes a huge difference in being able to promptly assess and take action on a situation, so thanks as always to folks doing that and please consider doing it when you see something that needs an eyeball.

But we're trying to more actively watch some threads that previously would have been more in the "if someone flags it we'll see there's a problem" zone. We built a new mod tool earlier this year (well, frimble built it) called the Radar to help better centralize and collate threads that may need attention in a place where all mods can see it together, and that's been helping improve shift-to-shift awareness of what's going on on the site. (Think of it as a shared, admin-only Recent Activity with some extra mod-relevant details.)

I continue to want folks to try and aim metacommentary stuff more for MetaTalk than in-thread, but we've been trying to be a little more loose with accommodating small bits of that within the moment in threads where it feels like it's gonna be constructive to the thread and future discussions.



There's a bunch of other stuff I'd like to get into but this is already a novel so I'm gonna leave it at just trying to answer the stuff you specifically mentioned in the post, and let other folks discuss stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:24 PM on June 12 [30 favorites]


well, for one, apologizing for linking us directly to two twitter accounts that harass you and other people on this site would be a good start.

Let me plainly state: I don't think those twitter shitheels are the PoC slack's responsibility and I haven't meant to link them to y'all in any way, and I apologize for implying as much. They are clearly, among other things, pretty actively trying to foment their harassing and doxxing horseshit based on discussions both on the site and off about PoC issues, and that's fucked up and incredibly frustrating to deal with. It's a tremendously fucked up quality-of-life issue for both the mods and for other folks on the site they've gone after.

But that's them, and not as far as I have any idea anyone involved in the PoC slack and I want to keep those two things clearly separate. I'm sorry for failing to do that, it wasn't my intention in any of my previous comments about it.

That slack has all existed since well before the June thread I started this timeline with so I’m not really sure why it’s being held up as part of the mod response to the last year?

Sorry, that's just me completely getting the timing backward. I think I was conflating the movement of discussion from the onsite PoC metatalk threads toward the slack with the timing of the slack's creation and didn't double-check my internal timeline. My error.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:39 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


(And yeah, not in any way part of the mod response in any case. Just meant to capture some of what had gone on more generally in terms of PoC-centric spaces related to MeFi.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:40 PM on June 12


Sorry, that's just me completely getting the timing backward. I think I was conflating the movement of discussion from the onsite PoC metatalk threads toward the slack with the timing of the slack's creation and didn't double-check my internal timeline. My error.

There's something really revisionist about this. Let's be clear here: the PoC slack is purely driven by PoC labor, with no contributions or input from the site itself whatsoever. And while you seem to acknowledge this component at least, you don't seem to acknowledge that the site was, for a time, antagonistic towards the slack. You chose to consider us as troublemakers, and suggested that the slack was harboring and fostering off-site harassment against the moderation team here. To me, this was clearly racially motivated - why would you choose to associate this image with a group of people of color, while similar initiatives and spaces that weren't focused on race - most notably, PoFi - didn't get the same treatment? My only explanation is that we had a number of members who were vocal about race, and you were not able to distinguish, at least on a subconscious level, valid criticism, concerns, and accountability-holding on racism from general, unreasonable gripes about the site and its leadership.

So now it's become more clear that the slack is a positive space, and that we've worked towards positive initiatives in the community. And all of a sudden, your previous biases and hostility against this group of PoC have been erased. Very weird how that happens, doesn't it? To me, this is one of the fucked up component about white people who see themselves as allies - as soon as the needle shifts, they rewrite their participation so that they can think of themselves as always having been progressive, always having been the ally.

Like, no, Becky, if you went back in time, you would not have been taking a bullet for MLK - you would have been part of the white mob yelling at him. I think more white people should make peace with that.
posted by Conspire at 12:58 PM on June 12 [26 favorites]


You chose to consider us as troublemakers, and suggested that the slack was harboring and fostering off-site harassment against the moderation team here. To me, this was clearly racially motivated - why would you choose to associate this image with a group of people of color, while similar initiatives and spaces that weren't focused on race - most notably, PoFi - didn't get the same treatment?

I've talked directly with the PoFi folks about concerns about offsite harassment having a toehold over there; I've seen more specific points of bad op-sec concern there than anything about the PoC slack and my primary concern in all of it is that a couple of sociopaths not directly associated with or welcome in either slack have been trying to invade private discussions directly or indirectly to be awful to and harm people.

Again, I'm sorry for any direct implication that the PoC slack was involved in that. I don't think that's the case, I think the twitter shitheels are exploitative shitheels trying to work whatever angle they can to get attention and that's not on you or your responsibility.

And I don't think you're troublemakers, I think you're doing a self-organizing thing that is totally valid and something that as a white dude it hasn't been my place to try and involve myself in. I've got frustrations sometimes about wishing stuff could be communicated more directly on and with the site vs. coming from offsite stuff, but that's just frustrations and it's something I'm trying to be really mindful about keeping in scope. Because I know there's plenty of good reasons to prefer to have an offsite discussion sometimes, and I think it makes sense to try and support that and intend to continue doing so.

I'm sorry for expressing distrust or hostility toward the PoC slack. It's not how I feel, but how I feel and how I communicate aren't always the same and I believe you that it's had that impact. I know I've done a shit job sometimes of communicating during stressful conversations on the site, and that's my fault and something I have been personally trying to find better personal boundaries on. My shitty day doesn't need to be everybody else's shitty day. My stress doesn't need to manifest as a conflict with the folks in the PoC slack. And whatever I've fucked up there in the past, that's my fault and I apologize for it. My priority at this point is finding a way to be supportive and help y'all feel included in the process of this place getting better over time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:13 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


the site was, for a time, antagonistic towards the slack

I'm not going to even request a citation because that's on me to have noticed or, if I want, to dig up since I don't do the Slack-chat things. But.. I would like to know more about this behavior and/or subsequent feelings because that's troubling to me. Cortex seems to be owning his responsibility around *something*, be it actions, perceptions, consequences, or otherwise, and I appreciate the candor there but knowing more would help.

It's just that my take, as someone whose only real interaction with an Mefi-spinoff/related site is MefightClub, is that Metafilter's official(ish) view on spinoff sites was basically "Cool, y'all go have fun."

It's possible, likely even, that I'm missing some subtext or nuance here but I'd hope the PoC slack would get the same, or better but that's not what I'm referencing as problematic, treatment.

I appreciate the efforts the site has taken thus far. I also knew that there would never be an 'end' to this conundrum because it's a mushy/not hard and fast thing and communication is hard. However, another mushy thing is pudding. Like a lot of other things that aren't tangible but need to work, the proof of all this effort and change will be in that particular pudding and we'll either see it or not. I hope we do.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:46 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


The explanation for disallowing comments was to "offer status updates or informational announcements about things-in-process without a resource-intensive Metatalk thread being a required corollary." Interestingly no subsequent Metas have had locked comments... I don't think I am alone in saying that locking comments on this update and no others left a bad taste in my mouth.

A longer quote is

"About the closed comments - this is something we're trying out, to offer status updates or informational announcements about things-in-process without a resource-intensive Metatalk thread being a required corollary."

The way I read it: they tried it out once, and may experimentally do it again when sharing work-in-progress status updates, especially while mod resources are exceptionally low. I'm sure you're not alone in how locking comments on only that one update left a bad taste in your mouth, but I think it was fine, and maybe even something they should do more often when sharing news about the antiracism work if it helps them communicate in-progress work more frequently.
posted by brainwane at 2:04 PM on June 12


I wanted to comment on this and also offer a suggestion:
"About the closed comments - this is something we're trying out, to offer status updates or informational announcements about things-in-process without a resource-intensive Metatalk thread being a required corollary."

People have an expectation that threads on metatalk are for commenting (talk is part of the name after all), so an announcement with closed comments is inevitably going to cause some pushback. You already have a sidebar with links in metatalk. Why not put links to announcements there in the sidebar - the server move is the kind of thing I'm thinking of as an example - rather than making a metatalk post about them (announcements.metafilter.com ?). If you want to make a quick notification, you could put something there, and if it is warranted, you can indicate that there will be a metatalk post to follow with more details. Think bulletin board, rather than discussion board.
posted by gudrun at 2:33 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


You already have a sidebar with links in metatalk. Why not put links to announcements there in the sidebar

There are a lot of us that don't consume MetaFilter content directly on the website itself, and would never see stuff like that. (I didn't even know there was a sidebar until you just said it and I went and looked.)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:50 PM on June 12 [7 favorites]


The way I read it: they tried it out once, and may experimentally do it again when sharing work-in-progress status updates, especially while mod resources are exceptionally low. I'm sure you're not alone in how locking comments on only that one update left a bad taste in your mouth, but I think it was fine, and maybe even something they should do more often when sharing news about the antiracism work if it helps them communicate in-progress work more frequently.

I don't think it was fine because it dogwhistles that we're particularly difficult/challenging and/or that our concerns have less benefit to outweigh the relevant cost.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:23 PM on June 12 [12 favorites]


The framing of some of these mod comments come across, to me, as if the mods are claiming the POC off site stuff as a credit to them instead of being formed as a result of the mods racist actions at the time.

Again I want to be clear that's absolutely not my intention. I fucked up the order of events as far as last summer's discussions vs. the PoC slack starting up and that's just a bald "time has lost all meaning" sort of timeline error on my part. But in any case there's no sense on the mod team that that offsite stuff was our doing or something we are owed credit for; it's just part of what is happening in the greater sense of PoC-centric stuff related to the community.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:51 PM on June 12


I don't think it was fine because it dogwhistles that we're particularly difficult/challenging and/or that our concerns have less benefit to outweigh the relevant cost.

I think what we should have done at the time is just gone ahead and shared more details about the pending progress of the training stuff. The whole mod staff had a bunch of shit going on, it was bad timing with travel and family illness stuff, and we got overwhelmed and overthought it and I wish we had broken towards just having a thread about it instead given that it ended up leaving people feeling dismissed or put off. I'm sorry about that; we should have handled it better.

To put it in context, that wasn't the only time we've done a closed comments thread; I'd done it a couple times in the previous months, specifically for financial updates, and in those cases as in that later one the main thing was trying to manage stress levels about the overall difficulty and anxiety associated with sprawling going-everywhere site discussions about hard stuff, not about e.g. PoC-centric stuff in general. The very long, very fraught whole-community stuff from MetaTalk last summer coincided with and contributed to some pretty acute anxiety stuff for me which I'm still trying to get a handle on, and that wasn't about any particular cohort on the site being difficult; it's about me, and the team more generally, having trouble functioning under what got to sometimes be an essentially traumatic level of overall intensity and ill feeling when those discussions really got heated. That's not because anyone in particular was being difficult, it was just a collectively overwhelming experience during a particularly intense period of site discussion. I'm trying to work on that and to find ways to approach MetaTalk discussions, even potentially very difficult ones, with a more constructive and optimistic mindset.

But I think the echoes of that fed a little too much into our thinking in February, along with just some sheer shitty timing with personal life stuff that no one on the site would have had a reason to be worrying about. I wish we had instead just let there be a thread and hoped for the best, instead of worrying about worst outcomes, and I appreciate meaty shoe puppet et al's frustration with the strained way that all went down in February. It's something I'm trying to change my expectations about going forward, because I'd much rather say "hey, yeah, let's talk about this" in MetaTalk than get wrapped up in an anxiety spiral about how badly things might go and put stuff off again and again.

As far as closed-comments threads: I expect to keep doing that with periodic financial updates as before (and I'm overdue for one of those), though I don't know that we'll be likely to do it with most other stuff including updates on things like anti-racism work. I'd like to sort out a more formal announcement-style post for no-comments stuff in the long run in any case, to set those apart a little more clearly from normal MetaTalks and make those situations a little less jarring feeling.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:10 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


These generally seem like all good things. Thanks for this update.

Let me plainly state: I don't think those twitter shitheels are the PoC slack's responsibility and I haven't meant to link them to y'all in any way, and I apologize for implying as much.

Speaking for myself only, I appreciate that, and I’m glad we’re past whatever miscommunication this was.

Folks on the site also independently organized an off-site PoC slack as a more private, self-organizing discussion space for stuff. I'd like to do more work with people on the site to figure out how to support and liaise with that where it'd be helpful, but obviously that's ultimately a self-determining thing and not something I should make a call on.

Look, if you want to talk, I feel like enough of the people from the POC slack have self-identified that you know who to talk to. Feel free to reach out to me, if you like.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:47 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


May I propose that we avoid discussion in this thread of individual mental health issues?

It's not my place to comment on those. There can be no appropriate response except, "I'm sorry to hear that you're having a hard time. I hope you are getting appropriate treatment for your illness."

Of course, sometimes mental health issues affect one's professional responsibilities. The way I've usually seen that handled is in as any other triage:

1. Assess one's obligations and capabilities.
2. Make plans to do what can be done.
3. Communicate to stakeholders the following:

3.a. severity and duration of any client-facing impact
3.b. mitigations in progress and their expected impact
3.c. schedule of further updates

I'm sorry to hear that you're having a hard time. I hope you are getting appropriate treatment for your illness.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:37 AM on June 13 [20 favorites]


For what it is worth – and although Cortex could possibly perceive this as me piling on, I instead mean it as a demonstration of the behavior not being related to the subject of race – in the past (and even before COVID), following closed-comments posts, I had on several occasions tried to engage with Cortex, including writing one or two MetaTalk posts that were then deleted, as to follow-up on some of the large-scale "seeking suggestions for site survival" posts.

My concern (at the time, and still) was that by choosing to continue to ignore the ideas in those threads, and to continue to altogether abstain from any crossposting to popular social media, the site's growth would remain stunted and funding would continue to stay problematic and would continue to rely on emergency fundraising drives.

The reason I bring it up here is only for this purpose: that the discussion basically also had the same structure/pattern that is described for some of the subjects being discussed here now. By this I am not equating the importances of the subjects; I am simply trying to say that (I believe) how Cortex responded above was not a result of the subject matter.

I don't think the response pattern in either case was ideal, but I also have been working with enough people lately to know that it is a rare human being right now who is responding to things ideally.
posted by WCityMike at 3:08 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Cortex - I just want to acknowledge and validate that thinking about and encountering racism every day is incredibly anxiety producing. Coming into work and being confronted with it with no break is exhausting. Figuring out how to educate and work on the inherent biases and racist attitudes of your coworkers and seeking appropriate resources to do that is mentally draining. Especially when you are dealing with it on top of all the rest of your work duties. What you've been dealing with for a year is what POC go through starting in school and for the most part it doesn't let up when you enter the workforce unless you work for yourself or something. And even then, it largely doesn't end it just gets worse.

You run one of the premier advice sites on the internet. AskMe has been invaluable for people working through how to manage anxiety and balance mental health with work. In all sincerity, you have a literal wealth and abundance of resources and direct offers of help. Many many people have offered free or reduced rate services. Ask some anon questions about how to manage anxiety regarding this. Take people up on their offers of help.

Reiterating over and over how it's hard and it's always a "bad time" *in this very thread* - Dude. It's been a year. And, by the way, the MetaPOC slack has been around since before the current president. It came about after the 2016 Rage Yoga thread and associated Metatalk. That is 4 years and 2 months ago.

In other words, although you agreed to anti-bias training a year ago, it took you three to get to the point where you were willing to admit that the racism on the site wasn't going to just magically go away. I mean, and that's arbitrarily starting the clock from when the MetaPOC Slack was created, which is generous because that slack wouldn't have started if there wasn't already massive frustration with that lack of movement on how things are dealt with here.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:20 PM on June 13 [47 favorites]


Also - it would be greatly helpful to share that 19 page document you used to train the mods. Knowing what the actual moderation guidelines are has been a recurring question in many of the threads centered around race.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:02 PM on June 13 [17 favorites]


I am always uneasy when I see a mod note about a "nuclear" style deletion, the kind where the mod note is, strongly, "this is not okay." I'm left feeling happy I didn't see it but kind of sick that I don't know who said something so awful it was immediately deleted, I don't know what what was said, I don't know if the mods had a conversation with them or not, and I can't help worrying I am interacting with that person elsewhere on the site in a positive manner, completely oblivious to their poor behavior or outright racist, sexist, or transphobic comments. I prefer moderation that has "username, that comment is unacceptable" at the root, so those who don't see the comment at least know who said it.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:11 PM on June 13 [30 favorites]


I can't help worrying I am interacting with that person elsewhere on the site in a positive manner, completely oblivious to their poor behavior or outright racist, sexist, or transphobic comments. I prefer moderation that has "username, that comment is unacceptable" at the root, so those who don't see the comment at least know who said it.

That is the situation with real life, too, and were it not, we'd have a scenario like Black Mirror's "Nosedive" episode. I think it's good not to have everyone's Mefi moderation history follow them around like a scarlet letter. If they're the kind of person that habitually behaves poorly in one of the ways you've described, you'll learn it soon enough.
posted by WCityMike at 6:15 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


The entire point is that it's being deleted before anyone even sees it. How can I avoid interacting with racist pieces of shit when all of their racism keeps getting deleted and I have no idea who said it? But then I guess caring about the concerns of members of color would be too much like a TV show??
posted by primalux at 6:28 PM on June 13 [11 favorites]


I am sorry primalux. I'm not sure I understand.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:54 PM on June 13


I think that making sure that a person's scarlet letter is publicly viewable is a bad idea. When people are in a deep hole and can't get out, they dig in further and make themselves comfortable in that hole. If a hand is extended – and I am absolutely not saying that it is the obligation of any POC to do this – you get people like Daryl Davis who got hundreds of Klansmen to give him their robes. And if someone's an unrepentant racist, sexist, homophobe or transphobe, then they're going to keep manifesting that and eventually get themselves kicked off the site.
posted by WCityMike at 7:02 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


I want to be clear that moderation policy on mentioning names in notes is to make a call in the given situation based on the details; it's never gonna be "never mention names", and it's never gonna be "always mention names", and I don't think there's going to be much productive about pushing back and forth on that in a sense of one or the other being the correct position.

I'm fine talking about the specific situations or talking about where nudges there would make folks feel better or worse but I'd feel better if this didn't turn into a thing of competing principles because that's one of the things that seems to lead to escalation in these threads. I'm trying to be optimistic, constructive Josh about the possibility of stuff not spinning up and it'd genuinely mean a lot to me if everybody can try and help with that.

WCityMike, I think I get where you're coming from but I don't think analogies to the Klan or Black Mirror are helpful here at all. We're dealing with MeFi, not a scifi premise or a historical analogy. I'd like you to let that be.

So, tiny frying pan, I feel you on the discomfort when mod notes that don't name specific users. I don't think we're always in a spot to decisively make a public thing of in the moment out of someone's behavior, but it's clear from discussions last summer and at other times that some folks would feel better knowing if there was egregious behavior from a MeFi regular going down. Likewise, I know some folks would prefer to know there's been specific action taken (bannings, explicit warnings) in contexts where that might seem like an appropriate step.

We've been trying to factor those needs in and be a little more explicit in mod notes and followups in threads. I think we're all in all being explicit in overt cases more often, along with being more detailed about about mod rationale and guidelines issues when leaving notes. I think we're likely to have cases sometimes where immediate action and "x is unacceptable" ends up being the priority vs. being able to make a decisive call about followup actions at the time of the mod note, so again I don't expect this ever to get to "everyone will be named every time" territory and I know that may just be frustrating, but I am with you on the spirit of the concern and it's been shaping our decision-making there.

The tension between wanting to know what unrepentant grossness is out there and wanting to not put people in a spot of social ostracization for fucking up in a fixable or unintentional way is always going to be with us. It's fine I think for folks to follow up if they have concerns about a given case, and it may be the sort of thing that we need to handle in the moment but can revisit afterward and consider adding clarification or details about where it's appropriate.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:26 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


WCityMike, I think I get where you're coming from but I don't think analogies to the Klan or Black Mirror are helpful here at all. We're dealing with MeFi, not a scifi premise or a historical analogy. I'd like you to let that be.

In Black Mirror, someone's reputation and misdeeds follow them around and affects the behavior of all those seeing them, until they're driven to desperate acts. And with Davis, as a counter-example, he extended a hand of friendship to racists – something I coach by saying it's absolutely no one's obligation to do – and by doing so got them to stop becoming racists by giving them the experience of dealing with an actual human being, instead of their preformed idea. Both are directly relevant to the issue of naming people's misdeeds so they can be shamed and stigmatized by members of the community (as opposed to just by the mods) for their misdeeds. That having been said, you say you understand the tension between the two issues, so I'm good from here.
posted by WCityMike at 7:35 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Also - it would be greatly helpful to share that 19 page document you used to train the mods. Knowing what the actual moderation guidelines are has been a recurring question in many of the threads centered around race.

I'll give it a read over and see how much of it feels like it'd be useful to share. It's focused on a lot of high-level intro stuff for a new mod, workflow and common moderation tasks on the site, which encompasses a whole lot of procedural stuff (using the admin interface and tools, managing email, priorities and steps for things like the anonymous queue, etc) along with the moderation philosophy and actions/options that'd be more relevant to this sort of thing.

So it doesn't have much that feels sensitive in it—I think probably everything in there has been a point of discussion several times in MetaTalk over the years—but it wasn't written or structured for public consumption and it's not as up to date as either the current guidelines pages or the stuff we've been going over in daily practice with loup and travelingthyme during training the last couple weeks.

I can aim to give it a read through again and see what feels publicly useful, but my priority as far as documentation is more toward trying to continue to outline our current practices especially as they have evolved over the last few years and will continue to with the new folks' input.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:36 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]



The tension between wanting to know what unrepentant grossness is out there and wanting to not put people in a spot of social ostracization for fucking up in a fixable or unintentional way is always going to be with us.

OK, I will just say that it is frustrating to be treated like people who will presumptively be mean, aggressive, socially ostracizing, and/or unreasonable about this kind of thing. When do whatever mistakes the POC on this site made (if any?) that led to this assumption get to be fixed and/or fixable and/or unintentional? That is a rhetorical question. I am not going to argue about it.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:43 PM on June 13 [9 favorites]


I'm fine talking about the specific situations or talking about where nudges there would make folks feel better or worse but I'd feel better if this didn't turn into a thing of competing principles because that's one of the things that seems to lead to escalation in these threads. I'm trying to be optimistic, constructive Josh about the possibility of stuff not spinning up and it'd genuinely mean a lot to me if everybody can try and help with that.

Cortex, this is a post about how the site deals with race. You gave an update on your activities to improve the site on the front and asked about how we felt.

So, people are telling you.

I personally don’t have an issue with how you’re dealing with deletions and naming the users, but frankly it doesn’t feel great to be asked for feedback and then being told ‘no, not like that’. How mefi approaches moderation and deletions is part of how it deals with race issues.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:43 PM on June 13 [32 favorites]


In Black Mirror, someone's reputation and misdeeds follow them around and affects the behavior of all those seeing them, until they're driven to desperate acts.

The drama of it all! Just brand new day like everyone else who does embarassing shit on here does.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:44 PM on June 13 [9 favorites]


The drama of it all! Just brand new day like everyone else who does embarassing shit on here does.

Doing an ad hominem implying that someone is being melodramatic doesn't boost your argument, it's just an ad hominem. Plus, that's literally a description of the episode, as a reply to cortex doing a 'WTF' about its relevancy.
posted by WCityMike at 7:49 PM on June 13


Recognizing the balance that mods are trying to take, which results in a fair amount of actions that are partially visible or completely invisible (unnamed deletion notes, and bannings, respectively), are there proposals for how to report on changes? This is a question for cortex and the mods, and also MeFites.

For instance, would it be better to have a tally of temp and permabans per quarter, or have people quietly go away, with their profiles marked as disabled (which is unclear whether they buttoned or were banned)? Without some pubic record of actions, be they trainings or bannings, the only indication of actions towards a more inclusive, welcoming MetaFilter is how the site looks and feels in terms of discussions. And the comments in this thread indicate that MeFites feel that there's still a ways to go towards that goal.

I'm not saying that a quarterly report on mod actions convince MeFites that something is changing, but it would be a way to improve transparency.

And because the lack of transparency, specifically with regard to actions taken towards anti-racism education and training, I'd suggest being more open with site policies and procedures, even if they don't seem like something the general membership would find useful. Once shared, MeFites can then deem if the document's useful or enlightening, and perhaps most importantly, won't have to guess about what it does or doesn't contain.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:52 PM on June 13 [12 favorites]


One more musing: in the past year+ discussion of how MetaFilter can become a more inclusive space, many people have volunteered their time and offered their services, and it sounds like there's been some behind-the-scenes coordination and discussions, which I realize may be private and not for public summary or discussion, which I understand.

Thanks to this thread (thank you, arabidopsis, for pulling the introductory information and questions together, and thank you to meaty shoe puppet for repeatedly bring up this topic, and thanks other MeFites for discussions in this and other threads), we've learned that the mods have done a couple of direct group video sessions with the anti-racism & anti-oppression consultant, looking at the specifics of MeFi's structure, history, moderation practices, etc.. And recently travelingthyme and loup joined the mod team, bringing their experiences and skillsets to broaden and improve community development and moderation.

But those are 1) just three people (assuming the consultant was solo, and not a group), who are 2) all new to MetaFilter. It sounds like the consultant had the mods look at the site's history and systems, so the consultant didn't have to learn about two decades of site culture. I'm sure loup and travelingthyme are doing what they can to learn almost 21 years of site history and in-jokes, but that's a HUGE ask, in addition to ask them to actively moderate, while also update policies, procedures and practices.

This is my way of leading up to this question: would a volunteer advisory committee, consisting of let's say 5 MeFites from backgrounds and experiences not present in the mod team, to provide suggestions for policies and procedures, if they don't draft them themselves, be possible and supportable?
posted by filthy light thief at 8:41 PM on June 13 [12 favorites]


Doing an ad hominem implying that someone is being melodramatic doesn't boost your argument, it's just an ad hominem. Plus, that's literally a description of the episode, as a reply to cortex doing a 'WTF' about its relevancy.

It is both an ad hominem and its own argument. It's not boosting an argument. It's saying that you bringing up a black mirror episode and repeatedly describing it even after cortex asked you to drop it because you think it's relevant when it's not is some drama.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:51 PM on June 13 [4 favorites]


WCityMike, it really feels like you're trying to derail a discussion about race and moderation on this site.
posted by TwoStride at 8:55 PM on June 13 [27 favorites]


Well it looks like he got banned over it so that's something.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:13 PM on June 13


You know, in reflection the thing I most want to see is reflections from the mods that took the training on what their takeaways are. I’d like to hear about how it has made them reconsider their approaches and what areas of growth they’ve identified that they’re working towards. I’m appreciative that you took the training, and that’s what this update is asking for. What good did it do? What lessons learned? What are next steps?

I don’t want that to get lost in other back forths, because it is the heart of the matter. What did people confront, heal and resolve?
posted by stoneweaver at 11:30 PM on June 13 [34 favorites]

5. How do Mefites feel about the current State of the Site? Are you comfortable here? Do you feel that you've seen a decrease in the number of micro or full blown aggressions you've been exposed to since last June? Increase? Stayed the same? What would you like to change or improve about the site culture?
I'm white. I've become less comfortable, which is a good thing. I've probably noticed more micro-agressions than before, because I'll read something, come back after another comment from a mefite, or a mod-note and think "what? oh." I've realised over the last, what, four years? That I hold/held some unconsious biases and that I can contribute in bad and unhelpful ways. I want to change this. I want to recognise when I need to step back and when I need to step in. So I'm noticing more when it happens and when mods step in.

I remain hugely grateful to jesamyn who, after an uneducated and racist comment of mine was deleted (huh- I thought- a glitch, my comment is missing) took the time to educate me about it. (this was a long while ago when my mefi journey started, not under this account name.)

I think what I'm struggling with, (and this is definitely not a criticism!) is the feel of the discussion sometimes. It's righteous anger and it's justified, but I feel "dang it I'm trying, the site is trying". I need to sit with the uncomfortableness and just be uncomfortable. Reflect. Accept. Keep changing. This isn't a request to anyone to change their behaviour at all, I'm not asking anyone to modify tone.

I've sat with this comment for a while, I want to contribute but I also don't want to make this about white feelings, not at all.
posted by freethefeet at 4:47 AM on June 14 [6 favorites]


This is my way of leading up to this question: would a volunteer advisory committee, consisting of let's say 5 MeFites from backgrounds and experiences not present in the mod team, to provide suggestions for policies and procedures, if they don't draft them themselves, be possible and supportable?

This is territory I want to come back around to, yeah. Folks have suggested variations on this idea before, it came up a fair amount as a point of discussion last year, and I think something along these lines would be good for giving the community more of a direct voice in how the site's progressing and how things work out in the case-to-case stuff. Both our work with the anti-oppression consultant and the conversations I've had with a lot of folks the last few months, including over the course of the hiring process, have underscored the potential value there. What it'd look like and how best to organize it so folks feel both empowered and not overtaxed is still an open question but it's a discussion I'd like to have soon.

> Well it looks like he got banned over it so that's something.

We probably won't know whether he was banned or buttoned, ironically.


He closed his own account. Not knowing when to stop and self-regulate in a conversation, in an "I can't drop this" sort of way, is the scale of problem we end up giving people a day off for to shut a pattern down and have someone cool off and regroup; it's not generally a bannable offense. I generally want people who are having a hard time managing their interactions on the site but not operating in bad faith to have a chance to regroup and do better.

The ambiguity of account closures is a tricky thing and we've talked about revisiting how and whether that stuff is marked up. I both would like to put less overall emphasis on the state of every given MeFite's account (because I think that can turn into kinda crappy speculation) and hear folks on wishing there was sometimes more information about whether and when a ban for overt or recurring-without-improvement guidelines-breaking behavior happens. I think we need to do more work to figure how we can improve the balance of the various pieces involved there.

> The tension between wanting to know what unrepentant grossness is out there and wanting to not put people in a spot of social ostracization for fucking up in a fixable or unintentional way is always going to be with us.

OK, I will just say that it is frustrating to be treated like people who will presumptively be mean, aggressive, socially ostracizing, and/or unreasonable about this kind of thing. When do whatever mistakes the POC on this site made (if any?) that led to this assumption get to be fixed and/or fixable and/or unintentional? That is a rhetorical question. I am not going to argue about it.


I hear you that you're not looking to argue about it, and neither am I. I want to say I get what your saying and understand that you feel like it's pointed at people of color on the site, and that sucks and I'm sorry. I want to be really clear that that's not my take or intent on it. This is something that I think matters and involves the whole community; we all fuck up sometimes, and "you fucked up that one time" shouldn't be the driving narrative of everyone's experience on the site.

So, this absolutely isn't a "PoC will be mean" thing from a mod perspective. This is a general problem that over 20 years on this site this has often been a crappy knock-on social effect of public discussion. The worst versions of it were in the mid 2000s when there was less expectation in general on the site that people would show restraint, and we had meltdowns and flameouts and people just endlessly chasing each other around on the site for past beefs or perceived errors or whatever and being cruel about it for the sake of cruelty.

That's super unhealthy, it's a thing that could be really toxic and in a lot of places online currently actively is. Look through the MetaTalk archives from the early days and there's a lot of interpersonal awfulness that from a current remove its hard to believe was considered acceptable on MeFi. We have spent the years since trying to find some space between more actively and promptly taking action and holding people accountable for their behavior, but also not fostering an environment where folks are treated as by default irredeemable or game for public shaming if they stumble.

I think where MeFi is at on it at this point is a lot healthier; there's room to say "this comment/situation/pattern is a problem" in a way that we can address and talk about and try and find a good outcome to without collapsing it down to a binary where either something is fine or it's terrible and the gloves are off. It's still tricky to find a balance on it sometimes, especially since across the userbase we have people everywhere along the spectrum from thinking handling of this stuff should be a lot less visible to thinking they should be more so, so it's something we're going to have to continue to navigate.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:32 AM on June 14 [9 favorites]


You know, in reflection the thing I most want to see is reflections from the mods that took the training on what their takeaways are. I’d like to hear about how it has made them reconsider their approaches and what areas of growth they’ve identified that they’re working towards. I’m appreciative that you took the training, and that’s what this update is asking for. What good did it do? What lessons learned? What are next steps?

I'll reiterate the disclaimer that one of the key takeaways, and the consultant has been pretty clear about this as well, is that it's not really a "you did it, it's done" thing, so I don't want to frame any of this as job done, plan sorted out, conclusions drawn. I'm looking forward to following up with them more this year because a lot of this is work in progress stuff and it'll be that way basically indefinitely. That said, I can share some more thoughts. So:

For me, it's been a few things. Part of what's been valuable for me so far is just having a lot of stuff we talked about last summer reiterated: the need to keep working on making people feel like they have an active voice on the site, that they'll be heard rather than dismissed; the need to make better representation an ongoing goal on the site both in terms of actual mod staff and how folks feel about the social dynamics of the site and the perspective of the documentation; the need to make changing the culture on the site more than just a top-down mod project and instead try and bring the whole userbase along on stuff where a lot of people aren't caught up; the need to actively make space for the voices of people of color and marginalized folks on the site, not just passively hope that inclusion just happens as a result of good intentions. A lot more, really, it's hard to knock out a complete-feeling list. But I took a lot of what we talked about last summer, and in the years before, into it as something I wanted to get additional perspective and feedback on and that's been really useful for me.

One of the things that I've struggled with and that the consultant's dug in on some with us in discussion is trying to bridge the gap between how I'd like folks to feel trust in the site and where a lot of PoC and marginalized people on the site don't feel, or feel consistently, that they can extend that trust for a variety of justifiable reasons, many of which don't have to do with MeFi per se but come into what MeFi needs to manage to do beyond just passively existing as not-the-worst-place. And part of that is me just needing to manage my feelings about that as my own thing; I understand the many reasons why that trust can be hard to come by and me feeling badly about it isn't the priority issue for MeFi as a community. So that's a sitting with my own discomfort thing, and something I've been working on finding ways to partition off from the work we're doing on the site. Me feeling better about it would be great, but that's not the goal or the motivation. People feeling more trusting of the site for the sake of feeling a sense of trust is the important part, because that's good for everyone and means stuff is moving in the right direction.

And so part that deserves more focus publicly is us doing active work to improve the transparency of how things are working and the the mechanisms available for folks to address and feel sufficiently included and heard and empowered in how the site is going. I've come away so far with more resolve and more of a sense of direction on trying to make that stuff happen. The more formal community input/guidance idea above is part of that; continuing to tweak how we deal with mod notes and accountability about things like bans and warnings is another.

We've examined some of the intersection between public accountability about site behavior, warnings, bannings, deletions etc. and privacy concerns around not wanting to disclose folks' personal info that they may have shared or made visible to the mod team but not been public about. Mostly what I've taken from that is that it's always going to be a hard thing to navigate; we can't violate people' privacy and put them in harm's way, and that's going to conflict sometimes with an understandable desire for more info on what call the mods have made in a situation and what informed it. But we can focus on finding ways to be more communicative about the stuff that falls outside those privacy concerns, and that's something I feel like we need to keep working on.

One thing the consultant was pretty clear on as a reaction after talking about how we're trying to balance things is that a lot of this stuff as top-down, mods-handle-it initiatives does seem unsustainable, and that finding ways to move some of this work more consistently into the community would be healthy both in terms of work and stress levels on the mod team and helping folks feel like progress doesn't depend only on a small resource-strapped team. It's not gonna serve community or these long-term goals if we burn ourselves out and end up being a bottleneck because of that. Which gets back to some of the communication issues, being slow on updates etc.

Bringing on a couple new mods will be a help on some of this both because of fresh eyes and energy and because it does mean everyone on the team can have a little more breathing room and not work as many hours. But it also gets back to the value of trying to make the site a little more community self-directed and finding ways to empower folks to address and discuss stuff. If there are ways we can move moderation a little closer to being a facilitative and support/guidance thing on the site as a complement to more self-organized community processes, that could take some of the friction and "but what happened, and what's going to happen?" ambiguity out of tricky site situations. Which, that's a big question of what that change would look like and how it could work, but it's something I really want to explore more and talk with folks about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:26 AM on June 14 [5 favorites]


Thank you arabidopsis for posting this and meaty shoe puppet for asking for updates on the mod's training. I had hoped there would be a thread like this (and almost posted one), because I think it's important for MetaFilter (along with every other place) to talk about race and systemic white supremacy. Ideally it would lead into a discussion of how we can work towards antiracism, but I can tell that's not happening yet.

5. How do Mefites feel about the current State of the Site? Are you comfortable here? Do you feel that you've seen a decrease in the number of micro or full blown aggressions you've been exposed to since last June? Increase? Stayed the same? What would you like to change or improve about the site culture?

I've noticed myself just moving on from MeFi in some ways because it's still very centered on white perspectives and that's not very interesting. I'm white - I feel like I don't need to learn a whole bunch more about white perspectives. I feel guilty for not engaging more or creating posts, but especially now with COVID and the resurgence in protesting white supremacy and the Movement for Black Lives I just don't have the energy. I find myself spending my energy educating myself and then direct action to move groups I'm involved with to be antiracist. I've been feeling that way for a while, but really felt a break after November when the last MetaTalk about race took place and nothing really changed, and this thread seems like it could be another in the long tradition of MetaFilter talking about race and not much follow up.

cortex, you're in a really tough position and I hear you on so much of it. Dealing with anxiety and mental health is hard. It seems like that's feeding into the tension between transparency around the mod team's training, site policy, and worry about some kind of negative response from BIPOC Mefites, but then nothing happens. Reading your responses in this thread, there's a lot of text. I think if more regular updates and check ins around this topic took place, it would be easier for members digest and respond to rather than read and think, "oh. ok." I also was reminded of this exchange from November where sunset in snow country replied to you (in a good comment about white fragility):
"And while I think being candid about your mental state is a positive thing in a lot of situations that come up here, white fragility is a classic way of redirecting away from POC concerns and it's important to recognize that."
I don't think it was your intention to do that here, but it definitely came to mind when I read your first comments and appreciated meaty shoe puppet's very kind response about it. It sounds like you understand you need to sit with your discomfort, which is good.

I also don't think you intended to compare any (understandably) anger from POC MeFites to the toxic dynamics of this site 10-15 years ago, but it struck me as odd. Just because things were toxic and fucked up then (and also overwhelmingly white and male), doesn't mean you should avoid opening up now.

I think sharing the mod training materials, even though they aren't totally ready for public consumption would be a step in the right direction. This is a community that depends on members to survive, so being more open and trusting with the members on these issues seems necessary. His thoughts were red thoughts was right in saying you ask for feedback, and then say "no, not like that". How is anything going to change with that dynamic in place? I think it would be good to have some accountability of mod actions around race and anti-Blackness, so that members can see what action is happening (or not). And finally, I think you and the rest of the mod team need to move on from thinking about, talking about, and exploring option and actually start taking action in some kind. It doesn't have to be big and I know this is going to be a long process that will never end, but we've heard that before with no follow up for months or years, and it's not clear what actions took place. I think it's important for white people working to be antiracist to take actions and hold themselves accountable, because otherwise nice statements and good thoughts are just another form of whiteness.
posted by kendrak at 8:25 AM on June 15 [23 favorites]


Without addressing your larger points, I do feel that hiring two POC mods is a concrete action, and an important one (although obviously not all that needs to be done).
posted by Chrysostom at 8:44 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Two proposals, one for the mods and one for everyone else:

1. I'd like to see this thread linked above the site header, where we are currently linking the new mods thread. When we did that for a previous racism MeTa it brought in many perspectives from users of other subsites who didn't check MeTa.

Mods, could I get a clear yes or no on this request and an ETA if yes?

2. I'd like to reserve some time for people to speak without expecting direct response, from either the mods or from other users.

I don't know whether kendrak
- forgot about the PoC mod(s? still don't know)
- didn't consider them a concrete action by the mods (as opposed to our anonymous benefactor)
- chose not to mention them at that moment for another reason.

Nor do I think it's relevant at this moment to discuss that detail.

I'm also holding back on responding to cortex's reflections on his anti-racism training until we've heard from the other mods, and also from EM on her individual session.

Let's just hear what everyone has to say, so that we can see the larger trends rather than focusing on individual comments.

With probabilistic phenomena like bias and structural racism, I often find the larger trends more telling than the particulars.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:25 AM on June 15 [12 favorites]


I apologize for not mentioning the PoC mods. That is a great concrete action that just took place, and I'm optimistic it will lead to necessary changes. Sorry for the erasure travelingthyme, loup, and the anonymous benefactor! I was too focused on past trends and the worry that they would continue, and that is my mistake. I'm sorry.
posted by kendrak at 9:32 AM on June 15


A suggestion on the difficulty of doing updates: delegate. If it's just hard to write things down on a regular schedule for whatever reason, ask another mod to do it. Or a pair of them. They will do fine.
posted by zompist at 10:04 AM on June 15 [15 favorites]


(Linked this thread in the banner.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:16 AM on June 15 [11 favorites]


Thanks, LobsterMitten!
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:50 AM on June 15


I think I'm around a bit less than I used to be, but I don't really see a substantial change in the way the site engages with things that aren't about a majority white American audience since before the state of the site. I think that not having the politics threads has sort of lowered the overall "heat" of the site. I think the mods are a bit more responsive to flagging and outright bad behavior, but are not particularly proactive. I think people are favoriting more even if they're not necessarily engaging with the material. But ... Metafilter still seems to me to be very much a product of the interests and questions and thoughts of (upper) middle class white straight America. Now, I'm a upper middle class white straight American, so maybe I'm doing a poor job of noticing subtle shifts? But to me, it doesn't seem like much has changed.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:51 PM on June 15 [16 favorites]


Came to make the same suggestion as zompist. Let the other mods take turns with update Metas about how the site--members and mods--are working to be anti-racist. You don't have to do it all, cortex. You shouldn't. Each of the mods has some shared responsibility and their own experience and perspectives. We all do. In the end, we users have to do it.
posted by Gotanda at 3:00 PM on June 15 [10 favorites]


One thing that might be helpful is remembering that there is value in putting our work in progress out there in the world. Or even finished work that is just “good enough”.

I get that there is enormous pressure to get it right, or make sure that it’s complete and covering all angles, but good enough work does not mean that you don’t care. It doesn’t mean you don’t respect the importance of what you’re doing. Or that you don’t realise the impact or consequences of making mistakes.

There is value in meeting the need for urgency. Also in being vulnerable with your ideas and outputs. The same way that talking softly can be an effective way to quiet a noisy audience, sharing work in progress can often bring gentler and more productive critique. It has the added benefit of engendering empathy, especially handy for when we need to rely on that kindness to light our ways through all the mistakes we’ll make.

To sum, I’d much rather see the messy, inchoate progress being made on this site than to wait for more perfect milestones to be set into this long road.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:00 PM on June 15 [22 favorites]


The anti-racism educator I worked with comes originally from a counseling background; our discussion was interesting and fruitful, and we've spoken now and then since then. Among other things, we talked about problems in my communication style and a lot about the gap between intent and effect and how good intent doesn't absolve you from responsibility for bad effects.

One concrete result of our discussions was that I considerably stepped up my volunteer hours with a legal aid clinic serving undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America in my community. She challenged me to fight racism in my local community, particularly if there were tools or skills that I in my privilege have access to that others might not; this seemed the place I could do the most good locally. Covid has temporarily paused that (many files can't leave the office for security and safety reasons for clients), so I'm learning Spanish for when the office reopens.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:59 PM on June 15 [16 favorites]


I am grateful and appreciate all the changes so far, and disappointed by how much more there could be, and hopeful for the ones that will come (and will have to come)

1. I see that people are getting upset and annoyed in a MeTa about race, and I see this as a symptom -- of white supremacy, of whiteness, of white fragility on this site. It's really worthwhile to understand that things won't change at the level of the symptom. That is, trying to explain to people how the mods are doing well (even if there are actual changes) isn't helpful for everyone. It's like trying to heal food poisoning by pretending everything is okay.

Mods, cortex - please don't try to defend yourself. It sounds like you want to be heard and acknowledge the work you do AND also often interpreting everyone's anger as an expression of disappointment towards you / a signal that you're not doing well enough. It will be helpful (and really nice) for you to hear them as an expression of hurt that needs empathy and understanding.


2. In my opinion, there is a way in which the mods get blamed for all of the whiteness and racism on this site (by white posters). I think for other white mefites, I wonder if it isn't helpful to subconsciously shift white guilt off to the moderation team.

What I'd like to see more, aimed towards white posters: if you see something racist, please flag it, and response. Try to be helpful, not righteously piling on; you're trying to create an anti-racist environment, not 'prove' your allyship or accompliceship, not to 'prove' that you're one of the 'good white people'.

Ultimately this culture of anti-racism is a culture that the mods should set a tone for, but can't do all by themselves. Looking towards a leader to solve the problem of racism or to do your anti-racism work doesn't cut it.

The problems here are much deeper than that, at a societal level within the US, North America, within the white western world as a whole, within the whole world. Anti-blackness and racism is everywhere, within BIPOC too. If you can't see this, happy to talk more about it.

TLDR: cortex and the mod team, thanks for all of your efforts, and please stop defending yourself and listen <3, white mefites, you can never be a 'good' or 'bad' white person, so stop trying for white redemption, don't steep in white guilt, but you're actually personally to blame for this site's racism too if you're not being actively anti-racist in your own actions here <3
posted by suedehead at 10:44 AM on June 16 [85 favorites]


What I'd like to see more, aimed towards white posters: if you see something racist, please flag it, and response. Try to be helpful, not righteously piling on; you're trying to create an anti-racist environment, not 'prove' your allyship or accompliceship, not to 'prove' that you're one of the 'good white people'.

Thanks, suedehead, that's a great idea, and as a white mefite myself, I really appreciate having concrete actions I can take so I can do a better job of being actively anti-racist (especially I like the idea of something that's not publicly visible-- y'all don't need to know what actions I take, I don't need credit. but the site culture needs to improve and I'd like to do my part in it).

Any other ideas about what the mass of mefites, white or otherwise, can do to be actively anti-racist, besides flagging? (I'm sometimes many days behind on reading threads, so flagging isn't always so useful).
posted by nat at 2:04 PM on June 16


I am frustrated by excuses. I expect more from leadership.
posted by Grandysaur at 2:33 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Any other ideas about what the mass of mefites, white or otherwise, can do to be actively anti-racist, besides flagging?

Sure!

- Talk to others! Maybe you see a poster who's white who's lashing out? MefiMail them privately, call them in, be firm and compassionate. Please don't chastise, just share; you're not good and they're not bad, you're not in any position of superiority, but different places on the path to anti-racism.

- Do the reading! The above is only possible if you do the reading, and especially read Black writers, who have been thinking about race and whiteness for a long time. I won't post any reading lists since, honestly, they're out there. But Ijeoma Oluo, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Fred Moten, bell hooks, Toni Morrison, Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, Claudia Rankine, Audre Lorde, they're all amazing thinkers who have thought about this DEEPLY.

- Talk to your own friends and family, please! Take what you find here and share it with others.

- If someone calls you out or in, try to pause your feelings of guilt / shame / denial / anger that arise. Notice: Why is it that you feel those feelings? Those feelings aren't accidental; they have been CONDITIONED into you through a white supremacist system that was created through slavery and conquest and now continues by denying BIPOC full equality. Those feelings are how white supremacy continues itself. You think white people are get over 400 years of entrenched denial and cruelty in a few generations? No way! That kind of toxic legacy is embedded in white institutions, white families, white culture. It's killing you, too, take it out.

Yeah. Anti-racism is for your own good, too. The same way that the patriarchy and toxic masculinity is also shitty for men, white supremacy and whiteness is shitty for white people, too. Don't believe me, though:

"But this simply cannot be said, not only for reasons of politeness or charity, but also because white people carry in them a carefully muffled fear that black people long to do to others what has been done to them. Moreover, the history of white people has led them to a fearful baffling place where they have begun to lose touch with reality--to lose touch, that is, with themselves--and where they certainly are not truly happy for they know they are not truly safe. They do not know how this came about; they do not dare examine how this came about." - James Baldwin, White Man's Guilt

"The coalition emerges out of your recognition that it’s fucked up for you, in the same way that we’ve already recognized that it’s fucked up for us. I don’t need your help. I just need you to recognize that this shit is killing you, too, however much more softly, you stupid motherfucker, you know?" -Fred Moten, the Undercommons

--

Lastly, let's note that the people here who have organized and collaborated here to create are POC. "Look for the people that are helping". Who are the people that are organizing here, who care, who are still here, who form community and metatalk posts and google docs in order to change this community? Who has that been? Who are the people that are gathering, caring, calling in?

And who are the people that get defensive, who blames others, blames the "bad" or "uneducated" white people and exiles them, blames leadership, that abdicates responsibility, that thinks it's either too systemic to deal with or entirely blamed on individuals, who crumbles under guilt, or says "racism is an American thing", or says "I'm already doing the work", or "I'm burnt out" or "I'm afraid of speaking out", who exiles people, etc etc etc

The reason why I participate here is because I care, because I'm angry, and because I don't want to take a whole group of people and write them off. The master's tools won't dismantle the master's house and nothing sure as hell will happening by adopting a policing/carceral mindset by saying "this place is fucked, let's leave". White people already do that all the time and it fucks everything up. Can I help change this place? I ask myself this every day for every white space I'm inside - can I help change my white friends, especially the ones who are too scared/guilty to change themselves?

Anyhow. What kind of people do you all want to be, white friends? What kind of people do you want to lead your neighbors towards?
posted by suedehead at 3:54 PM on June 16 [82 favorites]


In addition to flagging blatantly racist comments, as an ally you can push back against the biased comments. Like the durian post and its comment from about a year ago. As I wrote in the #poctakeover: The White Allies Thread in January of this year, things outside your/my "normal" is not "weird," and in fact, your/my "normal" may be decidedly "weird" in other contexts and cultures. If you see someone making comments of that nature, on MetaFilter or elsewhere, stand up and push back. It doesn't have to be a shove, but it can be a question to help someone re-set their expectations.

Also, the #poctakeover: The White Allies Thread is full of good suggestions and tips for allies. If you missed it, or forgot it, it's a good (re)read.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:32 PM on June 16 [15 favorites]


I'm sorry that we haven't been communicating better this spring; it's something we need to do better on. I will just be brief here.

For me, the biggest thing in the ongoing consulting process has been getting a detailed outside anti-oppression perspective on the specific ways this stuff manifests on the site. Our consultant works with organizations in many different industries, so one nice thing was just to hear how equity work looks across that spectrum, and then be able to think with them about how different pieces apply here. We talked about institutional culture, about taking active anti-oppression positions rather than trying to stay neutral, about ways to shift some of the more subtle things, about attitudes around conflict, how to negotiate some of the more complicated intersectional challenges and trying to break out of being "frozen" on some things where there are conflicting needs and we can't deliver things people want. (We also talked a lot about hiring and onboarding, and problems that can face isolated BIPOC staff in previously-all-white organizations and trying to be mindful to interrupt those dynamics. Being able to bring in two people at once is one of the most important steps we talked about here, not being sure at the time whether it was possible, so I'm really happy we've been able to do that.) The sessions so far have been really energizing -- our consultant is great and it's good to get things on the table and have access to their perspective.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:51 AM on June 17 [17 favorites]


The most racist post I’ve ever seen on the green was this one about a colorfully painted house. The link to Google images clearly shows a Black woman in front of the house. The house was located in a traditional Black neighborhood. Most of the comments were inappropriate and a mod only stepped in and deleted the question because the actual address was in the question.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:51 AM on June 17 [4 favorites]


intervening sooner and more explicitly in threads where borderline or trope-ish or microaggressive stuff is burbling up

I would have appreciated this in the FPP I recently posted and then asked to have deleted, before I noticed the comments had devolved into fantasizing about the brutal murder of the subject of the post. I did quickly flag the first comment, then had my own snarky follow up comment deleted after the first comment wasn't deleted, and ultimately asked for the post to be deleted, including because I didn't want to and really shouldn't be trying to manage the thread. I had thought it was obvious that the first comment was maybe more than a microaggression in the context of the post subject matter, and I had been hoping that the FPP could host a discussion about white privilege, and serve as an opportunity for introspection and reflection. Instead, it feels like another episode in the devaluation of Black voices, and female voices, and something that I'm calling attention to here because it feels like there is a tendency on Metafilter for pileons to happen after threadshitting, and maybe given how this one started calling for violence so quickly, it can serve as an additional reason to maybe intervene earlier.
posted by katra at 11:12 AM on June 17 [14 favorites]


I've now deleted that final comment with the weird take and violent fantasy. Sometimes if we delete a post we don't bother to delete a last comment that comes in right at the same time, since the whole thread is deleted.

I understand the post wasn't landing in the way you intended, which happens and can be frustrating. But this isn't "devaluing of black voices." Bluntly, I think people were pushing back for the opposite reason -- because they felt it was elevating a white woman's reflections about her own privilege in a way that felt unwarranted.

That's a matter of meeting people where they're at -- there will be some white people who haven't started reflecting on their privilege, and her twitter thread might be very useful for them. But people in the thread were saying that for them it was landing as a humblebrag, as "where's the action behind this", which are criticisms of white allies that it's okay to make. I know it's dismaying to offer a thing in a helpful spirit, hoping it will lead to a certain kind of discussion (especially on an important topic), and not have it received that way.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:38 AM on June 17


I think why katra believes that it was devaluing Black voices is because there was literally a tweet from a Black woman, Ava DuVernay, saying "This is a white woman talking honestly about her experiences and its one of the best threads on the criminalization of Black people that I’ve read lately" included in the post and instead of thinking about that or taking part in some introspection regarding the criminalization of Black people, people chose to make "humblebrag" dunks. I will be frank and say I think MOST people here are still at the place where they need to do that kind of introspection, or may never have done it, and even if we've done it before, it never hurts to continue to think about these things.
posted by primalux at 12:15 PM on June 17 [23 favorites]


(Ah, yes, seeing what you mean about the DuVernay tweet.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:19 PM on June 17


But this isn't "devaluing of black voices."

Krista Vernoff was a frame and an allegory of sorts. For anyone who read the Twitter thread, perhaps with Ava DuVernay's introduction in mind, it was also about centering Black voices in the conversation. To call it a 'humblebrag' reads like 'white fragility' response to me, because it seems like a defensive attempt to deny the realities of white privilege by waving away an opportunity to call attention to it. Similarly, devaluing the opportunity for people to talk and reflect with an immediate "where's the action behind this" criticism while explaining How It's Done seems like the kind of thing that can make Metafilter feel inaccessible to marginalized perspectives and voices. Metafilter often seems to thrive on the sharing of personal stories, so I was hoping that this FPP would land particularly well here. I was also hoping in the context of the discussions that have been happening, that commenters might not immediately ELI5 How It's Done without taking time to read the linked material and reflect on what was being offered, but for now, I am more than dismayed by how the thread went and would have appreciated more proactive support from the mods in an FPP trying to talk about race.
posted by katra at 12:19 PM on June 17 [20 favorites]


Referring to it as a "humblebrag" seems like almost the same thing as dismissing something as "virtue signaling": ignore this statement, it's just an attempt to make the speaker feel better about themselves. I thought it was a worthwhile statement to talk about, and so did Ava Duvernay. It made me (white guy) think about my history of getting away with petty shit that I skated on due to various privileges. I would like to have read more discussion on it here, but I understand katra not being comfortable with how the thread was developing.
posted by skewed at 2:10 PM on June 17 [9 favorites]


But this isn't "devaluing of black voices."

This isn't meant to pile on, but it really jumps out as a signifier of something I think people are frustrated over.

Examine the confidence in that statement. And then examine how quickly that confidence changed to "oh, yeah, I see now" when primalux did the labor of carefully phrasing to get through, past the Well No Actually That's Not What's Going On defense field.

Being speedy on the willingness to see and reframe is good: what bears examining is why that initial confidence. And how often it takes other posters' labor to get that shift in understanding to happen.
posted by Drastic at 2:20 PM on June 17 [21 favorites]


5. How do Mefites feel about the current State of the Site? Are you comfortable here? Do you feel that you've seen a decrease in the number of micro or full blown aggressions you've been exposed to since last June? Increase? Stayed the same? What would you like to change or improve about the site culture?

I wrote a long comment earlier only to abandon it, but then I read something and it reminded me of this discussion. Frankly these days it's hard to read anything that doesn't.

I'm a POC with an international background (borrowing cortex's words). I came here from kuro5hin / memepool a long time ago, and made Mefi my "home on the internet" following the 9/11 discussions. I think I've had three accounts over the years. Some years I hardly interact, the past couple of years I've been more active than ever I think.

I'm European; partly because that's how I feel, partly because I value a sense of anonymity online. But I grew up in a variety of places, inside and outside of Europe. My racial background is a mixture that I feel doesn't map terribly well to any of the POC, BIPOC, Black, or White sigils, in part because these labels are so intertwined with US history and politics, in part because they all apply in some way or another. So it's hard to know what to call myself in terms of the discussion here. I have a copy of a very old picture, on which a collection of vague smudges ostensibly represent my great-great-grandfather, ostensibly taken in the 19th century, ostensibly on a plantation, where he certainly performed slave labor. I also have a picture of my grandmother as a child, next to a woman who lived in something like concubinage with a man from China, who later abandoned her. And so forth.

The labeling difficulty is just a minor example of how sometimes it feels like the discussion here presupposes concepts and images that don't really resonate with my own experience, and the difficulty is that in navigating this language, to try and get to a place that speaks to my own experience, it's easy to get caught in undercurrents I'm not aware of and before you know it you're on the part of the map where it says "HERE BE DRAGONS". I still remember how years ago a POC here called me a racist and told me to run back to my frat buddies or words to that effect. That really stung, but when I tried to elaborate, the response was deleted. When I contacted the staff, cortex replied that what happened was admittedly unfortunate but also kind of my own fault. So I can see my participation on this wasn't or isn't a good fit.

Still I'd like to think I've gained a better understanding from the discussions here. I understand better what other people mean, I better understand the urgency & historical context, and I think I better understand my own complicated feelings around race and how to express them. And I think this is true for most everyone on Mefi, because these days I feel the discussion is of a higher quality than in the past. The waters, I feel, are less muddy, which makes them easier to navigate (e.g. some basic questions like "is racism?" are no longer in contention).

I feel terrible for the length of this comment, particularly since it's all about me, but then I guess that's the price of admission. After all, endlessly having to explain who you are and where you're from ("no, I mean, your parents") is perhaps the dullest burden of marginalization (and perhaps the most invisible privilege). But since all we have in this space are our words, I don't see any other way except to speak directly to my experience. I don't know a shorter way to put it, which eats at me, because I worry that if I use the wrong words, or not the right words, then people will assume I don't belong. That makes these discussions kind of fraught. But I am here.

I'm thankful to everyone who's made the effort to avoid needlessly othering/stereotyping people/cultures and is considerate when making in-group/out-group assumptions. I'm thankful to the POC folks for continuing to hammer this topic, and I appreciate the moderation changes over the past year or so (less wholesale deletions, more expository notes). I hope these difficult conversations ultimately help to bring more people together in a spirit of good faith and mutual understanding. Perhaps we don't all share the same journey, perhaps we have different destinations, perhaps the seas are rough from time to time, but Metafilter remains a hell of a ship.
posted by dmh at 2:26 PM on June 17 [22 favorites]


Katra, I was in the middle of flagging that post when it was deleted. It seemed pretty icky to me, revelling in white privilege while self-flagellating at the same time. Throwing in @Ava at the end makes it worse--that's turning her into an afterthought. I will be completely honest and say that the posts that annoy me the most are the ones that assume everyone reading is white. That doesn't create a more inclusive space.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:06 PM on June 17 [6 favorites]


I was also considering whether to flag the post. That is not the first Twitter thread from white people about "here are things I did but didn't get arrested for because of white privilege" and when they've happened before there's usually been a negative reaction from many voices of Black twitter. Their criticism, as I remember, is that while threads like this may start from a place of good intention, the cumulative effect is often (paraphrased from memory) "look at all these white people saying 'look what I got away with!' as if that's any kind of news."

It's essential that white people do more and better about discussing our experiences with race and racism, and I think especially our experiences of becoming aware of race and racism (many of us grew up being taught colorblindness as being something to aspire to), but it's also important that we do so in ways that don't wind up re-centering us.
posted by Lexica at 3:34 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


betweenthebars, the title of the post was a quote from Ava DuVernay. I decided to place the tweet at the end to give credit for the title and for how I found the thread, and to try to help clarify the central focus of the FPP. I'm not sure why you assume the post assumes that everyone reading is white, especially when the linked material seems to so clearly assume otherwise.

I have been thinking about what I could have done to help the FPP be a more inclusive space, without editorializing or threadsitting - I think one of the reasons why mod support can be so important is because we also have policies here that make it difficult or impossible for the poster to manage the discussion in their own post, even if the discussion seems to be immediately derailed.
posted by katra at 4:01 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


Their criticism, as I remember, is that while threads like this may start from a place of good intention, the cumulative effect is often (paraphrased from memory) "look at all these white people saying 'look what I got away with!' as if that's any kind of news."


If we're not going to even try to have a discussion because it they same thing didn't work out on Twitter, why bother having this place? I totally believe that the discussion would devolve to shit in an unmoderated setting, but that seems like the whole point of Metafilter, to at least try for thoughtful, respectful discussion that can't occur without moderation. Maybe we could have had that discussion without it devolving into "this one time I totally did this crazy thing and got away with it", maybe not. But it didn't get anywhere close to that before people came in and started shitting on the idea of the discussion at all.
posted by skewed at 4:55 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


So mods have been asked to speak up about our takeaways from our anti-oppression training. The first thing that I would say, is that the consultant was great, and I think almost every single person would benefit from a similar experience, especially white people, cis people, straight people, able-bodied, neurotypical people and most especially people who are on several of these axes. In my dream world we (Metafilter) would have our consultant on retainer and speed dial and ongoing training in order to really get into more complex site-specific issues. In terms of big picture stuff that we were able to cover, the lessons that most resonated with me were that we must always be moving forward on anti-oppression initiatives, which seems simplistic maybe? but is not. The metaphor used was The Moving Walkway by Beverly Daniel Tatum (scroll down): "Excerpt:Tatum: 'I sometimes visualize the ongoing cycle of racism as a moving walkway at the airport. Active racist behavior is equivalent to walking fast on the conveyor belt. The person engaged in active racist behavior has identified with the ideology of our White supremacist system and is moving with it. Passive racist behavior is equivalent to standing still on the walkway. No overt effort is being made, but the conveyor belt moves the bystanders along to the same destination as those who are actively walking. But unless they are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt – unless they are actively anti-racist – they will find themselves carried along with the others.'” It's not like you can make a checklist, mark off the items and then go, "whew, okay, done!" Well, I sort of knew that anyway, but not in the very compelling way I see it now.

The second thing that really rang like a bell for me, is the idea of equity versus equality. I mean (and this just my own stewing in my head, not a direct line from our consultant, so if it rings wrong for you, that's all me), it's easy enough to say everyone is equal! Especially on a site where nobody necessarily knows your details. But does everyone have equity? This may mean different things in other contexts, but here on the site what does equity look like? Even if you are engaged, and posting and commenting, if you are a minority member, there will be lots of gaps in terms of posts and discussion when it comes to your own experience and interests. Even if those areas are addressed, it's mostly majority members who respond, or don't respond, as the case may be, and so, no, everyone does not have equity, even on the most basic level. I think that is the central challenge, and I don't have the answer to it, but I don't think there is one single answer, and I do have some ideas for myself, personally. Being active and intentional are foundational components of the training, and this is where I have fallen down. If we want marginalized people to have equity on the site, the site needs to (among other things) be intentional about showing our true appreciation and pride in our own members who are underrepresented here, and this is something I can help to do. It's not the only thing, but it's a thing.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:50 AM on June 18 [14 favorites]


But does everyone have equity?

Also, tellingly, an economic term.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:08 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


As a white person, my experience is that the userbase of MetaFilter still has a lot of racist biases and I see a lot of racist comments on MetaFilter in a way that hasn't really changed much recently. Let me be clear: this happens because all white people, myself very much included, were raised in a racist and white supremacist culture.

I often struggle with the question of whether to "flag it and move on", knowing that mods may choose not to do anything about my flag, or engage in the thread and draw more attention to racist comments. I also feel like I back away from commenting sometimes because I fear I'm going to say something that accidentally ends up hurting people of color, and that's 100% my own baggage to deal with.

One individual change I think we can all make. If you are a white person and someone makes you aware of bias in your comment or post, please don't get defensive. I personally think something like "thanks, I appreciate you pointing that out!" would be a good response.
posted by capricorn at 8:21 AM on June 18 [4 favorites]


Also--and this is VERY MUCH NOT in response to the discussion happening in this thread about katra's post--I wish we (white people) could all see that having a post or comment deleted is not a personal insult. Sometimes it's just the wrong place, wrong time for that comment or post. I hope we can all be better at managing our emotional responses rather than getting defensive about deletions.
posted by capricorn at 8:25 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


May I respectfully suggest to my fellow white Mefites that arabidopsis' questions do not appear to be aimed at us?
posted by eviemath at 10:15 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the clarification!
posted by eviemath at 10:49 AM on June 18


I'm only commenting to say that I've read Ideefixe's comment about my question on AskMe, and to provide feedback for other white people about how I've processed being ""called out"" and what I've done. (Note: I don't find the phrasing of being 'called out' to be helpful, and I don't think POC are calling people out - but many white people use this phrasing to describe the reactions of POC when their own racism is noticed. )

My immediate reaction was just to ignore it. I'm "woke", after all. I didn't mean it to be racist - made all sorts of excuses. the black woman was on the sidewalk, how was I supposed to know she lived there? My city is majority black, of course it was a black neighborhood, that's inconsequential. I'm gay, I'm allowed to have negative feelings towards overt religious displays, etc. Was I really ignoring it, then? Why did I need to justify myself if I didn't feel bad? Why did I feel bad? Then, when the first Metatalks started coming out after the "Outrage filter" mishandling, I read over and over - people asking white people to "sit with your discomfort". So, I did. I sat with it, and thought about it. I felt bad because I was wrong. It was really hard for me to let go of, specifically, my queer identity in relation to my feelings. This was so hypocritical of me. I had engaged other white atheists online, or as friends, many times on how their overt hatred of religion was racist. How was this any different? It wasn't. It wasn't! It is so easy to see racism in other people and excuse it in ourselves. We can't see the emotional attachments that other people have. But racism 101 says intent doesn't matter - we know this. My feelings justify nothing. Vitriol for the "other" is at the basis of every racist thought - and that is exactly what I had let myself get carried away with.

As suedeheade's absolutely fantastic comment points out - as white people, we are no better than any other white person. Racism is a system, not just individual actions, with a foundation in passive racism, leading up to tacit racism, active racism, and violent racism. The system cannot stand without the foundation of passive racism that has been taught to, expected of, and rewarded for white people. I encourage all other white people to learn to be uncomfortable with yourself. Our discomfort means growth - we should not be comfortable when we are called out, we should not be comfortable with what we've been taught, we should not be comfortable with being stagnant in our actions and thoughts. It's work, constantly.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:03 PM on June 18 [13 favorites]


I often struggle with the question of whether to "flag it and move on", knowing that mods may choose not to do anything about my flag, or engage in the thread and draw more attention to racist comments.

My suspicion (as a white person) is that the appropriate thing to do is to engage. Racist comments probably don't really go unnoticed; the lack of engagement with racist comments is an implicit comment of its own. If you're scared of saying something wrong, you can probably identify something that you are confident enough in to say, even if it's just "That's wrong.". Just helping to establish a visible anti-racist quorum might give others the signal that it's time to push back, too, with something more substantive.
posted by Jpfed at 3:20 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


In some of the past disability & ableism MetaTalk threads, people have said "I have never flagged a comment" or similar statements, or been unsure about how to flag a post or comment, what happens once you select that "[!]" icon, whether you get to keep a record of the reason you flagged something, and so on. Since some people appreciate a step-by-step guide to an unfamiliar process, I expanded the MeFi wiki page about flags/flagging, including screenshots of each step in the process.

Once I got used to flagging, it became easier to habitually flag eyebrow-raise-causing comments and posts to bring them to moderators' attention. If I am trying to push back on something with a comment, but also I think the thing I'm trying to push back on is against site guidelines, I can flag and reply.
posted by brainwane at 5:44 PM on June 18 [8 favorites]


I just want to jump in here while people are talking about flagging and commenting - I'm gonna assume that most people in here are not reading the POC-only Meta that currently exists but in there I and other members discussed the fact that there was a comment that fully used the N-Word, more than once, and it was up for 3 days until someone in POC Slack caught it, several of us flagged it, and it got deleted. There were comments that came after it. No one apparently flagged it or said anything for 3 days. That says something to me and speaking only for myself, saying nothing or not flagging is just not an option that I think anyone has an excuse for. Obviously if you aren't comfortable saying something, please just flag that kind of shit! So many of the BIPOC members that I speak with regularly will no longer share this site with people because of shit like that - can you imagine recommending this site to someone and they open a thread and the fucking N-Word is just sitting there unchallenged?
posted by primalux at 7:25 PM on June 18 [25 favorites]


Also, I should clarify, this was a comment in an FPP, not the BIPOC Meta
posted by primalux at 7:37 PM on June 18


One option would be to flag, and then write a short comment along the lines of "flagged for racist content"? It's not necessarily going to be helpful to get into an argument about whether or not the comment was racist - I know that for me, seeing long arguments about whether or not a comment is sexist can be dispiriting. But saying something helps show that us white folks also don't find the comment acceptable, which may send a message of support, and takes some of the pressure off of those most negatively affected to be the primary ones to deal with the comment. I don't know if it's similar for BIPOC, but it can also be stressful to see sexist comments called out in a manner that, itself, exhibits toxic masculinity - too much anger can sometimes feel unsafe to folks who have had to spend their whole lives carefully self-censoring their anger and negative emotions, which includes people of color too. An alternate option is the just factual approach, "that comment was racist". And noting this as something I could do better at, myself!

Overall, a lot seems to carry over from in-person bystander intervention to online bystander intervention. Some resources: 1, 2.
posted by eviemath at 8:59 PM on June 18


Tagging on to primalux's point about new people bouncing off:

If I came for the mouthwatering pics , I'm probably not going to stay for the just a pretty face comments, the perpetuation of the devaluation of ethnic food , and the doubling down on some...derail about the relative influx of immigrants from Europe before and after the Civil War?

Really now?

I didn't go looking for this. I clicked a link thinking I was going to scroll through something nice and mindless before bed.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:37 PM on June 18 [16 favorites]


Note on that since I was just sending a couple emails about it as well: I'm not comfortable altering travelingthyme's mod note without their buy-in, and they're off the clock now and presumably asleep. Nixing it for now and putting up my own is the better option available, and I can check in with them next time they're around about if they want to revert it and update their note instead.

There was nothing wrong with the initial note—we wrote it together this morning—but having had a conversation in email with the user who was mentioned, thyme and I both conveyed the issue and the boundary they need to mind better in the future clearly. Between getting that understanding across and their acute discomfort as a new user with being named explicitly and no established pattern of problem behavior, changing the note to be more general felt like a reasonable kindness.

Putting words in thyme's mouth doesn't feel like an acceptable move. This is the other option I had. Mod notes are utility items and sometimes we end up altering them or swapping them out as a situation changes. I am delighted to have thyme working in public at this point and would happily have it be their name in the thread instead of mine, but we have to get work done with whoever is around at the moment.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:27 PM on June 19


I want to talk about something that happened in a thread today that was being moderated for having rampant racism. One of the new mods made a great moderating note that was clear, helpful and steering. It did a lot of the things that POC have been asking for. And rather than sit with the discomfort caused by that, Cortex overruled, deleted the mod note and erased the work. If you want the culture to change, it is going to involve people being uncomfortable. You are going to have to prioritize POC over white feelings.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:33 PM on June 19 [37 favorites]


OK. With the context you should have erred on the side of waiting for them to come back online. White discomfort is not an emergency. You are undermining a POC mod in response to what sounds like white fragility. Their mod note was great and their mod notes have been great. You hired people with varying experiences because you needed feedback and expertise. Please respect that going forward.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:34 PM on June 19 [32 favorites]


So two PoC mods were hired in effort to help change the site culture for the better and help POC feel safer and included here. A PoC mod, travelingthyme, leaves a perfect mod note that was deleted by the leader of this website -- the leader who claims, over and over, to want to do better by PoC. Cortex not only deprioritized PoC members but also undermined a PoC mod's autonomy all to favour white feelings? Do you realize what this says about leadership here?

As of today I will no longer fund Metafilter until I see real, concrete improvements here.
posted by mayurasana at 1:45 PM on June 19 [22 favorites]


And you know what? I'm sorry why the fuck are you coddling the feelings of new users who are acting out in racist ways over long time POC members of the site and literal POC employees of the site? The message you're sending is "If you're new it's fine if you're a white supremacist so long as you learn how to not say it out loud. We'll make sure you're comfortable here. No worries. Gonna bend over backwards to make sure you know you can fit in here."

Why are white people the only people allowed to have feelings?
posted by stoneweaver at 1:51 PM on June 19 [30 favorites]


changing the note to be more general felt like a reasonable kindness.

I'm not done actually. You really need to find a way to acknowledge and accept on a deep, serious level that everyone involved has feelings, not just the white people you personally identify with because you feel like you also are accidentally racist sometimes or whatever the situation is. You keep framing the issue here as between nice white people making mistakes and mean POC trying to push meanness/aggression/anger and it's not acceptable. We also have feelings, including hurt, and we also deserve kindness.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:52 PM on June 19 [31 favorites]


This kind of obfuscation is why whisper networks exist.

Whisper networks are not a feature. They are a symptom.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 1:55 PM on June 19 [9 favorites]


their acute discomfort as a new user with being named explicitly and no established pattern of problem behavior, changing the note to be more general felt like a reasonable kindness

Wasn’t one of the major issues we’ve been discussing here that white users are often unable to accept the fact that we’ve said something racist and treated it like the end of the world instead of a mistake to work from? Not only did you erase that, you did so by literally erasing the work of a person of color. What the heck?
posted by sallybrown at 1:58 PM on June 19 [26 favorites]


There has been a lot of demand over the past few years for more transparency, for leaving pushback against problematic comments in place, and not centering on the feelings of the person making problematic statements; this redaction seems like it goes in exactly the opposite direction of that.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:12 PM on June 19 [9 favorites]


Can we see the original mod note (with the user redacted if need be)? Was taking their name out the only change or was the text/content of the note changed as well?
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:17 PM on June 19 [9 favorites]


You keep framing the issue here as between nice white people making mistakes and mean POC trying to push meanness/aggression/anger and it's not acceptable. We also have feelings, including hurt, and we also deserve kindness.

We have been pretty specifically cutting white people in general a lot less slack than people of color on the site, because by and large white people already have a lot of that slack on account of systemic racism and white supremacy; much of the work we've been doing has been pushing white folks to be aware of and take responsibility for the role their assumptions and default have in making this place less comforting and welcoming to a broader userbase. That absolutely involves calling out patterns of bad behavior when we see it, and visibly signaling when something needs to stop or a guideline is being violated in a thread. And we're trying to be really deliberate about recognizing the asymmetries involved in having a majority white userbase and the need to not let that be a passively encouraged default.

That doesn't translate to "don't be kind to white users", though, and neither does being kind where it's possible mean not trying to do active work to support and defend members of color. I think it's unworkable to pit those two things as a binary; we can be kind to everybody on the site where possible and also do the work to reduce harm and make the site a better and more just place. The goal of MeFi should very much to be accomplish both of those. I've gone out of may way specifically to try and resolve uncomfortable situations or navigate to some kinder outcome on a site conflict many times in the past with people in this thread. It's part of what makes this place more than just a thunderdome or a faceless and unresponsive corporate social media platform. "Hey, I understand the issue but I'm uncomfortable being called out explicitly in that mod note" is a conversation we've had before and taken action on before and not just with white people. It's part of what we do.

So, like: among the work thyme and loup and I did today was talking with that user about the Padma Lakshmi thread (thyme worked up an initial email there and we workshopped the details), contacting another user about an (probably unintentionally, but still) dismissive comment in a recipe ask (loup wrote up an email there, we went over the details together), wrote to a flagger to thank them for their note about some of that, talked through things to keep an eye out on an anonymous question about racism, talked about a US-centricism issue in AskMe, and discussed some ideas about growth on the site and helping make it feel welcoming to new users. (Plus a bunch of other more misc. training stuff.)

The locus of a lot of that was, very specifically, saying: what is the impact of this on people of color and marginalized and non-US folks on the site, and how can we make a better outcome there. And, where possible, making that a thing where individual site members have a chance to grow and improve and be better contributors to this community project. Not everybody is caught up, not everybody is on the same page yet, but that's part of the work of getting there, and it can take kindness and negotiation to make it happen. For the folks who in turn are willing to make the effort, that's worth the trouble.

There's also folks who aren't willing to try, and we're not bending over backward for them at the expense of PoC and marginalized folks on the site. I've banned a couple different people in the last month for being racist or otherwise bigoted, who weren't trying to take any responsibility for it and I have no time for that and they can stay gone for good. That's not where my energy is going at this point. We had someone holler at us this morning for daring to call them racist, for what was actually a pretty gentle bit of guidance that...didn't involve calling them racist. Which, fine, you do you but you're not gonna do it here and I'm moving on with my day and working with people who are gonna be receptive to feedback and make an effort.

This focus on putting it to people to do better with their interactions on the site, and trying to help but also having it be on the person to show they're willing to step up and not wasting time on people who won't make that good faith effort, is something the mod team has been trying to make steady progress on, especially in focus over the last year, and it's something that thyme and loup have already been great contributors to. I'm excited to be working with them and I'm excited for their work to be visible on the site.

I hear and understand why people felt discomfort at the mod note update. I think the conclusions some folks have drawn about it are uncharitable and I would rather someone start with "hey, can I ask about this" instead of "let me tell you what you were thinking" because that's pretty impossible to respond to and we're trying really hard not to do that from the mod side. But that doesn't mean I can't recognize why seeing thyme's name on the page was heartening, or that I don't appreciate the larger question of how the site navigates the balance of naming objectionable comments or patterns of behavior explicitly. I don't agree in that this specific case is a great example of either a necessary callout or a pattern of behavior—it's a user with no track record of crappy behavior, and the issue was "let it drop", not some deliberate pile of racist horseshit—but I hear you on the sense of context and I appreciate the symbolic frustration with it.

We need to be able to do normal day-to-day bits of moderation without attaching huge amounts of symbolic weight to it, though. I am sitting with my frustration with this specific situation because I know people are coming from a place of care and wanting to see visible progress and me talking more about my feelings isn't going to add anything. But we need to be able to basic stuff on the site without it turning into a flashpoint.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:36 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]


Can we see the original mod note (with the user redacted if need be)? Was taking their name out the only change or was the text/content of the note changed as well?

Sure, here's the original note we wrote together this morning:

[Comment and a direct reply deleted. {user}, it’s time to leave this thread alone.]

Pulling out the specific username reference in my rewrite meant I felt it was important to summarize the specific issue instead so there was still a visible moderation marker of "this thing is a problem and we need folks to not do it", so the new one was this:

[Comment and a direct reply deleted. Let the derail about American immigration drop; pressing the issue of who immigrated to the US when is a distraction from the topic.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:40 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


I mean...what's the problem with having your name in a mod note? How is it unkind? I don't understand. It simply seems like clear communication, especially if it was buttressed by communication over MeMail. This is a site that often has visible and direct moderation. Mod notes frequently involve telling someone specific to knock it off. I understand that this is a new user, but surely everyone has to learn sometime that you might politely be asked by name by the moderators to drop a specific line of inquiry? When you put it in context, it smacks of fragility.
posted by zeusianfog at 2:59 PM on June 19 [14 favorites]


I feel like it’s a very bad sign that you’re still viewing this through a lens of kindness or unkindness to white users. There was nothing unkind about the original mod note, which didn’t even mention why the user was being very gently and politely asked to leave the thread alone. Nor would leaving up a user’s mistake or derail through racism be unkind to that user. Accountability is not unkind, having it noted that you derailed a thread or made a racist comment is not unkind. (And none of that even occurred in that mod note.)

And this comment is just, huh? We have been pretty specifically cutting white people in general a lot less slack than people of color on the site

What “slack” have you been cutting users of color?
posted by sallybrown at 3:06 PM on June 19 [28 favorites]


What “slack” have you been cutting users of color?

I am also curious to hear this answered.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 3:14 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]


Specifically, I am curious to hear the accommodations you have made to spare the feelings of PoC users whose comments were flagged for perpetuating a long-standing pattern of making white users unwelcome on this site.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 3:16 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


I mean...what's the problem with having your name in a mod note? How is it unkind?

A lot of people are very uncomfortable with it. It's communicative but it's also inherently confrontational. There's a reason we often omit names from mod notes involving people who are e.g. both righteously upset about something and having trouble regulating their commenting instincts about it, because the point of the mod note is generally to set expectations and communicate boundaries rather than to specifically put someone on the spot.

There's folks who don't mind the idea of being named, there's folks who find it extremely uncomfortable, there's folks in between. I think it's problematic to characterize it as fragility in the general case just because the current context lends itself to that interpretation, because in my history of navigating it over the years with lots of people in the community I've had to talk with all kinds of people expressing discomfort with it for a variety of reasons. Is white fragility on the part of the user part of this case? I think there's a reasonable argument for that interpretation. That doesn't mean that in the process of making it clear to them what the issue is what needs to not happen in the future we can't still work with someone or be accommodating, just like we try to work with and be accommodating to everybody on the site. White fragility isn't a reason to accommodate someone but its existence among someone's overall experience of the site isn't a reason to refuse to, either.

I understand that this is a new user, but surely everyone has to learn sometime that you might politely be asked by name by the moderators to drop a specific line of inquiry?

Sure. This user even learned that. It doesn't mean it needs to universally be the case, though, or that we can't amend a given case if the work got done satisfactorily on another channel. If we can acknowledge that the function of it is not specifically punitive then it doesn't make sense to fundamentally prioritize seeing a name over accomplishing the community goal of producing a good outcome. Sometimes it is going to be a priority to have someone's name be in a note, particularly if it's an ongoing pattern of behavior and they haven't responded to previous attempts to produce a change. This case doesn't feel to me like a strong example of that, and so I don't feel right about making their name on the page a mandatory thing just to make a point. Aiming to avoid protecting people from their own long-term bad behavior is a good thing, and we are continuing to try and do work toward that, but it has to be a contextual thing; I think any push towards creating an expectation that people must be explicitly named is really unhealthy and would have shitty knock-on effects that would affect everybody on the site negatively.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:18 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]


If we can acknowledge that the function of it is not specifically punitive

You misunderstand why I want mods to use names.

It's not about the tragic arc of the white protagonists as they struggle with their fatal flaws.

It's about letting me see where the missing steps are.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 3:29 PM on June 19 [17 favorites]


The original mod note was clearly directed at one person. The replacement mod note reads to me like it's expanding on that to chastise anyone who pushed back on the problematic comment as well. That's not better.
posted by FishBike at 3:32 PM on June 19 [24 favorites]


The original mod note was clearly directed at one person. The replacement mod note reads to me like it's expanding on that to chastise anyone who pushed back on the problematic comment as well. That's not better.


Yes. Thank you FishBike. It also reframes the issue with the deleted comment as the problem with it being that it was a "distraction." That was not the issue and/or not the whole issue; there is a significant context that is being elided there.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:35 PM on June 19 [7 favorites]


What “slack” have you been cutting users of color?

We've been deliberately allowing more space for comments that push the envelope on what would normally have been deletion territory, when those are coming from folks speaking from a PoC or marginalized or historically underrepresented perspective. We've been expanding the boundaries somewhat on expressions of frustration or anger in response to things like systemic racism, dismissiveness, erasure, to make space for comments and lines of discussion that in the past might have been deleted on notionally-neutral principles of keeping things "civil".

We've been watching proactively, and running with flag notes and contact form emails, to monitor and intervene where we can in threads where white voices have traditionally too often blundered in and overwhelmed or derailed conversations about stuff affecting people of color, non-US folks, etc. We've been allowing more leeway for in-thread metacommentary and pushback from folks that in the past would have been more likely deleted as a derail or redirected firmly to MetaTalk.

We've been focusing on keeping around contentful replies when deleting stuff that gets pushback from folks on the site staking out responses to problematic comments. We've been assessing posts that previously might have been deleted as thin or fraught to try to instead support them and/or support the poster in finding a workable framing.

There's a lot of stuff where if the call is "do we nix this because it could turn into a headache, or do we keep it to prioritize this voice", it's going to matter whether that voice is e.g. cishet white male from the US or someone bringing a less well-represented perspective. White folks aren't having a hard time being heard, particularly; they don't need that benefit of this-might-be-rough-but-let's-support-it effort that other voices do.

I don't think we're doing a perfect job, and I don't think we'll ever not stumble on stuff, but this is a priority for the mod team. Trying to make space that we weren't making before is important. I know there's a lot of room for distrust or frustration at how MeFi has handled or failed to handle stuff in the past, I get that and I know there's no quick solution to it. But it's deliberate work we're doing and are going to keep doing.

It's about letting me see where the missing steps are.

I understand that principle, and I appreciate that that's where a lot of this is coming from! But missing stairs and whisper networks about systemic, ongoing issues. It's the person that people don't talk about but you have to know about because they're a creep, an abuser, a recurring fucko. It's the accommodation of known, recurring harm. Usually it's because of some complex of social influence that makes it difficult to confront that situation.

Not everyone who fucks up is a missing stair. People do a bad job and get told to do better and do do better all the time. I think it's possible to both push for transparency especially around patterns of behavior and to not universalize that to the point where every misstep or fuckup needs to be fully a matter of the public record.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:38 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


That doesn't translate to "don't be kind to white users", though, and neither does being kind where it's possible mean not trying to do active work to support and defend members of color. I think it's unworkable to pit those two things as a binary;

Then stop doing it. It is possible to be reasonably kind to white users while also supporting and defending members of color. I honestly did not read past this because your implication that I think you should not be kind to white users is actually too insulting for me to be willing to invest any more time in your comment. It's the perfect encapsulation of the dynamic I'm criticizing, in which you see the ultimate goal of POC on this site as something loosely like "be mean to white people / hurt their feelings."
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:41 PM on June 19 [15 favorites]


meaty shoe puppet said "May I propose that we avoid discussion in this thread of individual mental health issues?"

But that would mean that people would be less free to discuss here possibly ableist implications of some suggestions and policy changes based on their own personal experiences.

And it would mean that we would have a harder time talking about how policy changes might help accommodate disabled members.

I'm mentioning this now in particular because of anxious and depressed people's reflections (in the MetaTalks about disability) on how frustration, anger, criticism, pile-ons, "closing ranks", and other stuff in MetaFilter threads affect them.

If you haven't already, you might find it useful to read a summary of some MeFi problems and things that help from the first of those threads.
posted by brainwane at 4:05 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Then stop doing it. It is possible to be reasonably kind to white users while also supporting and defending members of color.

I'm not pitting them against each other. I'm trying to do the opposite, to make the point that saying we try to be kind where we can when working with people is compatible with prioritizing support for people of color. Folks wanted to know why I changed the note: it was an act of kindness while otherwise pushing someone to be more responsible for the impact of their behavior on other people, particularly members of color, on the website, in a situation where naming them specifically wasn't a material part of making that change happen.

I honestly did not read past this because your implication that I think you should not be kind to white users is actually too insulting for me to be willing to invest any more time in your comment.

I thought your implication was that by talking about being kind, I was deprioritizing or putting blame on people of color. You, specifically, said this above:
You keep framing the issue here as between nice white people making mistakes and mean POC trying to push meanness/aggression/anger and it's not acceptable. We also have feelings, including hurt, and we also deserve kindness.
And I understand that you feel that way, and I understand that that comes from some past friction in discussions, and I'm sorry about contributing to that ill-feeling and distrust. I acknowledged up thread that I understand and am sorry for a sense of conflict with folks from the PoC slack and that that's not something I intended or wanted. I want specifically the opposite, to be able to talk this stuff out in good faith and with nuance, and to make space for folks who feel like they haven't been able to have as much of a voice on the site as they should.

It's the perfect encapsulation of the dynamic I'm criticizing, in which you see the ultimate goal of POC on this site as something loosely like "be mean to white people / hurt their feelings."

I absolutely do not see it that way, and I haven't intended to frame anything today as nice white people vs. mean PoC and while acknowledging that that's where you're at with it I don't understand why you are positioning it that way. I think the ultimate goal of people of color on this site is to be able to spend time here and have their voices heard and not be frustrated or alienated or dismissed, to feel included and accommodated and made to feel welcome and not on the periphery of a site that has historically been unreflectively pretty white in its assumptions. I think PoC want this to be a place where it doesn't feel like you have to push extra hard just to get the normal amount of support within the userbase. I think that's pretty fucking important, and I am trying very hard to support that as much as I can manage.

I get frustrated sometimes that in pursuing that goal pretty directly but also occasionally having stumbles or rough spots, the mod team can end up being characterized as not pursuing the goal at all or being antipathetic. I am trying really hard not to let that frustration define my responses, and to instead talk through what my goals are and what outcomes I'm trying to get to. Because my frustration is mine, and it doesn't mean I'm going to give up on listening to what folks are saying, because hearing y'all is more important to me than feeling personally satisfied about how the conversation is going.

I know folks are coming from their own very real points of frustration and that there's a lot more that comes into this discussion than just literally one mod note or that one thread, and I appreciate the load all of that has on trying to extend trust and the benefit of the doubt on stuff sometimes. I understand it and I am trying to embrace the need to keep doing work to earn more of that over time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:07 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


And I'm responding too much at this point and I've clarified my thinking as much as I think I am able to right now, so I'm gonna step away from the keyboard. Folks who want specific responses to stuff, I'll try to follow up later or tomorrow.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:14 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


I don't feel like further explanation of the thinking and the goals behind changing that mod note is helpful.

What might be helpful is expressing recognition that the change to the note had a negative impact that was unexpected. Several people have said so here in this thread, and I don't feel like there's been a clear acknowledgement of their concerns as valid.

There is something to be learned here about how to handle similar situations better in the future, but it has to start with recognition that, however good the intentions were, the result was harmful to some.
posted by FishBike at 4:26 PM on June 19 [16 favorites]


I absolutely do not see it that way, and I haven't intended to frame anything today as nice white people vs. mean PoC and while acknowledging that that's where you're at with it I don't understand why you are positioning it that way.

I am just going to explain briefly in case this is an "I don't understand" thing. Sorry, but I did not read all of your comments. They are pretty long. I think your tendency to filibuster is something you could pull back on quite a lot.

If someone says "do X" and you say "I didn't do X because I was being kind" that positions "X" and "kindness" as things that are incompatible. If you repeat that pattern of responses over time, the impression becomes stronger.

The reasonable response here would have been something like:

"I was trying to be kind, but I feel like in doing so I did something that was hurtful to other users. That was a mistake. I don't think at this point it's great to change things up before I get traveling thyme's input. I'm sorry that things are kind of left hanging but I feel like I was undermining to them once already and I don't want to do that again. If anyone has other ideas for handling this, I would appreciate hearing them."
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:49 PM on June 19 [30 favorites]


Sorry, but I did not read all of your comments. They are pretty long. I think your tendency to filibuster is something you could pull back on quite a lot.

Can you say a little more about why verbose explanations read as "filibustering" to you, and why you did not read the responses? I find this confusing and am trying to work out what you mean and whether you are saying that you *could not* read them or you did not *want* to read them, but don't want to misread you.
posted by brainwane at 5:01 PM on June 19


What is with this site and its continuous willingness to use disability as a means to shield white people from any accountability whatsoever? Like, this is the site where I was introduced to the idea that BLM is ableist because it made disabled people stand out in the heat while they protested at Toronto Pride. This is the site where we let miss_lapin go on with whatever bullshit in that last Meta that ended up in a string of long-time PoC members buttoning. And now we're using concerns about ableism to rebuke people talking about how cortex keeps going "I have anxiety" to every single request for accountability or discussion on racism is a majorly problematic behavior?

We have got to stop evoking disability to prop up white supremacy. Maybe it's my bias from a full lifetime of experience being a disabled poc, but I'm astounded that people still cannot recognize when this is happening and distinguish it from legitimate ableism. Here's a pretty simple rule of thumb: stop assuming that every single disabled person is white. Is the leniency being insisted on reasonable to apply to disabled POC? Because like, sure, you're sympathetic when someone is loud about racism to a white dude with anxiety. Have you thought about the people of color with anxiety, who as a mandatory component of their lives, have to have these conversations both within and outside of their communities as a matter of survival? Have you thought about the people of color with anxiety who have to like, actually experience racism first-hand, instead of (actually) saying they were traumatized by second-hand accounts? (Hint, I'm one of them!)

dhfjkehwskjfhesjkhckehcjlkheslchjkeshjklsehjkehfdkjlehseuiofhejsklhfsjdklhcdsljkhcjlkeshc
posted by Conspire at 5:01 PM on June 19 [47 favorites]


I am sitting with my frustration with this specific situation [...] me talking more about my feelings isn't going to add anything.

Bringing your feelings up to say you're sitting with them instead of bringing them up is bringing them up. The advice to us white people about our feelings of discomfort and hurt is really to sit with them, not to talk about how we're not talking about them.

I get that you and all the mods are people, and have feelings, and that's valid. At the same time, bringing up your feelings and the feelings of the historically all white mod team in conversations like this one makes an outsized part of these conversations about white feelings. That in turn makes these conversations worse and less effective.

If you want conversations about the site's racism to be better and more effective, having them separately from conversations about mod feelings/burnout/etc. is a thing you have direct control over that would help.

Also, regarding the missing stair exchange: explaining to users how they don't understand missing stairs or whisper networks so your actions are right and what they're asking for is wrong is paternalistic and condescending. I know that's not what you intend, but it's what's happening, and what's happening is more important than what you intend.

In a conversation about how best to improve the racist status quo on Metafilter, you are not demonstrating a willingness to let go of the frame where you are the authority and your members are supplicants. I think the hierarchical frame where you and the mods are the authority over the userbase, even in situations where you don't have the lived experience necessary to understand where the userbase is coming from, is one of the main things holding the site back from making a material improvement in how it deals with these issues.
posted by amery at 5:11 PM on June 19 [30 favorites]


Can you say a little more about why verbose explanations read as "filibustering" to you, and why you did not read the responses? I find this confusing and am trying to work out what you mean and whether you are saying that you *could not* read them or you did not *want* to read them, but don't want to misread you.

I don't want to leave you hanging so I will just say that I am not going to give you this information. I did not include it in my comment because I did not want to share it and that is still the case. I understand that you are trying to get clarity and avoid misreading me, but that does not change my boundaries on this topic.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:34 PM on June 19 [10 favorites]


I would just like to comment cortex that I find your interferance in a POC thread by overiding a POC mod who was one of two people specifically brought in to have a better empathy with the site is both highly disquieting and unwarranted and not only undermines a member of your team but sends a very poor signal to site members all of whom wish to make this a better and more inclusive community.
I hope you have more training scheduled because this is now a high order shitstorm which does not bear repeating. Again.
posted by adamvasco at 6:22 PM on June 19 [25 favorites]


We've been expanding the boundaries somewhat on expressions of frustration or anger

You are tone-policing us "somewhat" less.

We've been watching proactively

It's 2020, and you rely on user flags to notify you of the N-word.

and running with flag notes and contact form emails,

You now accept volunteer labor from PoC to discharge your responsibilities.

We've been allowing more leeway for in-thread metacommentary and pushback from folks that in the past would have been more likely deleted as a derail or redirected firmly to MetaTalk.

Again, I'm not giving out cookies for tone-policing us less.

We've been focusing on keeping around contentful replies when deleting stuff that gets pushback from folks on the site staking out responses to problematic comments.

Again, you now accept volunteer labor from PoC to discharge your responsibilities.

We've been assessing posts that previously might have been deleted as thin or fraught to try to instead support them and/or support the poster in finding a workable framing.

Well, that only took 1133 comments and a PoC buttoning.

White folks aren't having a hard time being heard, particularly; they don't need that benefit of this-might-be-rough-but-let's-support-it effort that other voices do.

travelingthyme did.

But missing stairs and whisper networks [are] about systemic, ongoing issues...It's the accommodation of known, recurring harm. Usually it's because of some complex of social influence that makes it difficult to confront that situation.

divabat put together this list of 43 MeTas about racism on this site between 2001 and 2017. How's that for recurring?

We're in another such MeTa now. How's that for ongoing?

It took half a year, a week of private emails, and multiple MeTa comments to convince you to allow a discussion of your anti-racism training. How's that for "difficult to confront"?

Not everyone who fucks up is a missing stair. People do a bad job and get told to do better and do do better all the time. I think it's possible to both push for transparency especially around patterns of behavior and to not universalize that to the point where every misstep or fuckup needs to be fully a matter of the public record.

Let me be very direct: you are a missing stair. You have done a bad job and you have been told to do better and you have not done better. I am pushing for transparency so that I can work around your failure to address the racism on your site.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 6:22 PM on June 19 [26 favorites]


"I was trying to be kind, but I feel like in doing so I did something that was hurtful to other users. That was a mistake. I don't think at this point it's great to change things up before I get traveling thyme's input. I'm sorry that things are kind of left hanging but I feel like I was undermining to them once already and I don't want to do that again. If anyone has other ideas for handling this, I would appreciate hearing them."

This is an excellent script, and is exactly what would have been great to see happen.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:36 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]


This is a site that often has visible and direct moderation. Mod notes frequently involve telling someone specific to knock it off.

This, exactly. And why did you and travelingthyme have to write their note 'together' anyway? It was one sentence. Is your confidence in them that low, to be holding their hand around the crayon and moving it around to form one sentence? And even then, you couldn't stand behind the words you approved?

I think the hierarchical frame where you and the mods are the authority over the userbase, [...]

Even that frame would be an improvement in this case. This looks like a case of supporting the idea, but balking at the reality and the optics, of a POC having and exercising authority over a white user. If that sounds bold, I recognize it because I've been put through it, though along an axis other than race. I have exercised authority in an established group to shut down an inappropriate newcomer, and had him treat that exercise as illegitimate, and watched those who should have been in my corner turn to him and say You know what, sir, you're absolutely right. I won't say I know exactly what travelingthyme is going to feel when they catch up on this development in the job they were expressly hired to do only two and a half weeks ago, but I've never trusted people the same way again since my version happened to me.

travelingthyme, when you do see all this, I'm sorry. I have also withdrawn my monthly donation to MetaFilter.
posted by jinjo at 6:57 PM on June 19 [18 favorites]

The original mod note was clearly directed at one person. The replacement mod note reads to me like it's expanding on that to chastise anyone who pushed back on the problematic comment as well. That's not better.
FishBike, thank you for clarifying this- for me reading the updated mod-note in that thread, I felt it was a more educational note, useful for readers of the future, rather than an opaque 'hey freethefeet knock it off' style.
Would it be helpful to have a more educational anti-racist mod note?

Also, I would really like to hear from thyme and loup on their perspectives here.
posted by freethefeet at 7:04 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]


You have done a bad job and you have been told to do better and you have not done better.

Really now? I think your definition of "bad" is really bad. I'm not being sarcastic, I genuinely think that your sense of what constitutes good and bad behavior is unnuanced to the point that it's not helpful.

you have been told to do better and you have not done better

Boy, this is a jerky thing to say. I'm of the opinion that those who see the nature of dialog here as a power struggle with people who need to be "told what do do" are not the best people to be determining the direction of the site. If we make a list of things that have the potential to undermine the integrity of the site, that should be right near the top.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:07 PM on June 19 [10 favorites]


I won't say I know exactly what travelingthyme is going to feel when they catch up on this development in the job they were expressly hired to do only two and a half weeks ago, but I've never trusted people the same way again since my version happened to me

Yes. cortex, I don’t think anyone here is advocating that mod notes should or shouldn’t include usernames. The issue is, instead of waiting a handful of hours to discuss an issue with one of the new mods of color, you went in and deleted their mod note because it was more important to you to soothe the feelings of a new white user right away.
posted by sallybrown at 7:39 PM on June 19 [18 favorites]


SpacemanStix, this is your first comment in this thread, where other members have been active in this discussion for a while, and well beyond this thread. Talking about how we, both the members and the mods of this site, handle racism is the whole point that opened this MeTa, which was mod-approved. It's such an important topic that it's linked in the top banner on all subsites.

arabidopsis opened this thread with an extensive history of how we got here, including this MeTa from cortex, from almost a year ago. It opens with this framing:

"Let's talk about how the MetaFilter community can be a more welcoming, comfortable, and equitable place for our non-white members. It's work that's overdue, from the moderation team and the community in general."

So here we are, with two new mods. cortex welcomed and introduced them by writing "both bring a genuine enthusiasm to making the MetaFilter community a more deliberately, thoughtfully inclusive and anti-oppressive space on the internet."

They're new to the site, so I figure they're somewhere in their learning curve for navigating the lengthy site history, and trying to push us forward to where we could and should be. A new member joined a thread and repeatedly digging in where they had been told to stop.

cortex replaced a direct comment that was made by travelingthyme, who introduced themselves with this lovely statement (that I don't think is cheesy at all, fwiw):
Here’s a cheesy acronym I made up for TEA that speaks to who I am as an individual and what I hope we can foster.
Transparency
Empathy
Accountability
cortex's replacement comment removes both the transparency and accountability (a problematic individual is recognized and being disciplined by the mods), favoring what is presented as empathy for a new user. Except as other MeFites here note, favoring the problematic new user over the existing users makes the site less welcoming for everyone.

This is my long way of saying I'm not sure if you've been following along, but it looks to me that cortex isn't following up with his promises and goals from last July, and now actively undermining new staff.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:52 PM on June 19 [24 favorites]


"problematic individual" -
Whether or not this person should be named in the mod comment or not is not something I want to talk to, I defer to other voices in this thread about that. But it's kind of weirding me out to call them problematic as an aspect of their personhood, rather than identifying the problematic behaviour. And I'm not saying "it's just behaviour, it's fine" - it very clearly is not fine. It's good that the comment got deleted and the user hopefully educated. But terming them the 'problematic individual' - just... sigh.

My impression of cortex's comment above about workshopping the comment is about the onboarding of new staff, not because they're POC and need handholding by a white mod (EW) but that they are new to metafilter, and are being given the on-the-job training as they are still new! I feel like this happened with other mods who were new, too- it's just that thyme and loup have a spotlight on them at the moment.
posted by freethefeet at 8:20 PM on June 19 [14 favorites]


freethefeet, thanks for that distinction. I'm sorry for my thoughtless language.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:23 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]


arabidopsis - I very much agree with your comment about us being adults and being able to recognise changed behaviour. I feel that you've kind of expressed what I was trying to say (badly!) in my comment.
posted by freethefeet at 8:23 PM on June 19


What is so awful about a mod saying, "username's comment was removed because of reason." That framing helps EVERYONE. It lets username know their comment was unacceptable and and why; it tells other users the comment was removed, who made it, and why (important information of reassurance and warning for the community); and it models expectations of behavior for others.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:33 PM on June 19 [21 favorites]


I should clarify that I'm not focusing on the anti-racism training or the publishing of names in mod notes or a lobst.rs-style moderation log because I think these are the most important things.

In fact, I think these are relatively unimportant. I wouldn't care about anti-racism training if I had confidence in the mods' understanding of the issues at play. I wouldn't care about publishing names if I trusted the mods to handle problematic behavior behind the scenes rather than helping users cover their tracks. I wouldn't care about a moderation log if I didn't suspect the moderation of being biased.

In fact, I very much wish I didn't have to think about any of this. Why am I making concrete policy proposals? That's not my job. Someone else should be doing that. Why can't I pay my $5 and scroll through my cat pics like everyone else?

5. How do Mefites feel about the current State of the Site? Are you comfortable here?

I feel tired. I feel tired of understanding, tired of waiting, tired of hoping.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:14 PM on June 19 [18 favorites]


People with authority in a community such as MeFi need to hold themselves to, and be held to, a high standard. They also should acknowledge and apologize when they don't meet that standard. Holding to that standard is how you build trust, saying sorry is how you lose less of it when you fail.

I assume that there is some kind of standard for mods they hold themselves to, but whatever it is, I can't find it on the wiki or in the faq, So AFAIK it's neither explicit nor fixed. I think a standard for mod behavior should be discussed (preferably in a separate meta with advance notice beforehand) and then articulated clearly in the FAQ.
posted by gryftir at 9:48 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


I think more white people, the white mods included, need to accept that they may need to do things that feel uncomfortable or make others with racial privilege feel uncomfortable in preventing or mitigating harm to those who lack that privilege.

Speaking plainly and identifying problematic people is not unkind, it is merely a breach of some people's privileged expectation of being well treated and having their feelings considered in every situation, even one they perpetrated. The counterpart is, I would argue, the expectation that you should be able to be entirely comfortable when addressing these situations. It privileges white comfort.

When people do things that harm others here, they have already breached this site's expectation of civility, and the duty of other people with authority is, IMHO, to mitigate the harm and address the issue so it is not repeated, not to publicly cater to the offender's feelings.
posted by gryftir at 9:51 PM on June 19 [14 favorites]


I've written and rewritten this comment a lot, trying to articulate what I want to say in a way that won't hurt Cortex's feelings -- or make anybody I respect like me any less. But I'm tired, and those worries are part of the problem anyway, so I'll just dive in.

I'm a middle-aged white woman, speaking only for myself. But arabidopsis asked how MeFites are feeling about the state of the site, and I'm a MeFite, so here's how I'm feeling:

There are literally novels worth of evidence and years of complaints, and as far as I can tell, nothing has been done to remove Eyebrows McGee from a position in which she has done considerable harm to PoCs on this site. This is horrible.

I sympathize with the instinct to protect a friend, but I feel like it's misguided here. When you protect someone who is doing harm, and allow them to continue doing harm, that harm is now coming from you. PoCs are leaving this site on a daily basis because the mods are disengaged from the harm they are doing, and it leaves this site a much whiter, much poorer space. I will fully admit I have not done all the reading I should have at my age, but even I can see that this is a major problem.

The bare minimum gesture of good faith here is not going to trainings, or hiring more PoC mods. The bare minimum of good faith would have been to suspend EM from moderation duties, consult with some of the community members who were harmed by her actions, and come back to the community at large with a collaborative action plan for creating a safer space going forward. EM voluntarily choosing to sit with an anti-racism counselor is great, and I absolutely applaud it -- but the fact that it was chosen, instead of specifically mandated as a condition of her continued employment at MeFi, is appalling.

The mod team has broken trust with PoC MeFites by consistently ignoring their legitimate concerns in order to protect a mod with a deeply problematic site history. You can't repair broken trust by ignoring the thing you did that broke it. Something like this is the sort of thing white people like us have to fix first -- before the trainings. The trainings don't absolve us from doing the actual work. We can always go to the trainings after.
posted by invincible summer at 10:51 PM on June 19 [23 favorites]


I mean it's about kindness and protecting users unless it's a white mod dealing with POC in which case the major principle is loyalty to that mod. Part of the reason I'm so pissed at this conversation so far is that I thought that at least cortex could be counted upon to stick by the other mods, no matter how utterly horrible their behavior might be, so surely he'd do the same for the new POC mods. How wrong I was.

For context, a mod note I got that was not exactly kind and gentle:
[Rock 'em Sock 'em, you have been here long enough to know not to complain about moderation in-thread. Take it to the contact form, and don't have in-thread tantrums about ongoing moderation where I'm trying to clean up a whole mess of bad behavior -- in which you participated liberally -- and I haven't gotten to one of the offending comments fast enough to please you. You're making it take longer. Please throttle your behavior in this thread way back, or take a break until you can.]
Waiting for my apology and/or for that comment to be deleted, I guess, since protecting users from mods is a thing now.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:09 PM on June 19 [18 favorites]


I just want to circle back, if I may, to the ways in which Cortex communicates in these threads. The wall o' text, multi-paragraph explanations become tl;dr and give the impression, accurate or not, of huge defensiveness and a need to "be right" rather than the just acknowledging issues succinctly and focusing on improvements and action items for the future. Similarly, while I am extremely sympathetic to anxiety issues, you were asked to stop bringing them into answers because they are, unfortunately, not pertinent to the continued issue of clear and prompt communication between mods/site owner and the userbase, particularly POC users. It again becomes a kind of defensiveness that dead-ends discussion. If anxiety about certain topics is a struggle then you should not be the person responding or responsible for those distressing topics at this moment.
posted by TwoStride at 11:27 PM on June 19 [44 favorites]


I just want to say that I appreciate everyone's participation here...very much. As a newcomer, I want to acknowledge the history and years of effort that MeFites have engaged in to make this place what we all deserve it to be. Major respect. I'd like to check in and share some insight on what my training has looked like so far.

Regarding new mod training:
During training hours, I've shadowed on-duty mods, which has been incredibly informative and helpful. I've seen great examples of how to catch not-good things on the site, how to take action and what to consider when making modding decisions. We've discussed the importance of firmly addressing users who are taking up space in threads, the ways in which racism and white supremacy shows up on the site (and what to do about it) and possible systems and strategies for being more pro-active in our modding practice. There's still much to do, no doubt. I'm actively considering my role on the site and how I show up in regards to anti-racism. Both personally and with this new job, my priority is always going to be taking responsibility for my privilege as a non-Black person to make space for folks while holding others and myself accountable.

Now that I am past the shadowing phase, I have worked a few shifts as the on-duty mod, with either Cortex or one of the other mods shadowing me. As I monitor the site and as things come up, I'll often go to them with questions about contextual stuff I don't have a grasp on, or explicitly ask them for their opinion on a potential modding action. I will often formulate an email/mod note draft and my shadow mod will workshop with me until it's good to go, then it's sent off! This means that my decisions are informed by the knowledge I've gathered through the mods, although
I want to note that the mod team has always offered me the space to insert my insights and I've been very welcome to say, "Uh actually, I don't agree with that" and they have been very receptive to my input. It's also been made clear that I will not be tokenized, have full range to say yes or no to things and I will be taken seriously.

Since I'm in a different timezone, I'm catching most of the team at an off-time and folks are likely asleep, so I have yet to discuss the changes that Cortex made to my mod note. I will definitely be checking in to this thread later to share my thoughts on the mod note and address some other things regarding calling people in publicly and the approach to educating users when they've done something not-cool.

I look forward to engaging further with everyone.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 2:22 AM on June 20 [50 favorites]


Thanks for the update, travelingthyme. It can't be easy jumping into a thread like this which relies so much on an understanding of site history, as well as ongoing behaviours across the site right now, including problematic behaviour by your own boss and colleagues.

Cortext, I want to say I'm really disappointed by this thread. I'm shocked, though unfortunately not surprised, by the different treatment of Rock'em Sock'em (called out by name) for, as I understand it, pushing back on racist behaviour, vs a new white user, whose name was redacted when called out for racist behaviour.

I'm also disappointed by the defensiveness of your own responses in this thread.

I'm glad to hear that the team has been undergoing anti-bias training. If your trainers are still on-call or otherwise available for further consultations, I would suggest sitting down with them and this thread and getting their input on what has gone wrong and what you could do differently in future. However, the advice you have already received from POC in this thread and many, many past ones, makes me pessimistic about how much difference that will make, to be honest.
posted by lollusc at 6:24 AM on June 20 [17 favorites]


Would it help to make an internal checklist to look at, when white folks are writing mod responses to things like this?

Like

[ ] Reflects an understanding of the other person's view
[ ] Not defensive
[ ] Not splainy
[ ] Not longer than four sentences
[ ] Maintains space for continuing dialog
[ ] Has been reviewed by another person who has slept and eaten recently and taken a break. Preferably another person who is not white.

Surgeons and pilots have checklists to stop them making dumb mistakes. They deliberately engineer their jobs so it's possible to avoid accidentally hurting people even when they're running on empty and not at their best. It works!
posted by quacks like a duck at 7:57 AM on June 20 [21 favorites]


I see that people are getting upset and annoyed in a MeTa about race, and I see this as a symptom -- of white supremacy, of whiteness, of white fragility on this site. [...] It will be helpful (and really nice) for you to hear them as an expression of hurt that needs empathy and understanding.

This.
posted by Mrs Potato at 9:59 AM on June 20 [6 favorites]


Racism Is Terrible. Blackness Is Not.
So many people taught us to be more than the hatred heaped upon us.
posted by Mrs Potato at 3:30 PM on June 20 [5 favorites]


This is a meta-note to cortex and the mods:

I think the mods have two choices, and you're currently making the wrong choice. The choices are:

1. "To do what the mods think is the right moderation policy"
or
2: "To listen to the people you want to support and adjust moderation policy based on the wisdom of the community."

Right now, I feel like the mods, and Cortex, you're going with #1 - going from "what you think is the right moderation policy". I can feel this - you're doing what you think is Right, and Just, and Helpful. You're learning a great deal, reading, doing anti-racism training, volunteering. Yet, you're getting a lot of (warranted) upset responses, which probably makes you feel defensive and unacknowledged for your work.

I get the impulse to do #1, because Trying To Be Just is something we all should do in our own lives. I imagine that it comes from a sense of caring, of supporting, of wanting to give.

But the biggest, massive downside to the METHOD of #1, not the intention, is that the community culture is constrained by the moderators. If there are seven mods, then there's only seven people's worth of expertise guiding the community policy. And then a community's content and biases and understanding will be amplifications of what and how the mods feel. If the mods are white and don't have experience with racism or anti-racism, the community is white and "doesn't do race well".

--

#2 is different. #2 is about listening to the people you want to support and adjusting moderation policy based on the wisdom of the community. #2 reframes the moderation away from POLICING and towards FACILITATION, as I wrote in this comment last year..

#2 is about taking the wisdom of the community and putting it to work; the moderator-facilitator as way to support healthy communal norms.

This is an code-of-conduct activity I've seen done at the start of community organizing meetings. A facilitator pins up a piece of paper and introduces the idea of a code of conduct, and frames it -- it could be about brave spaces for vulnerability, having space to talk about difficult conversations, etc. They then write a few guidelines down for a code of conduct. ("No racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, fatphobia") AND THEN they pass the mic, ask people to speak up. As people share, the facilitator writes each item down. At the end of the meeting, there's a collective code of conduct that represents a collective desire to create a space. The sheet is kept pinned up on the wall during the meeting as a way to remind people of the collective intention that is set.

In the exercise above, the role of the facilitator is NOT to come with their own ideas of 'what a good conversation is about, and NOT to use those ideas to moderate a conversation. The facilitator GUIDES an intention, helps the collective set the intention that the collective wants to set. The facilitator helps the community be the community that the community wants to be.

It's important to note that the facilitator in the exercise above could never have written the code of conduct document by themselves. They shouldn't have to; that's not the point.

In this scenario above, a really unfortunate mistake would be if the facilitator believes they have to come up with a comprehensive code of conduct, all alone by themselves. They would fail deeply, leave things out, leave people out, and feel disappointed in themselves, or unacknowledged, or defensive.

--

Cortex, moderators, this last mistake is kind of what I'm urging you to avoid. There's a lot of people angry and upset. Please don't receive these comments, try to parse them, compare it against "your policies", and then push back and to say whether they're good or bad. That's a #1 mindset to this whole thing, the policing mindset.

The #2 frame, the facilitator frame, can look like: "oh okay, it looks like that's what the BIPOC members of the community wants, and because I want to support, I will TRUST their words and intentions and we will change our moderation/facilitation practices going forward." TRUST people.

--

To connect this the current pressing issue of abolition this policing mindset: The police is everywhere, in our own minds too, in our communities. The tools of incarceration, of exile, of policing, of judgement -- they're so ingrained.

Communities shadowban, ban people, have moderators, delete comments, etc. I'm not saying banning people from an online community is itself bad, but that these tools of community control and moderation need to be thought of with deep intention, because it's likely than not that they're in alignment with societal norms of punishment and policing that are rooted upon the suppression of certain voices. The police are a deeply racist and anti-black system designed that way from the start. White politeness, fragility, and avoidance make it very difficult to talk about racism and injustice because it makes white people "uncomfortable". Together, spaces of propriety and policing work together to enforce and enable a white supremacist system.

What I'm saying is: it's not a COINCIDENCE that we're having this conversation here on dear old Metafilter! I think it's thrilling, and important, to be honest. OF COURSE the conversation about race and whiteness, processes of moderation, moderators policing conversations and having conflicts with the community that desires a different conversational context for the site -- OF COURSE we are having this conversation. It's a microcosm of what's been happening in the world and in USA for a while.

The answers to this microcosm of a community are the same ones that are being yearned for outside -- restorative, transformative justice that don't use the tools of police, imprisonment, exile, violence, but are about calling in, educating each other, supporting each other.

Moderators: I would encourage you all to deeply examine your role as moderators and how it can be adjacent to a 'policing' mindset. I wrote more about this a while back, too.". You have an entire group of people who CARE about this place enough to write words about our disappointment. These expressions of disappointment are expressions of care and community.

And honestly I would ALSO say to all mefites, including myself; there's a way in which the presence of moderators has also made it possible to push off a sense of responsibility to the community. An abolitionist, restorative stance is to take care of each other -- mutual aid, support, calling in.

Ultimately, the moderators alone are never going to create the community we want. I don't mean this in a pejorative or pessimistic way; we could magically have bestest moderators in the world and it would still be lacking if the people on this site didn't try to make it better and step up in participation. Yesterday I was protesting and handing out food and people are already out here on the streets, sharing food and water and taking care of each other. It's like: a better world is already possible, and has been going on, in terms of finding interdependence and mutuality to support each other. I'm not going to wait for the moderators to change the site. (AND AGAIN: the bipoc on this site have been trying and trying and trying!)

Sorry not sorry for this screed. I am buoyed up at deep rage and ANGER and optimism and hopefulness for the future that COULD and OUGHT to come, in our spaces, in our communities, everywhere.

TLDR: mods, stop being cops lol, you're better than that, become facilitators and become PART of the community (like the bipoc who have been posting and talkng and discussing and organizing already) <3
posted by suedehead at 3:45 PM on June 20 [135 favorites]


suedehead's comment can't be emphasized enough. There's a whole new framework of thinking in there that could really shift the way mods are responding to and acting on BIPOC users demands. As a white user who mostly lurks, the big disconnect I see here, specifically in this thread, is the lack of trust that suedehead talks about. Cortex hears and responds to (at great length) valid criticism of his moderating, but doesn't seem to actually believe what BIPOC users are telling him needs to be done.

Instead of bringing in an outside diversity consultant, what if the mods were to give up modding control to long-time BIPOC users for a day? Or even just control of deciding what to do about flagged comments? What if the mods shadowed for a day (like travelingthyme did) the temp mods and listened to their decision-making, and then, most importantly, let those decisions stand? Would that help build trust? Would it disrupt the MeFi status quo enough to push the mods towards accepting permanent change in the way they moderate? I've read enough MetaTalk and POC-only threads to believe that there are many users here who care enough about MeFi to put in that labor if they had reason to think it would actually make a difference. (And it should go without saying that they should be paid for that work.)
posted by book 'em dano at 6:23 PM on June 20 [13 favorites]


meta to myself: get a new fucking username
posted by book 'em dano at 6:25 PM on June 20 [13 favorites]


I want to join suedehead's Metafilter.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:38 PM on June 20 [18 favorites]


Yes! suedehead has consistently presented a vision of what MetaFilter could be that is extremely appealing.
posted by Jpfed at 7:50 PM on June 20 [11 favorites]


I want to join suedehead's Metafilter.
Me too.
posted by lollusc at 1:22 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


Hear hear!
posted by Mrs Potato at 3:08 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


Since I'm in a different timezone, I'm catching most of the team at an off-time and folks are likely asleep, so I have yet to discuss the changes that Cortex made to my mod note. I will definitely be checking in to this thread later to share my thoughts on the mod note and address some other things regarding calling people in publicly and the approach to educating users when they've done something not-cool.

Has this discussion been able to happen yet, or is it on hold until the work week starts?
posted by Dip Flash at 6:10 AM on June 21


I’ve been sitting with why this decision came across as so awful. There’s a persistent attitude on this site that changes are being made to accommodate users of color, like the site is doing them a favor, cutting them slack, whatever, rather than a recognition that these discussions are a favor to the site, to try and help Metafilter stay in business instead of turning off a huge portion of its potential customer base. There were years when it was touch and go with female users trying to achieve something similar with regard to sexism, and I don’t think it would have succeeded without jessamyn being there to validate from the inside. This is one of the reasons people have stressed the importance of more diverse mods. But (regardless of how things actually were on the inside) jessamyn always seemed empowered to me as a user—she had clout from being here so long, it never felt like there was someone with more power who controlled what she did and didn’t say. Maybe there were times when she was publicly overruled or rebuked in discussions about sexism here, but I don’t remember any.

And here it’s so different: travelingthyme is brand new to the site. There’s a lot of hope loaded on the shoulders of the new mods of color from users (me included) who saw their hiring as a sign that maybe the site really can change. This is why it felt so bad to some of us, I think, to have cortex publicly delete their comment, even if that seems minor or innocuous. It’s a public undermining. And then the reason given was the hurt feelings of someone else new to the site, a white user. So not only does the new mod have visibly less power than cortex, the new mod also has visibly less power than a brand new user. That’s a stark and public display of the power hierarchy here. And if you’ve had even the most basic discussions about power dynamics in the workplace, it should be really freaking obvious how that’s an elementary, Racism 101 level mistake. But cortex dug in on acting like it was meaningless, and then (imo) posted replies that gave of a flavor of “come on, we’re already bending over backwards for you complainers!” Feels like we’re back to square one...
posted by sallybrown at 6:32 AM on June 21 [64 favorites]


Heya, I've been keeping my voice out of this the last couple days because I'm pretty upset about my engagement on Friday. I want to apologize for responding so much and for getting sucked into my frustration about the how rather the what of people's response to that mod note situation. I should know better than to dig in at at time when I recognize no one is particularly looking for that. I'm sorry for doing that and for the hurt and frustration I caused other folks here as a result.

I want to loop back around briefly as I can manage on a few things and then I'll step back again for now.

1. I do understand where the sense of concern and discomfort and upset about travelingthyme's mod note getting replaced comes from. That I have an internal mod-team perspective on that being routine work doesn't change the fact that it was meaningful and dispiriting for folks looking at it from a different perspective. I was bothered by folks telling me what my motives were, but I get why it felt bad and I should have set aside my personal hurt and focused on talking that out and letting it be at that. I'm sorry for letting my own frustration and feelings play a central role in my responses. I try to comparmentalize that as much as possible and I failed at it on Friday and that made things worse.

2. travelingthyme and I have managed to check in briefly yesterday but weren't at the computer at overlapping times; time zones and it wasn't a scheduled work day from them, so we haven't had a proper discussion yet, but we have our weekly team meeting later this morning so they should be around to talk it through then.

3. I agree with the suggestion that it would have been better to just hold off on the mod note edit. If I'd realized that replacing the note would cause such hurt for folks in the site membership I would have absolutely prioritized that; on reflection and listening to what folks have had to say, I think I should have just prioritized that no matter what. It wasn't an urgent situation, and the instinct to resolve stuff quickly got the better of me when waiting and coordinating with thyme about it would have been a totally reasonable move instead.

4. I like a lot of what suedehead is saying and has said before about a greater facilitation focus in moderation and in trying to empower more community self-direction vs. mods as a bottleneck for community action. I talked way above about wanting to work more on that, and I'd like to take steps forward on that in the coming month esp. as the new mods transition out of training and settle in to regular work shifts.

I'll leave it there. Again: I'm sorry for handling things Friday the way I did. I understand why people were upset about the mod note change and I want to focus on helping work through what can work better for everybody in the future rather than worrying about how I feel about how it was presented. I apologize for falling down on that; that's not what I've been trying to make my role in these discussions be or what folks have been asking for it to be, and that's on me.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:13 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


instinct to resolve stuff quickly got the better of me

greater facilitation focus in moderation... I'd like to take steps forward on that in the coming month

I think taking a look at what you feel urgency on could be beneficial.

I also think weighing importance with the Eisenhower matrix could help.

The community would appear to have different items on their urgent important list.
posted by bfranklin at 7:40 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Cortex, I had a conversation with you 5 years ago where I commented about how the mods privileged intent (their own, and also the intent of people who are commenting) over anything else, that there was a general overfocus on intent, and the response from you was "sorry about your frustration but my intent was". When I noted that my initial comment said I didn't care about intent but about results and you took me out of context/didn't even read what I wrote, well, you ignored that. Now, this was about a different issue -- but it shows that this way in which you respond is an issue that has lasted many years.

People either believe you mean well, or that you think you mean well, or they don't. Banging on and on about how you mean well instead of discussing impacts is only going to move people from believing you do mean well to believing you don't.
posted by jeather at 7:53 AM on June 21 [34 favorites]


Cortex, your personal relationship with racism and how you feel about being perceived as racist is really not important and is self centring. Seems to me systemic racism and white supremacy is the white elephant in the grey room. You’re at the head of “the system”, so change it.

+1 for suedehead’s system. And PoC Slack congressfolk.
posted by taff at 8:08 AM on June 21 [20 favorites]


I was bothered by folks telling me what my motives were, but I get why it felt bad and I should have set aside my personal hurt and focused on talking that out and letting it be at that. I'm sorry for letting my own frustration and feelings play a central role in my responses. I try to comparmentalize that as much as possible and I failed at it on Friday and that made things worse.

<3 I have been there and made similar failures and deeply understand how that feels. This stuff is really deep and can touch wellsprings of emotion for all of us, because community relationships echoes relationships from our own experiences of groups. And I offer up facilitation as an path because it’s a path to decompartmentalize too; the practiced, thoughtful facilitators who can really hold a space seem to do so because they’re in tune with their own emotions.

Hmm. Maybe a good framing for the community is to realize that the mods actually don’t have that much power. The mods might be policing but aren’t the police. (At least right now) There’s a way in which the idea of the police, though, can make everyone else complacent - “oh someone will fix that”.

Facilitation works better and better when a group is stepping up, showing up. It’s like the abolitionist phrase: “we keep us safe”. It can also be: “we keep us anti-racist, facilitated, thoughtful, considerate, listening.” It can also be listening and caring and stepping on as accomplices in supporting efforts about anti-racism, making it a space that’s trying to be free from transphobia, or ableism, or misogyny, or body-shaming, or elitism, or classism, and having a good fun interesting thoughtful time in the process.

I want to join suedehead's Metafilter.

Haha oh wow, thanks.

AND you have! You’ve already joined it! You’ve always been here. This is already it, this one. Now that we’re here, how shall we talk together? How do you, how do we want to make that happen?
posted by suedehead at 8:42 AM on June 21 [52 favorites]


The fireworks thread feels like a whole lot of well off white people going "the POLICE? Engaging on psychological warfare on Black and Brown communities?! Pish and tosh, all balderdash! It's probably The Youths/Covid/people are just bored."

It is a little bit out there as a theory but given the NY Post has a story about firefighters there setting off fireworks, not unreasonable.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:04 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


An update: I had a conversation with cortex about the deletion of my note. I shared my concerns and cortex is giving me the space to delete his note and reinstate my original mod note.

I've also suggested to the mods that we have a meeting to discuss strategies for taking everyone's suggestions, input, and concerns to create an actionable plan. The mods are going to share their takeaways from this thread and we are going to facilitate a conversation that addresses the concerns that folks have been voicing here and in the past. Thank you all for your labor, seriously.

In terms of my own thoughts around calling folks in, it's of great importance to lean into the discomfort of being held accountable. As such, I'm always open to hearing from y'all around the site or one-on-one and want it to be known that I know I'm not exempt from criticism and accountability. Also, thank you, suedehead for your thoughts on facilitation. My in-person facilitator self is itching to do more of it. I'm hopeful and determined to facilitate more and really become a part of the MeFi community.

Off to bed for now, will check back in soon!
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 12:19 PM on June 21 [55 favorites]


The fireworks thread feels like a whole lot of well off white people going "the POLICE? Engaging on psychological warfare on Black and Brown communities?! Pish and tosh, all balderdash! It's probably The Youths/Covid/people are just bored."

(1) I'm not white and (2) I live in one of those communities and (3) I can walk outside and see who is setting fireworks in my area, but obviously I'm not calling the police on anyone right now.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:16 PM on June 21 [7 favorites]


I can't believe what I'm seeing in this thread, I really cannot. The same conversations & the same bad actions & the same clear & straightforward requests from the community & the same "woe is me wall of text but sorry still nothing I can do but boy do I wish I could" in response - here in JUNE 2020 - makes it really hard for me to continue feeling like this is place is being run by anyone who deserves my support every month.
posted by bleep at 3:03 PM on June 21 [19 favorites]


If the only thing we can do is vote with our dollars then I'm not voting for whatever this is.
posted by bleep at 3:05 PM on June 21 [6 favorites]


From a racism MeTa a year ago:
Here's a bet. We will be at this exact place in a year, on June 22nd, 2020, emptily talking about "how we need to talk about race" and "let's listen to our POC mefites" and "maybe we should have a non-white mod??" without any real change happening from white mods or white members. I dearly hope I am wrong. Let this comment stand in time to prove me wrong in the future.
Seems like someone owes suedehead some money, poc mod notwithstanding.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:25 PM on June 21 [29 favorites]


cortex, travelingthyme, and mods --

Please, please use this feedback well in your upcoming action-plan meeting. arabidopsis, suedehead, meaty shoe puppet, anem0ne, 23skidoo, divabat, jj's.mama, corb, stoneweaver, kalessin and many others done so much heavy lifting for y'all. The issue of race clearly needs more care on this site. I am begging you to go back and re-read these threads, there is so much good stuff in here.

Do not allow this to continue to go so woefully under-addressed. Do not placate and vacate. Do not under any circumstances let the discussion be one about intentions. It is about harm done, and the way to truth and reconciliation. It is about the way forward. I expect follow up in a reasonable timeframe and I expect change.

Anything less is a devastating, possibly fatal blow to this community. We have lost many members already. We have lost financial support from members. This is existential to Metafilter. It should not exist without a framework of justice and anti-racism, and I firmly believe, without that, it will not.
posted by kaelynski at 6:12 AM on June 22 [18 favorites]


I was originally just going to make a comment that succinctly said "white person here to remind other people here that intent is meaningless stood up next to impact". But After thinking on the way that somethings have transpired, I think it would be irresponsible of me to not stand up to the truly appalling actions from Cortex. My reasoning for thinking my input is valuable, as a white person are as follows:
  1. Up thread users of color (suedehead, you are invaluable) had mentioned that white people really need to get over their discomfort of "rocking the boat" and start to flag racist comments and respond to users to educate.
  2. Users of color have done an insane amount of labor over the years and I would like to alleviate some of that
  3. To put it bluntly, Cortex prioritizes white voices.
  4. To expand on that, Cortex repeatedly frames racial issues as white v poc, as favors to poc, as issues that only matter to poc. I want to rive home the point that racism is everyone's issue, and the site is worse off for not having the unique and diverse opinions and experiences of users of color. Right now the site is but a dull shadow of how beautiful it could be.
I am truly shaken about Cortex's resolution to prioritize his own voice. It comes off to me that Cortex sees himself as the owner of rights, and whether or not rights/freedom voice are given to POC is dependent on if he feels like the specific request was justified. Apparently he did not feel like Thyme's right to a voice as a mod was not justified, because a white user's feelings were prioritized. This has absolutely got to stop.
Kindness is a falsehood. Cortex, what you are perceiving as "being kind" is actually White supremacy. The status quo dictates that upsetting it is uncouth, uncalled for. A user who is saying racist things is being unkind. Telling him the truth is not an unkindness - it is a natural, and logical consequence of his own actions.
I mentioned in my comment up thread that Racism is a pillar that builds on itself - passive racism is the foundation, followed by tacit racism, active racism, and violent racism. The user in question was being actively racist - and he was able to do so by your tacit racism in prioritizing his feelings, and the passive racism of all white users on this site. If we stop accepting passive and tacit racism, active and violent racism will not be allowed. You and I are part of the problem, and we can't let it continue.

Pulling the ableism card is tacit racism. Assuming that all people with disabilities are white is active racism. I have a long and heavy history of mental illness from the time I was 4. Racism is more important. Individual white people's mental health does not excuse racism. If you are ill or disabled, and you feel it gets in the way of you joining in the destruction of racism, then you need to take active steps immediately to alleviate that. Not seeking help, and instead using your disability as an excuse is tacit racism. Bringing it up in this thread is a derail. Cortex, if your anxiety prevents you from doing this job properly, you need to seek help. If help does not alleviate it, you need to step down. Remaining in a position of power while being aware you're not able to perform the job, is upholding white supremacy. Intent does not negate the impact.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:55 AM on June 22 [32 favorites]


Howdy. White cis old person here. It feels ... weird that this thread gets a banner while we do not also have a banner for the MetaTalk BIPOC-only thread posted by primalux on June 6. Can we add the other thread to the banner as well? There may well be BIPOC folks who missed it.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:59 AM on June 22 [4 favorites]


In a (or rather, one of the) previous thread that covered pretty much exactly the same ground with same beats and same patterns, I bet on:
The optimistic outcome of finally lining up and engaging with consulting and training is that there's going to be a fair amount of "challenging" embarrassment when confronting often recent past recollections of patterns and cycles and systems you've engaged in, defended, and promulgated as both organizational policy and just personal doings (or not-doings). There's going to be a fair amount of weary "we'd already told you that mutliple times for free" when you bring training-findings to the community. There's probably old jokes revolving around a good chunk of consulting and training and therapy rests on people not trusting what they're told unless they're paying someone to tell it to them.
Well...it's not often I look back and say "self? That was too optimistic!" Because now I'm wondering if part of the steady delays in getting training (that previous thread the story was still It's Still Being Lined Up For Our Unique Exceptional Needs) was finding someone who'd only tell them things that they already wanted to hear.

Or even if it actually happened. Because a lot of the reports on how valuable it was and how interesting read a lot like a student bullshitting through a book report not having done the reading.

Ideally in another eightish months I'll look back on this and think I overcorrected and was being far too cynical and pessimistic. Some crow is very tasty! But I expect pretty much the same threads again, just with even fewer participants because even more members will have become ex-members, or just further given up on the labor of trying to get through the fragility shields.
posted by Drastic at 8:18 AM on June 22 [5 favorites]


Working on mod work transparency through more frequent small updates: we had a meeting this morning (me, thyme, loup, LM, EM) to talk through some advisory committee framework ideas and try to work out a set of steps for getting that going. Facilitation and advisory work is something travelingthyme in particular has experience with and they were able to provide some good outlines of common structures and challenges with the process.

I'm following up with the whole mod team today so we can get feedback from everybody, and then we'd like to share a sketch of all this on MetaTalk in the next week or so, so we can talk through that as a community and figure out next steps.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:10 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


I'm white.

Cortex:

Heya, I've been keeping my voice out of this the last couple days because I'm pretty upset about my engagement on Friday. I want to apologize for responding so much and for getting sucked into my frustration about the how rather the what of people's response-

Why would that reaction even be possible for you at this point in human history? I read in the morning paper that cops shot out a 22-year-old art major's eye at a protest. Shot her eye out of her head and you're frustrated about the how rather than the what do you understand at all how skincrawling it is to read that? How can you say that in print and affix your username to it and not even worry for a second how it makes you look?

-to that mod note situation. I should know better than to dig in at at time when I recognize no one is particularly looking for that.


It's not that "no one is particularly looking for that"--understatement of the century--it's that if you understood as you are about claim that you understand, you wouldn't be able to "dig in," as you put it. There would be nothing to dig in TO. You would be moreso, "Tumtetiddlee, tumteetoo, yawwwn, slurp o' the mornin coffee, aaaah... Welp, another day, another dollar. Best turn on the MetaFilter and see what's happened since last I... OH NO! They're yelling at me on the race thread? Craaap, nooo... I've done something... OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE HOW CAN I FIX IT" But if you understood as you are about to claim you do, you wouldn't have done it in the first place--you'd've run in the opposite direction. Why on EARTH after the past YEAR of this do you STILL think you're able to moderate threads on race? How in the world, Cortex?

1. I do understand where the sense of concern and discomfort and upset about travelingthyme's mod note getting replaced comes from.

I understand that you think you understand, but I don't think you understand

That I have an internal mod-team perspective on that being routine work-
Is nothing short of insane at this point see above they shot out her eye will you please look out of your two existing eyes at the actual world and realize your internal mod-team perspective should have changed by now to allow your realizing that moderating threads about race is not routine work that is WHY you hired POC mods omfg

doesn't change the fact that it was meaningful and dispiriting for folks looking at it from a different perspective.
It's not "a different perspective." It's the RIGHT perspective. If you come at these situations with a "they are right about these things. They understand these things" perspective yourself, then you'll be able to dodge this uncomfortable place you're in right now sometimes and you'll be able to get out of this place sooner other times, and at still other times you'll be able to simply be in this place without unbearable discomfort so severe that you write appalling stuff

I was bothered by folks telling me what my motives were,
NO ONE CARES NO ONE CARES NOBODY CARES THAT YOU WERE BOTHERED BY FOLKS, you fully sighted, did-not-suffer-a-day-in-your-life poor blundering creature! Please, please figure this out sooner than later so that you can spare yourself further public flaying.

but I get why it felt bad
You need to get your head around this: the people of MetaFilter are not your children. that it "felt bad" isn't really the issue. The issue is simply that you need to do your job. Your job in race threads is to delegate to the people you specifically hired to do what you can't, which is communicate effectively in race threads.

and I should have set aside my personal hurt and focused on talking that out-

Nope! Nope, nobody needs you to talk anything out. Doesn't matter how it happened; needs to be un-happened, not explained.

-and letting it be at that. I'm sorry for letting my own frustration and feelings play a central role in my responses. I try to comparmentalize that as much as possible and I failed at it on Friday and that made things worse.
Yeah: you're doing this wrong. You need to feel those frustrations all the way. Let them set your hair alight. "Sit with your feelings" 'til you're bored with your feelings. Then just pick up the morning paper and read that a 22-year-old lost an eye for going to a protest armed with milk and bottles of water to treat her fellow protestors for their injuries and then realize that the best thing you can do right now is haul up whatever teeeeeeenytiny burden you're allotted in this and get on with it. Do your part of the suffering. You can do it. You will emerge intact with two functioning eyes. That's your lot: to suffer barely at all and emerge fine and then to feel fully the survivor guilt. NOT to let us all know how painful it is for you to be misunderstood in your job as a website moderator.

...

3. I agree with the suggestion that it would have been better to just hold off on the mod note edit. If I'd realized that replacing the note would cause such hurt for folks in the site membership-

The hurt it caused the folks is not the issue. The issue is that you didn't realize it would cause hurt, despite the fact that if you had the understanding you claim above to have, that that move would've caused hurt to folks would have been patently obvious. But you haven't learned this stuff, yet. That's why you hired people to do it. Because you haven't learned to do it, yet. So you need to just let them do their jobs. They don't need you to train them on this part.

I would have absolutely prioritized that; on reflection and listening to what folks have had to say, I think I should have just prioritized that no matter what. It wasn't an urgent situation, and the instinct to resolve stuff quickly got the better of me when waiting and coordinating with thyme about it would have been a totally reasonable move instead.
My only quibble with the above statement is the article. It was THE totally reasonable move. You didn't have a dizzying array of totally reasonable moves. You had one reasonable move--stay out of it, since you don't know what you're doing, yet.

...

I understand why people were upset about the mod note change-

I don't think so, see above

-and I want to focus on helping work through what can work better for everybody in the future rather than worrying about how I feel about how it was presented.
Probably the absolute least you can do and also something that you should know better than to say aloud because as mentioned above your burden is that you have to read critical comments and others' burdens are rather more severe.

I apologize for falling down on that;
It's okay.

that's not what I've been trying to make my role in these discussions be
or
what folks have been asking for it to be,

Oh, look there at that weird grammatical construction in that sentence that you wrote! What's that "or" doing there? Why would that little word be there? Why, in other words, would what you're trying to make your role be and what folks have been asking for your role to be be two different things, Cortex? Your role in these discussions will be what folks have been asking for it to be if you want this site to survive.

and that's on me.
Yes, but you're not alone in this. You have many many friends who love you and many many many who love the site. My father used to say: "Nobody teaches; one learns if one wants to." Many people have been trying to teach you. Do you want to learn? I hope that you do, because I love this place.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:27 AM on June 22 [19 favorites]


Yes ^^^^^^^^^^^^^. "Mod transparency" isn't what's wrong when the things you want to be "transparent" about never should have happened. "Lack of updates" isn't what's wrong when you haven't done anything you can update us about. The community has said "Make better decisions than this." over and over and over and over. Finally you said you needed someone to teach you how to make good decisions. Then you didn't hire someone to teach you, because you were busy and having emotions about things. The community said "Hire a mod who already knows how to do it" then the first thing you did was stop them from doing it. This all has to stop, seriously.
posted by bleep at 11:44 AM on June 22 [17 favorites]


travelingthyme: Also, thank you, suedehead for your thoughts on facilitation. My in-person facilitator self is itching to do more of it. I'm hopeful and determined to facilitate more and really become a part of the MeFi community.

Yay, I'm glad you're here! I'm really looking forward to the facilitating sessions you might hold with us here.
posted by suedehead at 11:50 AM on June 22 [5 favorites]


I keep circling back to cortex's remark:

We have been pretty specifically cutting white people in general a lot less slack than people of color on the site, because by and large white people already have a lot of that slack on account of systemic racism and white supremacy;

I assume this thought comes from a good place, but I still find it troubling.

The way I interpret it, the site has certain norms and guidelines, and cortex is saying from time to time people step out of those norms of propriety and they have to get put back in line by moderation. However, in the case of POCs, the mods let us get away with violating those norms more frequently because they commiserate with frustrations that we as POCs experience that lead us to acting out in a way that would normally be deemed inappropriate.

So POCs behavior is still overly problematic, but it's okay, because stuff.

For one, this veers dangerously close to pity and condescension. Maybe not intentionally but that's definitely how it comes across to me.

Second, and more importantly, it functions like some kind of presidential pardon in that it requires first the assumption of guilt in order to take effect. If I as a POC am not saying anything inappropriate, then you're not cutting me slack by letting my comment go unpunished. So by allowing me additional "slack," you're still claiming that I'm at fault.

I'd argue that a better way to perceive the disparities is this: If your rules require a different set of standards for white people and POCs, how about re-examining what those rules are in the first place? For example, if you think you're generously letting POCs get away with "being unkind," to borrow FirstMateKate's point, then maybe the expectation of kindness needs to be re-examined in terms of what it really means and how it is best manifested. I am definitely 100% in favor of people being kind to each other here on MeFi. It's the scope of what constitutes genuine kindness that needs to be right-sized.

Using decriminalization as a means of addressing disparities in the incarceration rate of minorities doesn't indicate an inferiority in minorities, but shows (among other things) that there are inherent flaws in the penal code, such as the matter of why we are arresting people at all for recreational drug use. In that same way, if there are MeFi rules that require a special dispensation toward POCs to allow us to participate equally, then there is some problem with the rules, or more broadly with the overall tenor of the site. We don't need to be given the gift of extra "slack." We're not the problem. To completely mis-paraphrase John Roberts, the way to stop institutional racism, is to stop racism by institutions. Including this one.

That can start by overcoming the inherent bias of seeing POCs as transgressive toward norms, and instead see norms as transgressive toward POCs.
posted by xigxag at 11:50 AM on June 22 [65 favorites]


"Howdy. White cis old person here. It feels ... weird that this thread gets a banner while we do not also have a banner for the MetaTalk BIPOC-only thread posted by primalux on June 6. Can we add the other thread to the banner as well? There may well be BIPOC folks who missed it."

I'd prefer that kind of attention not be called to a thread where we've asked white people not to participate. This is the appropriate thread for attention to be drawn.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:50 AM on June 22 [10 favorites]


Repeating for emphasis:

"I'd argue that a better way to perceive the disparities is this: If your rules require a different set of standards for white people and POCs, how about re-examining what those rules are in the first place? For example, if you think you're generously letting POCs get away with "being unkind," to borrow FirstMateKate's point, then maybe the expectation of kindness needs to be re-examined in terms of what it really means and how it is best manifested. I am definitely 100% in favor of people being kind to each other here on MeFi. It's the scope of what constitutes genuine kindness that needs to be right-sized.

Using decriminalization as a means of addressing disparities in the incarceration rate of minorities doesn't indicate an inferiority in minorities, but shows (among other things) that there are inherent flaws in the penal code, such as the matter of why we are arresting people at all for recreational drug use. In that same way, if there are MeFi rules that require a special dispensation toward POCs to allow us to participate equally, then there is some problem with the rules, or more broadly with the overall tenor of the site. We don't need to be given the gift of extra "slack." We're not the problem. To completely mis-paraphrase John Roberts, the way to stop institutional racism, is to stop racism by institutions. Including this one."
posted by stoneweaver at 12:01 PM on June 22 [16 favorites]


Second, and more importantly, it functions like some kind of presidential pardon in that it requires first the assumption of guilt in order to take effect. If I as a POC am not saying anything inappropriate, then you're not cutting me slack by letting my comment go unpunished. So by allowing me additional "slack," you're still claiming that I'm at fault.

FUCKING THIS. I haven't done SHIT except try to make this site better and I'm tired of being treated like a problem because of that.
posted by sunset in snow country at 12:09 PM on June 22 [36 favorites]



travelingthyme: Also, thank you, suedehead for your thoughts on facilitation. My in-person facilitator self is itching to do more of it. I'm hopeful and determined to facilitate more and really become a part of the MeFi community.

suedehead: Yay, I'm glad you're here! I'm really looking forward to the facilitating sessions you might hold with us here.


I am by no means an expert but also really value facilitation in my training work, and would very much like to see it happening here.

My hesitation is based on these bigger issues that have still not resolved, and may never resolve, regarding the tension between 1) a really committed and caring community that wants to see this community thrive 2) a capitalist ownership model with a "boss" that on these crucial issues needs to get out of the way and relinquish some power.

We all want this place to be a success. It is amazing to me how many people are still here, still caring, despite these tensions that have gone on for decades now!

For facilitation to work, and for the community to really buy into having equity here, this cannot be window dressing. I hope that cortex can make the room for the community to assume some real power and responsibility in this place and make it better. I am not expecting to receive share certificates, but at least there needs to be a shift in power, if people are going to feel empowered.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:13 PM on June 22 [14 favorites]


FUCKING THIS. I haven't done SHIT except try to make this site better and I'm tired of being treated like a problem because of that.

Seconded. I think there are so many of us who are feeling this way right now.
posted by primalux at 12:39 PM on June 22 [11 favorites]


Yup. To add onto the above I used to be one of this site's biggest promoters and it gets old to be treated like my main function here is like...bothering the mods by...trying to participate? Our contributions need to be valued as actual valuable contributions, not as things that are being "tolerated."
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:47 PM on June 22 [19 favorites]


I am making this comment largely as a placeholder. I keep wanting to say something long and thoughtful and heartfelt in the thread, but I don’t have the emotional capacity to do so right now. All I will say is that things are moving very fast in the world right now, and ultimately I believe it will be good, but it’s a lot of trauma in the short term. Be good to keep it in mind.
posted by corb at 1:12 PM on June 22 [12 favorites]


Don Pepino, I think I disagree with you about a couple things. (Maybe you were using hyperbole; I'm not always good at reading when people mean things literally versus hyperbolically.)

How can you say that in print and affix your username to it and not even worry for a second how it makes you look?

Where are you getting that, as he wrote the comment, he didn't worry about how it made him look? Sometimes I worry about a decision and then make a wrong choice -- in fact, most of the time that I make a really bad decision, I bet I worried about it ahead of time.

NO ONE CARES NO ONE CARES NOBODY CARES THAT YOU WERE BOTHERED BY FOLKS

I care. I recognize that most of the people speaking in this thread believe cortex should have conducted himself differently in how/whether he talked about his frustration in this thread, and whether it's ok for him to mention that frustration where MetaFilter members can see. Maybe I even agree with you! But I care.
posted by brainwane at 1:19 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


I largely stopped contributing to PoC MeTas cuz I got tired of site leadership doing nothing for years. I am watching other PoCs in this current go-round with admiration (and concern about y'all burning out.) I'm just popping in because the following quote seems germane (I've been sending it to well-meaning white friends in white-dominated orgs who are all "we're setting up a Diversity Committee! Come join!"):

"Have you heard this quote attributed to Lilla Watson? (She doesn't want credit for it. She says it came out of her 1970s Australian aboriginal women's group.) 'If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.'

Can you honestly say that a majority of people in Leadership are curious and humble enough to have internalized this? I can't think of just one."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:24 PM on June 22 [29 favorites]


I care. I recognize that most of the people speaking in this thread believe cortex should have conducted himself differently in how/whether he talked about his frustration in this thread, and whether it's ok for him to mention that frustration where MetaFilter members can see. Maybe I even agree with you! But I care.

I care as well. Thank you, cortex, for your openness and to the whole moderation staff for all of your efforts.

Just a note: even those who have not been posting have been reading. We're not come-by-latelies.
posted by jb at 1:37 PM on June 22 [6 favorites]


Cortex, your fundamental understanding of race and race relations is flawed. it feels like you keep saying that "being racist" and "pointing out racism" are 2 sides to the same coin.
You cut white people slack (for being racist), and you cut users of color slack (for being affected by racism), and that's equality to you.
You frame racism as a problem that members of color have, and not a problem with how white people behave.
You think freedom and a voice on this site is yours to dole out, rather than natural born right that your actions are preventing users of color from using. To phrase it a different way - voices of people of color are already worthy and valuable. You don't give them value. You're just in the way. (As all white people are).
You keep apologizing for hurting people's feelings - this is meaningless. The problem is not the feelings or reactions of users of color. Even if no one had noticed, even if no one got hurt, you erasing the voice of a mod of color is wrong - it's white supremacy. You did something wrong. It's not wrong because people are hurt, it is inherently, fundamentally wrong.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:39 PM on June 22 [25 favorites]


Cortex is the owner of this site, he does not need a parade of people coming in here to say that they care about his feelings. This is a thread addressing longstanding site practices that have prioritized white sensitivities and caused harm to Black community members. Turning the focus onto the feelings of the white site owner is racist as hell and needs to stop.
posted by parallellines at 2:20 PM on June 22 [36 favorites]


I've been open about being a 'furriner', first as a US permanent resident, then as a peripatetic continent hopper, since the very beginning under my original handle, which would have celebrated 15 years of Metafilter in March 2020. What I am about to say, and after reading all the heartfelt comments, is not just based on my experiences on the grey in particular all those years ago, but also, recently in a different site. For the future of this community, in this time in history, and given the mega shocks to society across the world with death and disease and violent horror of brutal repression, this needs to be said.

cortex does not handle race well.

and, perhaps this should be recognized, and he think about taking some time out from addressing any issues even mildly related to race. If some white commenters feelings are fragile because a non white mod said something (oooh, how terrible, as we all know this bullshit from our daily lives if we're in white majority environments) then FIAMO cortex and let the moderators experienced in racism deal with it.

Not typing long screeds of defensive rabbit in the headlights stuff. Its not a good look on this site, Which you happen to own. But its ownership is meaningless without community and membership.
posted by Mrs Potato at 2:24 PM on June 22 [22 favorites]


The internet itself is undergoing terrible upheavals. Within a domestic national environment, people who look like me are a minority as apparently are women. As the nature of pumpkinhead's race war moves to the hybrid sphere, it is discovering that just how minute the nature of their alleged majority is, in the context of social media platforms with users numbering in the billions from the rest of the world. Mainstream media might act as though the wide swathes of the planet do not exist but for the handful of countries that make up the amorphous 'the West' but in this matter, the voices speaking up and out, loudly, are coming from cheap china made smartphones from across continents like Africa, Asia, and South America. And, they are legion. Over the past month, I have watched the internet turn into an increasing hostile environment towards those who imagine that things can either a) go back to some mythical normal with all the seething hidden under teh surface, or, b) can continue to speak and act in ways they have always done, without any reflection or introspection. That is, there is no social conditioning that prevents me from pushing back on bullshit. I grew up as a first class citizen of my passport country, just like the millions of voices on twitter, or facebook, or IG, from around the world. It can be shock when the insulating cushion is torn away and the world is not full of white american values after all. quelle horreur. deal with it.
posted by Mrs Potato at 2:34 PM on June 22 [11 favorites]


I mean, Kpop fans, FFS.
posted by Mrs Potato at 2:40 PM on June 22


The frustrations and anger I've experienced over the last few days have been well-covered by so many here: the pervasive racism, the patronising "cutting white mefites slack" (I swear, I felt like my head just got patted as I typed that), what you did to travelingthyme, and the wall of text which repulses and infuriates to no end, and so much more. However, I was finally driven in after seeing your last update, Cortex.

"we had a meeting this morning (me, thyme, loup, LM, EM)"

The composition of that group is good and yet quite telling. The two new PoC mods with facilitation experience, LM (who is usually pretty terrific and consistently is the best mod on staff), and the two mods (you and EM) with problematic behaviours (reflexive attempts to constantly self-center when called out, etc.) and histories with racism.

The shitstorm that you created in this one post alone, Cortex, is a terrible burden to put on two new team members. And especially one who you undermined so early in their tenure here. I'm horrified that this was your action during the onboarding phase for travelingthyme and loup. So much retconning: the note was "workshopped" but was removed because a new user whinged; so it was initially acceptable then suddenly it became unacceptable? This ate at me because one of the roles in my job is onboarding trainees, new developers, and lateral transfers. Even when they make mistakes that have ground the network to a halt, their decisions stand, and I (and others) come in with additional comments and do cleanup. But I don't publicly supercede their judgment -- that's where they learn to own their mistakes; everything else is for the post-mortem. This was not a worst case scenario and did not require immediate action.

I am so close to walking away and cease my contribution because of this maelstrom of yours, but I realised this morning that although you may be the owner, but you aren't everything here. During the herculean effort put during the PoC MeTas, I shared and remembered more about myself than I had in a really long time. So Cortex, it's time to evaluate the composition of your staff, along with the composition of your role, because I really want to feel that way again.
posted by lemon_icing at 5:11 PM on June 22 [20 favorites]


If a community leader or CEO were the subject of a MetaFilter post and the discussion used words like missing stair, active racism, and upholding white supremacy, then that would almost certainly be accompanied by calls for that leader's resignation.

At this point, is there any plausible, tolerable, long-term outcome here that does not involve cortex's resignation or extended hiatus from front-line moderation?

I do not have the same kind of stake in this discussion that many others do, and so I'm not taking a position either way. I ask only to put in concrete terms what seems to be the inevitable direction of the discussion.
posted by jedicus at 8:30 PM on June 22 [12 favorites]


I'm white; I don't comment much but I do read the site on a daily basis; I agree with the many users of color who have said that the site continues to fail them; I'm not an expert on all of the ways racism expresses itself, so this is a very limited view, but the issue that draws my attention most often is the mod team's devotion to ENDLESS "open" discussion of racist bullshit and how (usually) white users feel about having their racist bullshit deleted or challenged, always under the guise of [paraphrased] "wanting to work with people and give them a chance to improve" even as those people are driving away POC by the DOZENS. I particularly think there are way too many wall-of-text comments from the mod team about how sure it looks like they did something bullshit, but it was really a very nuanced and subtle defense of our welcome and opening intellectual community.

It's wrong to let white users argue for days about how hurtful it is to be called out for doing something racist, the same way we argue about how many AskMe questions we get per week or what favorites mean. It's disingenuous to say that it "has" to be that way because that's what Metatalk is for when the site finances updates have comments turned off. Metatalk can change and it should.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:20 PM on June 22 [19 favorites]


FirstMateKate‘s excuses and whimpering over her extremely offensive question are such crap. Calling out Cortext is a great way to deflect attention from you and your really shitty post.
Who you kiss/sleep with/love has nothing to do with your offensive cutesy question on Ask.
Stop justifying and admit you posted a lousy question.
Edited because a mod took issue with my more direct question about who the OP did sexy things with.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:32 PM on June 22


FirstMateKate‘s excuses and whimpering over her extremely offensive question are such crap.
...
Who you kiss/sleep with/love has nothing to do with your offensive cutesy question on Ask.


Ideefixe, I have no idea what this question was or what your grievance with FirstMateKate is, but I question whether this the appropriate place for it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:43 PM on June 22 [29 favorites]


I'm white. It struck me as weird that there was this theme on the welcome thread of travelingthyme and loup needing to catch up all the years of this site's culture, and how it's done here. Same thing in discussions about new members. Why? Why do we need to know what a guy named Matt did with his friends decades ago and recreate that in 2020? We're the ones who are here now.

We needed to get on the same page, yesterday, on who needs to catch up or figure out how to do things, and whose mod notes need to be workshopped. It's not travelingthyme and loup.

suedehead called for us white mefites to take responsibility for the state of this site. We're the ones who need pull our weight to catch this site up to somewhere near 2020. I don't mean to take away from where the discussion about problems with Cortex is going, but he isn't in every single thread typing out all the tone-deaf comments.

This site's culture puts so much emphasis on "being nice" and "meaning well" and everyone being friends (or at least friendly) with each other, even the mods, who participate as regular users and tell us how their day is going or if they're having personal trouble. Moderation has been described as being on this kind of case by case, feel it out basis.

This all seems nice (or more like, my never having been on the wrong end of it made it seem nice to me!) But so much emphasis on "meaning well" allows white users to stomp on everyone else, and then focus the conversation onto hurt white feelings and whether they "meant it that way" during the aftermath. The "being nice" is used to tone police BIPOC members. "Mods are people too" on a good day is awesome but also has resulted in pages and pages of excuses and feelings and personal problems. The sort of everyone is friends here, case by case gut-feeling stuff seems to be freezing out anyone who isn't a culture fit, which is wrong and gross.

suedehead's comment about healthy communal norms. That's what I want. The above is not healthy.
posted by sacchan at 10:58 PM on June 22 [42 favorites]


sacchan's take is a much better articulated (and actually kinder) version of what I was trying to say!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:00 AM on June 23


How about a month where the new mods are the authorities? The old mods shadow them, are accountable to them, and do not offer one sliver of unsolicited advice?

and there's always room for another month, but let's see if it goes easier as an experiment

Cortex, I could see myself making the mistake of thinking "routine mod business" and not mentally flagging the racist power dynamics. From that I conclude, I should not be in a position of decision-making in threads about race, or about -- whatever category is broad enough to make the errors stop. Anti-racist training is not going to alter my instincts fast enough to help anybody right now. What it might do is make me aware of actions to take my instincts out of where they'll do damage.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:22 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


I'm a white member who rarely comments. The call for white members to "rock the boat" is a clarion. I must say that Cortex's comments in this thread have the effect of reinforcing a white supremacist perspective that an actively anti-racist community is somehow nebulous, hard to define, and impossible to "implement" [by, it's implied, staff, not the membership as a whole], because the POC members who are doing so much work to try to transform the community are being framed as outliers with impossible demands that staff are clutching their brows to try to keep up with, having breakdowns over, and requiring sisyphean cyclical non-action that makes these threads into groundhog day. It is actively encouraging a white-centric view that anti-racism in this community is too fraught and complex to enact, and that as white people we're ok to prioritise our feelings and clinging to stability over actual progress, because it's all just so hard.

Cortex's comments are therefore fostering an atmosphere that encourages the literal opposite of "rocking the boat". I feel queasy at the feelings of some white members who may be reading this thread and not commenting, thinking "gosh, poor Cortex, he's trying to keep up with these moving goal posts and obscure demands that these POC keep pushing". No. They are being crystal clear. Read what is actually happening. It is the staff that are failing to do what they claim to be committed to doing. It has been spelled out over and over again.
posted by Balthamos at 12:47 AM on June 23 [25 favorites]


This is not a personal vendetta against him as a person. That is the difference that folks don't understand. He is the leader of a system that is perpetuating systemic racism and has not changed much.

Please read all the books and actually reflect on the various Racism 101 books out there: White Fragility, How to Be an AntiRacist, So you Want to talk about Race? I mean how hard is it people? Like the stuff we are seeing in these threads are all in these books as anecdotes of racist things that people are doing!


Quoted for truth.

Many thanks to the BIPOC MeFites in this thread and elsewhere who have stuck around and are doing way way more than their share of the work to make this place better.

Also, it’s not just cortex. White people in America do not handle race well, including on MetaFilter, as has been shown over and over again. We need to get out of the way. We need to sit down, shut up, and do the work to stop being automatic assholes and worse.

Finally, I have been less active lately and missed the thread with the N-word that stuck around for three days. I had no idea. WTF? White folks in that thread who read that word and just moved on: Step the fuck up. This is not a drill.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:23 AM on June 23 [10 favorites]


Ideefixe, I have no idea what this question was or what your grievance with FirstMateKate is, but I question whether this the appropriate place for it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:43 AM on June 23 [14 favorites +] [!]


I don't want to derail from the topic at hand, but to shed light Ideefixe's comment - I asked a question on the green about a house in my city that was very overtly religiously decorated. I did not frame it in a neutral way - I let my history as a lesbian in the south cloud my head, and was very taken aback and harshly judgmental. The house in question belonged to a Minister for an AME church. My question was undoubtedly racist, which I've already accepted, and talked about up thread to shed light for other white people on how we prioritize our own inner voice instead of viewing things from an anti-racist lens.

At this point I think it would be best for me to exit this Meta
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:21 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Long comment ahead, my apologies in advance.

I am a white person; I hardly ever comment in MetaTalk, but I want to support & endorse some stuff folks have been saying here, because it feels weird to be silent on something that's so important. I will probably go over some old ground and so I'm sorry if this comment feels like it drags us backwards.

What I'm hearing here is people telling cortex not to talk on MetaTalk about his feelings of hurt and defensiveness, and I think that is 100% correct. Not because people don't care about cortex as a person, but because cortex when you say that stuff to us, the natural thing for us to do is to wonder why you're saying it and how we can help. And the only conclusion that makes sense is that you want us to know you’re hurting, so that we will stop hurting you. And that's just wrong and inappropriate. It’s like when white women cry. (I am a white women.) White women’s tears are so often a way to get other people to feel bad and shut up and not hold us accountable, or to activate other people to come to our defense so that we aren’t held accountable. I'm sure you aren't deliberately setting out to avoid accountability, but regardless, as a practical matter, that's where your expressed pain naturally leads.

You may, in the moment, absolutely want people to shut up and stop making you feel bad. That would be understandable. But in the longer term, more dispassionately, it’s absolutely not what you should want, either for yourself and your own growth, or (more on point here) for the success of the site. That’s why people want you to stop expressing those emotions here. It's really got nothing to do with people's feelings about you as a person: it's because they/we want the site to get better, and you expressing those emotions is harmful to that goal.

Another thing I'm hearing here is people saying they're unhappy cortex that you overwrote travelingthyme's comment, because doing that prioritized the potentially-hurt feelings of a new white member over the long-expressed needs and desires of BIPOC members. I agree with that. It’s possible you didn’t realize that’s what you were doing (meaning, it's possible you didn’t know what BIPOC people would have wanted to have happen in that thread) but if that's the case, when BIPOC members brought it to your attention, you should have just instantly accepted what they were saying.

People have said upthread and I want to also emphasize: if a white person says something unhelpful and BIPOC members call it to the attention of the mods, the mods' job isn't to dispassionately try to parse out what happened and adjudicate it from a position of 'neutrality,' trying to balance the needs of the 'two sides' as though they are morally equivalent. This site (in my understanding) has acknowledged and agreed that it exists in a white supremacist culture and that it is a reflection of that culture. And therefore, the mods' job is to thank the people who called out the problem (because they are doing 'free work' for the site, to improve it, and to support a mod team that itself is insufficiently good at race to handle race-related stuff without help), and to implement what those people are asking for. For the benefit of the whole site, not for the benefit of BIPOC members.

My final point: I feel like people here have been saying that it was wrong for you to overwrite travelingthyme's comment because in doing that you were undermining a new BIPOC mod over whom you have a lot of positional authority, on a race-related topic that they were specifically brought in to help with. Don Pepino said above that travelingthyme doesn’t need you to train them on stuff that’s race-related: that’s what you hired them for, because you yourself don’t yet know how to do it. I think that’s correct. The positional authority thing is super real, as is the fact that the existing mod team (pre-tt and loup I mean) has an enormous amount of cultural knowledge about Metafilter and its practices. That means that in any intra-mod conversations, travelingthyme and loup are going to have much less power than everybody else, including because they are the newest and least Metafilter-experienced mods, and because cortex you are literally their boss and you get to decide not just whether they work at Metafilter, but pretty much every aspect of what 'working at Metafilter' looks and feels like for them. So they have an enormous baked-in incentive to pay attention to you and the other mods, to second-guess themselves where their instincts are different, and to defer to you.

Tt and loup may individually have the courage and the skill and the deftness to successfully navigate these uncomfortable power dynamics to get the right results, but honestly for them to do that consistently would mean they are superheroes. They may be, but you shouldn't count on it.

I want to sort of digress for a second to talk about how things normally go from a staffing perspective, when BIPOC people are brought into majority-white organizations, and especially when they've been given a mandate to make things more racially equitable. (Maybe we all know this, and maybe it bears repeating anyway.) Usually from my observation and also from the literature, at first there's a honeymoon period, during which leadership gets congratulated for, and feels good about, having taken real tangible steps. But then later when the BIPOC people try to make substantive changes, even small ones, the majority-white organization starts to feel uncomfortable, and it reacts to that discomfort by projecting it onto the BIPOC employee. It starts to see them as 'not a fit,' and 'not learning the culture,' and 'always mad about something' and 'not succeeding,' and it responds by cutting them out of decision-making loops and restricting their scope of authority. This makes the BIPOC employee unable to be effective, which gives them the exit/voice/loyalty options, and ultimately often they end up leaving and trying their luck somewhere else. Then they get replaced by new BIPOC people, in whom the organization newly invests its diversity hopes and dreams, and the cycle starts again. I have seen this so many times.

I'm not trying to say that's where we are with tt and loup: of course we're not; they are at the very beginning of their time with Metafilter. But it is how these things tend to go, and the overwriting of one of tt's first mod comments (especially after cortex had written it with tt, if I understand the timeline): yes, as others have said here, that is a really bad sign. So I guess I will close by saying this: if Metafilter wants to move towards racial justice rather than upholding white supremacy, then I think that yes, cortex, you need to step back from this, because you aren't personally ready to lead on this stuff, and also from a positional perspective your involvement activates hierarchical understandings/framings of Metafilter that are actually factually just true, but that I think need to recede into the background as much as possible if the site is going to make progress. I think a real & helpful thing you could do, cortex, would be to step back on the race stuff, and to explicitly empower tt and loup to handle it, probably (as you've implied you're considering) in consultation with some kind of formal committee or group of BIPOC members. That would be putting a ton of weight on tt and loup's shoulders, but they would have longtime BIPOC members to help them understand the site's history and culture, and so with luck maybe progress could get made.

Rereading the end of what I just wrote, I feel like it looks like I think I'm presenting some kind of grand solution. That's totally not what I think. Really I am just scatter-commenting here; I don't have any central thesis. My goal in this comment is mainly just to support BIPOC members and restate and amplify some of what I think I'm hearing them say, and also I guess to call out a bad road that it looks like the site might end up going down, when it comes to tt and loup.
posted by Susan PG at 8:00 AM on June 23 [41 favorites]


People have said upthread and I want to also emphasize: if a white person says something unhelpful and BIPOC members call it to the attention of the mods, the mods' job isn't to dispassionately try to parse out what happened and adjudicate it from a position of 'neutrality,' trying to balance the needs of the 'two sides' as though they are morally equivalent. This site (in my understanding) has acknowledged and agreed that it exists in a white supremacist culture and that it is a reflection of that culture. And therefore, the mods' job is to thank the people who called out the problem (because they are doing 'free work' for the site, to improve it, and to support a mod team that itself is insufficiently good at race to handle race-related stuff without help), and to implement what those people are asking for. For the benefit of the whole site, not for the benefit of BIPOC members.

This, 100%.
posted by cooker girl at 8:29 AM on June 23 [9 favorites]


Another "white person who doesn't do MeTa much" chiming in to affirm a few things.

Such as: I don't need the site's moderation to prioritize alleviating me of experiencing discomfort. I'm not a person who sits super well with discomfort, easily brushes off being made the center of attention when I fuck up, etc. But that's because by and large I haven't had to be. The ways in which I am marginalized are often invisible, and fairly easily compensated for by my race and class, and I haven't had to develop the thickest of skins around discomfort. And that's fine. The point should not be for this community to be calibrated to my comfort level and the comfort level of other white people at all times. If (when) I fuck up and get called out for it, that can happen and I will survive it and I hope I'll learn from it, express what I learned and apologize for the fuckup without centering my discomfort, and do better moving forward. I don't always get that sequence of events right but it's the goal, it's what I expect from myself, and it's what I expect from the community here.

Such as: I think it would be a great idea for cortex to take a step back from daily moderation duties for a variety of reasons. Some around white fragility and defensiveness, some around giving the other mods space to do the work he hired them for and presumably trusts them to do, and because there is no shortage of a backlog of site things that need work. Maybe some of those more regular updates before crisis points bubble over could happen if we had someone on the team who was *not* moderating except maybe in an occasional emergency-coverage sort of way. Maybe some of that documentation could get rewritten. (With significant input from the other mods and the community, obviously, given the issues we're talking about here cortex should not be the sole voice behind important community documentation.) I know that probably can't happen tomorrow but I would like to strongly suggest that as soon as it's possible, cortex take at least a leave - a month? three months? - from active moderation on the site and see what that looks and feels like for the community and the other mods.

Such as: I prioritize kindness highly as a value in my personal and professional lives, but I prioritize justice and equity more. It's a little weird in a variety of already well-explained ways that the comment replacement situation here should end up being framed as a kind choice vs. a just choice but to the extent that it's become that, when those are the choices, you do the just thing. If "kindness" is a driving mission statement here then it can't be the first item in the mission, and if every mod needs a post-it on their monitor saying "JUSTICE > KINDNESS" or something then man, write the damn post-its or a checklist or whatever it is that each person needs to help them remember the mission priorities.

Such as: I'm sorry, again and apparently perpetually, to the people of color on this site that we are still thrashing around in this shitty groundhog-day loop. Thank you for the work you have been and are doing on what I imagine feels like a pretty fucking thankless task. I am listening and I am trying to learn, and I recognize that means fuck-all if I don't actually put anything I'm learning into active practice on the site. I will continue to work on doing that.
posted by Stacey at 9:33 AM on June 23 [31 favorites]


I still love you all, in a "good god, this is metafilter, a part of my life for the past 15 years" not to mention the weddings and the babies and the meetups and whatnot. Let us not let the anger and divisiveness exuded upon the world by toxic campaigns to destroy our world.

And so, I've been pushed in here by Potato. He's lurked for almost 20 years. Those who have seen his pic or him, know that he's the handsomest, sexiest, most charming older man they know, a greybeard in his mid sixties. He's white as snow, he's half Swedish half Finnish, although when his hair is dense and thick it comes across as a very dark auburn.

His charms aside, he's sent me here to give voice to his thoughts, as a white European man of class, birth, education, and privilege. You could say I am whitemansplaining his thoughts ;p My English writing skills are easily 10x better than his. Otoh he's a better engineer and craftsman.

--------------------------------------------a Nordic man's thoughts

I was born in 1956. My mother was a doctor. Women in Finland had shouldered the burden of running the country when the men went off to war. You may recall that we fought the Winter War, on our own, against Russia. And all men of fighting age were away at the front. This generation of women showed us dramatically what women could do when men were not around to order them around and keep putting them in their place. Today, Finland ranks 4th in the EU on gender equality. This battle, as many of the women I work with will tell you, has not yet been won and it has been a long hard slog for them in front of my eyes. My wife will tell you of my toxic masculinity of ten years ago, and the hard work I have been doing since she came back to me 4 years ago to show her everyday that I can change and grow up to be a mature human being.

My male privilege has meant that I did not have to thicken my skin. Ask mrs Potato how I was incapable of holding onto my own emotional discomfort even as late as 2017, past the age of 60, until she firmly and kindly held boundaries backed by asskicking tough love. I never gave thought to the emotional labour I automatically expected her to do, instead of taking myself off to an expensive therapist to learn how recognize and process emotions, learn the tools to introspect and reflect on the impact of my thoughtless behaviour, and to learn the very hard lesson of watching what the world did to my wife simply because she was a woman and her skin has a bit more melanin than mine.

All the while, I thought I was coming halfway to her, when due to her gender and ethnicity, my privileged halfway was barely 10 or 15% of what I expected her to give in return, without ever recognizing the invisible conditioning in my own mental model.

She is one who has dragged me out of a cave in the stone age, Ugg the caveman, farting out loud because he is male and big and strong. After she left me the first time, it was all my fault, I began to see how hostile the environment had been for her in her all white Finnish workplace in a male dominated field. Do you know I had never seen her complain even once?

2020 has made clear to me that racism is an issue that must be addressed, in a fair, just, and equitable manner, if we are to succeed as human beings, as a species, on this overheated planet.

And, that this can only begin with me, sitting with myself to reflect on the way the world moves for me versus how it moves against her. Only if I come towards her 150% can it start to be fair, just, and equitable. This work is mine first and foremost, before i can ask anything more of her.

That's our job as white men if our word has any value beyond just bla bla.
posted by Mrs Potato at 11:30 AM on June 23 [9 favorites]


I’m part of a group of staff members who meet regularly to develop anti-racist recommendations and protocols for our high school. During a recent meeting over Zoom, as well-meaning white staff (including myself) talked through next steps that would feel doable for members of our school community who “aren’t quite there yet,” a staff member of color said something that I’ll never forget. “You guys can sit around talking about this for the next year, trying to figure out where you stand or the perfect thing to do. But you should know: the students aren’t waiting for you. They have already moved forward and are going to do this work with or without you.”

My colleague’s words were a gut punch of truth that I’m embracing this summer as I prepare for next school year. I think they apply to this community as well. This work, this change, is happening - and it’s going to happen with or without MetaFilter.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 11:30 AM on June 23 [27 favorites]


I don’t have much useful to add. From an adjacent industry, I’ll drop a link in here to Deming’s 14 points for quality management, from Out of the Crisis. Some of them apply, some don’t, but I want to quote #5:

Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production and service.”
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:36 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I'm a white cis woman, and I don't really have much to add that hasn't been said better by others, but I am so fucking disappointed that the BIPOC members of this site are having to do so much heavy lifting AGAIN, to try, AGAIN, to get the racism on this site taken seriously, and what they're getting in response is excuses and condescension and being treated like they are the problem. My monthly contribution is done, too. I can't support this place anymore.
posted by sarcasticah at 12:48 PM on June 23 [10 favorites]


Without speaking for anyone else, I will say that I have been very pleasantly surprised by the number of white users voicing their support now. It's good to hear from you. And I hope the mods do hear you.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 1:09 PM on June 23 [15 favorites]


I'm a white person, mostly female and mostly cis. I'm listening. I want us to do better.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:55 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


A dilemma: I noticed this comment of mine was favorited yesterday, possibly as a gentle reminder (which I'm grateful for, since I have no memory at all these days, it seems). In that comment I said "I think I have to put my money where my mouth is and say that if, in fact, on June 22, 2020, we white members/mods are still in 'gosh we need to do better' mode without any actual progress, I won't be able to continue financially supporting MF."

Welp. I suppose in the spirit of my comment, I should stop funding Metafilter. That said, travelingthyme and loup aren't nothing, far from it--assuming we can get out of their way. ("We" being the other staff, and "we" also being white users of the site.) Do I wait to see if we can, and if so, how long will that take, or should I stop, enough's enough? I'd hate to pull the plug if we're about to turn a corner, but we've been staring at that "curve ahead" road sign for years now.

And goddess knows I have plenty of my own racism to work on...thank you for all the POC here who help me learn as I read.
posted by maxwelton at 2:07 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


maxwelton -- I'm glad you are taking a look at this. My take (white) take is -- you can start contributing again at a later point in time. I personally feel that the new QPOC mods are very welcome and a diverse mod team is an important component of moving ahead with the greater plan. However, their mere presence is not, in and of itself, the work necessary. And given the issues surrounding travelingthyme's training shift and a deleted mod note, I would say there is much to do to empower these folks. The more important point is, it is not fair to stake the future of the site on them.

I think your contributions are a point of leverage. You can use that leverage to try and push for more substantial change or you can choose not to. To me, the difficult thing (other than, you know, completely overhauling the site and our approach to anti-racism) is finding the right time to reinstate those contributions if, as you say, we turn a corner. This process will be ongoing. There is no end point where we can say, "our community is now anti-racist and we are all done."

So I think it would be important for you to consider what priorities either you yourself, or you in concert with others, have around this. Then you can say, ok, if these things are being addressed and there are accountabilities built in, I feel comfortable revisiting a monthly contribution. It's possible there are others who would join with you and amplify your voice even more. But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. If you want to make this decision, it needs to have some criteria so you can evaluate it, and figure out how to continue to support the site in the future if those criteria are met.
posted by kaelynski at 2:58 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


There is no end point where we can say, "our community is now anti-racist and we are all done."

A key point, this.

For whatever it's worth, definitely add me to the list of white users who are in support of the many POC users who have done so much work in this and previous threads. I have no business casting stones when I have so much work to do on myself, but like many others here, I am disgruntled with the glacial pace of change thus far.

I hope serious consideration can be given in particular to suedehead's (repeated) description, above, of a more facilitative approach to modding.
posted by Not A Thing at 3:20 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]


sacchan: suedehead called for us white mefites to take responsibility for the state of this site. We're the ones who need pull our weight to catch this site up to somewhere near 2020. I don't mean to take away from where the discussion about problems with Cortex is going, but he isn't in every single thread typing out all the tone-deaf comments.

I just want to emphasize this.

The issue is NOT that the site should be "nicer" or "cut some more slack" to BIPOC members.

And while moderation is an issue, it's not THE issue.

THE issue is that the site has a culture of enabling racism through passivity. By being silent, thinking "oh that's a bad white person's comment", of 'not wanting to be confrontational', 'not wanting to rock the boat', etc. This is maintained by mods AND white mefites.

--

Again. This is NOT a coincidence. This is what every white space I've been in is like. This is a well-evolved, well-honed system created from decades of white supremacy! White Mefites, perhaps this makes you:
- Uncomfortable, wanting to avoid the situation ("I don't talk politics"), or making things into a joke so that we can 'all feel good'
- This might also make you want to be righteous (i.e, "I'm not like those Bad Racist white people").
- Maybe this makes you want to cut ties & estrange yourself from the site.
- Maybe this feels like shame and guilt, and it feels cathartic to punish yourself in how Bad you have been.
- Maybe it manifests as hesitation - you feel like you'll say the Wrong Thing and be excoriated, so you're not sure how to participate.

This is all part of a well-honed system of White denial. And so it exists here too. Every shitty tone-deaf or racist comment is not just a failure of moderation, it's also a failure of every other white person who saw it and didn't say anything. Why? White denial.

==

White Mefites, look at this comment, from Metafilter a year ago. A person working in "diversity and inclusion" saying that they don't want to talk about race on Metafilter because it makes them tired, and called it "performative Doing The Work on MetaFilter".

That's a white person saying 'I don't want to do the work', 'I don't want to do the heavy lifting'. A year ago. Look at how many people favorited it. I see a former mod has favorited it too -- deeply disappointing. Read that whole fucking thread. Read this thread too. Those threads made me livid. Honestly, it still does.

White Mefites, if those threads happened now (and honestly, they will), how would YOU engage and interact?

Would you rather leave the site and claim disappointment in the mods as a reason rather than.. try to change things yourself? I think this, too, can often be a whiteness response (estrangement, avoidance) to issues of race.

What is YOUR role to play in shaping and making an anti-racist discourse on this site? How would YOU interact with the white people in that thread? What will YOU say? If you see the N-word in a comment, are you going to flag it, say something? Will you organize together to discuss and make collective posts about whiteness, the way that BIPOC have? How will YOU engage with anti-racism here, with other white posters here?

And what is YOUR role in getting OTHER white mefites to think about this, too? I see white people hoarding their anti-racism, so that they can be the 'good' white people, keeping it all to themselves. I often think of this thread ... where white people were debating if they should even help other white people be anti-racist!

If you're white and you're still reading this thread then you're probably sympathetic to what I'm talking about. I'm looking forward to your accompliceship and active work in being anti-racist.
posted by suedehead at 3:30 PM on June 23 [57 favorites]


Wow, I had no idea the N word had been up for 3 days. That's some seriously passive aggressive shit, and explains the most excellent design research based brief I have read, as a professional in the field, talking about the visual communication generations via conditioning by dominant design language of the UI. We're old enough to remember screaming in laughter over Ives' flat design, wtf. So, anyway, think about it the way I tell Potato important things he must not screw up in the new world is this - dude, by letting this bullshit slide, in public view, you're letting them ruin your reputation and undermining the value of your hard work just because you look like them. As a slimy sleazy Indian, I'm used to being seen as poor and underprivileged. And I'm an asshole because I swank around like a veritable princess. You letting it slide makes you look like a dumb racist.
posted by Mrs Potato at 4:03 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


The same person who got him(?)self un-named above just came into a thread to do the same shit.

Maybe people who have life-long experience of racist behavior and who point out racist behavior know what they are talking about, rather than just being unkind and/or uncharitable and/or mean. Just a thought.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:24 PM on June 23 [22 favorites]


It's almost like one of the ground rules going forward needs to be that capitalism and racism are deeply linked so that arguments of the "what about the white coal miners" sort are seen as the derails that they are.

Here's a thought! Using a white people example does not allow you to control for racism to tease out some other issue, because that shit affects everything and it is all dependent.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:37 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


Another white man here who really appreciates all the work BIPOC do on this site to educate myself and others, while recognizing that it’s super shitty that POC have borne most of the burden when it comes to the very difficult work of making this a marginally less racist space (maybe?). Not adding much right now but I realize that I need to step up to help make this community better. Thanks all.
posted by soy bean at 5:47 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Since the idea of facilitative vs policing moderation has come up:

So I interviewed for the mod role. And one thing cortex expressed concern about was that as a mod, I wouldn't necessarily be able to contribute my own perspectives on any particular issue because it would seem like I was speaking on behalf of the entire mod team rather than as myself. I got the vibe that he was looking for mods that are able to disengage themselves from the topic at hand and focus on just moderating. I feel like he may be worried that because I had been such an active vocal user on this site when it comes to race (I've been less active overall just because I've been busy elsewhere), I may feel a bit stifled.

I did find this a bit troubling and said so myself. After the interview he asked a few questions by email about what my moderating philosophy would be, and I suggested something more akin to facilitation or the moderation I've done at panels: gently redirecting the conversation and providing some prompts in case the conversation starts to derail. I'm not sure what he thought of those ideas specifically, when I got the rejection email I wasn't in a very good headspace to begin with so I never really got around to asking for feedback.

I'd like to know what the two QPOC mods had discussed as their moderation philosophy, and cortex if I'm misrepresenting you please say so, though I do get that people are kinda tired of hearing from him at this point.
posted by divabat at 6:48 PM on June 23 [23 favorites]


Also how many times have we asked cortex to take a break from moderating and has that actually happened?
posted by divabat at 6:50 PM on June 23 [6 favorites]


I was looking at my old MeTa comments after leaving my above comment earlier and noticed to my surprise that last summer I had also agreed with another poster that Cortex should take a break from moderation. At that point I was apparently thinking if it more in terms of neglected site work and less as "this person should not be moderating right now" but...yeah, apparently people have been asking for this for a WHILE, which I didn't specifically recall until seeing that.

(Also, I wasn't going to comment again but since I'm here, one clarification to what I'd said above: hopefully obviously but maybe not, I'd rather *not* pit kindness and justice against each other. My hope would be that more often than not, creative and thoughtful work can find a way to accomplish both. This was a case where a slower, more thoughtful approach probably could have accomplished both. But I think it would be wise for the mods to know which one they will pick when circumstances do force a choice, or default ingrained patterns of thinking will choose for them, and some of those patterns suck.)
posted by Stacey at 7:04 PM on June 23


FWIW, divabat, you’d have been a mod I’d have lobbied very hard for. I still hold hope that this site will engage with, and pay, you professionally in the future. MeFiOceania needs your insights.

(This is not a reflection on the new mods in any way. )
posted by taff at 7:04 PM on June 23 [15 favorites]


I do not frequently comment on anything other than AskMe questions where I feel like I have some expertise to offer, but I have read all of the threads related to site culture of racism, POC perspectives, moderation, etc. I have spent probably the last 5 years reading and learning. For a long time I did not think that I had anything to offer in these threads so I chose to remain quiet - I can see that perhaps I should have offered my white voice earlier, and so I am doing it now to both boost one of the main messages that I see coming through here that I think bears repeating, and also to offer to do some of the work with other white people who want to dig in.

I want to state that I am in agreement with the POC site members who have worked so hard to do the heavy lifting for all of us around issues of how the site engages with race, and specifically in this area:

We as white people are not, and will never be, experts on racism. We will not ever know more about this topic than members of color, no matter what our role/position is, or how much anti-racist consultation we do, or how many books and articles we read, or how many documentaries we watch, or how many times we cry over it. As I see it, the biggest flaw in the perspective here is that white leadership is not deferring to members of color, both site members, and the new mods. POC are our experts here on racism and the myriad subtle and conspicuous ways that it shows up, and if they are telling us there is a problem... There Is A Problem. We don't know better. We don't have more information. We are not "more objective."

So, Cortex, I have watched/read along as you have attempted to respond to these very significant concerns... and all I'm seeing is that you are deeply defensive (as are many/all white people! including me!) and that due to that defensiveness as well as the paternalistic/colonialist perspective that mods should be trying to suss out what the most "objective" way of looking at a situation is from THEIR perspective, rather than hearing the harm that's being caused and trusting that POC are correct in matters of race, you are not actually moving forward here at all. Action is needed, from all of us white people. We can't sit around and keep thinking about it and trying to figure it out -- in some ways we need to just get over ourselves and jump in and get to work. It feels safer to think about it and deliberate about it and try to figure out the most perfect way to participate, but protecting our own emotional safety should not be the prevailing concern. You have an opportunity here, as do we all, to look at ourselves and see where we have been defensive and deficient and have upheld white supremacy passively or overtly. It is not easy and it requires the willingness to be deeply uncomfortable and push ourselves to the edges of our window of tolerance so that we can be better and do better. I don't see that happening here -- and all of your "updates" mainly seem like another iteration of white fragility and defensiveness. I am not saying this to be unkind or hurt your feelings, or anyone else's - this is the truth and it doesn't mean that anyone is bad or in trouble or whatever - it just means we need to attend to it so that we quit injuring others.

If this is making you anxious -- name it to yourself, dig into the why and how and what that anxiety feels like in your body, and find a way to regulate yourself through the anxiety so that you can get close to what's the most uncomfortable and Do the Work. This is a process. It is my line of work to support people in the process of learning to sit inside their discomfort and get close to it in order to move through it -- if you want to reach out to me to get more information about how to be with your discomfort in a very real, bodily, physical, visceral sense, I am happy to offer my knowledge to you to support you in that way. As a therapist with experience in somatic practices -- if we don't FEEL this, and address it in our bodies, we will not be able to stay engaged in anti-racist conversations and practices, because our fragile response will send us running.

Other white folks -- if you are also interested in information, maybe written, maybe a Zoom meeting, on getting close to discomfort and regulating it in the body, please also feel free to reach out. If enough people reach out, I don't mind putting together a Zoom on something like "What to Do With Discomfort in the Body" and how that shows up for us in being actively anti-racist.

Members who are POC - thank you for all your work, and contributions, and willingness to name your experiences here. I have learned and continue to learn much from your eloquent comments. I appreciate all of you deeply.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 7:35 PM on June 23 [16 favorites]


I think the efforts are going well. There’s a noticeable change to moderator behavior on the blue and green where I spend time. Thanks for the detailed updates in this thread.
posted by michaelh at 8:05 PM on June 23


I wrote this. Then walked away and came back to try to de-snark it and see if I still wanted to say it. Much of what I have learned about racism, I have learned here on MetaFilter. I've learned a lot of other valuable things as well. I would dearly like to continue to do so.

I add up these issues / requests:

Many people have asked for reduced moderation, a break, or retirement for Eyebrows or cortex.
The two new mods come from outside MetaFilter (which I think is a wonderful thing) but are then getting squashed by a/the current mod(s) for not "knowing the culture."

And, I get a third new mod asap.
Reduce moderation hours for Eyebrows and cortex. Add one more part-time POC mod from the community itself who knows "the culture." Whether that is divabat or somebody else, I don't know. They have been doing work already for a long time. Not to add pressure. Not sure if you would even want to at this point. But it may go some way towards avoiding the all too possible road outlined by Susan PG above. The way this has started, tt and loup are going to need all the help they can get.

(Note: This is not to let white members of MetaFilter off the hook. It's a both/and suggestion. If we white members don't change, no amount of moderation, facilitation, and additional BIPOC staff will make the difference.)

(Note 2: The free labor we have benefited from is going to give up and go away someday. As always suedehead has been doing a better job of moderating (facilitating) this discussion than some of the paid mods. Look at this situation: white mod does a worse job but owns the business and gets paid for it; a POC member does a better job of it and doesn't. If it looks like a racist system, I guess it's partly my responsibility to not be passive and to call it that. Sure looks like a racist system to me. Let's do something about it.)
posted by Gotanda at 9:10 PM on June 23 [25 favorites]


What divabat describes from her interview is so messed up. It's akin to predominantly white news organizations questioning BIPOC reporters on their ability to be "impartial".

All mods have viewpoints and the "neutral" viewpoint on mefi is white centered, but it could be so much more!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:21 PM on June 23 [19 favorites]


As someone who's faced the situation Susan PG talks about in other places, I do feel like even if we double the PoC mod numbers, things aren't necessarily going to change for the better if the power structure doesn't change. All you'd create are more victims shouldering the burden of representation without the power to do much about it.

In the interests of transparency and info sharing, here are the post-interview questions cortex asked (possibly he asked this to everybody) about the guidelines documentation and my responses. I did feel like the interview itself was pretty productive and interesting, for what it's worth. Perhaps this could spark some ideas?
What things here [the guidelines documentation] do you feel particularly passionate about or motivated to prioritize helping the site make significant progress on?

I would be especially motivated by guidelines surrounding context and perspective (e.g exoticism, abstraction, people coming from different backgrounds). As we discussed in the interview, I would be really interested in helping bridge communication gaps between members who may not necessarily be disagreeing with each other but may just be talking across each other due to misunderstanding. For example, a friend posted on Facebook about being concerned that the existence of a UBI would be used as justification for perpetual self-isolation (due to COVID19) and how that may be counterproductive to people like them that find isolation stifling with or without money. One of their friends assumed that this first friend was speaking against UBIs in general and I helped clarify that this wasn't about the worthiness of UBIs but rather the difficulties of perpetual or prolonged isolation. As a moderator, I would work out the context for each conversation, see where the gaps are, and try to aid members that may be clashing with each other by filling in those gaps - "sounds like X was talking about A and Y was talking about B, which connects in this way but isn't exactly the same".

What things here do you feel you could use more information/explanation/education about to support or enforce effectively?

In general I would like to know how much moderators can do to guide the conversation (like in the ways I mentioned earlier). Usually I see the moderators responding more reactively - "please stop bringing up this derail and get back on track" or "this comment was deleted for a slur". However, to my knowledge I haven't really seen anything in the way of prompting discussion, much like how a moderator at a panel would work. Is this something Mefi mods are allowed to do? Or would that be seen as getting too involved in the conversation?

What if anything do you feel is missing currently from these guidelines?

I think the microaggressions page could use some specific links to examples of the exclusionary language or terminology being referenced. The pages talk about doing some reading on your own, but if you don't even know where to begin it can be really easy to end up finding misinformation and causing more microaggressions as a result. And the Mefi Wiki isn't so prominently accessible or even updated! We could ask the userbase to recommend resources that are reliable, accurate, and easy to read and then attach those to the microaggressions page.

What if anything do you have personal or structural concerns about being able to support or enforce effectively or consistently?

We had talked in the interview about having to step back from providing personal opinions on particular kinds of discussion threads as it would be seen as an Official Mod Edict rather than our personal point of view. While I understand the reasoning behind that, I do worry that as the only PoC mod it would end up being seen as a kind of silencing measure - that the price of being a mod is to never be able to speak up about issues that affect us. I feel like to be able to work effectively as a moderator, especially when it comes to making Metafilter more inclusive to racial and national diversity, being able to share lived perspective would be helpful and necessary, as I'd be able to provide the necessary context for particular mod decisions (or at least know where to look for more context if it's not my direct experience). Metafilter is so community-oriented after all - I think there would be value in making this more of a peer support-type role, especially when it comes to supporting other PoC and non-US members who may be struggling to be understood otherwise.
(edit: also it's not that major a deal but my pronouns are they/them :))
posted by divabat at 9:24 PM on June 23 [22 favorites]


Not to derail from this current important conversation about the mod hiring process, but I just wanted to reply to a comment above that white Americans need to do better to dismantle their innate white supremacy— yes and so does the rest of the world. I’m not American and it is on me just as much as other white members. In fact perhaps because I’m not from the dominant culture of this site it behoves me all the more to bring to this community the specific racisms of Britain and British people and particular current affairs that effect BAME people here.

If you’re also not an American I hope you’re not thinking that therefore you’ve less reason to devote yourself to the cause of re-shaping this community to become legitimately anti-racist.
posted by Balthamos at 9:44 PM on June 23 [18 favorites]


white Americans need to do better to dismantle their innate white supremacy— yes and so does the rest of the world.

I fully agree with that. We do and I do.

If you’re also not an American I hope you’re not thinking that therefore you’ve less reason to devote yourself to the cause of re-shaping this community to become legitimately anti-racist.

It's not that I don't want to, but... I so often feel like I'm a guest here, not really a part of the community. It feels awkward to start telling a US-orientated* site how to run things... and in a foreign (to me) language, no less. I stumble over my own words often enough as it is.

Yes, I'll admit it... I'm afraid I'll say something wrong and be shouted down. And now I'm ashamed of that fear. And now I'm afraid of making this 'all about me', which is exactly what I don't want.
So I think I'll sit and listen for a while more.

*is that even a word?
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:42 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Too-Ticky- I understand feeling like a guest here. I do too in many ways. But perhaps there is a power in that. I don't know where you live, but there will be elements of white supremacy and racism and Islamophobia and anti-blackness and xenophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric and rising right-wing populism in your society, it is almost guaranteed (if there isn't- well hell, let us all know so we can immigrate there posthaste). We have the opportunity to shape discussions that move away from a centralised way of thinking. It might even be our duty to help shape a discussion that recognises racism and white supremacy as globalised and not restricted to one society.

To me, it has to be valuable and important to be vocal about racism where we are. Perhaps there is a privilege and safety in being able to say, well, the issues on this website are USian, I can't/shouldn't get involved. Of course talking over people or telling people what to do, especially in a context that is foreign to us, would be a disastrous problem. But part of the bigger-picture issues with this site is that many times a thread that requires nuanced understanding of other worldviews and specific contexts gets bull-dozed over by white US users. Allowing that to be the case because it's the norm seems like just avoiding the work of centering other voices. There is (or, should be) room for plurality and diversity in the discussions here. Nowhere does it say anywhere "Welcome to Metafilter, a US site for Americans".

In terms of contributing to this thread and partaking in the explicit discussion of: how are Metafilter's anti-racism efforts going, to me it is important to permit that discussion to contain points of view that are not American. Because if there isn't, there is a risk, as I said above, of that permitting white users from the rest of the world to feel like it is not their place to partake in those efforts. Of course it's our place. I'd recommend you go to some of the many many resources that have been linked here and in previous threads as resources to work on your fragility and fear of doing the wrong thing. Prioritising BIPOC/BAME voices and de-centralising white perspectives and dismantling white supremacy does not mean white people sit on our hands and do nothing. Especially in this context where a sea-change is required of the whole site and all users. We all have to make racism our problem.

[To be honest this appears to me to be a symptom of the impact of Cortex's comments here that I raised my concerns about above, and that others have also called out in more eloquent and powerful ways than me. The top brass of this site is (regardless of their intentions otherwise) allowing for a mindset where racism becomes a compartmentalised issue that belongs to specific threads and specific BIPOC users, and us white users can sort of feel like we have the right to (or even that it's the right thing) to keep out and ignore the ongoing discourse, when what those incredibly hard-working and committed BIPOC users are actually saying is that the whole community, and everyone in it, needs to transform itself if it is to become truly an anti-racist space.]
posted by Balthamos at 3:07 AM on June 24 [16 favorites]


divabat: We had talked in the interview about having to step back from providing personal opinions on particular kinds of discussion threads as it would be seen as an Official Mod Edict rather than our personal point of view.

This still rattles my mind. I mean, I get it for minor issues--you don't want to mod the Apple WWDC thread with a lot of pro-Android bias or something, that's fine. But...like..."personal opinions" on matters like race aren't really opinions, they're ethics, and I'm having a really hard time thinking of an example where we wouldn't want a mod to bring their ethics into a conversation. Where exactly is the danger line there? What's the worst-case scenario this concern imagines?

What's the point of the sensitivity training if not to help the mods understand how to leverage their "personal opinions" to make this a safer place?

It bothers me so much, because that stepping back seems to care more about how the mods are viewed than how mefites are treated, and that just seems like entirely the wrong focus.
posted by mittens at 5:42 AM on June 24 [24 favorites]


This still rattles my mind. I mean, I get it for minor issues--you don't want to mod the Apple WWDC thread with a lot of pro-Android bias or something, that's fine. But...like..."personal opinions" on matters like race aren't really opinions, they're ethics, and I'm having a really hard time thinking of an example where we wouldn't want a mod to bring their ethics into a conversation. Where exactly is the danger line there? What's the worst-case scenario this concern imagines?

So, on the one hand I totally agree and would very much hope that a new moderator would be free to bring their lived experience into discussions.

But on the other hand, there were at least two, and maybe a couple more that I am forgetting, incidents with one of the moderators bringing in strongly-felt opinions (that they would probably characterize as ethics) that turned out to be hostile and alienating for a lot of people, especially coming from a moderator, vs a regular user. Now, there are ways to avoid that kind of problem without jumping to a blanket ban on moderators engaging critically, but there is definitely a needle to be threaded there.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:05 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


It reads to me as if it's not really about bringing personal opinions to the work of modding... but more about how when you're posting as a member, in your own time, you are still also a mod and those two different roles can clash. So it might mean that they could possibly not express themselves fully as a member, because they would also be a mod.

As always, I could be mistaken.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:06 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Too-Ticky: no you're right, that's how cortex framed it in the interview and he did seem to say that if I do end up being a mod, I may never be able to express myself fully on topics like racism, like I would if I was a member, because I'd end up speaking For The Mods.

mittens explains why I found this troubling.
posted by divabat at 6:23 AM on June 24 [11 favorites]


I brought up that probably in metas other than obviously fun stuff mods really should not be posting as users but only as mods and that was not well received. But I do not think a mod can post in a metatalk that is about site norms or rules as anything but a mod. So it's interesting if this has changed, or if it is changing only for new mods.
posted by jeather at 6:25 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


One thing coming from this discussion is that the userbase needs a good tool, easily understood, and accesible to be able to draw the mods attention to anything problematic.
Metatalk has a discussion running about the flag button which some here might want to comment on.
posted by adamvasco at 8:04 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if I was clear enough. Last year, cortex said, in response to a comment:
*Mods participate in site and policy MeTas as Mods only, not as regular users - thoughts on this?
too absolutist for me; we do maintain as a general goal trying to be selective about where we add personal-voice stuff in policy-centric MetaTalk discussions, but I can't see it being workable to make that a bright-line thing where speaking in a personal capacity, or even just in a non-moderative aside, is off the table. Too rigid.
So obviously it is, or was, fine for mods to participate as regular users in this kind of thread (and also in regular posts). But now, for racism issues, it is not ok? Has the policy changed in general? Are the new mods in fact not allowed to express themselves on topics like racism?
posted by jeather at 8:06 AM on June 24 [8 favorites]


jeather: huh, interesting. I hadn't read that comment before, but I did feel like he wanted a more bright-line thing in our interview? Like, it wasn't mandated as a hard and fast rule, but it did come up a few times, hence me also bringing it up a few times in the written questions I posted earlier.
posted by divabat at 8:13 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


This is all extremely troubling. As someone who has recently stopped my donation (and much too late, I admit) to the question above about when would we feel ok bringing it back? Uhhh when stuff like this stops happening. I don't feel great about feeling like I'm benefiting from the mods' work for free but I feel better about that than about giving money to someone who makes hurtful & inexcusable decisions over & over. And I'm not talking about who was hired, but about how the hiring took place, as well as piles of troubling decisions before that. Especially when we're talking about mods inserting personal opinions about race (that the community had big issues with) into threads they were also modding. It's like the community said "This is a problem- mods shouldn't do this" and the conclusion was "White mods who do this can continue on but no future mods will be allowed to" it's like come on, what is this supposed to be?
posted by bleep at 9:12 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I am very late to this thread, partly because I believe in reading all the way to the bottom before making my own comments, and it's kind of long. I am a little, no, strike that, very depressed, upset, and angry that almost a year after a MeTa where we were promised a whole lot of things, we are still in the same place. It does not take an exceptionally perceptive person to notice that MetaFilter is still not serving its PoC members, especially it's black members, well. We have the same anger, the same problems, the same defensiveness, and only theoretical movement toward any resolution. I don't want to disregard or disrespect the new mods, but they can't be the only solution.

Cortex, I am begging you, in race-oriented threads, you need to be a much lighter presence. All of this has been said multiple times and more eloquently above, so I will just add my voice to the chorus that you need to listen. I am going to call out suedehead especially for some really good concrete suggestions of what could be done to ease some of the pressures and heal some of the hurt, but there are a lot more people in this thread giving really good, solid actions, most of which could be put into place at little cost but with some effort.

I think MetaFilter is better than this, or at least we could be, if we commit to real change.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:41 AM on June 24 [10 favorites]


Last week I was feeling like I just couldn't do any more or put any more into trying to make this site better, or better on race specifically. The number of white users jumping into this thread and being out-loud committed to anti-racism and to holding users and moderation accountable to that gave me a lot of hope so I made a FPP about racism. That post has fewer than 20 comments at this point but has already resulted in TWO 24-hour bans, one of which is a result of flagging that I had to do (and involved the user that got called out in travellingthyme's changed mod note), the other one I am not sure what the comment was or who made it/got banned. I'm not saying this to gain sympathy about my post going poorly. I'm saying this to point out that yet again, I'm feeling like I was lulled into a false sense of security regarding the racist and ignorant attitudes that are still very present on this site.
posted by primalux at 11:12 AM on June 24 [23 favorites]


primalux, I had bookmarked your FPP earlier and literally just finished it and posted a comment there before I saw yours here. Thank you again for posting it. It's mind-opening, at least for some of us.
posted by cooker girl at 11:27 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


some of the responses to primalux's thread were so disappointing! to take a sharply written essay linking racism and climate change and then to try argue that examples of white communities affected by environmental degradation somehow negate the point, because what about class. surely we can do better?

i just think as a general rule, maybe never enter a thread about racism and say what about the white people. it would allow the conversation to evolve in ways it can't otherwise.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:57 PM on June 24 [22 favorites]


and while i'm here being cranky, enough with the coded discussions of "good" school districts. that shit is racist and you should definitely feel bad for such things.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:42 PM on June 24 [11 favorites]


I would really rather the takeaway NOT be “no mod is allowed to talk about race in the race threads, especially PoC mods”.

If we want to tackle the issues of White mods sticking their foot in their mouth when talking about race, make it because they’re White, not because they’re a mod.
posted by divabat at 4:48 PM on June 24 [19 favorites]


enough with the coded discussions of "good" school districts. that shit is racist and you should definitely feel bad for such things.

I feel like there is a thing that happens sometimes where white people realize that them doing a thing is racist or problematic, and rather than confront that their own whiteness makes it inappropriate for them to do it, they try to make a generalized prohibition for everyone, rather than accept that they are specifically excluded.

Like: yes, I am not up for white people who are already privileged talking about whether X school or Y school district gives an extra .00005% advantage to their child who is already born inheriting the world. I am however absolutely up for people of color discussing the conflict and heartbreak about figuring out where to school their child who is born already climbing uphill, and whether it's worth 'cheating' if you're already redlined into a district that has basically been abandoned.

I don't think you're uniquely bad for saying that, just - for those of you who are white, I think it's important to sit with your own whiteness and evaluate how it does or should restrict you. Don't try to figure out how it should restrict other people, because that's just kind of another aspect of being born white and exerting control over other people. If you want to do right, right now, exert control on yourself.
posted by corb at 5:03 PM on June 24 [12 favorites]


I feel like there is a thing that happens sometimes where white people realize that them doing a thing is racist or problematic, and rather than confront that their own whiteness makes it inappropriate for them to do it, they try to make a generalized prohibition for everyone, rather than accept that they are specifically excluded.

this is something i personally struggle with as a white person with a kid, and well... after reading many articles about school segregation and talking to friends, i've some to the conclusion that the onus is on me (and other white parents) to stop the cycle and to support our local schools. if BIPOC families chose the "good" districts or private schools, i understand why and see that more of a reason why it's important for white people to actually commit to ending school segregation for the benefit of all kids.

that's just one example of things i've learned to sit with, that uncomfortable realization that i can make those choices because i'm white and the system is set up to benefit me and my family, that i have the means to choose the "good" schools, that i was able to buy a house in a historically Black neighborhood, and more. and by sit with, i mean feel guilty as hell on one level, and then raise the issues with my white friends and neighbors when i get the chance, but not going for the maxims like corb describes for the reasons articulated above. it is exerting control over people, and the whole point is to stop doing that. i try to be as mindful of that balance of when i should speak up (with my white liberal friends) or not, but really trying to not take up too much space because my voice isn't needed.

and i think that's one of the things with metafilter that is going to be a huge struggle until there's a critical mass of white folks working with an antiracist frame. we can't help but center a white (mostly US) perspective, even though that stifles conversation and learning. this is further supported by moderation decisions that prioritize our feelings. as long as that's the case, then this place will continue to be unbearably white.
posted by kendrak at 5:56 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


divabat: that's how cortex framed it in the interview and he did seem to say that if I do end up being a mod, I may never be able to express myself fully on topics like racism, like I would if I was a member, because I'd end up speaking For The Mods.

Was this in response to the backlash from that Eyebrows McGee prison rape comparison?
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 6:52 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


kendrak: we can't help but center a white (mostly US) perspective, even though that stifles conversation and learning. this is further supported by moderation decisions that prioritize our feelings. as long as that's the case, then this place will continue to be unbearably white.

Sometimes, a discussion is not for you, and that is a fine and normal thing. The world is big and full of different stories and experiences. Let's celebrate and support a MetaFilter where a variety of voices can speak and discuss topics, instead of flattening everything so white people can chime in on another topic (writes a white guy who posts a lot, though attempts to share a range of topics from different perspectives).
posted by filthy light thief at 6:58 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


that is the first time I'm seeing that discussion and tbh asides from maybe the questionable choice in comparison I don't think Eyebrows was wrong in what she said. but that's a whole other thing.
posted by divabat at 6:59 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Sometimes, a discussion is not for you, and that is a fine and normal thing.

that gave me a lot of hope so I made a FPP about racism. That post has fewer than 20 comments at this point

As a white person I sometimes struggle with striking the right balance between keeping quiet in spaces where the discussion is not for me, and seeming like I am ignoring things that don't directly relate to my white experiences (or worse, risking centring a discussion inappropriately on my own experiences). I want to share some thoughts I have about that in the hope that they are useful for other white people reading here who might be worrying about this too. I'm also very open to feedback from anyone if I am thinking about this the wrong way.

1. It's usually not inappropriate to add your voice to a conversation if you are not centring yourself or derailing the topic. And if you can't find something to say that builds on whatever is already being said, that's often a good sign it's a topic you could do to educate yourself on further.

2. It's usually fine and encouraged to add your voice to criticism of racism. If another white person is misbehaving, call them out. Sometimes this can come across as performative or white-knighting, and that's something you want to be aware of and try to avoid, but I personally think it is better to risk being seen as performative or white-knighting than to risk being someone who tacitly accepts racist speech and behaviour. If you get called out for performative speech more than occasionally, you should spend some time considering whether your real world behaviour and actions are consistent with what you claim to believe. In some circumstances, where it's not a fast-moving real-time conversation, it's probably best to ask people whether they want you to say/do something or not. E.g. if you hear after the fact that a white colleague has been racist towards a POC colleague, you can ask them if it would be helpful for you to talk to the white colleague about it, or whether they would prefer you to just support them while they handle it themselves, or to keep out of the situation entirely.

3. POC are not somehow a monolith who have a single perspective or response to something. There can be topics where some POC think it's fine for white people to express white perspectives and other POCs think white people should stay out of the discussion entirely. First of all, we white people need to make sure we have broad exposure to the perspectives of POC so that we are even aware where there are differing viewpoints, and so that we can decide who we agree with on these things and who we don't. And secondly, I personally tend to go with what my real-life POC friends think about such matters, even if they aren't in the majority. If I like and respect people IRL, I want to do what they have personally asked of me. So again, to get to this point you need to make sure your social circles aren't just other white people.

4. Sometimes there truly is a no-win situation where whatever you do (speaking, saying silent) you are going to be called out for it. We need to accept that. Racism, white supremacy, colonisation have fucked things up to the point where sometimes people are in no-win situations where every choice has bad consequences. As a general experience that happens to POC way more often than it happens to white people, so we don't get to whine when occasionally we also end up in a situation where we experience negative reactions no matter what choices we make.

5. Every time I've been called out for saying something dumb, or not saying something when I should have, I have learned something. Even the times when still on reflection I disagree that I did the wrong thing, I learned from the experience of being called out. I learned more about certain behaviour is perceived. I learned about how to handle (or not handle) call-outs well. I learned about my own fragility responses. Being called out is good for you. If and when it happens, you can welcome it and grow as a person. If it never happens to you, that is probably not a sign that you are perfect at race; it's more likely to be a sign that you are staying too much in your own white comfort zone.
posted by lollusc at 8:20 PM on June 24 [12 favorites]


I'm not saying this to gain sympathy about my post going poorly. I'm saying this to point out that yet again, I'm feeling like I was lulled into a false sense of security regarding the racist and ignorant attitudes that are still very present on this site.

I read the article yesterday, and only came back to read the comments today. I was heartened to see a specifically anti-racist mod note, and swift action on banning. And a lot of supportive comments. So, not to diminish your own feelings primalux, but I was really happy you posted that important article and feel like the MF discussion was at least pointing towards an improved site culture.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:10 PM on June 24 [6 favorites]


I realize this isn't a post about how and when people comment on threads (broadly), but I'll just note that there's no good relationship between how interesting or important a topic is and how many comments it gets. Some times it's a big, heavy topic, or the topic is well enough covered in the post or article that there's not much to say.

Looking at the front page now, there are a number of posts that about race, racism, privilege and representation that have few comments. One of the more active posts is about Wizards of the Coast addressing racist stereotypes in D&D, which I'd guess is an area that more MeFites have more direct experience, and from the comments, is a topic that many have already considered.

I'm not saying that people should sit down when the topic is unfamiliar, but that if you don't know what to say, you think your comment might not add anything to the conversation, or your only information on the topic is tropes and internet short-hand, you can just read. For example, there are a lot of comments in the durian thread from last year that didn't make the thread better, though some MeFites went above and beyond, like cendawanita, to turn it into an informative and positive thread. Still, not a thread I'd recommend to someone who asked "what's good on MetaFilter?" Compare it to cendawanita's new post on durian, which is a much more friendly thread.

And I'm not saying discussions or threads should only be about nice things. Let's discuss hard, complicated, challenging topics, but those topics may not have many comments because people are more comfortable reading than commenting, and I think that's fine.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:12 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I just want to clarify that the reason I pointed out that there were fewer than 20 comments in my post was not because I was upset about no one commenting or think that that in and of itself is indicative of anything. I was just making a point that it only took 20-ish comments in a race-related post to end up with two people banned (and another "It's not actually racism" comment was deleted that wasn't either of those). I totally don't mind if things I post get few comments, or none - it's clearly preferable to dealing with people dismissing racism over and over again.
posted by primalux at 9:17 PM on June 24 [27 favorites]


we can't help but center a white (mostly US) perspective, even though that stifles conversation and learning.

You absolutely, unequivocally can help this. You just have to use some empathy and think before you type.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:18 PM on June 24 [11 favorites]


Primalux, that was an excellent article. Thank you for posting it.

It is disheartening that some users kept trying to steer the discussion away from racism. That is definitely a symptom of the problems Metafilter has with race. I am, however, heartened to see better moderating in that thread that a) deleted the derailing, minimizing comments and b) called out the persistent offender. These mod comments, to me, give the right message that this kind of behaviour is not ok and not welcome.

This is what has to happen—consistently. Cortex and the mods are going to have to take on the role of educating the user base, through their deletions, mod comments, and banning when necessary. It isn’t easy, and the job hasn’t been consistently done well in the past (see all the examples pointed out in this very post). But if you want to retain your BIPOC members and white members who care about racism, you are going to have to do this.

I have learned a lot from Metafilter from reading the lived experiences of people. When people (mods or not) push back against racism, and support others who are pushing back against racism, there will be MeFites who don’t comment but read those mod notes and user comments and learn something. People are watching and learning. Make sure they are learning the right things. If you are a white user or mod then you have an extra responsibility to put a stop to racist behaviour. As the site owner, cortex, you have extra extra responsibility. As a POC who is not black or indigenous, I also have an extra responsibility to support black and indigenous voices and educate myself about the specific kinds of issues that affect them.

Stop being defensive. Admit when you’re wrong. Listen. Act. Be humble. Admit when you don’t know things. Educate yourself. But keep persisting.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:14 AM on June 25 [12 favorites]


It is disheartening that some users kept trying to steer the discussion away from racism.

On a site where excitable informed people want to steer conversations toward their current interests, it's a complicated thing when some derails are fruitful, some briefly amusing, some troublesome, and some destructive. We have to cut through that complexity with some hard rules, which, in a better world wouldn't even be needed. So, if the issues of race, stick to race. If the issue is a cultural one, stick to that culture. If the issue is about women, don't talk about men. And so on. Like all rules, there are probably exceptions, but you need to be very sure of yourself before you violate that rule. And then you need to ask yourself if you're being overconfident.

One thing to really avoid, as I have learned to my sorrow, is analogies. Yes, there are similarities between "weird foods" from Asia and "weird foods" from Europe, but trying to build an analogy between them might very well cause a completely destructive derail, despite your intentions.

Posts on race, gender, and other fraught categories require, more than most posts, an adherence to the discipline of RTFA and "read the whole thread before commenting." If you don't have time to do these two things, maybe not commenting is the best policy. Just leave a favorite or, maybe, if you don't like favorites, say "hey this looks really interesting, thanks for posting"

And, in and even slightly Lefty space, the urge to talk class is understandable, given the long history of intertwined race and class issues in the West. But, unless the FPP is about both recent class, it's much wiser to research and post your own FPP then to try to shoehorn class into a post on race.

My spellchecker and voice-to-text has replaced every mention of "race" with "Waze," "raise," and "rays." It was briefly amusing, then very much not amusing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:19 AM on June 25 [13 favorites]


Yes, "race" is currently being silenced via digital platforms. Both as keywords and news, as well as outspoken voices - especially brown women of accomplishment. Today's Twitter has suspended the account of Cambridge's Professor Priyamvada Gopal for explicitly sharing the racial abuse she received on the internet everyday.

My real name account has been suspended for two years.

The digital war targeting uppity women on the social media began around 4 years ago. It has taken this long for the educated Nordic men to go "oh yes, I see what you are saying" to me when I tell them this is what I'd been ranting about once in a way for the past so long. Now its peaking in intensity and becoming a whirlwind or twister, its composed of the energies of fragile backlash, and its angry at the attention that the entire world has given BLM.

Some newspapers, like the Financial Times, have attempted to frame this BLM attention as due to the great United States of America, who shows the world how to do things as a leader and global super power. We pushed back on Twitter that perhaps it might have more to do with the horror of teh brutality the American government's employees were perpetuating upon the American citizens. If nothing else, their salaries are paid by the taxes of those whom they target for violence and intimidation through muscle power and materiel.

This does not suit the needs of a campaign that wants control of the narrative back, even if only for the eyes of the domestic base. Hence the stupidities that we are faced with - the pandemic is a fake! - dude, wtf, do billions of us just not exist in your worldview that we would be faking this pandemic from Lapland to Cape Town?

We're pissed. And George Floyd's death was the straw that broke the camel's back. I know from my 15 years of Metafilter that when I began, the internet, especially the English language internet, belonged to the Americans. In 1995, when I dialled up with 14bit modem and skree skree skreed my way to a textual Lynx browser page of a bulletin board where I made my first Black friend from the south side of Chicago, I saw the miracle of America's greatness, experienced in my own room, all the way across the world in New Delhi.

However, since then, given that I'm one of the mefites who has consistently posted content about the wider world, the internet has spread across the world based on cheap china made smartphones, prepaid data bundles and often, free whatsapp thrown in, at double digit rates as millions of lower income and rural people, youths in slums in Nairobi or New Delhi or Nanjing, got a magical window to the world without having to afford a flight.

This is the surprise that is still in store for teh fragile backlash by the troll king's army who wants their wypipo maga world back.

It is a mistake to dismiss what kpop fans mobilizing actually means. And, this ripple aftershock effect will hit us here in metafilter. We have no time to build internal systems resilience for our community not to be torn apart by the forces who want to drive by shit in threads with the N word. We have not had that happen in the 15 years I have been here.

This is not a cortex and the mods or UI design thing. This is a digital side of the hybrid race war that is too insular to recognize that their circumscribed world IRL != digital world. Puhlease, I see you here now.

This thread is all we got to ride this out until the Fall, together, as a community and platform, before tidal forces far vaster than we are, tear the entire internet apart, throwing up firewalls - the Americans because now it is imperative to control the fucking narrative before November and the rest of teh world because the illiterate nonsense of Qaon is hurting everyone everywhere - why the fuck should Nigerians have to overdose on malaria medicine because moron said so? Why should everyone have to stop people in their own countries from drinking bleach?

This is the piss off.

Ever since the Anglo media gave Pumpkinhead the global stage in 2016 and the digital platform as well, we have all been forced to eat his hateful shit if we want to hang out with friends and fam online.

The Nigerian tech ecosystem - they regularly send 1-2 startups to every YCombinator batch - has woken up to the realization that they need to assess their dependence on American platforms which they see being weaponized and used as political tools against enemies. Who is next? Everyone is asking. Who will be banned next? Sanctioned next?

The dollar flows on american pipes and bottlenecks are made and squeezed on whoever pumpkinhead doesn't like - venezuela today, iran tomorrow, now its the chinese, oh a shithole country la la, wait what about all of EU the bastards etc

You see the teeter totter of the equilibrium the Orange Mule has managed to sway? Influencer or Influenza?

We are not amused.
posted by Mrs Potato at 7:00 AM on June 25 [18 favorites]


In reaction to primalux's comment - I've just come to a realization that I think might be helpful for other white members. I did not read the global warming post because that specific topic is a stressor for me. My initial reaction was to let myself off the hook - I wasn't there, how was I supposed to flag? That's not good enough! If you are one of the white members who have vowed to help with the anti-racism on the site, we have to start going into threads and checking on the white people here. Users of color are already doing so much free labor. We white users need to step the fuck up. Read threads with topics you don't care about. Read all the Metas. You cannot be committed to anti-racism and just go about your life as normal, as it was before. Being anti-racist is an active state. Encountering racism passively will not work, it's been laid out very well in this thread how "good" white people default to deflection, avoidance, and isolation. We must seek out the racism that we know exists on the site, and combat it aggressively.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:30 AM on June 25 [16 favorites]


cortex said:

I'm following up with the whole mod team today so we can get feedback from everybody, and then we'd like to share a sketch of all this on MetaTalk in the next week or so, so we can talk through that as a community and figure out next steps.

A week or so is not a deadline. It's a hedge that lets you punt any obligation to deliver in any timely fashion. No action almost two weeks after this MeTa went up is ridiculous.

And to be clear, you're hedging on a rehash of what you're getting here? Another MeTa as a next step makes it feel like all the labor in this thread is the meeting to have the meeting. It's insulting. POC members have already done the work of coming up with a strategy for you. You just need to publicly and officially commit and start.

Delegate and make some things happen. Planning is meaningless without execution. And a week is what you ask for when things aren't a top priority.
posted by bfranklin at 8:50 AM on June 25 [17 favorites]


[Hi Mrs Potato, let's practice being mindful of the impact of our phrasing. Specifically, the "cheap china made" rhetoric is not acceptable and I ask that you be cognizant of how that language can be received by folks reading your comment.]
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 9:25 AM on June 25 [34 favorites]


Affordable smartphones from the Transsion product portfolio designed specially for African needs in the African consumer market.

I am sorry, i brought that from a place where I use it as snark for neoliberal labeling and they are aware of that. It did not translate over here and was offensive. I will not do that again.
posted by Mrs Potato at 9:37 AM on June 25 [14 favorites]


Given the attention placed on instances of using the n-word, perhaps the site should be modified to either disallow usage of the term in comments, or comments that have it should be auto-flagged for mod review?
posted by saeculorum at 9:44 AM on June 25 [8 favorites]


I have to say, travelingthyme's mod note is what I've been wanting from ALL mod notes for soooooo long and don't see enough of. Ditto to arabidopsis, on preview.
posted by cooker girl at 9:52 AM on June 25 [28 favorites]


> either disallow usage of the term in comments, or comments that have it should be auto-flagged for mod review?

I wasn't around for the early days of MeFi, but one consistent them I've observed in my 10+ years here is that the staff is ultra-conservative when it comes to requests for automation / technical solutions to site issues. This has its advantages, in that there's no hiding behind "the algorithm did it" the way some social networks might, but a request like this should be a no-brainer. You don't have to train a machine learning model on how to navigate the use/mention distinction -- you can just have every instance of the word automatically flagged, because the benign uses of it in this particular community are so infrequent, and every malicious or even borderline use of it needs to be dealt with immediately.

Would limiting the presence of that one word stop racism in this community? Of course not, but it would stop harm from occurring while probably saving staff resources in the long run. To not do it is to prioritize MeFi's sense of old-school, human-powered, inefficient and proud of it moderation over direct pain to members of the community, so I hope this particular pony is taken seriously.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:10 AM on June 25 [15 favorites]


Just in terms of some positive reinforcement—I really appreciate that mod note, travelingthyme. It’s succinct, explains clearly what was a problem, but dare I say, still kind.

My memory of the now deleted mod note from tt is that it was very similar to this, and when I initially read it I had the same reaction I've quoted here (which made its removal that much more puzzling).
posted by maxwelton at 10:29 AM on June 25 [4 favorites]


Wanting to say thank you for the positive reinforcement and acknowledging my notes. I appreciate the feedback and always welcome it.

In response to this thread and many others before it, I've started my first
MetaTalk
I'd love to hear from BIPOC and create an action plan that works for everyone. Thanks, all.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 10:41 AM on June 25 [15 favorites]


To be clear, travelingthyme, is your newest MetaTalk asking for participation only from BIPOC members? I'm only asking because the past and current BIPOC threads are (rightly) for BIPOC members only.
posted by cooker girl at 10:48 AM on June 25


cooker girl, Yes. This is a space for BIPOC only. If folks would like for that to be opened up and altered, I'm open to that as well but personally feel strongly about keeping this space reserved for us as BIPOC MeFites. Thank you for asking for the clarification!
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 10:50 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


Not a problem at all, I agree with you! Thanks!
posted by cooker girl at 10:51 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


This is a space for BIPOC only.

Please feel free to delete my comment in that new thread in that case -- it's largely a response to another comment that has since been deleted. My apologies, I wasn't clear on the rules of engagement for the new thread.
posted by FishBike at 10:53 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I am sorry, i brought that from a place where I use it as snark for neoliberal labeling and they are aware of that. It did not translate over here and was offensive. I will not do that again.

Let me also hold this up as an excellent response to a mod note. That's a comment that makes me think, "oh, yeah, I see how that happened, and this person does too, and I probably don't have to think about this any more."

I want to move to a world where this kind of confrontation can be so normalized and painless.

I've linked this before, but I really like the guidance provided by Recurse Center about their lightweight social rules (which are themselves worth reading) :
The social rules are lightweight. You should not be afraid of breaking a social rule. These are things that everyone does, and breaking one doesn’t make you a bad person. If someone says, "hey, you just feigned surprise," or "that’s subtly sexist," don’t worry. Just apologize, reflect for a second, and move on.

The social rules aren’t for punishing people. They help make RC a pleasant environment where you are free to be yourself, tackle things outside your comfort zone, and focus on programming.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:17 AM on June 25 [34 favorites]


Yeah, it made me think about something I'll expand on a little more thank you meaty shoe puppet

I realized that what worked within my Africa centric twitter timeline didn't work in an American centric board - I don't want either of my two communities to lose what makes them them i.e. some mythical convergence, and I will have to navigate my cultural spaces based on the norms and customs of that digital platform or immersive experience. As opposed to the third culture of my daily IRL community spaces.
posted by Mrs Potato at 11:22 AM on June 25


(Same as FishBike; my comment was largely in response to others and can be deleted in support of making it a BIPOC-only space, no problem.)
posted by Stacey at 11:42 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I would be deeply appreciative if travelingthyme bulletpointed some guidelines for our 2020 iteration of the metafilter community experience - I'd like to share them with the twitter timeline as well. We're not as literate on the fine points as we could be with a bit of work.
posted by Mrs Potato at 12:10 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Hi travelingthyme.
Sorry if this has been mentioned already, but with respect to the BIPOC advisory board initiative, is it possible to set up some crowdfunding so that BIPOC members of the community can be compensated for the huge work they are and will be doing on this board?
(A fund devoted to compensating the advisory board, that is separate and unrelated to funding Metafilter, obviously.)
posted by chococat at 6:39 PM on June 25 [29 favorites]


I’d reinstate and increase my (very modest) donation for the advisory board. And only for that.
posted by taff at 7:15 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]


Going off what FirstMateKate was saying, I've been looking at recent threads thinking about how to behave in mefi going forward. Besides flagging, and trying to gain a better understanding of what to flag.
Probably it's important to stop being such a lurker and comment even a little bit more to challenge something or just contribute to the conversation in a manner that's not terrible.

I've been thinking about the community guidelines and expectations page, and the microaggressions and making space page.

These came out in October 2019, here's the metatalk from that.
Community guidelines: "We want this updated Guidelines document to be a site-wide page that is more visible to the members and readers and to be more useful as a reference about basic expectations in comments and interactions."
Microaggressions page: "Our hope is that identifying and summing them up on this page will make it useful as a reference to point people to, so that members of marginalized groups don't feel compelled to personally do the work of explaining these points yet again when they come up in conversation on the site."

I think these pages are the closest around to a kind of explicit code of conduct thing, but they don't seem to be a core part of the site at all so really can't shape anyone's behavior very much. I don't see any users or mods link to them or cite them. They're not part of the current flag mechanism. It's also pretty hard to find either page.

Anyway, I don’t know if focusing on guidelines is the right track. The most important thing to take away from this conversation is to make sure it affects my behavior on the rest of the site.
posted by sacchan at 8:00 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]


I am sorry, i brought that from a place where I use it as snark for neoliberal labeling and they are aware of that. It did not translate over here and was offensive. I will not do that again.

I would like to note for (especially white) people reading that I think this style of responding to a mod note is for advanced players only. I'm bringing this up not to criticise Mrs Potato, but in case people reading and learning take the mod note and this response as a template for how to do this stuff well in their own future interactions.

Mrs Potato seems to have achieved an apology here that was accepted by at least one of the people who was hurt by the original comment. (Not my place to say whether it was more widely successful/accepted or not). But note that there is an explanation of intent in here, which in many apologies would be inappropriate as it would read as fragility and defensiveness. If it works in this specific instance, my guess is that is because it is very brief, and also because she immediately acknowledges that the comment was, despite the intent/reason for it, still offensive.

If you are a reader who knows you are less skilled or less experienced with apologising for racism, I would suggest you are best off sticking to a template like "I'm sorry. This was offensive because [reason] and I understand that. I appreciate that you brought it to my attention. I will [plans for going forward, which depending on the severity of the issue might be just not doing the thing again, or making some kind of amends]."
posted by lollusc at 8:27 PM on June 25 [10 favorites]


GenjiandProust's comment above crystallized something for me about how the blue's derail culture operates to support racism and how I've been directly complicit in that.

This isn't the only example, but it's the one on my mind right now: I made an ill-advised and dyspeptic comment in the recent fireworks thread (a comment that has been oddly heavily favorited). I checked out of the thread after making it because I have a tough time keeping a level head about the derail-topic of summer fireworks, and I quickly regretted having posted anything at all. On reflection, though, that wasn't really why I should have regretted making that comment. Rather, I should have regretted it (and I do now regret it) because my comment and the broader fireworks derail deflected from the topic of police psyops against Black activists in a way that very much supported white supremacy.

Of course, it's just as possible for derails to move the conversation in the opposite way: there would have been plenty of tangents that could have been taken in that thread that would not have deflected from white supremacy/white discomfort. But it's not exactly a coincidence that this particular derail was the one that took hold. So for derail enthusiasts like myself (especially white ones) who find ourselves doing dumb things like this, I'd suggest we need to make a habit of considering two things:
(1) does this tangent "coincidentally" bend the conversation in a way that reduces white discomfort and supports white supremacy, and
(2) is there a way to usefully bend a particular conversation toward anti-racism?
posted by Not A Thing at 8:35 PM on June 25 [8 favorites]


I would like to third chococat's suggestion of a fund for the advisory board. There is just no way this should be unpaid labour.

Ideally the site itself would pay the board members for their time. (I see the idea is to have roles rotating, but even contribution to a single activity or meeting should be paid). If the site can't afford that from current budgets, I would be more than happy to help kick in funds towards it and I'm sure there are many others who feel the same way.
posted by lollusc at 8:40 PM on June 25 [16 favorites]


Mmm, I feel that metatalk has been 'swifter' than usual of recent times. This is probably part of that 'fun community stuff' to help people let off steam with COVID times, but I also wonder if it is a subconscious discomfort with tricky discussions. It is a bit jarring to go from this thread to "what's everyone having for dinner?" - perhaps a few threads could have been held back in the queue (tough, because in the past mefites have railed against the queue!)

I like that this discussion is in the bar at the top of the page, it helps a bit.
posted by freethefeet at 5:13 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]


Metafilter is a dinosaur. The community here feels like it's from another era, and that's not a compliment, because, well, we live in this era. The way that the dominant culture on this site interacts with minoritized people feels like it teleported straight out of an office multiculturalism workshop in 1994. My limited personal experience with that is as a white Jew; I deactivated my longstanding account a few years ago in part because the only response this community was able to envision to anti-semitism was a shutting-down of anyone, including Jews, who had issues with Zionist politics. It really feels like a critical majority of Mefites think it's overwhelming to be asked to tone down the bigotry and use critical thinking while interacting with minoritized people as real, complex individuals. I can't imagine how much more demeaning yet that dynamic must be for a person of color on this site.
posted by dusty potato at 6:39 AM on June 26 [13 favorites]


I add my voice to those asking for a way to directly fund the BIPOC board. I would happily kick in some extra cash each month to support this.
posted by roolya_boolya at 7:13 AM on June 26 [7 favorites]


I would also like to help fund the BIPOC board.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 8:10 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]


I have been hesitant to donate money to MetaFilter since last July. I would give money to a BIPOC advisory board.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:48 AM on June 26 [9 favorites]


I may be mistaken but I think mods have said previously they do not have a way to create a separate fund for a specific site objective, and that using an offsite solution would have its own complications (would it be run by Metafilter? run by the new Board? run by one of the new mods? what if there are not enough funds in a particular month?)

I agree these board members should not be asked to volunteer for free so I hope something can be figured out so the process won't be delayed (and cause additional pain as a result). It's possible this is part of what travelingthyme's new thread will be discussing and if so, mods can feel free to delete this comment.
posted by Glinn at 9:46 AM on June 26


Thanks Chococat and all, for bringing up the crowdfunding. Supporting this collective by donating funds is incredible and very doable, I’ve checked in with cortex and he’s onboard. I've mentioned this in the new MetaTalk dedicated to discussing the board so looking forward to hearing how folks want the funds to be distributed. More to come, thank you all!
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 11:13 AM on June 26 [9 favorites]


I've noticed a pattern of a pretty important discussion opened up followed by something completely different posted feeling like it's pushing the metatalk on race down and eventually off the page.

I have noticed this too and .... MetaTalk has a queue. The only people who can post things in MetaTalk are moderators. Even if someone else creates a thread, the actual posting and the timing of that post is up to the mods. Up until last week, the moderators were all white and like 50% of them had a history of very valid, very substantiated claims of racism. It's really, really hard for me to take all of these facts together and come to any other conclusion but: the very consistent burying of the race-related/BIPOC-lead MetaTalks by a bunch of stuff like "hey happy weekend!" and "what does your home office look like?" is very deliberate and incredibly shitty.
posted by kate blank at 1:47 PM on June 26 [11 favorites]


MetaFilter shows the most recent 50 posts.
Ask MetaFilter shows the most recent...70 or so? questions.
MetaTalk shows the most recent 10 posts.

MetaTalk does have less posting volume, but there’s no magic reason why it has to be 10 vs some other number. It’s just been that way since the days of yore.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:22 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]


It seems to me unfair to accuse anyone of intentionally burying anti-racism threads given that: (1) the mods added a banner on the font page of the Blue and MeTa linking to the threads; (2) there are presently two racism-related threads on the "front page" of MeTa; and (3) there are presently five anti-racism threads in the three most recent pages of MeTa.
posted by Mid at 2:59 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


I agree with kate blank. Pushing important discussions, ones crucial to the site's continued survival, for "hi let's gab about something fun!" feels very shitty. MetaTalk used to be much more about site business and norms. Maybe the fun stuff needs to be somewhere else, like MetaGab or MetaGossip. The mods decide when a new thread goes live, because of the queue. They are directly responsible for the optics of MetaTalk, and the optics are that discussions of race can be bumped down quickly to discuss something more "fun."
posted by tiny frying pan at 3:05 PM on June 26 [8 favorites]


On the Ravelry forums, certain topics can be "pinned/stickied" to the top of the board by moderators. I'd recommend a similar approach here in MetaTalk for threads like this one (while keeping them also in the announcements bar at the top of all the other subsites like MeFi and AskMe etc., because not everyone looks at MetaTalk regularly).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:46 PM on June 26 [8 favorites]


It seems to me unfair to accuse anyone of intentionally burying anti-racism threads given that

Basically what jj's.mama said.

I don't think people talking about frustration with the way the MetaTalk front page works needs to be framed as an accusation of intentional harm. The normal good-faith operation of the site can still create frustration for people and that's worth talking out, and I don't think it helps things to get into an argument about whether that's "fair"; better that we look at outcomes and see if we can find better ones.

We don't have a way of pinning threads on MeFi the way a lot of other forum-like sites do do; the sidebar and the banner are local workarounds for that, but it doesn't change that that would stand out for some folks as a functional difference they feel concern about. I think we can think about how that could work here, and I think revisiting the length of the MetaTalk page in terms of post count is reasonable too. I have a lot of detailed thoughts about those ideas but I won't get into them right now, just want to acknowledge I hear folks on this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:13 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


I was responding to comments suggesting deliberate burying, which seems to me inconsistent with the facts I noted. I agree with the spirit of what cortex is saying - and I agree that there can be harm and/or cause for frustration without intentional bad acts - and otherwise I’ll bow out. Thanks.
posted by Mid at 6:29 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


What really is your comment's true purpose besides invalidating jj's.mama's observation and request?
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:33 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]


Mid I think this is one of those times where it wasn't necessary to explain further or be defensive. I think you meant the posting was not malicious, but it could still be seen or felt as thoughtless and what you said seemed to minimize the feelings of other people.
posted by Glinn at 7:15 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Not to assume mod intentions, but perhaps they felt that an advisory board couldn't happen until there were PoC mods to oversee it.
posted by divabat at 7:53 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


I would absolutely reinstate my monthly contribution if it went to a BIPOC board.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:18 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


On the banner note, it's good to see the advisory board post highlighted, and explained as a non-white space but can we reword so this thread is clear it's for everyone? I think anti-racism needs to be made clear it's for everyone, not just the people it affects.
posted by freethefeet at 8:24 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


I would also donate toward the advisory board.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 10:12 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


On the banner note, it's good to see the advisory board post highlighted, and explained as a non-white space but can we reword so this thread is clear it's for everyone? I think anti-racism needs to be made clear it's for everyone, not just the people it affects.

Good point. I pinged the mods via the comment form, and Eyebrows McGee made the change.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:13 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


We’ve all talked about and thought about posts and comments. I’m sure problematic user names are nixed very quickly. This is a strong request that we should all check our profile pages for problematic humour and microaggressions. I wrote mine years ago and had to review it as I learned more about the lives of other people. I’m a wee bit embarrassed about some of the slightly off things I wrote.


May I please ask all white people in particular to have a quick review before posting again. And if you’re unsure if what you’ve got is a problem, maybe say something here, and someone can review for you.
posted by taff at 12:25 AM on June 28 [3 favorites]


"This is a space for BIPOC only."

Maybe like a few other people here; it can be quite possible to follow a link, and another link; and then upon commenting on the trail of thought; have to stop to check what thread a person is actually in.

It can be very confusing at times, to say the least.
posted by Afghan Stan at 5:29 AM on June 28


Yeah, that thread has basically killed any hypothetical interest I would have in a BIPOC advisory board.

I previously thought, "If they could convince me they were serious this time, maybe I might put some time into this."

And now I'm like, "If."
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 8:53 AM on June 28 [2 favorites]


Oh the irony
posted by Mrs Potato at 10:14 AM on June 28


Arabidopsis, thank you for calling attention to that. I just posted up thread about how white people need to be checking every meta to try and ease the work of users of color in calling out racism, and I didn't know that thread was there. That was a mistake on my part. It went on too far down the what-aboutism road before getting shouted down.
I am losing faith quickly that this site can change. I am here not because I enjoy it any more, but because I owe all users of color as much fight as I have for all the benefits I've gained from MeFi over my teenage years, at their expense.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:27 AM on June 28 [2 favorites]


I know this is not a voting thing, but also support xtine's proposal. It is easy, really a no-brainer. Was not going to add noise here but in spirit of allyship did not want to just read and see pushback and whataboutism.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:32 AM on June 28 [3 favorites]


The sheer level of plausible-deniability loophole-seeking in that thread does shine a light on one of the core problems with white supremacy: the stubborn, even when soft, refusal to see things as systemic and structural.

Everything's an edge case. Everything's, people make mistakes. They stumble as they improve, but we have to all agree they're improving, it's just stumbling. People have to be reassured they don't have to worry about being perfect. Just talking past each other, that's all. But the core structure, the core system's, it's fine! It's good! Sorry if you're upset. But what about. And what about. And what about.

Sarcasm put aside, I do truly believe that it's something that once you see it, you cannot unsee it. Which is why so many people are willfully good at not seeing it.
posted by Drastic at 10:58 AM on June 28 [28 favorites]


For what it's worth, I don't think anyone in the other thread disagreed with removing the main offensive word immediately. I do think all the edge casing and stuff was about OTHER words not including that one. I did not see any objection to making sure that first word could never be added to the site. In case that helps anyone see it any differently.
posted by Glinn at 3:10 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


Many (probably most) of the people who thought "All lives matter!" was clever and insightful didn't realise that they were effectively shouting down an anti-racist movement, but that is in fact what they were doing. Yes, in fact all lives do matter, but they had never been prompted to say anything about police violence before; it was only the realisation that people were listening to Black voices that made them desperate to add a White perspective. I feel that the same thing applies to people concerned about other slurs, edge cases, people that live in Scunsthorpe, etc. They don't seem to have been worried before; this looks like a defensive reaction.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:03 PM on June 28 [13 favorites]


Especially considering the primary request: block posting of comments or questions that include the letter sequence "n----r". Only one word immediately comes to mind as possibly triggering the Scunthorpe problem, and it's easily avoided (with half a second's worth of thought, "snicker" and "laugh sneeringly" come up as possible replacements).
posted by Lexica at 4:10 PM on June 28


I kinda blew up about this in that thread, but since it's come up again, I'm going to gently ask that we not do comments that obliquely reference slurs by way of other usages or words that contain them. They're just draining to read in aggregate and I think we can have this discussion without doing that.
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:12 PM on June 28 [14 favorites]


My apologies. That was inappropriate of me and I appreciate the correction.
posted by Lexica at 7:32 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


I think it's also worth considering, before posting in a thread like that, what a thread full of comments like yours would look and feel like, even if your comment by itself might come across as innocuous. Like, maybe one person saying, "Hey maybe the details of implementation could work like [details]" might be fine. Maybe there's not a single sentence in that comment that is flag-worthy or offensive. So you think you are fine posting it. Or a person reading it thinks it's fine. But if you have 30 people arguing about the details of implementation, it looks like pushback on the feature request, and like people are going out of their way to find reasons to delay just doing the thing.

Not having words or sentences in your comments that are explicitly offensive is like, the bare minimum bar to achieve. Thinking about what your comments, combined with other comments, might do structurally to a post is also super important. And I know that as a reader looking for things that I should flag or push back on, I'm not very good yet at catching this myself, so I need to do better on that.
posted by lollusc at 7:49 PM on June 28 [22 favorites]


lollusc’s points are one of the reasons I discipline myself to read the whole thread before commenting. If a couple of people have already made my points, there is much less need for me to post a comment, or I have to think of something else/additional to say, maybe simply “I agree with A and B.” It also gives me a chance to avoid derailing or, sometimes, try to re-rail a thread. It also saves an embarrassment by giving me fewer chances to put my foot in a hole.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:27 AM on June 29 [20 favorites]


Thinking about what your comments, combined with other comments, might do structurally to a post is also super important.

Yes, this is so true. I have a constant struggle to remember to think before posting. In the NYTimes-subjects-durian-fruit-to-white-gaze-for-the-fiftyseventh-time thread I spent some time crafting a comment about a microscopically small detail in the offending piece. I typed the comment, I looked at the comment, I thought, "Huh, this comment is cute but kind of trivial and the post is about something serious. People might think this is a derail or that it's defending the Times, or, worst case, that I could be one of those white people who don't want to focus on the problem at hand because for once it isn't about them, but they do see an opportunity to gabble on about one of their observations that they think is interesting." [Full disclosure: the above-described person is exactly who typed that comment.] So then did I delete the comment? No! Instead, I typed a whole frame around it that attempted to show how really it was not a derail but an insightful expose of the folly of racism in popular culture broadly. I looked at that comment and I thought, "Now it's a really long comment all about how smart you are, congratulations on this excellent use of time" and then I deleted the comment. Fortunately for me, I have fallen into this trap countless times and made who knows how many solipsistic comments, and I've observed other people tumbling into similar traps in other threads, and I recognized what I was about to do just in time to prevent creating another "hey, look at me" derail in a thread about something that's harming people and becoming a part of the harm, myself. A year ago, maybe even a few months ago, I might've considered the comment good to go and would today be shivering with shame over it.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:38 PM on June 29 [27 favorites]


advice on how to minimize the number of times one falls into [the trap of writing a big de-raily comment]

The easiest way to do this is simply to delete your comment if, once you've written it out, you look at it and simply find it's not adding enough to be worth the effort of the 100 to 1000 people who will read it.

And for every comment, once you've written it, read back and try to make it half the length. Especially, try to edit out cases where you've wasted whole sentences on unnecessary precision, or preemptively defending the comment from misinterpretation.

A lot of people in this thread, and elsewhere, have very much not done that.
posted by ambrosen at 3:48 AM on June 30 [6 favorites]


You have to be able to get past how well meaning you are, which is tough, because you are well meaning. Few people mean to be selfish, and most people are commenting in good faith, thinking they're adding value. But any time any little voice is saying "Oh, wait, there is a way this could be misinterpreted!" That's a comment likely to be read--correctly--as noise or worse.

Also, the point is to try to get better and hope to succeed some of the time, not hope to be perfect because that's impossible. Seeing yourself clearly is really hard. For instance, the part of my immediately previous comment, where I cite "a year ago or even a few months ago," thus implying that That Was Old Me, and Now I Have Learned is of course all bullshit. I haven't learned; I am learning. I will continue to err.
posted by Don Pepino at 5:03 AM on June 30 [7 favorites]


There's some 12-step advice that I have basically ignored because it is from AA and not Al-Anon but I heard it recently again in a podcast. I think roughly 99.9% of white people on MetaFilter, including myself, could benefit from following this advice (in general but also specifically in discussions involving racism):

1. Does it need to be said?
2. Does it need to be said now?
3. Does it need to be said by me?

In the case of MF, I would add an additional question, as alluded to above:

4. Has it been said already?

I am a chatty gal. Being too chatty (and posting too frequently in a thread) is a disservice to others who may feel like I haven't left room for other voices. So I am trying to pay attention to that 12-step wisdom. That means, like Don Pepino, I sometimes start comments then delete them because my thoughts in those cases don't bring anything new to the conversation. This is a new and fledging effort, given that I love the sound of my own voice. :-)
posted by Bella Donna at 7:15 AM on June 30 [19 favorites]


On preview, what ambrosen said.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:17 AM on June 30


Just a note that the n-word filter as proposed by xtrine has been implemented, in case anyone is having trouble following all the threads.
posted by freethefeet at 9:47 PM on July 1 [8 favorites]


And today this FPP is up, and in the discussion thread a member notes that it contains a slur. I flagged the FPP; my comment disclosing that I'd flagged it, and questioning the FPP's timing and framing in light of that site-wide filter implementation, got deleted.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:35 PM on July 2


I mailed you about that if you want to discuss. It's an article by a respected black writer, about the deep roots/nature of US racism, and you suggested the person posted it because they wanted to post the n-word but were prevented by the filter; that didn't seem plausible to me. The criticisms of Wilkerson's thesis (that she's missing things about the system she compares to US racism, etc) can be discussed in the thread and are now. As I understood it, the word mentioned in that comment is in the article, not the post; if the NYT should have a policy against printing that word, that's something people can talk about in the thread too.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:51 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Thanks; I just sent off a reply to your message. I suggested the person posted it (their first FPP, ever, to a restricted link) because it's a slur for many people, and the site had just put the kibosh on a common one.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:33 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I agree that it's deeply weird seeing an account that's been inactive for 10 years to post that in that context.
posted by ambrosen at 10:12 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Yes. Weird and creepy.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:00 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


We'll keep an eye out there. I want to provide context from a mod perspective that folks delurking after long periods of quiet is actually pretty common. Most people with MetaFilter accounts are not very active at all and pop up for their first comment or especially first post in a while after a period of years; most infrequent posters don't dive into the comments the way those of us used to spending a lot of time talking here do. Cautious skepticism is totally understandable, and flagging stuff down for us to keep an eye on is fine and welcome. I do want us to keep an eye on this situation and I appreciate the heads up.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:52 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


cortex: I'm following up with the whole mod team today so we can get feedback from everybody, and then we'd like to share a sketch of all this on MetaTalk in the next week or so, so we can talk through that as a community and figure out next steps.

Just wanted to circle back to this. It's July 3, that's 10 days, which I suppose is a personal definition for a "week or so," but where are we at with this? This thread along with a few others are becoming an unwieldy way of keeping track. I support a sustained discussion around these things, I just want there to be a more coordinated response, in a new thread, with some big picture focus.

We have a suggested BIPOC advisory board and there have been been some feature requests playing out in various threads, some of which you have responded to directly. The question remains, what is the high level response?
posted by kaelynski at 12:03 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


travelingthyme's post on June 25th is the MetaTalk I was talking about in that comment on the 22nd; I'd outlined a week or so to allow space since thyme is working part time, but we were able to get it moving sooner. In those three days, we talked through some draft stuff thyme put together and they moved forward with that post; they've been coordinating with folks through discussion in there and email, and working with me on logistics where needed. That's coming along; it's a process to get the whole thing organized and started up. I'll let thyme follow up when they have more.

I agree (and noted in last night's roundup on some feature requests) that having a clearer way to track some of this ongoing stuff is important; that's one of the things on that near-term to-do list, along with the work we're doing on other things folks have been expressing as a priority. Making it easier to track this stuff and let the community be aware of the state of work is important and we're working to make it happen.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:14 PM on July 3


Wow. I'm floored. So your entire structured response to this whole thing is the advisory board itself? My impression was that this "sketch" would be more holistic, more in line with what travelingthyme suggested:

I've also suggested to the mods that we have a meeting to discuss strategies for taking everyone's suggestions, input, and concerns to create an actionable plan.

So, when can we expect the results of that meeting?

Upon closer reading of your comment it does reference an advisory committee. I just think all this work we are doing together deserves a clear response. Not just a to do list for site development tasks. Not just a board of BIPOC volunteers to advise you (luckily it seems that folks are stepping up to fund it). I'm talking about a real, formal overarching response from you and the moderators that talks about, I don't know, how this board might fit into the governance of the site, how we can address culture on the site, how modding practices might change to reflect what has been discussed around facilitation, maybe include some of the small scale tweaks you are embarking on, use your imagination.

Let's not do this piecemeal. Let's do this with intention. Otherwise, why in hell have we been going through this process up to this point? For many folks it's been years of labor trying make some of these changes, trying to get through to you, to other mods or members who aren't getting it. I'm not saying a new MetaTalk post is going to change everything. But maybe it could acknowledge the labor that has been done up to this point and show some direction and intention.
posted by kaelynski at 9:23 PM on July 3 [11 favorites]


+1 to kaelynski's comment.

You appear to be (slowly) making plans to (someday) implement (some of) the proposals others have carefully worked out for you, after it has become clear that even white users will not permit you to get away with less.

These are not the actions of an ally, much less a leader.

Shit or get off the pot, cortex.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:38 AM on July 4 [7 favorites]


I am here to say goodbye.

no, I'm not breaking up with potato

I just realized that this handle has no legacy to support it during the inevitable transformation that metafilter is undergoing as a result of IRL upheavals around racial inequalities in our systems, to broadly generalize.

Its hard being moderated for tone when perceived as owning white privilege. Its been a learning experience to bounce from wanting to immediately button out to recognizing that Metafilter needs this experience if its to emerge as a community that is more attuned to the future than the 'way things have always been' left unquestioned.

no, i'm not leaving metafilter, imma dropping htis sockpuppet
posted by Mrs Potato at 4:23 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


Still waiting on the training document transparency. How are we being modded?
posted by stoneweaver at 5:49 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think it's time for me to take a break from this nonsense.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:12 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Hey, y’all said you were willing to share that training document. Is that just something you said so we would stop talking about it? Now that anti-racism work isn’t trendy is this just getting back burnered? That was an easy concrete thing you said you would do. Flagging this comment in hopes that you’ll actually see it.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:56 AM on July 10 [3 favorites]


Heya, sorry for the slow follow up on that. Where we are on the training document: I've made the time to review the training doc and note up where I think stuff should be trimmed or edited, LM's had a chance to do the same. I still need to round that up into an edited draft and also check in with Jessamyn about it since the original 2012 draft was her work to which we have made edits in her absence and she didn't write it for public consumption at the time or with the expectation that we would publish it.

That's still in a holding pattern because we've been prioritizing a bunch of other work in the last month. Primary among those have been getting travelingthyme and loup fully into independent work mode, supporting thyme's work to organize and bootstrap the advisory board, working out implementation and expansions of xtine's slur filter proposal, and working with loup in revising the existing guidelines and documentation pages and developing a more up-to-date moderation/training document that captures current practices based on the training loup and thyme have been doing since they were hired.

I want to really emphasize that the newer training document loup is spearheading, and the related short "how moderation works" document thyme talks about putting together in their board progress update from yesterday, will be along with what we lay out currently in the guidelines documents a much more useful picture of moderation practice and philosophy than that older training document is.

I will continue to work to find time to prepare a copy of that old document for release, but I want to avoid an expectation that that is somehow a core document to moderation work when it really is not and won't be the most useful work we can do to document moderation practice and policy right now. It allowed loup and thyme to get a quick rundown on some common structures and mechanics on the site in their first days here, but isn't something we reference in daily work and not something I'd expect them to have revisited since onboarding. I understand the frustration that I haven't gotten it out sooner, and I apologize for that unmarked delay. It can't be what I'm prioritizing instead of more pressing site development and moderation concerns, but I will keep it in my working pile.

As far as the newer documentation, loup may be able to follow up in a bit here with thoughts/info about what they're working on there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:31 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Hi! Adding to what cortex said above... As you might have noticed I have been super quiet working in the background and learning my way around things here. A huge percentage of what I have been trying to work on has been creating new documentation from what we are learning each day and trying to update and polish old documentation. This is a huge task but I find it to be necessary for the sake of consistency, transparency and to make the on-boarding process for anyone more streamlined.

That being said, most of what we have at this point are still notes with lots of private links that need to be translated into actual working documentation, it's a slow process but one where I believe that taking the time it deserves is beneficial in many ways.

I honestly want to avoid creating expectations on when or how the progress on this will be communicated and would prefer to focus on getting it done. One of the things I can confirm, though, is that we are always listening and trying to prioritize what can have a big positive impact. The fact that the things we are working on are not always openly communicated is not a matter of secrecy but rather the result of how each one of us being super focused on trying to make every minute we work count while still working on the day-to-day tasks we have.
posted by loup (staff) at 1:12 PM on July 10 [9 favorites]


« Older I happen to be the obscure expert you need   |   After the pandemic ... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments