Let's start a Mefi BIPOC advisory board June 25, 2020 10:33 AM   Subscribe


Hi all, I want to thank you for your patience. After some conversation with staff, I’m going to take the lead on initiating some things that I am hopeful will change the way we handle things on the site.

*I am encouraging this thread to remain a space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color only.*

I’d like to hear from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color about their feelings on creating a community advisory board consisting of 5-10 rotating voluntary members. Our first meeting could consist of drafting community agreements to follow for meetings, creating an agenda with topics to cover, and ending the meeting with a summary of agreed-upon action items. I’m 100% open to suggestions and specificities around the structure of these meetings.

I’m imagining the advisory board as an intentional space and tool for addressing the ongoing concerns of the site. It'll be a space for solutions and changes to be implemented with a transparent and community-focused structure. You all deserve the space to have conversations with each other and with mod staff that produces tangible and sustainable results.

We (staff) need to take proactive action on a number of conversations that have taken place and I think these meetings will work well for coming to an agreement about how those actions should materialize. If folks are interested in moving forward with this, I’m proposing a few places to start for the first meeting that I would love to get your input on.

Here are some of the things modding staff would like to prioritize creating an action plan for:
1. Consistency in modding procedure and mod response
2. What kind of communication would work best for folks who want to make their concerns visible? If not a flagging system, what could be a more accessible and effective feedback system?
3. What does better facilitation look like?
4. Creating a method for tracking mod actions that are accessible and improve lines of communication.

I would appreciate feedback on the things in this proposal that work for you or don’t work and any changes you’d like to see made to the framework.

For those interested in contacting us privately, feel free to send feedback through our contact form

You can also email me one-on-one at travelingthyme@metafilter.com.

Also, a note that I’m a part-timer so I’ll be getting to your responses in the early morning (PST) on Mon, Tues, Thurs, & Fri.
posted by travelingthyme to MetaFilter-Related at 10:33 AM (61 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

Was a community advisory board suggested a year ago? Was it dismissed then?

Also, while I think community buy-in and support is a great idea, this also sounds like a ton of work and some of these items are probably things that the paid consultants we requested would be able to help the mods with. (Side note: if all that was learned from the consultants was the revelation that allyship is a constant journey and there hasn't been any progress beyond that 101 point... there should be a reckoning).
posted by TwoStride at 10:54 AM on June 25 [4 favorites]


[A comment deleted. MeFi is not just a blog. This is a space where important conversations happen, including this one. I'm looking forward to hearing from BIPOC and making important things happen together. ]
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 10:55 AM on June 25 [23 favorites]


Thanks for this travelingthyme - I am really happy to see this is happening and will come back with more once I've read and considered what you laid out here.

Also it's been half an hour and there have already been comments that required deleting. WTF PEOPLE
posted by primalux at 10:59 AM on June 25 [15 favorites]


Signing off to get some sleep, I'll check back in on my next shift. Talk to you all soon!
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 11:18 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I think this is a great idea. I know we've been having the BIPOC threads here in MeTa but something like this would seem to provide a clearer pathway from identifying issues to seeing solutions implemented. It would also reduce pressure off travelingthyme to be the "official BIPOC" voice of MetaFilter (and possibly loup, I'm not sure if they're BIPOC as well).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:45 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


I’d like to hear from BIPOC about their feelings on creating a BIPOC community advisory board consisting of 5-10 rotating voluntary members. Our first meeting could consist of drafting community agreements to follow for meetings, creating an agenda with topics to cover, and ending the meeting with a summary of agreed-upon action items. I’m 100% open to suggestions and specificities around the structure of these meetings.

This sounds reallyreallyreally amazing.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:18 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


I’m interested, though being in Australia means time zones could be an issue. Are there asynchronous ways to engage in the process?
posted by divabat at 4:15 PM on June 25 [7 favorites]


For clarification: here, BIPOC means "Black, Indigenous, and People of Color"? (I want to make very sure of this because I am a person of color who is neither black nor indigenous, and I'm interested in volunteering some time to participate.)
posted by brainwane at 4:40 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


I like this idea, especially the rotating nature which both increases perspectives and avoids burnout. I think however it would be good to have this community advisory board actually participating in the conversation in some way rather than just formulating plans that never go anywhere if that makes sense?
posted by corb at 4:55 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I'm similarly excited at the prospect, but unwilling to commit any time myself. I suspect that's going to be a common reaction among people who have paid any attention.

It's one thing to snark at cortex when the mood strikes me. Signing up for an advisory board is a different matter entirely. It requires a degree of commitment that I'm not ready to provide without some credible assurance that This Time Will Be Different.

The mods don't need to get more advice. They've been getting advice for years. The mods need to take more advice.

Personally, what would make me hopeful and excited and willing to give them the time of day?

I think it might be as little as any evidence of labor on their part.

So they've identified these four topics. How about they take any of the four and present a concrete proposal and an ETA? I'd be happy to comment on that. I think many people would.

We would be overjoyed that the mods have finally stopped talking and started doing.

Until then, I'm just going to keep linking divabat's list of all the racism MeTas between 2001 and 2017.

Because I honestly don't know what I would have to contribute to an advisory board that hasn't been said in one or more of those, and probably more eloquently.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 5:06 PM on June 25 [11 favorites]




Good pony. Feed it carrots.

I doubt I have bandwidth to support this as a fully active member but as a passing POC I'm happy to comment on esoteric tribal law idiosyncrasies and edge cases that may fly under the radar or be a easy swing and a miss. I've commented before when I see things like that come up (for example, the fact that the FSU Seminoles actually have a healthy name-related / legal relationship with the tribe of the same name for the most part unlike the recent NFL team that shall not be named) but I never feel like I'm able to provide *coverage* or even catch all the meta-talks/commentary on incidents as well, and that's important to have a wholistic and accurate opinion I think.

This won't be easy but I hope it's productive and leads to real buy-in from staff and a feeling of being heard (and hopefully not overmuch emotional / literal labor) from the population in question that loves the site like I do.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:52 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]


Signing up for an advisory board is a different matter entirely. It requires a degree of commitment that I'm not ready to provide without some credible assurance that This Time Will Be Different.

The mods don't need to get more advice. They've been getting advice for years. The mods need to take more advice.

Personally, what would make me hopeful and excited and willing to give them the time of day?

I think it might be as little as any evidence of labor on their part.


Yeah I agree. I even gave some advice in my job interview. There's only so much talking one can do know?
posted by divabat at 9:53 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]


This sounds good. Thank you, traveling thyme! I'm with others that a lot of the needs, advice has been hashed and re-hashed, so it would be nice if people were appointed to collate that information before trying to start from scratch. And by people, not the same ones who keep providing the same advice.

I think we should start writing Black, Indigenous and People of Color rather than the acronym, BIPOC. I have heard from multiple Black folks that BIPOC is not preferred but to say, Black. Just a suggestion.
posted by jj's.mama at 10:24 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


depending on the demographic skew of the site, and potentially also of the volunteers that will make this awesome initiative happen, would it be correct to assume that this board will mainly be oriented towards topics of interest within the US? Not that anything is wrong with that, I just want to understand what the conscious/unconscious direction and focus could be.
posted by alchemist at 12:33 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


If we're talking about more than Black people then BIPOC seems fine IMHO. The objection is usually only the conflation that erases more Black-specific issues, which is not the case with the general discussion in this matter.
posted by TwoStride at 5:16 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]


I am interested in the concept, but I have issues with the term BIPOC and wouldn't be comfortable aligning myself with a group that uses it. I recognize that here the intention seems(?) to be to have it to refer to "Black, Indigenous and People of Colour," but the acronym is often if not predominantly employed to mean "Black and Indigenous People of Colour," which both excludes other people of colour (the intention of those using it that way being to exclude "model minorities") and also conflates being indigenous and being a person of colour in a way that runs contrary to my core political beliefs about North American indigenous identity.

Beyond that possible ambiguity in the acronym, it is also a term that in my experience goes hand in hand with a U.S.-only point of view. If that's the case, that's fine - you guys have a lot going on right now, and Metafilter is majority American I'm sure - but it's vulnerable enough work without also going up against that particular thorny hedgerow as a non-American.
posted by northernish at 7:19 AM on June 26 [7 favorites]


That's fair, northernish. In my circles it generally means Indigenous and Black and (other various) POC, but the ambiguity is definitely a problem.
posted by TwoStride at 8:12 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]


As an American POC, I think a good and effective advisory board would include both American and global POC voices. Not just because it's the right thing to do, or because global perspectives specifically are often dismissed on Metafilter, but because the reality of diaspora and global politics means that these two groups can often end up at odds in a discussion (even up to the most recent race MeTa, as we've seen) and moderating those discussions gracefully is more complicated than "just listen to POC".
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:05 AM on June 26 [14 favorites]


I’d be interested to hear ideas for the selection process of advisory members. Ideally we’d have more than 5 volunteers—how do they get winnowed? Is it just on a sign up basis and you get rotated to when your turn on the list comes up? Or would it be helpful to do a first pass of those who have demonstrated an interest and ability in pushing back constructively on Metafilter already? I think there’s an argument for both sides here so I’m curious what others think.
posted by arabidopsis at 9:19 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]


I think a potential way for evaluating demonstrated interest would be for the potential volunteers to link to a few selected comments where they pushed back on racism on MetaFilter, as comments are an observable way for everyone to evaluate people's experience and ability to communicate about race on the site. (With the caveat that the mods have deleted pushback comments responding to other eventually-deleted racist comments in the past, so I understand that not everything is available to be linked).

It'd also be helpful in general to see more examples of such pushback, and how that pushback was received by other members of the site, which can help inform future interactions on MetaFilter as well - what worked, what didn't, and what can we learn from those instances?
posted by rather be jorting at 10:31 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]


Thanks, Two Stride, for your thoughts on my thoughts on the term!

Northenish, my understanding of the term BIPOC, was basically: all people of color, Black and Indigenous in front, but it's inclusive of all.

I was too tired to discuss global matters last night, but I want to emphasize that I'm heartened to see non Northern American folks chiming in on racism and anti-blackness in their countries. As I've mentioned before, this absolutely is an issue everywhere. I think because the core group of ppl who speak out about racism on the site come from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia (sorry if I missed some folks, I hear some voices from East Asia as well), that's why we discuss local matters.

We absolutely should discuss these issues globally. Personally, I am not an expert besides anecdotal evidence from friends in Europe, etc
So I don't and won't speak for them. But I welcome more discussion from people who have experience.
posted by jj's.mama at 10:44 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]


Thanks for bringing up the timezone concern, divabat. I’ve also been thinking about that since I’m in Turkey, you’re in Australia and I’m sure there are many other members in different time zones.

Scheduling and meeting minutes:
We could start with a Doodle poll to get an idea of the most accessible time for everyone. For those who can’t attend, meeting notes can be emailed out so folks who couldn't attend can review them and share thoughts through email. The same system could be applied for future agenda topics; if someone who didn’t attend a previous meeting would like to add to the future meeting’s agenda items, they can email the person making the agenda to make additions. Open to other ideas, of course.

If folks feel good about it, I'll start compiling a list of interested members and y’all can decide how you would like to go about forming the committee and rotating members. We could have a listserv set-up so even those who don’t attend every meeting have access to the notes and scheduling details.

brainwane,
Yes! I meant BIPOC as in, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Black, Indigenous and People of Color and US Centrism:
In terms of the US-centrism on the site, let’s absolutely move away from that! I’m down to explore changing any ambiguous language and finding a way to be more inclusive of our international members. I’ll do some research and learning on my own time to figure out how I can approach this differently.

Taking advice and not rehashing old conversations:
In regards to the issue of rehashing old conversations, meaty shoe puppet, divabat and jj’s.mama, I hear you. I have the same concerns. When I brought this up as a priority to staff, we were in agreement that this is intended to be an opportunity for running actions/ideas/projects by everyone and receiving feedback on the direction we’re taking. I will keep in mind the importance of NOT starting from scratch and will look into collating, which is something I think would be super effective.

Also, how do you all feel about folks offering their labor to collate, format documents, etc? I see that daveinpei has offered to do so. I am more than happy to rope those people in and delegate if there is a need and interest.

Lastly, there's a lot of interest from folks who would like to support this collective by donating funds! That can most definitely be supported, I’ve checked in with cortex and he’s on board with the idea, so one of the next steps would be deciding how folks would like to allocate the funds. I'll also talk to cortex about how to begin the process of receiving donations and then we'll actually have an idea of the budget as well.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 10:54 AM on June 26 [13 favorites]


I didn’t comment yesterday because I wanted to mull things over first, so some of what I was going to say has already been said, but I’ll repeat it anyway as support.

1) I like the idea of a rotating advisory board (rotating to prevent burnout). If supported fully by cortex and the mods, it will show that MeFi is taking its race problem seriously, and it’s a way to ensure that there’s BIPOC representation and voices without putting it all on travelingthyme as POC moderator.

2) I also agree it should include as many voices from outside the US as possible.

3) For selection process, I like both arabidopsis’ and rather be jorting’s ideas—a sign up list where when your turn comes up it’s your turn, but I also like the idea of linking to past comments where one has pushed back or posted on issues of racism (with rather be jorting’s caveat that such comments may have been deleted). That sign up list idea would be good for people like me who want the initial spots to go to people who’ve been more active in these threads, but have been somewhat active and would like to sub in when the initial group need a break.

4) I was uncomfortable about the idea of so much free labour coming from BIPOC, but the concept of a budget and offers of white folks to do the practical labour of document formatting, scheduling etc. are a great way to reduce that burden. I was actually talking about this with a white friend who had invited me to a project she’s working on. She said she would take care of all the practical details so I could just focus on the ideas and facilitate—it’s a model she wants to encourage at her institution, to quiet white voices and amplify BIPOC voices without putting an undue burden on them.

5) All this is useless without real commitment from cortex and the mods. Ultimately as site owner, cortex is the one who has the power to make the efforts of an advisory board fruitful or fruitless. The board needs to know that cortex is willing to say ok, this is what you have said needs to happen. I’ll make it so. If he wants to argue about a recommendation, or if a mod wants to argue about one and he’s torn between supporting the mod or going with what the board has recommended, it’s not going to work.

This next part is specifically for cortex.

Cortex, the implementation of this board will require a big leap of faith for you. It’s the right thing to do, and I think you want to do it. You’ve said before you have felt paralyzed at how to handle race issues on the site, and this offer of a BIPOC advisory board is a gift to help you figure out how to move beyond paralysis. I encourage you to accept the gift and commit to it. Yes, sometimes the recommendations may feel strange and uncomfortable and you may feel defensive and want to push back, but—don’t. Just sit with your discomfort and figure out why you feel uncomfortable. Do the work on yourself, and trust the advisory board. It will result in a much better Metafilter for both BIPOC and white users.

I have been a member here for 13 years but a lurker for 20. I’ve watched the site change, and go through growing pains that ultimately resulted in a better place. The casual misogyny that used to remain largely unchallenged is no longer tolerated. That’s a step in the right direction, but it took a lot of work. Now it is time to reckon, really reckon with the site’s racism problem.

You know MeFi users are passionate and care about the site, you know that those of us BIPOC who have been contributing to the race threads want it to be a better place and have been trying and trying, but feel thwarted. You can be the one to enable that change.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:02 PM on June 26 [22 favorites]


would it be correct to assume that this board will mainly be oriented towards topics of interest within the US? Not that anything is wrong with that

One of the problems with Metafilter is that it is very US-centric. This is a problem not only for the longevity of the business, but also for the diversity of the community. I would not like the advisory board to be entirely US-based nor US-oriented. White supremacy doesn't just exist in the US, or other areas where a white population is dominant; white supremacy is pervasive -- it's in areas that are colonized, too (and where largely PoC live), and in areas that were not colonized by white people. Racism is a problem everywhere. There are Black, Indigenous, and other members of colour from around the world whose distinctive experiences can help shape Metafilter for the better. How racism is discussed worldwide can vary in vocabulary, facilitation techniques, and policy. We can learn a lot from each other.

On preview, happy to hear travelingthyme's enthusiasm and desire to move away from US-centrism.

Seconding arabidopsis's questions about the selection process.
posted by mayurasana at 4:04 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


I really support this and am excited to to see it going forward! I definitely echo everyone's thoughts on valuing BIPOC labor, having a transparent selection process, making sure it's not just US-centric, and ALSO yes making sure that there are actionable paths to specific changes being made/accepted.

A good question (maybe this is a task for the advisory board?) might be: how much power will the group have? What are the pathways to make something happen? If the group recommends an action plan, and the plan (or parts of the plan) doesn't get implemented by the mods or Cortex, what next? What are expectations around certain changes happening?

In any case, sounds great. I imagine it will be complex, interesting, confusing, emotional, thoughtful... like all wonderful communal endeavors. I'm looking forward to more and am curious to see what happens, and am super grateful to travelingthyme for proposing this in the first place.
posted by suedehead at 11:38 PM on June 26 [11 favorites]


I'm happy that you're organizing this, travelingthyme! while i don't think i would be an appropriate candidate for the board (based in US with hardly even any international travel experience, also i'm very much still on my journey to be actively anti-racist), i would be interested in following along with the BIPOC committee's discussions.
I can see the need to not post detailed meeting notes (like, that's a lot of effort!) but sharing basic agendas of the topics that were planned or ended up being discussed would be appreciated.

Also, since mod response/procedure is one of the action plan items at hand, I want names in deletion notes. It doesn't have to be a big deal, people can have bad days where they get overinvested in the thread, but it's useful information for others to know if there's a pattern of bad behavior.
posted by devrim at 5:46 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


I want names in deletion notes

I think I would be interested in names in deletion notes about racism/other isms, but I actually don't want names in deletion notes about digging in on arguments or whatever.
posted by corb at 9:36 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


People thinking about signing up for this advisory board should probably read cortex's responses to this feature request to get an idea what they're signing up for.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:36 AM on June 28 [5 favorites]


Yeah I was close to saying I would be interested in be part of this board at some point in time. After the bullshit in that thread that meaty shoe puppet just linked to - cortex's initial response, the "but what about a time when we actually are required by law to use the N Word?" responses, a member of color buttoning over how they were spoken to, and now a person trying to right that wrong while a white European person tells them "just apologize and leave the thread!" repeatedly as if that fucking helps AT ALL - No thank you.

I keep getting hopeful from these tiny parts of Metafilter like the BIPOC threads or the wonderful posts so many POC post about our lives and cultures or even the Racism Meta where white people are legit trying to be strong allies - and then I'm reminded of what the actual overall site culture is here and I have no hope that this wouldn't be an exercise in frustration and disappointment.
posted by primalux at 1:58 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


I think I missed the 'required by law to use the n-word' part and I'm really glad because I think I would have been so mad I would have said something hot.

Who buttoned and can it be fixed and do you need an assist?
posted by corb at 3:20 PM on June 28


Who buttoned

The member who disabled their account was Mitheral.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:22 PM on June 28


I was mostly be facetious with my phrasing, it was just a lot of whataboutisms when it comes to "edge cases" where somehow using a slur is required.
posted by primalux at 4:23 PM on June 28


I think one thing that might be useful for the Community Advisory Board is to have members on it who have been here for different lengths of time. Not to be too reductive, but I feel that members who have been here longer know more about the historical difficulties this site has had with regards to issues regarding race, but with that knowledge comes a higher chance for becoming frustrated and cynical with regards to seeing change with regards to issues regarding race. Members who have been here a shorter amount of time may be less frustrated and cynical, but they also may be less aware of the historical difficulties this site has had with regards to issues regarding race. I think there may be value in having members on the advisory board who have been here less than a year, members who have been here for a couple years, members who have been here several years, and like members who have been here for like over 10 years. Not sure if that's possible, but it might be something to consider.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:31 PM on June 28 [14 favorites]


Sure, I'd be interested.

One the things I think needs to be added to traveingwiththmye's 4 action items is decided the structure of the board. Stuff like number of members, length of term, whether someone who's been on the board can be on it again, etc etc.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:25 PM on June 28 [7 favorites]


I'm quite concerned that "BIPOC" not be conflated with "anti-racist". If the point of this board is to create actual change, the qualification isn't just "exists as a POC." I've seen so many diversity initiatives in companies that find the people who are most invested in the status quo remaining stable - for whatever reason - and elevating their voices over the people who are saying the hard things and trying to push things towards something more equitable. The fact that this is being organized by someone who isn't white does give me hope that this won't be the case.

Having served on a number of advisory boards, I know that one entrenched person can sap the will to do anything. Contrarians are incredibly effective at making something like this a waste of everyone's time and effort.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:18 AM on June 29 [19 favorites]


Popping in to say Hi and that I'm reading this and other threads, taking notes, and will have some concrete actions by next shift!

You're all awesome and I'm thankful for your comments.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 10:51 AM on June 29 [4 favorites]


I am chiming in to +1 on stoneweaver's point.

Antiracism is a commitment, and not something that comes from simply being a PoC. While I think it is easier for a BIPOC to come to a commitment of antiracism, purely by fact that BIPOC people are the ones who feel the effects of a racist society the most.

It takes WORK to unlearn beliefs formulated within the confines of systemic racism and the intersectionality of all the other issues tied to race (class, gender, etc), and POC are not immune to those issues. Accordingly, I think it's important that anyone who joins this advisory board both have clarity about the intent of antiracism and how that ties into the advisory board, as well as have sufficient self-reflection as to where they themselves are on their antiracism journey.

I don't know what the solution here is, but I would argue that i'd rather be jorting's suggestion is a good one as a thought starter as to a point of self reflection for anyone who intends to join the board,

Maybe there's an opportunity for anyone who joins the board to also take anti-racism training/workshops along with the rest of the Mefi staff as fellow community members.
posted by Karaage at 10:58 AM on June 29 [10 favorites]


Hey, thanks for setting this up. I'm going to be super terse here but it's only because it's midnight and I need to head off.

1. Consistency in modding procedure and mod response
Yes, public modding log and automatic notification of deletions straight away. I don't want to throw words around, but "gaslighting" comes to mind.

2. What kind of communication would work best for folks who want to make their concerns visible? If not a flagging system, what could be a more accessible and effective feedback system?
Why not both?.gif

3. What does better facilitation look like?
Action.

4. Creating a method for tracking mod actions that are accessible and improve lines of communication.
A text file would be a start, I can help.
posted by lucidium at 4:22 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


In terms of the US-centrism on the site, let’s absolutely move away from that! I’m down to explore changing any ambiguous language and finding a way to be more inclusive of our international members. I’ll do some research and learning on my own time to figure out how I can approach this differently.

BIPOC itself is a term that is profoundly US-centric and reinforces a critical race hierarchy that centers two distinctly American populations and erases the billions of non-Black and non-indigenous people of color still suffering from centuries of colonialism and imperialism.

It is a strange term to use if the objective is to not be US-centric.
posted by Ouverture at 4:54 PM on June 29 [9 favorites]


and reinforces a critical race hierarchy that centers two distinctly American populations

Ouverture, I don’t understand—are you saying that Black and Indigenous people are distinctly American populations?

(On preview: my comment isn’t intended to be hostile; I just feel like that can’t be what you’re saying and I must be missing a key point you’re trying to make.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:34 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


Also: I am not American and perhaps I am missing some context here.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:37 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


BIPOC itself is a term that is profoundly US-centric

This has come up a couple times in this thread, so I'll just ask- is there a term besides BIPOC that would mean approximately the same thing and would not be so US-centric? I'm living in the USA and am familiar with the term, but if it's too US-centric to be useful for a global discussion, is there a better term we could use in its place?
posted by 23skidoo at 6:52 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


Like, would the phrase "Black, Indigenous and other People of Color" be just as US-centric as BIPOC? Not even trying to fight or anything, just trying to see if there is a better way to describe what lots of (possibly American mefites) are trying to express with BIPOC.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:55 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


I am a UK POC born in Asia who has also previously lived for a long time in the US. Together with other international POC voices on this thread, I also object to the neologism "BIPOC" (including if it was spelt out as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color - it has the same effect for the issues I describe here) because it is very US-centric. Whatever the intention of people using the term at Metafilter or how it was coined, the dominant definition & usage is typified by that of The BIPOC Project, which is commonly referenced: "We use the term BIPOC to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context."

While I understand that most Metafilter users are American (and I love Americans! All my best friends are Americans...), a key part of the distinctiveness of the Metafilter community and experience is how truly global it is. Of course, recognizing the dynamics of color, race, and colonial history is crucial in supporting the struggle of oppressed minorities around the world, but the US-centric term BIPOC risks reproduced American hegemony in spaces where it typically makes little sense fo it to be centered, such as in struggles for ethnic equality in, say, India and China.

I also note, as a June 2020 New York Times article on the term showed, the BIPOC term is also still controversial and disputed amongst Black and Indigenous progressive activists talking about US politics e.g.
"Many black people are open to giving space to the plight of Native Americans, but there is a frustration when it comes to the BIPOC term.

“It is lazy to lump us all together as if we all face the same problems,” said Sylvia Obell, a host of the Netflix podcast “Okay, Now Listen.” “When you blend us all together like this, it’s erasure. It allows people to get away with not knowing people of color and our separate set of issues that we all face. It allows people to play it safe and not leave anyone out, and it also allows you to not have to do the work.”

In a moment when black Americans are asking that the names of those killed at the hands of the police be said aloud, and when black people are asking for equal treatment on a global scale, trying to fit all people of color and Native Americans in one term can seem tone deaf.

“The whole point is that we want to take up space,” Ms. Obell said. “Take the time to say black, Latinx and Asian. Say our names. Take the time to learn. Show me that you know the difference.”

To attempt to represent so many different identities in a single term is a product of colonialism, according to Chelsey Luger, a wellness trainer at the Native Wellness Institute, and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, a tribal nation in North Dakota."


The potential divisiveness of the BIPOC term will be even more problematic when used outside of correctly US-centric contexts.

posted by Bwithh at 7:23 PM on June 29 [7 favorites]


Urgh, typo in my comment : "risks reproduced" should be "risks reproducing".
posted by Bwithh at 7:30 PM on June 29


Mefi Global Race And Ethnic Issues Board?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:49 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]


One of the problems with Metafilter is that it is very US-centric. This is a problem not only for the longevity of the business, but also for the diversity of the community. I would not like the advisory board to be entirely US-based nor US-oriented. White supremacy doesn't just exist in the US, or other areas where a white population is dominant; white supremacy is pervasive -- it's in areas that are colonized, too (and where largely PoC live), and in areas that were not colonized by white people. Racism is a problem everywhere.

I agree with all of this except the implication that anti-racism is just about being against white supremacy. No all racism is based on supremacy and not all dominant ethnic supremacy systems of oppression are based on, or pervaded by, whiteness (Han supremacy for instance, to use an example I’m most familiar with). Only focusing on white supremacy erases or marginalizes the oppression and suffering of much of humanity.
posted by Bwithh at 10:21 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]


I think it is a tremendous derail if we allow ourselves to get mired in a debate about terminology before the thing has even had its first meeting.

If you agree with the premise that mefi could benefit from hearing more from non-white members about direction so that it can take immediate, needed action against racism on the site, can we instead focus on meaningful suggestions to get it off the ground and let the group work out the details after they've established the ground rules on how to work together?

The group hasn't even begun giving advice yet, and like many of the other race related metatalks, missing the forest for the trees will simply result in further inaction or excuses to not move forward.
posted by Karaage at 2:02 AM on June 30 [13 favorites]


Agree with Karaage- I wasn't intending to inspire such a debate with my previous comments
posted by 23skidoo at 7:21 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


There’s zero reason why people can’t bring up concerns and move forward. Call it “Provisional WHATEVER” and keep moving forward. A final name can be decided as we go!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:39 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I'm doing some more research on how we can make this board/committee accessible and inclusive of all MeFites across the globe. The language we use is important and I'll make it a priority to offer up some suggestions around how we name this board, while also moving this project forward.

Moving forward:
I'm creating a spreadsheet tracking all members who have expressed interest in joining the board. There are a few folks who have been very present for these discussions or that have been recommended by other members to me, so I'm also considering reaching out to those folks directly to get a Yes or No regarding their participation.

From there, I think it would be good to begin navigating scheduling. I can email folks to get an idea of availability which will get us a step closer to having the first meeting.

As for the structure of the board, I'd like for the board to decide how folks come in and out of this space as things start moving. To get things started, I'm going to suggest we start with 8 members, likely 8 who are mostly active/engaged/invested in being available. We can cycle folks in every month or so, or whatever feels good to you all. If folks can't attend a meeting, they can be replaced by someone else who is available.

lastly, I'm going to be reaching out to donors this week to get an idea of what the budget will look like for participant honorariums. I fully intend on having everyone's labor compensated and can't wait to update you all on that.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 11:54 AM on June 30 [11 favorites]


I'm a WOC living outside the US. I have been a longtime lurker. Sometimes I participate, but mostly I shy away from sharing my thoughts because I get overwhelmed by the intensity of whiteness (US-centric) and maleness (cis-het) on the Blue—creatures I do not have enough energy and language to deal with.

I want to say I identify as exhausted—white folx have no idea how centuries of white colonisation and/or slavery we carry on our backs and shoulders. Our lives are woven with it, that history, and it is mentally and emotionally draining to always have to: (1) defend our ideas and perspectives, (2) explain the nuances in our cultures, and (3) fight to have a space to just be here.

Even speaking and writing in English makes me resentful sometimes because the default is for me to be the one to adjust and speak in a "universal" language just to be heard and (hopefully) understood. To have to use my coloniser's mode of communication in order to even have a voice to me implies that someone else controls and owns the discussion in the first place.

I feel that a lot of white MeFites think they're being edgy with their "informed" opinions when they're being keyboard warriors in conversations around race, when in fact they're just problematic and showing white fragility and guilt. Their insistence on being noticed as woke and their deep desire to be seen as an ally and Not A Racist is eating up time, attention, focus and energy that should be given to other BIPOCs who have more stake in the discourse.

With all that being said:

1. I wonder if we can keep an archive of posts (or special page, or whatever works) that can officially be linked to, or used as a reference—that depict (past) bigotry and intolerance here on MeFi, as a record that they have existed at that point in time. Or, I don't know...maybe have a special tag? Personally I just don't want this part of the site's history erased/forgotten/buried in the past, as if prejudiced MeFites and prejudiced comments and ideas never existed. Could be a resource for anyone else in the community who want to teach themselves more and grow as a person.

2. I support a more inclusive committee of BIPOC MeFites from all over the world. Nevertheless I feel that gender should also be taken into consideration when having a rotation, if only because based on my experience, our struggles as various people of colour are different and have more nuances, so having that "diversity" (I dislike this word) might be important. That is, compared to white folx, their overarching whiteness unites them in some way in terms of privilege, despite their differences. Athough I am aware that that makes the selection process less simple.

3. What is a way for the rest of us that are uninterested/unable to join the advisory board at this time to still be involved?

It is almost five in the morning where I am—if my thoughts muddle this important dialogue, it is not my intention and I apologise. It is the first time in the past 10 years that I've been here that I feel brave enough to respond to something this important. Thank you.
posted by pleasebekind at 1:51 PM on June 30 [21 favorites]


I just want to echo pleasebekind's comments as a longtime reader and occasional commentator on the site.

Thank you, by the way, for this thread travelingthyme and for your considered responses to people who have raised suggestions, feedback and concerns.

I am involved in a similar advisory board at work so do not have the bandwidth or energy to participate but I wanted to voice my strong support and appreciation for this step. Sure, it's a long time coming and I'm not entirely convinced it's not all together too late but it's happening now and I'm grateful for the people willing to try and make some positive changes.

Some thoughts and suggestions I have been mulling over over the past few days as this thread has been open based on my own experience:

- Strongly support the idea to source out the labor of minutes, agenda and invites to people not on the committee, this unpaid administrative labour can be a timesuck and enables those on the committee to devote their attention to the issues at hand

- Some kind of 'Terms of Reference' for the group that outlines the general purpose and role of the group, guiding principles around decision making etc that can be revised and approved at the first meeting will help set the tone

- Maybe Chair and Deputy Chair roles for members who are willing to take on a bit more work in leading and directing the group will likely help. These could be time-limited/rotating positions to spread the load and help keep the group focused on priorities

- Speaking of priorities, I know we aren't there yet, but an action plan with short/medium/long-term timeframes around individual actions will help the site evaluate on a quarterly basis how we are tracking

- Consider whether there's space and/or appropriate times where other mods, particularly Cortex, might be able to attend for some of a meeting to hear directly from members of the group

- How, when, and who should be evaluating the effectiveness of changes that are implemented? What outcomes ultimately does the group want to see?

- Consider how the group, its purpose, the actions will be promoted across the site more generally to keep it at front of mind for moderators and other members alike - would hate for it to become a "oh the committee are dealing with it" type of situation

Anyway, I know a lot of that is structural/administrative suggestions but I've found such steps very helpful to prevent groups from losing momentum or fading away.

In terms of the terms BIPOC and POC and what is and isn't an appropriate term (and I don't want to derail the conversation again, sorry), I haven't come up with anything better at this stage that reflects the breadth of people that this is trying to cover that also has global applicability. Similarly terms like "diversity", "culture" and "inclusion" all come with their own forms of baggage. Ultimately, the group is trying to change site culture and structure - and maybe it's more relevant for the group to be named in a way that ties it to that purpose, instead of the members themselves.

Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts and for crafting a space where that even feels worth doing.
posted by liquorice at 1:02 AM on July 1 [6 favorites]


Hi, POC here. Used to be a regular poster, but for several years now, I've just been lurking.

I'm just going to come out and say it. I don't feel safe commenting on this site. In fact, I've second guessed commenting in this thread several times because the site as a whole feels so unsafe to me.

I appreciate that Mefi in general supports and advocates for POC, but threads like this one in which there is so much anger do not help.

I don't enjoy reading comments in which people argue about the best way to help for fight for POC causes. I don't that this is a constructive forum when I read people who should be agreeing and working together attack each other so viciously. I don't feel safe when I'm reading a political thread in which commenters are openly supporting internet mob retribution for political speech.

The worst part is, for the most part, I agree with the commenters in these threads. I don't feel safe sharing my opinions with people who agree with me. That's how bad things have gotten.

From my point of view, MeFi is falling apart. We desperately need an advisory board of some kind to establish clear guidelines to quickly deal with situations like these. And those guidelines need to be enforced. Otherwise, this is simply a site where I cannot and will not participate. I will continue to occasionally lurk until I slowly fade away completely.
posted by yeolcoatl at 10:36 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


I appreciate that Mefi in general supports and advocates for POC, but threads like this one in which there is so much anger do not help.

Yeah, I'm the one who posted that thread and it is really exhausting talking to what seems like an endless line of well-intentioned allies patronizingly explaining to me why racism is bad and why edge cases should be ignored and mass social media harassment is good actually.

Metafilter clearly isn't ready for conversations about race and racism that go beyond a 101 mainstream liberal viewpoint.
posted by Ouverture at 12:35 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I'm just going to come out and say it. I don't feel safe commenting on this site. In fact, I've second guessed commenting in this thread several times because the site as a whole feels so unsafe to me.

I'm sorry to hear that. I mean, it's not surprising that people are emotional - there's a tremendous amount of free-floating fear and anger resulting from police brutality, on top of COVID-19, on top of Trump, not to mention longer-term issues like inequality and climate change. When the United States (and the world at large) is under such enormous strain, it's not surprising that this will be reflected in online communities, even in small and long-established ones like MetaFilter.

I'm not sure if MetaFilter does well at political discussions - there's a tradeoff between people freely expressing their rage at what's going on in the world, and people feeling like they can express sincere disagreement without getting a wave of hostility in response. Traditionally MetaFilter moderation has leaned more towards the "civility" side (a welcome change from unmoderated Internet discussions), but in the current circumstances that seems delicate and difficult, especially when the moderator on duty is white. So I expect the emotional level to run pretty high for a while.

I feel like the best part of MetaFilter is AskMe, where people can help each other. It feels a lot more constructive than being angry and fearful.

I feel unqualified to participate on the proposed advisory board because my experience as a visible minority in Canada doesn't seem particularly relevant to the experience of a Black person in the US.
posted by russilwvong at 1:42 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Hey! I'm here with some updates:

1. I’m reaching out to about 15 folks to get a Yes or No on being added to the rotating board roster. These are users who have explicitly expressed an interest in joining the board or have contacted me privately.

An ask: if you are at all interested in joining the board, whether that may be immediately or in the future, let me know so that I can add you to the roster. If you're hesitant (for any reason), I encourage you to reach out and share that with me. I would still love to work with you and want to work something out that is comfortable and fair for everyone.

I want to emphasize that this is not a US-only POC space, and that collaboration with folks globally is what is going to drive the progress we want to see on MetaFilter.
For those who may not be super active on the site, but feel that they have the capacity and desire to attend these meetings, please contact me.
*I plan to finalize this roster in the next week so that I can get 8 (or so) members’ availability and get the first meeting scheduled.*

2. Board budget: Everyone will receive an honorarium for their attendance at each meeting. I am working on setting up an advisory board landing page so that we can have a dedicated space on the site for all things advisory board, including funding details and links for folks to make contributions. Once we have more contributions come in, I will post a document detailing how much has been contributed to the board, and we can get the honorariums ready to go. More to come on honorarium amounts.

3. Mods are working to address questions 1-4 that I posed in this thread through these current action items:
- We will be revising and updating the site guidelines to work better for everyone on the site. We are working internally on this and will bring our plans to the board as well.
- All mods are testing out a week of “Mod logging” so that we can share our work throughout the week, identify successes, oversights, and any patterns that should be changed.
- I have suggested creating a 1 pager (more or less) outlining daily Mod Procedure for MeFites to have access to. The idea here is that we can be explicit about what mods do on shift; we will outline what we’re looking for when moderating and what factors inform our decisions.

A few other points:
- cortex and I plan to be present at all meetings
- I like Brandon Blatcher’s board name suggestion: “Mefi Global Race And Ethnic Issues Board” I’d like to explore that a bit more with folks and see if we can come up with something along these lines. Let’s discuss renaming the board as soon as the board comes together to something more representative and inclusive of all MeFites.
- You're all awesome and I'm looking forward to this board gaining momentum.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 11:49 AM on July 9 [12 favorites]


Thanks for moving things forward!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:19 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


Hello. I'm clearly very late to this. Apologies if I echo other people. Do you have enough mod volunteers? I'm a POC from the UK. Happy to assist with this.

There definitely has to be voices from across the globe because we have different experiences and perceive race differently. A lot of racial discussions online are very America-centric. That is in part to the dominance that the USA has over the English speaking internet and English language culture and entertainment generally, the violent experiences that take place in America that make global news and the fact that up until a couple of years ago everyone has been in absolute denial that racism is even a thing in the UK (perhaps because we were never asked, perhaps because when a country commits its colonial crimes abroad, it can wash its hands and pretend it never happened). To have a shared platform for discussion of these things is therefore really important. It's also important to hear from mixed race people as we are often excluded from such discussions e.g. the "pick a side" comment is not uncommon.

I think everything should be on the table for discussion. The problem is when emotions take over and people are targeted or shut down. In some cases, however, it serves as an education (I've personally learned a lot on here from seeing people get shut down). Askmefi is no stranger to rage, irateness, self righteousness or mob rule so what is allowed in POC spaces should be the same. There is a fine line between free speech and gaslighting and a moderator should know where that line is. Getting every moderator to be on the same page will be the tricky part.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 12:58 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Just a quick note: if you are OK with me contacting you to get your availability for board meetings, please email or MeFi Mail me in the next few days (or leave a comment here). Thanks!
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 5:46 AM on July 14


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