What The MeFi BIPOC Board Does November 28, 2022 11:41 AM   Subscribe

MetaFilter’s Global BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Advisory Board wants to share some context and plans with MetaFilter at large. This text is drawn from a conversation the BIPOC Board had with MetaFilter’s newly-elected Steering Committee in September 2022.

Big Picture

We're not yet at the point where international and BIPOC members of MetaFilter are, by default, first-class citizens of the site with respect to content, community behavior, and the composition of leadership. Our goal is to influence these things through participation in governance, programs, and providing input to decision-making. Progress would look a lot like making MetaFilter a place where members can be comfortable showing their authentic selves by knowing that community standards, moderation policy, and the way the site works are inclusive.

The Board's Scope
Our 3 main areas of activity
  • Advising & Liaising
We provide advice and recommendations on issues related to international and BIPOC perspectives and concerns (both by request, and initiated by us).

Guiding operation, leadership, and governance in an advisory way enables the Board to have representation and input into making the site safer and more welcoming for all. We intend to be responsive and accessible to the Steering Committee, MetaFilter business, and the membership at large. Towards this, we’ve already shared with the Steering Committee our rough thoughts on MetaFilter’s most immediate concerns: making the site a place where marginalized groups feel safe enough to participate, encouraging more diversity in site content, improving and encouraging flagging, staff accountability and transparency regarding moderation decisions and explanations, and encouraging more diversity within the SC and SC election process.

Examples of areas we consult on:

Coverage of international/BIPOC topics, moderation decisions, member engagement, new user recruitment, user retention, etc.
  • Community-Focused Initiatives & Direct Action
We take direct action with projects, programs, and initiatives within the community and independently as community members. Having visible engagement with the site's community and content enables the Board to help international and BIPOC members feel seen and heard as full members of the site.

Examples of what this looks like:

Initiatives for themed posting months and other types of content programming, organizing and facilitating discussion on international and BIPOC concerns in MetaTalk posts, community surveys, events around international/BIPOC themes, workshops, etc.
  • Research & Data Analysis
We undertake data gathering, analysis, review, and research including on the MetaFilter community's behavior to guide areas of focus and influence.

Examples of what this looks like:

Focused studies on specific areas of interest/concern (e.g. BIPOC member retention/engagement), qualitative reviews of significant/flashpoint community discussions and MeTas, survey data synthesis, whitepapers, compiled reports and summaries.

Background on the Global BIPOC Advisory Board

Brief history

MetaFilter’s Global BIPOC Advisory Board was formed in September 2020 after years of feedback from MeFites calling for a more systematic voice for people of color in MetaFilter governance. Shortly after MetaFilter hired two BIPOC mods in June 2020, the MetaFilter admin felt comfortable approving the formation of a BIPOC advisory committee facilitated by a BIPOC mod. (Prior to this hiring, the MetaFilter staff was entirely non-BIPOC.) Travelingthyme (one of the two BIPOC mods) spearheaded its initial formation as organizer/coordinator, main point of contact (internal + external) and meeting facilitator.

The board met twice in late 2020, and once around mid 2021. Scheduling and momentum improved beginning March 2022. The board has met 7 times thus far in 2022, and every month since May 2022.

We tried a few different meeting formats, and now we meet every month, for 90 minutes, in a Zoom call with accompanying text chat.

Meeting attendees: Non-BIPOC staff participated in initial BIPOC board meetings from 2020 to 2021. While the board was and is open to communicating and working with non-BIPOC staff, there was debate on whether meetings would be more productive and conducive for board members if board meetings could be a designated BIPOC-only safe space for discussion. Eventually, it was decided official board meetings would be BIPOC-only by default, with non-BIPOC guests welcome to join for specific occasions. This came into effect beginning 2022.

How to contact us: You can email bipoc@nachomountain.com to reach everyone on MetaFilter’s Global BIPOC Advisory Board. Please feel free to let us know your concerns and thoughts. The board (which is all-volunteer) can’t promise to respond within any particular timeframe, but will sincerely try to! We’ll use our own judgment about what to keep confidential and what we might need to share with mods (as in cases of abuse).

Relationship with Steering Committee: The current relationship is that the BIPOC board is autonomous but also maintains a strong connection with the Steering Committee. We plan to continue having a seat on the Steering Committee via our liaison/representative aielen, and to set up additional joint meetings (convening the Steering Committee and BIPOC Board), and/or invite the Steering Committee to sit in on some parts of our regular board meetings. This will give SC members the opportunity to hear BIPOC board members, ask and answer questions, and get context for the issues we bring to the Steering Committee.

The Board’s Plans

Our ongoing and near-term activities and plans include continuing to refine and communicate the mandate, role and operation of the Board; improvements to the Board's on boarding and recruitment process will enable broader participation, perspective, and available bandwidth for the board's current and future work; analysis of the community's behavior around BIPOC issues is underway, allowing us to provide informed and high-quality input.

In the very near term, establishing the engagement model with the SC lets us move toward bi-directional partnership, accountability, and transparency. We’ve already started using this connection to work with the SC and MetaFilter on technology/tooling for both Board governance and product development to ensure decisions are being made with BIPOC voices at the table. We intend to offer both resources and voices for upcoming technical work at MetaFilter.

Longer term plans include exploring a possible community liaison role like an ombudsman.

Some short to mid term plans
  • Updates to the Microagressions and Guidelines page (completed)
  • New member recruitment (upcoming)
  • Community survey (upcoming)
  • MeTa analysis and reviews, synthesizing key takeaways and recommendations (ongoing)
  • User engagement initiatives in content and programming (upcoming)
  • Developing and using a moderation display tool, which will provide the Board more visibility on mod decisions and let us advise mods on their approaches (ongoing)
Some mid to long term plans
  • Refining approach to new member recruitment
  • Working together with SC
  • User engagement initiatives
One last thought to conclude:

A lot of us have biases and prejudices internalized/conditioned in us. For so many of us, our first reaction to something is what we've been conditioned to think, while our second reaction more reflects who we are and who we want to be. MetaFilter is a place where we have the opportunity to help each other find the Second Reaction. To help ourselves and help each other find the Second Reaction to everything and everyone around us.

One of the things we want to do as partners to the Steering Committee is to help them find that second reaction in all aspects of planning, working and growing MetaFilter.
posted by brainwane to MetaFilter-Related at 11:41 AM (28 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

Hi folks! I am a member of the BIPOC board, and I posted this, but I'm only one of the authors. I'm going to try to keep an eye on comments and respond to them, but I also have, like, work, meals, sleep, etc. to take care of, as do the other volunteers. And I didn't set up any kind of rota with the SC members about who's on call to answer questions posed to the SC about stuff in this MetaTalk post/thread. So please be aware of that as you await responses.

posted by brainwane at 11:49 AM on November 28, 2022 [22 favorites]

Hi folks! I am a member of the BIPOC board, and I contributed to this, but I'm only one of the authors. This post is an act on behalf of the board as a collective entity but we're also just... several people who are here on the site.
posted by majick at 11:54 AM on November 28, 2022 [18 favorites]

MetaFilter is a place where we have the opportunity to help each other find the Second Reaction. To help ourselves and help each other find the Second Reaction to everything and everyone around us.

I love this, and this post, and the BIPOC Board, thank you for all of this hard, important and necessary work on our behalfs!
posted by bleep at 12:39 PM on November 28, 2022 [12 favorites]


Hey, I finally found a reblog of the Tumblr post that I always think of when I think of nurturing and celebrating the second reaction:

im a bad person who thinks bad thoughts like ‘ew what is that girl wearing’ and then remember that im supposed to be positive about all things and then think ‘no she can wear what she wants, fuck what other people say damn girl u look fabulous’ and im just a teeny bit hypocritical tbh
I was always taught by my mother, That the first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think. What you think next defines who you are.
posted by brainwane at 12:43 PM on November 28, 2022 [55 favorites]

Thank you so much, brainwane and BIPOC board members, for this summary! It feels good to hear something from your voices instead of inferring how things are going based on member comments and loup's state of the site posts. It's extra good to feel that your work is supporting how MeFi evolves.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 1:37 PM on November 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

Thanks for this summary post (and posting a link to it over on the fediverse which is where I noticed it). I really appreciate the work you're all doing!
posted by introp at 2:14 PM on November 28, 2022


Here is that Fediverse/Mastodon post, which anyone can boost, in case anyone reading this wants to spread the word.
posted by brainwane at 2:20 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hi folks, just chiming in as another of the BIPOC board members who collaborated on this! Thanks for reading the post, and I hope we can answer any questions you’ve got after reading.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:35 PM on November 28, 2022 [9 favorites]

I'm glad you're all serving on this board, and happy to hear more about the work that you've been doing. Thanks!
posted by box at 3:44 PM on November 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

Thank you so much for posting this!

I am someone who has often read site updates with mentions of the advisory board and thought, "Hm, I wonder what the BIPOC Advisory Board is actually doing?" I figured if there were things you all wanted to share with us, you would, and if there were initiatives you were working on, they would either happen or be mentioned in upcoming site updates or both, but I was just curious, in the way that I'm curious about most things.

So it's really great to get to learn a little bit more about what you're working on - especially the "Examples of what this looks like" items and the short- and long-term plans.

Thanks for sharing this with the wider community - I've always been so glad to know the BIPOC Advisory Board exists, and now I'm even gladder to know a bit more about the specifics of the great work you're doing.

Thank you, brainwane, for adding this to MetaTalk, and my thanks to you - and majick, and hurdy gurdy girl, and all the other members of the board - for doing that great work!
posted by kristi at 6:13 PM on November 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

Thanks to all on the BIPOC board for your service to the community, and for contributing to this very helpful write-up! It's really nice to get a sense of what's been going on behind-the-scenes, and it sounds like the relationship between the BIPOC board and the SC is unfolding in a really positive way -- here's to keeping it that way. I'm especially impressed with the quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis aspect, and I hope that's something that other aspects of MetaFilter community governance, both within and outside the SC, will be able to learn from and emulate.
posted by biogeo at 6:41 PM on November 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

i just wanted to echo the above thanks for sharing this, and thanks for doing this work.
posted by garlic at 6:57 PM on November 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

Thanks for sharing this and for the work you’ve been doing behind the scenes!
posted by ellieBOA at 2:10 AM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

Great post, thanks to y'all for the update and, more importantly, the work you have been doing. Meeting monthly since May is amazing! Is the bipoc@nachomountain.com address listed elsewhere on MetaFilter by any chance?
posted by Bella Donna at 2:53 AM on November 29, 2022

You refer to "international and BIPOC members", "international and BIPOC perspectives and concerns" and "international/BIPOC topics, moderation decisions, member engagement, new user recruitment, user retention, etc."

The Board page describes the board as being for "members of color" - nothing about "international", other than the members being from "around the globe".

Is the use of "international", in addition to BIPOC, a shorthand or euphemism for something specific that I'm missing? Perhaps it's a common term for something that isn't explained here?

Because at face value, and given the location of MeFi, my immediate assumption would be that it means "anyone who's not American, no matter their race/ethnicity/color" which seems like a wrong assumption, given the focus of the board. Thanks!
posted by fabius at 6:30 AM on November 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

Hi fabius, thanks for requesting clarification. All of us are BIPOC; two of us do not live in the United States (hence are considered international).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:28 AM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

hurdy gurdy girl - I think that's 3 of us actually >.<. It was 4 at one point, too.
posted by aielen at 9:54 AM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

aielen, you are absolutely right—I was not counting the moderators who participate on the board in my original answer.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:17 AM on November 29, 2022

Good to hear what you're up to, and that the Board is functioning well.

As a clarification, is it intended to be (1) for BIPOC members, but particularly including non-American [international] BIPOC members or (2) for BIPOC members and also for non-American [international] members?

(I think the 'for' in the above question is not exactly the right word. Apologies, I hope my question is still clear.)
posted by plonkee at 11:32 AM on November 29, 2022

plonkee -
I'd like to reply to your question more at length when I have more time (other BIPOC Board members - feel free to step in and answer if you have the capacity, meanwhile); I think the short answer is that in spirit (1) would be the closer answer (if I had to choose between either (1) or (2), from your question) - but really here is a more nuanced discussion/conversation around how the "Global" part of the Global BIPOC Board came to be.
posted by aielen at 12:20 PM on November 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

plonkee, I think your question is clear! I'd say, "for people who are not white, both inside and outside the USA, and trying to particularly emphasize the concerns of nonwhite people outside the USA," which is closer to (1).

aielen, thank you so much for that link to the June 2020 thread! sunset in snow country's comment and other comments in this thread discuss the need for international non-white perspectives in the work of this advisory board; for a start, search that thread for the words "international", "US-centric" and "US-centrism".

Here's my perspective on the "international" bit -- btw I'm American, I live in the USA, and my parents are from India.

On the ethnicities bit: So, for as long as I can remember, there's been discussion and contention over "what do you call, you know, people who get marginalized because of racism and all its related stuff?" What term do we use? (In some of my fandom spaces I've read "chromatic" as a pleasant term for "not white" and who knows, maybe that'll catch on sometime.)

In the US we now have a fairly widespread term: "BIPOC". (In some contexts I have been in, this means "Black and Indigenous People of Color" which means that it DOES NOT include Indian-Americans like me. And in some contexts it means "Black, Indigenous, and People of Color" which means that it DOES include me. We, in this advisory board, are using it the latter way.)

The English Wikipedia page on "person of color" includes a section on the "BIPOC" nomenclature and criticism of it. As you read in the June 2020 thread: "BIPOC" is a term that started in the US and there are people who read it as meaning "BIPOC in the US". And we wouldn't want to seem to be limiting our remit this way.

On the international bit: one of the concerns we run into on MetaFilter is that people assume a US context a lot, as readers and commenters. This contributes to bad experiences for people in non-US countries, and US-based MeFites' generalizations ESPECIALLY contribute to bad experiences for nonwhite people outside the US, e.g., nonwhite people in countries where most of the population is not white.

So we also use the word "global" and the word "international" frequently to indicate "hey we mean to include you" to non-white people who see "BIPOC" and think "that's an American term so I'm not included".

I think we could be doing better at conveying that message. Thanks for asking.

And other board members, or loup or travelingthyme, please do feel free to answer, to correct me, agree, what have you.
posted by brainwane at 12:54 PM on November 29, 2022 [13 favorites]

I myself am pretty new to the board and as such I'm answering here mostly for myself rather than from the perspective of issuing some kind of proclamation from a board seat.

As a somewhat-passing brownish ethnically mixed American I can't bring a particularly global perspective to the board as an individual. I can't define for others how they want to be represented, or if they think I or the board as defined is representing them, although I'll do my best.

What I can do, however, is continue to participate as part of a broader theme of intersectional, intermixed demarginalization I want considered in the design, culture, and operation of the site and in the way things work around us generally. Those intersections include geographies, ethnicities, cultures, abilities, and social structures like and unlike my own, among other factors.

Is the bipoc@nachomountain.com address listed elsewhere on MetaFilter by any chance?

No, this is just an alias sitting on my personal SMTP server, and this is the first time we're showing it to anyone outside of ourselves. If you reach out via this and get bounces or something blows up or anything goes wrong, come yell at me directly as I am the sysadmin on the other end of it.

Clarifying why this address isn't specifically MetaFilter-associated and is operated by some dude on the internet with a weird domain name: it was quick and easy for me to stand up for board operations (one line in a text file on a server I already own). MetaFilter users in distress, in dispute with moderation or the administration, or otherwise seeking aid or intervention from the board may not wish to route their communications through the site itself.
posted by majick at 7:43 PM on November 29, 2022 [10 favorites]

I'm reading and bouncing up and down in my seat. Very psyched to see where the Board's initiatives go.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 11:35 PM on November 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the clarifications.

"international and BIPOC" feels a bit misleading to me then, as it sounds like "Everyone not in America and BIPOC", whereas it's supposed to mean (roughly) "BIPOC (including those not in America)".

In the context of MeFi I think of myself as "international" – I'm in the UK, and often notice how the US is assumed as the default by many US MeFites – but I'm not BIPOC and (obviously) wouldn't expect the BIPOC board to be working on my behalf. But reading "international and BIPOC", without a subsequent lengthy explanation, makes me think maybe it is.

Perhaps only using a phrase like "international BIPOC" or "global BIPOC" – removing the and – would be clearer? I'll shut up now, don't want to hammer this too much, it's just that the confusing phrase was used so many times.
posted by fabius at 1:38 AM on November 30, 2022 [6 favorites]

Thank-you brainwane - those quotes on "second reaction" are amazing - I have never heard of this before, so for me it is a TIL - and, I can say this is how I have become over the last 5-years. Have a conditioned (typically mean or snarky thought) first, but then have a think, maybe even a discussion with my partner and come to the conclusion that I was a dumbdumb and change my thought. Over and over this has become easier - and I have less bad thoughts to change as I slowly become a more empathic, understanding and caring human being.
posted by rozcakj at 6:28 AM on November 30, 2022 [4 favorites]

About the phrasing -- I think "global BIPOC" is more clear than "international BIPOC". That latter, on site with a predominantly U.S. population, could imply just "outside the U.S."
posted by NotLost at 6:52 AM on November 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

To a certain extent, my participation on the board and what I'm trying to bring with my return to MetaFilter a year-ish ago is itself a "second reaction."
posted by majick at 1:01 PM on November 30, 2022 [5 favorites]

Reading this discussion, I can see that some folks have a distinct preference for the term “global” over “international,” so I think that’ll be a likely topic of conversation in an upcoming meeting.

Just to situate myself, I’m a Canadian of Chinese descent, so I’m one of the global or international BIPOC members of the board. That said, I know I occupy a different kind of space than someone who lives in a non-US country that doesn’t share a border with the US (or even any time zones!), or whose country has a majority non-white population. At the same time, I am constantly aware of US-centrism on the site, because despite how it may sometimes appear, Canada actually has many significant differences to the US.

I also wanted to thank the community for your patience as those of us on the board have grappled with logistical issues and then philosophical issues—what is our purpose, what are our goals? I’ve been forced to realize these things do take time, but I think investing that time is wise because it helps ensure that what we do going forward is actually worthwhile to the site. That said, I know we are also eager to get moving on some things that we’ve been discussing for a while.

Thanks for the support from the community, and thank you to the other board members who are a delight to serve with!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:42 AM on December 2, 2022 [7 favorites]

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