I’d like to interrupt the regular chat about games, TV, science & the occasional MS-related TMI to say something that’s been on my mind for a while, but it’s now at the point where I cannot stay silent any longer.
To wit: Black. Lives. Fucking. Matter!
And: Trans. Lives. Fucking. Matter!
Dear marginalised folks everywhere, I am so sorry. Sorry for the hardships you needlessly and nonsensically suffer: from the horrifically big to the small but ever-present. And I’m sorry for letting my own privilege and laziness and anxiety prevent me from speaking up.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
I stand behind this completely, as well as the rest of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. A document published in 1948 (Nineteen. Fucking. Forty-Eight! Seventy years ago!), declaring the absolute minimum for a safe and dignified life that is still being contradicted every day. Everywhere.
I did not speak against sexism, racism, xenophobia or homophobia except in the few situations where I felt safe and comfortable to do so. There’s no excuse.
I don’t know how to best help, but I will learn. I will go out of my comfort zone.
In the meantime, I’ve set up a monthly donation of $35 to Color Of Change (which my employer will match) to try and help the struggling folks in the USA.
And $26 each to Centrum pro integraci cizinců (also matched by Red Hat) and IQ Roma Servis. Two charities in my country that work against xenophobia and racism we’ve got going on here.
The Czech situation is different from the USA — there’s much less shooting for one. But despite what some people might proclaim, we do have problems with racism and xenophobia. Deeply worrying levels of nationalism are on the rise here like in so many other places. The fear of people who look different or do not conform to a flawed, tortured, idealised version of a Czech citisen is palpable.
I think we as a nation have done a lot of things broadly right. But there are things we’re doing terribly wrong. If I ever leave my country, it will almost certainly be for the hostility towards other cultures and the rise of fascism.
So anyway, the donations are the easy part. It is a small amount, but I’m not in a position to give out more. Not right now. But: it’s all been set up as an automatic regular payment and I don’t plan on cancelling it. "Fire and forget".
The hard part will be speaking up. I do struggle with mental issues and a part of my staying silent was as a self-protection. I have a strong tendency (bordering on pathology) to avoid conflicts. There are reasons for this, but I need to deal with it to be a useful ally.
I will call out and come against any racist, sexist and other bigoted speech and behaviour that I encounter. This will be hard and I will mess it up. But I understand now that silence is giving voice to the other side. To the racists, the fascists, the anti-humanists.
I will spend more time and effort seeking out marginalised voices. I will read more black authors, follow more people who don’t look like me on social media and podcasts. And rather than making sweeping egotistical declarations like this one, I will amplify their voices.
I’ve learned enough about the white saviour complex and how easily a marginalised person confiding in a privileged person can get hurt. I don’t expect an attaboy or being comforted by the fact that this has been really difficult on me mentally too.
In fact, the fair response would be "what took you so fucking long?" followed by "how long before you slide back to your comfortable little life and forget about the people who are hurting every day?".
All I can say is I’m so very sorry. And that I’ll do better. If nothing else, the monthly donations will keep going. And I’ll try to be an ally in other ways too, expecting nothing in return. Deserving nothing in return.
I will listen and educate myself. I will seek out voices different from ones that sound like me.
The Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity (B.U.I.L.D.) community at Red Hat has provided wonderful eye-opening discussions. They’ve included a list of resources that can serve as a starting point:
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Divided Sisters by Midge Willson and Kathy Russell
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Their Eyes Wer Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Fatal Invention by Dorothy Roberts
- Locking Up Our Own by James Forman Jr.
- The Miner’s Canary by Lani Guiner and Gerald Torres
- The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
- 1619 (New York Times)
- About Race
- Code Switch (NPR)
- Intersectionality Matters! hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw
- Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast
- Pod For The Cause
- Pod Save the People (Crooked Media)
- Seeing White
- Parenting Forward podcast episode 75: Five Pandemic Parenting Lessons with Cindy Wang Brandt
- Fare of the Free Child podcast
An easy trap to fall into is finding a single person and treat them as a representative for everyone (i.e. tokenism). In fact, everyone’s experience is different (e.g. dark or light skin, man or woman, cis or trans or nonbinary, education background, surrounding community). I will seek out distinct and diverse voices. Artists, politicians, activists, engineers, friends, colleagues.
I have seen 13th and over time, I will go through the lists above, adding more to them as I discover them. The first four episodes of the Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man have been enlightening, for example.
This will take time and effort and discomfort. Racism is not something that can be overcome in a couple of days after which we can all pat ourselves on the back. And it’s not something we can forget when the news cycle moves on.
I will also educate about the situation in my own country. We have fewer instances of violence, but racist remarks and behaviour are a daily occurrence and it has to stop. I will probably be able to effect more meaningful change help.
I have not been paying a lot of attention to racism, but I have spent some time learning about the issues women face in tech and elsewhere.
In a not-at-all-surprising turn of events, a lot of the advice has been the same: listen, empathise, understand, speak up and don’t expect the marginalised people to do do all the hard work and tell you what to do so you can lazily consume it from the comfort of your privilege.
If I do something I shouldn’t, or vice versa, feel free to call me out. If you want to confide in me, ask for help or just rant, I will gladly listen. But I don’t ask you to do my part for me.
I also understand how marginalised people do not feel comfortable speaking about these issues to people with privilege. A lot them have either heard or had a direct experience with truly opening to someone, only to having to comfort them or even worse, getting hurt over it.
I promise I will not let it backfire on you. But it is your choice, I don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with.
All I want is to be in a world that everyone can find worth living in.
Addendum: This Cannot Continue
The title of this post is a reference to a song from the most memorable boss fight in the Nier: Automata game:
In it, the protagonists (humanoid sentient robots) find a different "breed" of robots. They decide these not real living thinking beings, just a bunch of defective junk imitating life. And then proceed to slaughter them all:
(NSFW: naked male butt and sexless crotch)
It hits home much more now than when I played it a few years ago.
Addendum: All Lives Matter
It is infuriating that people keep shouting the above as if anyone in the BLM movement wanted to conduct a planet-wide genocide of anyone who’s not Black.
Yes, all lives matter. But even now, in the USA, empirically, the police, the judicial system, the employers and people behave as if some lives mattered much less.
If a house is on fire, you pour water on that house, not shout "all houses matter".
This reminds me of the the
#NotAllMen voices of the
#MeToo movement. It is nothing less than a "well, actually" used to distract from the core message. Intentionally or unintentionally, that’s what it’s doing.
I do not condone prejudice, racism, xenophobia, fascism and sexism in any shape or form.
And until they’ve been completely eradicated, we need to call it out.
Addendum: Mental Health
Being an effective help means speaking out, making one’s views public and engaging in dialogue. I am currently not able to do this well.
On top of the mild (but still very real) depression that I’ve mostly managed to keep in check, there is another pernicious aspect of my mind.
I cannot deal with direct opposing views to my deeply held beliefs. They turn my mind into a turmoil of fury, sadness and frustration that affects my thinking and behaviour for weeks. A single off-hand remark not even aimed at me will do that.
I don’t do well in conflict. I don’t handle violence well, either.
I become emotional, start spouting angry platitudes, lash out and start hurting people rather than engage in a dialogue, share perspectives, point out flaws in arguments and hopefully, change minds.
I have mostly "dealt" with this by avoiding the things that hurt me. Avoiding the topics, muting people on my social media, etc. This is not great in general. It’s not a fool-proof system (things that fuck me up for weeks still sneak through) and it goes against my desire to engage in open, honest and productive dialogue.
But it is completely deleterious for my desire to fight injustice. I can’t be an effective ally if I’m unable to function properly. The need to protect myself has stopped me time and time again from speaking out. It, just like the injustices themselves, cannot continue.
I am not entirely sure how to address this effectively, but I’ve got a few ideas and I’ll see how they work out. I will seek out professional help if they don’t.