It’s important to realize that [people in the majority] benefit from several racist and sexist constructs of society by no direct action of your own. No one wants to blame you for the actions of others, or those of your ancestors. We just want things to get better for those who have been harmed by those same constructs.
White folks: if it’s not about you, then don’t sweat it. If someone says “white men are trash” and you know that you’re not a trash white man, it ain’t about you, let it go. If someone says “all white women clutch their pearls” but you know you don’t do that, it ain’t about you, let it go.
Our egos are literally the least important thing to be thinking about right now.
Being an ally doesn’t mean you’re perfect, but it DOES mean that when you screw up, you should be willing to listen to members of the affected minority that you’ve impacted and change your behavior to do better.
Being an ally specifically means that you’re going to work to learn from your mistakes and change how you act.
Being an ally DOES NOT MEAN saying “hey be nice to this other person who has done bad things to you and your people, because they’re a potential good ally and you don’t want to alienate them.”
That is not allyship. Allies don’t speak for other people. They support them in speaking for themselves.
Originally published as two separate posts on April 6 and April 7, 2018. I have chosen to republish it now, because it remains very relevant in September of 2020.
Today I worked from home, but left in the afternoon to come down to a going away party for another SingleHopper.
Getting into Union Station at 5pm means you’re the one late salmon swimming upstream, so I walked a slightly different way to get out of the station, which means I came out slightly more west than I normally do. As I headed north, west of the river, I came upon a young man, somewhere in his 20s, clearly homeless, cold, hungry, sitting on the freezing ground, and wracked with body-shaking sobs of despair.
And of course, since it was just after five, there were hundreds of people walking past him, ignoring or pretending to ignore him.
I was late to the party. I could have kept walking. I almost did keep walking, but I stopped instead.
I actually had a few dollar bills – not enough, of course, but I got them out to give to him. And I knelt down next to him and touched him on the arm to try to reach through his sorrow, and the first, ridiculous, heartbreaking thing he said to me was,
“I’m sorry. I’ve been so depressed.”
And part of me wanted to laugh in disbelief, and part of me wanted to weep in horror.
So I swallowed all of that, and gave him the money and asked him if I could buy him something to eat, which he turned down because someone had given him some granola bars earlier that day.
I tried to convince him to let me get him something, but he wouldn’t budge, and just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean I get to insist you take more of my charity than you want. So I said “good luck” and went on my way. The party was fun, and I got to see my friends, and we all spent money that probably could have been used better on drinks and ping-pong at the most ridiculous bar.
Of course, I looked for him on the way back to the train, but he wasn’t there. I’ll look for him more. But before I do, I’ll get to sleep in my bed, in my house, with my dearest wife, after checking on my amazing children, and then tomorrow, I’ll go to an event to be with other friends to watch people hit other people with sticks. And I’ll feel simultaneously overjoyed and terribly guilty about it.
But under all of it? Is all this:
Life is short and hard and the black dog always wins in the end. I spend a fair amount of my time bewildered about how and why human beings are terrible to each other.
We are failing as a country. As a people. As a planet. We have got to do better. I didn’t post this so people will tell me how great I am. I’m not. I left him there, and for all I know he’ll be dead before morning. And I left him there anyway.
People think I have no sense of humor. People think I’m too political. People think I waste my time posting memes about overturning the established order. Well, this is partly why. Because sometimes I cannot think of anything else to do.
There are so many empty houses in America, we could house everyone. There’s so much food we could feed everyone. But instead, we’re obsessed with quarterly profits and shareholders.
Sure, I stopped and treated another human being with respect and caring and gave him a couple bucks so he could have some food, but in reality, I should never have had the interaction in the first place. He shouldn’t have been there.
Everyone should have shelter. Everyone should have food. Everyone should have health care.
It’s not enough to just be not racist. We have to be anti-racist. That means constant self-evaluation and work. While not exclusive to people who look like me, it is the work of majority to make sure that minorities are not excluded.
This letter took me a LONG time to write. I even did research! Unfortunately, I can’t point you at the “Revolution for the Dream” FB group, because it’s become private, hidden, invite only. The person behind it, who was Queen of Trimaris, wrote this letter found here: https://www.facebook. com/notes/ogier-larmurier/letter-to-the-bod/163344672055105/ (take the space out between the dot and the com, because I’m not linking to it. This post was written before their letter, but it demonstrates the lack of personal accountability and inability to see their own privilege that I talk about all the time.
Another day, another letter to the BoD…
To the Board of Directors,
My name is Drew Nicholson. In the SCA, I am known as Andreas Blacwode. I live in the MidRealm, and I have been an SCA member for over 30 years.
I know that you have been receiving a lot of letters about the recent changes made in collaboration with the Corporate DEI Officer, Jessica Van Hattem, (who, by the way, is doing an amazing job, along with John Fulton and Lis Schraer) and that many of the letters are being sent by members of the SCA who are unhappy with this direction of the SCA towards inclusion, equity, and diversity.
My letter today is written to urge you to continue to support the DEI Office, and indeed, to expand its scope and mandate. But even more so, I am writing today to urge the Board of Directors, specifically, to hold the line, and to continue to expel those who have consistently and continually shown that they are unable to abide by the SCA Statement of Core Values. Rather than name specific individuals, I am going to talk about two specific concepts that I want to focus on as recommendations to the Board to consider in all deliberations:
1. The recognition of Speech Acts 2. Separating Rank from Sanctionable Actions
All SCA participants are called to conduct themselves in accordance with the SCA’s Statement of Core Values. These values do not place one set of political views over another, nor do they require someone to give up their personal opinions on anything. What they do establish is a Code of Conduct – IE, all SCA participants are expected to act in certain ways.
1. Speech Acts
I submit to the Board that having a personally held belief is not the same thing as making that belief known – especially on social media, where statements can be shared, in their entirety, with hundreds or thousands of people.
As an obvious example, there is a difference between thinking “I don’t believe that trans women are women,” and posting it on Facebook. While I disagree with the former, it’s a personally held belief that, when not acted on, is mostly harmless. However, when the statement “I don’t believe that trans women are women” is posted on a FB account that is obviously associated with the SCA and/or an SCA participant, it violates many, if not all of the SCA’s Core Values – because once posted on Facebook, or spoken aloud at an event, for that matter, it is no longer a just a personally held belief. It is aSpeech Act – a statement that does not just reflect a meaning or opinion; but one that is designed to get things done.
There is an implied action in statements such as:
“I don’t believe that trans women are women [and I won’t treat them the way they think they should be].” “I don’t believe that gay marriage is valid [and I refuse to recognize that relationship].” “The biggest problem for black people is black-on-black crime [therefore I am going to treat black people like criminals].”
When statements like this are made public, and they have the names of senior, highly-ranked & respected SCA Peers and Royal Peers attached, they have an influence in two ways. First, we regard SCA Peers and Royal Peers as exemplars, and if an exemplar acts this way, it suggests to non-peers that they should emulate that behavior. Secondly, these statements have a Chilling Effect on participation; they make the SCA unwelcoming to people who do not fit the mold of what appears to be desired. These kinds of statements actively drive potential new SCA participants away.
Once posted or spoken, these statements are no longer just personally held beliefs. Facebook is not a secret diary, or a private letter to family.
When you write something on social media, that is no different than saying it in a large group of people or putting it up on a billboard for all to see.
Doing this is an action, and the actions detailed above absolutely violate the SCA Statement of Core Values.
2. Separating Rank from Sanctionable Actions
We all have unconscious, or implicit, biases. We learn them from our families, from our communities, and from the societies in which we live. They tend to favor our own in-groups – people like us — although not always. These implicit biases become part of our perspectives, and manifest in both our verbal and non-verbal communications. They influence us even when we are unaware of them.
I submit to the Board that these biases do not manifest just about race, or gender identity, or economic class; nor are they only formed when we are children. They also manifest in adults, and about other things, such as rank in the SCA. As I said above, the SCA teaches us to respect peers and people with coronets, which means many SCAdians develop favorable unconscious biases about them. This can lead us to make excuses for Knights, Pelicans, Laurels, Masters of Defense, and Royal Peers when they do something wrong. This is a version of something called the Halo Effect, wherein people who think highly of an individual in one way are likely to think of them highly in several other ways – i.e., if we think someone is a good fighter, we may also think they’re chivalrous, or charismatic.
The only way to challenge and change unconscious bias is with introspection and reflection, but it is difficult and takes time. In addition to that, I recommend that the Board of Directors seek to minimize unconscious bias by using more immediately applicable techniques. One method could be for the names and ranks of the offenders to be anonymized as much as possible when the BoD deliberates on the results of the investigation.
Consider: are certain actions acceptable from someone who has been in the SCA for two months or two years? Why, then, would they be acceptable from a Viscount or a Knight or a Landed Baroness?
Anonymization is used in corporations around the globe that want to reduce unconscious bias in hiring. There are applications that remove candidate names and photos to enable hiring managers to focus on skills and experience, such as Blendoor.com, or Ubias.io, a Google Chrome extension that removes faces and names from LinkedIn profiles. While there may not be specific automation or technologies that could do this for the SCA Board of Directors, the results of investigations could still be anonymized manually for the purposes of reporting to the BoD, and then vote before the names and ranks of the people being investigated are revealed. Even if you do not choose to do that, I sincerely hope that the Directors will think about unconscious bias and how it might be affecting their deliberations.
Why Does this Matter?
This matters because there is a Facebook group, called “Revolution for the Dream”, administered by a Royal Peer who reigned with someone who was sanctioned by the Board of Directors recently for poor conduct. Many of the participants of that group are Peers or Royal Peers who are unhappy with the steps the SCA has taken. They have forgotten what it is like to be young and unsure of themselves and they have forgotten how it feels to be excluded. They are mounting a concerted effort to roll back the progress that the SCA has made in the areas of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. They want to force the BoD to reverse or end the sanctions that have been implemented against some of their more problematic friends. They are unable to discern their own unconscious biases. And I believe that they think that your joint experience with them means that you will unconsciously favor them.
Why? Because the Board of Directors is made up of seven people, with one additional Director-Elect. Of those eight people, four are royal peers. Six hold a bestowed peerage. Four are double peers. Only one member of the current Board holds neither a royal nor bestowed peerage. You have all worked hard for the accolades with which you have been recognized. The average SCAdian feels that the BoD is in very rarified territory – but the people in this “Revolution” group do not understand or do not care. I urge you to recognize this, and I urge you to make a conscious decision to represent all of the SCA – especially those who are of minority populations – in your deliberations regarding the deeds that other, more popular and powerful SCAdians have committed, to make the SCA less welcoming, less diverse, and less equitable.
I stand in favor of the proposed revisions to the Introduction to the Governing Documents.
I stand in support of the Corporate Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and its mission.
I stand in appreciation for the work the Board of Directors has done to make the SCA a more welcoming place.
In service and in song, I am,
Magister Andreas Blacwode
Companion of the Order of the Pelican Baron of the Court of William & Isolde Participant of the SCA for Thirty Years. MKA Drew Nicholson, Member #73128 ______________________________
cc: John Fulton, President, SCA, Inc. Lis Shraer, VP for Operations, SCA, Inc. Jessica Van Hattem, Corporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, SCA, Inc. — Peddler of Bombast, Man of Parts. Ka is a wheel. Haec officia officialis honesti. Merda aspera est, eho.
So I have a fair number of SCA friends who have two Facebook profiles. They do it for a variety of reasons: their job, their desire to keep groups of friends separated, their family doesn’t care for the SCA, and far be it from me to ever tell someone that they’re doing the SCA or Facebook wrong — you do you boo.
But there are some people who keep separate profiles because they say that “Bob Smith” is a different person from “Robert the Smith”. And, again, if that’s what you want, go for it, but I don’t, personally, think that it works. And it has to do with a fundamental belief and a fundamental part of my SCA philosophy.
People are who they show you they are.
There is no SCA life vs Real life, there’s just Life, and you are accountable for your choices.
The vast majority of my friends are in the SCA. I barely dated outside the SCA. I met my first wife in the SCA, and I met my second wife through an SCA friend. I go to something like 20-26 SCA events a year. I used to schedule my vacation time around the SCA. Heck, when I was in college, I’d quit my summer jobs in July because I knew I was going to go to Pennsic. For almost all of us, the SCA is a permanent, intertwined part of our lives. People like to say that it’s “just a hobby” but it’s really not. It’s our social universe. It’s our place to be. It’s our chosen family. And we are who we show people we are.
So if you’re a good person in the world of computers and electric stoves and carbon fiber, you’re likely to be a good person in the world of spears, vikings, madrigals. If you’re a shitty person in the world of banks and cars and televisions, you’re likely to be a shitty person in the world of catapults and pavilions and scrolls. And if you need to change the way people look at you, it’s probably going to take decades of work and disappointment. Ask me how I know.
In the end, you can’t run from the things you’ve done by creating a new Facebook profile for yourself. In the end, the truth comes out.
People are who they show you they are. And Life is just Life.
So it seems to me that there are two big issues facing the SCA right now:
1) problematic behavior, such as but not exclusively: sexual harassment and bigotry related to race, gender, orientation, gaslighting, etc. 2) the behavior we see when someone’s problematic behavior is called out – IE, calling a POC a bigot when they call for the SCA to boycott a hotel that promotes or allows racist behavior from its staff.
I am generally an in your face kind of guy about both of these kinds of behaviors. But a good worker has lots of tools in the toolbox. So many of you here on my friends list don’t like it that the SCA doesn’t seem to have a good plan for combating racism or gaslighting. The anti-discrimination policy doesn’t appear to have much by way of teeth.
What are ways we can push the SCA to take a more enlightened stance on these issues? How do we enable the SCA to do better?