Evaluate Yourself

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.

This is an amalgamation of this post, this post, and this post.

What is the “Real” SCA?

Originally published August 29, 2020.

This post was the result of a discussion with a long-time SCAdian who said, when asked what they were doing during the Covid times, said “Like a lot of us, I’m hold up, waiting until the REAL SCA can start up again.”

I took offense to that, because there’s a whole lot of people keeping the SCA alive right now, because if they weren’t doing what they’re doing, there would be nothing to come back to when the pandemic is over. In addition, the pandemic has helped me to realize that there are people in the SCA who are seriously unable to go to almost any events, because of illness, finances, whatever. Being able to attend even one event a month is a privilege.

Ok, I’m gonna lay it out here, so listen to what I have to say.

Online-only SCA means that we can’t do a lot of the stuff we want to be doing. Not everyone is comfortable being onscreen or watching stuff onscreen or performing onscreen or whatever.

That does not mean that online SCA activities are somehow not the “real” SCA. The RUM has hosted over 120 classes, with over 1000 student-hours, and other Kingdoms have followed suit. Baronies and Shires are having online A&S nights, gaming nights, and random get-togethers daily or weekly. There’s an online Bardic somewhere every night of the week. The Midrealm has even had 4-6 virtual events, Pennsic University hosted dozens of classes, and the Midrealm has had multiple online courts.

Don’t you – dare – say that’s not real. Maybe it’s not for you. There are plenty of activities in the SCA I don’t do. We all pick and choose. But the hours and hours of work and problem-solving, the dozens of dedicated and selfless people making it happen, and the enjoyment and education and achievements of the people participating are JUST AS REAL as if they were happening at Coopers Lake, or Simple Day, or Tournament of Ymir, or Twelfth Night, or Estrella, or any other in-person event.

So miss me with that dismissive and exclusionary language, or I will call you right the heck out.

This will end. We will be able to see each other in person. And until then, take care of yourselves and participate at the level you’re comfortable with.

Excelsior!

Tell the BoD You Support Diversity!

Originally published on Facebook June 17, 2020.

It’s hard to think that some day, people might not know the context of this post, but I suppose it’s possible, so: I wrote this to encourage the BoD to recognize the good that the DEI office was doing during a time of upheaval in the SCA. A highly respected and decorated SCA peer had been banished for, among other things, publishing a long screed about how “politics” (such as the Black Lives Matter movement, and increased acceptance of LGBTQIAA+ lives) was ruining the SCA. He outed himself as a bigot, and got into a fair amount of trouble for it. There’s another post chronologically before this one that talks about it.

Have you written to the BOD of the SCA to share your opinions yet? If you are so inclined, it’s easy.

Just drop a line to: directors@sca.org, sca-comments@lists.sca.org, and cc’d president@lists.sca.org, seneschal@sca.org, equity@sca.org, but either email works). You can find the direct emails for all the BoD members here, to look up your Kingdom’s Ombudsman: https://www.sca.org/about/officers/

Here’s mine:

————-

To the Board of Directors:

My name is Andreas Blacwode, and I have been a member of the SCA for over 30 years, all of them in the MidRealm.

As someone who has done a great deal of behind the scenes work for various offices, initiatives, and reigns, I know how rarely words of thanks are sent along to the people doing that work.

Today, I want to change that, as I hope many members of the SCA are. The work that the Board of Directors, Duke John the President of the SCA, Baron Alwyn the Society Seneschal, and Baroness Zahra the Corporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer are all doing to make the SCA more inclusive, as well as ridding us of racists, bigots, and fascists is deeply appreciated by myself and many others.

I know it is likely that there are many people in the SCA, likely of high rank and up till now considered of high merit, who are deeply uncomfortable with the direction the SCA has taken. “You’re tearing the SCA apart,” they cry. To that, I say “Perhaps . But we cannot ignore a cancer away. It must be cut out, excised.”

Please do not be swayed by polite, genteel appeals from those who would defend the prejudiced because of their rank. We are better off without them, and with them gone, we will truly and fairly be able to invite so many more people in to add to the rich and varied tapestry that the SCA can become.

And again, thank you for the work you have already done.

In affirmation of the SCA’s Core Principles, I am:

Magister Andreas Blacwode, OP
blah-blah-blah

The Missing Stair

Originally published on June 13th, 2020.

When Galen of Bristol posted his manifesto, it triggered a massive reaction. Galen had been held up as a paragon of virtue and peerage for decades, and all along, he had been excluding people, hurting them, denigrating them, and when he exposed himself and his views, a lot of pent-up anger was unleashed. I had only heard of Galen in glowing terms, and when this happened, I was disappointed.

A lot of people insisted that his letter was “just closely held opinion” and argued it wasn’t relevant to SCA conduct. Problem is, that’s bullshit – racists can’t drop their racism when they walk through the gate of an event, and that was proved when evidence came out that Galen had argued against elevating candidates to knighthood because they “supported the gay agenda.” I was also really disappointed in the displayed privilege of so many SCAdians who insisted that while what Galen had written was terrible, they “knew” he was a good dude underneath.

No, he wasn’t.

Because Galen scrubbed his entire facebook profile after he was banished by the King and Queen of Ansteorra, screenshots of his entire letter is included at the bottom of this post, so Content Warning: there’s language that may be offensive and triggering for trans people, queer people, and BIPOC.

When I first wrote this letter, I wasn’t sure that it actually violated the SCA Code of Conduct, but over the course of a day or so, I changed my mine, and ended up writing the letter that’s elsewhere in this blog.

HUMAN RIGHTS ARE NOT POLITICS.

**EDIT:** I’ve had some more time to think, and some conversations, and I will be writing a letter to the Royalty of Ansteorra, the Ansteorran Kingdom Seneschal, and the Board of Directors. A man who makes people so uncomfortable that they don’t want to make him a seneschal in a time when we are begging for volunteers needs a closer look.

————————

I am dismayed at the number of people [on the post in the pictures] who keep saying “I don’t agree with you, Galen, but you’ve always been good to me, so I will defend you and your place in the SCA.”

That’s the same thing as saying “fuck you Jack, I got mine.” It’s a demonstrated lack of compassion. For those who are peers, it’s a abrogation of your obligations as a peer and your oath of fealty.

These are not political issues. They are moral ones.

The SCA is not obligated to accept or tolerate opinions promoting the supremacy of one kind of individual over another.

No one is trying to force Galen to wear a BLM favor, or enthusiastically endorse the marriage of one man to another. But for him to vocally and vociferously advocate that the SCA is not a place for those things is shameful, even if it’s not a violation of the SCA Code of Conduct.

The SCA may or may not Sanction Galen; I am not on the BoD, and it’s not my decision, and I don’t think these statements rise to the level of deserving official Sanction. But it IS my decision, and my obligation as a fellow Peer of the Society, to immediate, and publicly gainsay his statement. Galen of Bristol does NOT speak for me, and I do not believe that his beliefs belong in the SCA that I love and most of my friends are part of.

Black Live Matter.

Transwomen are women.

Transmen are men.

Marraige between two people of the same gender identity is no less valid than marraige between two people of different gender identities.

Antifa is not an organization, it is a state of being opposite to being pro-fascist.

The SCA must stand for diversity and inclusivity and equity.

There is racism in the SCA.

There is sexism in the SCA.

There is transphobia in the SCA.

There is homophobia in the SCA.

These are things to oppose, not embrace.

Galen has abrogated his obligations and so have many other people on this thread. Not to their crown, not to the SCA, but to humanity. It is a failure of compassion. And as a member of the Order of the Pelican, I must stand up and be counted in opposition to it.

I am extremely disappointed.

Magister Andreas Blacwode

MidRealm

Words Mean Things

Originally published June 10, 2020.

I’m a bard, and more than once, I’ve said “words mean things.” Sometimes I say them because someone I’m talking to is using words in a manner I disagree with, sometimes I say it because I’m trying to get something very specific across.

Other bards say this, or something very like this, as well, including Mistress Lanea Verch Kerrigan, who inspired this post with her own.

There’s been a fair amount of fuss in SCA circles over the past week or so, because several terrible people — I’m pretty sure they’re mostly young or middle-aged white men — got banished from their kingdoms, with the BoD starting investigations that will (hopefully) result in Revocation and Denial of Membership for each. Why? Because each of them participated in bigoted and terrible conversations on social media.

There have always been some people who have stood up against racism and fascistic behavior, against normalizing sexual assault and harassment, and against bullying, but the reality is that the SCA has long had an unspoken rule that such things are private, and not to be discussed, especially when the perpetrator is a peer or a royal peer.

I’m not saying that about the SCA, Inc. The BoD has a legal responsibility to protect the Corporation, and they must act in a like manner, because if they don’t, they can actually go to jail. No, I’m saying that about the Society of people who are participants in the SCA. We’ve done it for a long time. We’ve equated this to blowing off shots, or being a weirdo with a cloven orange.

Well, that’s not gonna fly anymore. A critical mass has finally been reached in the SCA, and we are done with that. A big part of why the aforementioned men are in the process of being booted is because the people around them saw these conversations and reporting them.

In what is perhaps a related incident, the SCA Seneschal just put out a statement condemning “doxing“, said could potentially open the SCA up to litigation, and stated that doxing is a violation of the SCA Code of Conduct and the Anti-Bullying & Harassment Policy.

Doxing is gathering and publishing a person’s name, address, phone number, email address, and/or other sensitive information on the web so that people can harass them, or worse.

When I, or anyone else screenshots racist, or bigoted, or hateful, or homophobic bullshit that someone has posted on their FB page, and then report that bullshit to the SCA, that is not doxing. Nor is it censorship. It’s not anything other than your own stupid chickens coming home to roost. And if I notice that I have friends in common with someone who is saying this kind of bullshit, I will reach out to them and ask them why they’re associated with such un-noble behavior. (And it’s entirely possible that they’ve got a decent reason, which is just fine.)

In the past, I, personally, might have obscured the names of people posting such bullshit. I bought into the whole idea of “praise publicly, chastise privately.” And that still applies for some things.

But it doesn’t apply to this, not any longer. Bigotry and hatred are not part of my SCA. And in a very real way, it is my job, as a Peer of the Realm, to stand up and say, publicly, “I see you, and I’m not going to let you cover this up.” We are directly called to lift people up, to ennoble them, to help make the Society a better place.

It is no longer enough for us to shake our heads and say “how terrible” when we become aware of this kind of activity. We have to -do- something about it, even though it’s going to be uncomfortable. We may not be able to make people think differently — we’re not Thought Police — but we sure can make them think twice about espousing it publicly. Hateful actions have consequences.

This is the kind of peer — the kind of PERSON — I’m called to be. I hope it’s the kind of person we realize we’re ALL called to be. That’s the future I’m trying to give my kids, and everyone’s kids.

I hope you join me.

Andreas

30 Years of SCA

Originally published May 12, 2020.

So I celebrate my SCA anniversary in a much more Jewish manner than any other way. I say “My first event was Spring Coronation, AS 25” and I calculate my anniversary from that, and because Coronation isn’t a set date, it moves around. So that means that this year, I celebrated 30 years in the SCA on May 2 — ten days ago.

But May 12 is the actual date of Comar & Lisa’s first coronation, all the way back in 1990, and that event was my first. I piled into the back of Patrick MacPhelan’s van, with a bunch of other people from the Marche of the Thistle, and we drove from Wooster, Ohio, up into Michigan. I think it was Flint, maybe? Count William would know.

I’d been going to local SCA meetings for a few months before that, and I was pretty sure that this was something I wanted to pursue, but when I went to that event, that’s when I really knew. I mostly wandered around by myself, and I remember seeing David & Tangwystl, the first Prince & Princess of Ealdormere, and thinking (because I knew no better), that they were the King and Queen, or about to be — right up until Comar came into the room at Court and demanded the Crown, and then there was absolutely no doubt who the King REALLY was.

Since that day, I have “Begun Again” probably six or seven times. I’ve been part of movements, I’ve had a lot of romance, more than one failed peer/dependent relationship, twenty or so Pennsics, and tens of thousands of miles of driving.

And while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my particular path to most people, all of my trials and tribulations have brought me to be the person I am today, and I’m pretty okay with that. There isn’t much I would do differently, thirty years later.

When the OP is updated next month to reflect the Ethereal Courts that took place at the end of Seto & Ynes’ reign, my elevation date will be May 2, AS 55. I specifically asked for this, and since I know the guy who manages the OP, I got it taken care of. It was important to me that my elevation date resonate in this way, and honestly, it might as well have been on 5/2 anyway.

Too many people have helped me for me to thank; there is a maximum number of people you can tag in a post on Facebook. And the truth is, that if you’re reading this, you have helped me in one way or another, even if that help is just that you participate in — and thus help to keep alive — the SCA. So thanks everyone.

The next 30 years beckon.

Letter to the BoD on Galen of Bristol

Originally published Monday, June 15, 2020.

Unto Their Majesties of Ansteorra, Jason & Margherita, and Master Avery Shaw, Ansteorran Kingdom Seneschal, greetings from Magister Andreas Blacwode, OP, MidRealm.

I am sure, Your Majesties & Master Avery, that You have been inundated with messages from all around the Known World, either in support of, or condemning, the recent post made by Sir Galen of Bristol about his views and opinion on the direction of the SCA.

I have been in the SCA for 30 years, all in the MidRealm. I helped to start rapier combat in the Middle Kingdom, I have been a trusted advisor and staff member for multiple reigns, and I have been a marshal and a local, baronial, regional, and deputy kingdom officer. I am a professional Coach and Senior Project Manager for my modern job, and one of the things I help people with is Conflict Management between one employee and another, or an employee and their manager. Sometimes the conflict is interpersonal, sometimes it’s due to a misunderstanding of process, sometimes it’s something else, but it’s a skill I’ve been able to use to great effect in the SCA as well, as you might imagine. One of the key techniques that I use repeatedly is helping people understand where they have offended, why it was offensive, how to apologize, and how to do better.

Unfortunately, there are always some people who cannot or will not take those steps. Based off of the conversations that stemmed from the statement that Sir Galen made, including his own responses, I have come to believe that he is one of those people, and I now come to You today to ask You to sanction him by banishing him from Your reign, and to escalate the issue to the Board of Directors for a more in-depth investigation. I have attached pictures of his post to this email.

Sir Galen is a member of the SCA and as such, he is specifically called upon, as are we all, to uphold the Code of Conduct for the SCA. We are all supposed to act in accordance with the chivalric virtues of honor and service. We are all supposed to value and respect the worth and dignity of all individuals. We are all supposed to practice inclusiveness and respect pluralism and diversity. We are all supposed to promote a safe and respectful environment for all SCA events. We are all supposed to be responsible stewards of SCA resources. We are all supposed to be committed to maintaining the trust of the SCA’s members and participants.

But Sir Galen is also Knight of the Society, and a Pelican, and thus he is held to a higher standard. As a Knight, he is called to be a Shield of the Weak. As a Pelican, he is called to be an exemplar of Service to the Society and the Population.

But Sir Galen is also a Lion of Ansteorra. The entry for the Lions of Ansteorra at https://ansteorra.org/historian/legends-and-heroes/ says:

“The award of the Lion of Ansteorra confers neither precedence nor title, yet is the most coveted award we bestow. The Lions epitomize everything an Ansteorran strives to be: nobility, chivalry, honor, and personae. To be a Lion is to be that person. To be singled out, as a Lion is the highest honor our Kingdom has to give.” The page http://sca.org/awards/anst.html says that the Lions “contribute most to the ideals and milieu of the Society, and who serves as an inspiration to others”. They are given special access to the Crown, with the right to interrupt court at any reason, and the obligation to guard the crowns during the time after one set of Royalty steps down, and the next set steps up. The Ansteorran OP lists only 78 Lions of Ansteorra.

When I asked some friends about what the Lion means to them, they called it the most prestigious award in the SCA, and that the Lions are supposed to be “the best of us.”

I would suggest that as a Lion of Ansteorra, Sir Galen is held to an even higher standard than his peerages.

Your Majesties & Master Avery, the statement that Sir Galen posted violate of the Code of Conduct of the SCA, his oaths as a Knight and a Pelican, and perhaps worst of all, his obligations as a Lion of Ansteorra.

• When Galen says that he opposes Countess Toryn, his regional seneschal, when she says “stopping discrimination, casual racism, homophobia, and sexism in the SCA is exactly my business”, he is telling Black, Indigenous & People of Color (BIPOC), members of the LGBTQIAA+ community, and women that they are not welcome in the SCA.

• When Galen says “I can get along with sinners […] but I don’t embrace sin” and then immediately states “I don’t accept that a relationship between two people of the same sex can be a marriage”, he’s telling members of the LGBTQIAA+ community that their civil rights are less important.

• When he says “I view abortion […] as the intentional taking of an innocent human life”, he’s telling women he views them all as murderers.

• When he says “I can’t accept that a person can, based on their feelings, ‘transition’ from male to female, nor female to male”, he’s telling transmen and transwomen that he does not recognize their humanity.

• When he says “I cannot support the Black Lives Matter organization because I not only disagree with their tactics of blocking traffic and fomenting rioting, not only do I disagree with their hatred of all law enforcement, not only do I deny that a disproportionate number of innocent blacks are killed by police”, he’s telling BIPOC that he does not accept their anger and grief, and he is calling them liars.

• And when he goes on to say “I particularly object to the rest of their agenda, which includes the ‘disruption’ of traditional family structures”, he’s calling Black women sexually promiscuous in a negative fashion, and specifically calling out Black men as irresponsible and Black children as illegitimate.

All these statements are in violation of the least stringent rules on conduct in the SCA. And when he says this on his Facebook page, which up until very recently, very clearly associated him with Ansteorra and the SCA, he is drawing a direct line from his statements to the SCA.

Further on, he says “[…] for most (of) us, back in the day, it was about escaping the modern world.” But SCAdian BIPOC, and other marginalized communities, cannot escape the modern world that easily. I have been told stories about black SCAdian knights being called the N-word on the field of battle. For years, women were not allowed to fight in the SCA. We have very few BIPOC or Trans peers. There are reasons for this, and the base reason is that we have never left the modern world out of the SCA. It is simply that most of the participants — IE, cis-het presenting white people — have the privilege of not having to worry about such things.

Sir Galen closes his post talking about how, after years of asking for a replacement, his Baronial Seneschal refused to allow Galen to take the role, because they were worried that as seneschal, Galen would make members of the LGBTQIAA+ community uncomfortable. Galen goes on to say that no one could point to a single person he has ever made to feel unwelcome in the SCA.

Firstly, intimidated, scared, marginalized SCAdians do not speak out against decorated triple Peers who also hold the most revered award in the Kingdom. Secondly, there are multiple people who have stood up and spoken out in various forums on Facebook, including the comments of my own post (https://www.facebook.com/drewishdrewid/posts/10157105584241128) explicitly stating that Galen made them feel unwelcome and unsafe. People he has made uncomfortable are coming to me, a cis-het presenting white man of similar rank to Galen, to speak about their discomfort. As a Peer of the Society, it is my obligation to bring your attention to it, especially because his misconduct has had an effect beyond the borders of Ansteorra.

In addition, I, personally, feel that Galen’s statements are meant to exclude me. I don’t much look it, but I am Jewish, and there is only one generation between myself and the branches of my family tree that were wiped out in the camps during WWII.

I invite you to consider the analogy of the missing stair. A missing stair is someone who, in a social group, is known to be problematic, but the group works around that person by warning new members of the group to be careful, instead of dealing with the problematic person openly. And when a new person isn’t warned soon enough, they get hurt, just like someone will get hurt walking down a dark staircase, when they don’t know that there’s a missing stair. (You can find more information about it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missing_stair)

Your Majesties, I wish that it was not so that people we thought were our heroes have turned out to be villains. I wish that we could all agree on the very personhood of all the people of the world. The issues that Galen is on the wrong side of are not issues of politics. They are not issues of Republican vs Democrat.

These are human issues. We must be on the side of humanity. It is time to speak plainly, speak publicly, and repair the staircase.

Galen has violated the SCA code of conduct, violated his oaths as a Peer of the Society, and devalued the image of the Lions of Ansteorra. I hope you will do the right thing.

I am, in strength, in service, and in song,

Magister Andreas, OP

Baron of the Court of William & Isolde

Peddler of Bombast, Man of Parts.

Ka is a wheel.

Haec officia officialis honesti.

Merda aspera est, eho.

cc: Baron Lorcan Dracontius, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ombudsman for Ansteorra

Duke John the Bearkiller, President of the SCA

Baron Aylwin Watkyns, Society Seneschal

Baroness Zahra Tesfaye, Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

You Can’t Run From the Things You’ve Done

Originally published April 18, 2019.

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.

Make Yourself Pay Attention

Originally published on September 5, 2018.

Here is a Twitter thread that I feel illustrates pretty well what a lot of my white liberal SCA friends have been going through.

Just because you don’t see something happen, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It’s possible it’s not happening in front of you. It’s possible you don’t recognize it. And it’s possible you’re just unconsciously ignoring it.

None of those things make you a bad person – but now that you know what’s going on, you have to decide what you’re going to DO about it. Because you can no longer unconsciously ignore it.

So what’s it gonna be?