Update on Council discussion about Black Lives Matter letter

Continuing the discussion from Missing response to Black Lives Matter movement:

Today, I closed the ticket in the D&I Team issue tracker about a letter of support for the Black Lives Matter movement from the Fedora Council. Since the ticket has 44 comments spread out over nine months, I copied my most recent ticket comment here too:

Hi. This ticket is now nine months old. I am closing it as stale . The window of opportunity for this closed, and I am still in an unsure place on how to move this forward. I will explain the decision to close this ticket and also share thoughts on how to better respond to these kinds of situations in the future.

The most obvious question is, why did we not make a very public statement?

The first part and perhaps most important was the lack of Black perspectives and voices in this discussion. It was difficult to know what the right thing to do was. While there are Black contributors in the Fedora Community, our in-person events have shown that we have not done an excellent job of including Black folks in the Fedora Community. While it should not be the responsibility of the under-represented to always represent themselves, this dilemma made it difficult for me to distinguish between what would be perceived as tokenism versus genuine, meaningful support and action.

The second part was the international perspective raised. Not that the Black Lives Matter movement did not have international elements, but the social issue was triggered by George Floyd’s murder in the United States last year. The complaint I heard from folks outside the United States was that the Fedora Project has never stood up or spoken up for inequalities in their societies and countries for them before. So why now? An example was used of the Venezuelan conflict last year. For me especially, as a white American, I recognized my bias to the Black Lives Matter issue as an American citizen and that this issue was personal for me. I could see how our contributors outside of the United States felt side-stepped or written off when we have not taken a stance on social issues that affect them.

The second question is, where did this go wrong and what could we have done better?

The biggest mistake made was that we were not agile. We raised the issue when it was an emerging discussion in the world, but we did not do enough to act quickly. This stretched out for nine months, and I fear it looks worse than if we had decided to make a clear decision right when this ticket was opened. The opportunity to is within how we respond to societal issues that impact the lives of our friends in the Fedora Community.

One way we could improve this for a future scenario is find ways to make concrete, tangible actions to support our contributors who experience racial injustice. If a contributor raises an issue in their local community that impacts their time in Fedora, we need a better way to support our contributors in a way that does not take nine months to make a resolution.

Unfortunately, I only have a grasp on what I think we need conceptually. This is an area we could brainstorm ideas on.

This is not my proudest moment in Fedora and not how I wished this ticket would end when I opened it nine months ago. But I hope sharing the perspective behind this process will help those who come after when we are faced with a similar situation again. If 2020 taught me anything, it is less a question of “if” and more a question of “when”.

Happy to answer questions or other queries in this ticket about this resolution. Just because the ticket is closed does not mean the opportunity to give feedback is lost. It would be good to capture learnings from this process for future reference.