Monday, June 21, 2010

On FWD, Juneteenth & Scapegoats

Many times when I comment to FWD (Feminists With Disabilities), I observe that I'm often the only one bringing up the racial implications compounding whatever ablist vs disability discussion is going on. I generally take this in stride with a sigh and a roll of my eyes, especially when someone jumps up to thank me for bringing more depth to the conversation.

On June 19th, Feminists With Disabilities hosted a Celebration of Helen Keller. June 19th, however, is Juneteenth; Emancipation Day. And someone called out FWD about not mentioning Juneteenth, which is a North American (continental) holiday and has begun to spread further since the 1980's.

And then, there was fail. And to my mind, the fail was NOT unexpected. The moderators of FWD appear (and there has been some statement to this fact) to have wanted to wait for the person whose idea HK's celebration was - Anna. But in doing so, they gave every appearance, of shoving an upset and angry and feeling marginalized Disabled Woman of Colour - into a corner for the 'right' person to deal with.

They did not reply to Rene of Womanist Musings to tell her they wanted to leave what to do next up to Anna. They did not reply to her emails. They made no sign whatsoever until Rene was left feeling she was shouting at a wall that was trying to smother her.

Meanwhile other people's comments were apparently getting through and being published and there was no sign as to whether if you comment at FWD enough times your comments go through automatically or if mods were actually keeping Rene's comments at bay until "Someone could come deal with them and the whole situation."

If someone had done that to a white woman with a disability - given the appearance that the 'right' and 'more tolerant' person needed to come and handle the hysterical 'cripple' woman - FWD's moderators and many of their commenters would have been beyond incensed.

If someone had given the impression that it was just too draining for them to deal with an angry woman with a disability - so they'd wait for the person who had the strength to do so; FWD's moderators and many of their commenters would have been enraged at the ablism and sexism.

What happened on June 19th on FWD, is not an isolated incident. It's an example of well meaning progressivism running around in a panic and not thinking because of that panic. And if that's not what happened, then what did? Because I find it hard to believe the FWD moderators did not foresee complications in comments and the need for a mod to handle it. Is that not why they have multiple mods with multiple duties and responsibilities?

The worse thing to happen though, is comments were shut down. Discussion was shut down. There was no 'We the mods have observed ad honemim attacks and they will not be getting through' and there was no 'We will be opening a separate post to deal with this issue'. It was just:

Hi Renee, I had chosen not to publish the rest of your comments yesterday as I did think your main concern was in the first one, and that publishing your other comments would detract from your concern. I will publish them all now.

I believe that conversations that take place at the speed-of-internet are rarely productive. There is an implicit demand that people react immediately, instead of taking careful, thoughful, and respectful action.

In light of that, I am closing comments here. I do not think that this conversation here will prove to be productive for any of the parties involved.

I am sorry that my actions and behaviour have caused this conversation to be necessary.

...instead of taking careful, thoughful, and respectful action...

...instead of taking careful, thoughful, and respectful action...

...instead of taking careful, thoughful, and respectful action...

I am so disappointed that it was Anna who made this statement. That it is her name up against this silencing. That it is her statement discussing thoughtful and respectful action, that closes comments in a non thoughtful and non respectful way.

And I am even MORE angry and disappointed that the other moderators of FWD, from the very beginning, have pushed her into taking the fall. That it is her name beside a statement that someone else, someone currently holding power, gets to decide what part of a marginalized person's comments and anger is relevant to the conversation about erasure.

To call this misstep after misstep after misstep is to be extremely generous in my view. FWD's moderators saw the word racist and ran; ran from having to self evaluate, ran from anger, ran from the ghost pains of white guilt.

Everything they'd done comes across as them wanting it all just to go away. I find myself thinking that they have had several unique experiences this year, where they should know better - because they didn't shut up. But at least this post will hardly be a surprise, because Anna knows I rarely keep my big mouth shut.