When good people allow bad things to be published*
This month a homophobic letter was published in a STEM professional organization's magazine. I'm not going to name the professional organization. The association's current, past, and next presidents' response to the publishing of the letter was immediate and powerful including saying they were requiring a review of policies so something like this would not be published in the future. The apology of the executive director, whom I know and respect, was also powerful.
And, of course, I am not going to link to the letter- talk about don't feed the trolls!
What I am going to write about is the responses I got when I told people about the letter. These were from people who care about and work for diversity- which makes their responses even larger impediments to diversity:
1. Not publishing it is censorship. But wait, we make decisions all the time about what to publish and what not to publish based on relevance and appropriateness to the audience. Folks we shouldn't publish something which is not relevant to the audience- as in having nothing to do with the field- just because it says things we disagree with. And then there is not appropriate. For example explaining to people what is and isnít Godís plan for their lives doesnít quite fit in a professional journal. Publishing it because some might say not publishing it is censorship is -- hmm am not sure what words I should say but I'm really sure they aren't nice words.
2. The person who published it is an ally. Allies are wonderful- we are fortunate to have allies and be allies. Allies need protection but if there is a double standard of behavior Ė as in we cut allies slack when they screw up - that is a problem. When I screw up you need to tell me. When you screw up I need to tell you. Otherwise we aren't allies.
3. We need to know these attitudes exist. Please- African Americans are quite clear racism exists, homophobia is no surprise to LBTG people. And as my mother used to say- "I think every woman has been sexually harassed except for your Aunt Rona and I think she lied" (sorry cousins that is what she said). Publishing these kinds of comments in a professional journal provides them legitimacy and credibility which is well AWFUL.
4. Our group gets attacked all the time and they donít speak up for us, AKA itís not my issue. I am reminded of Martin Niemollerís poem.
First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing.
Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing.
Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist.
And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little.
Then when they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me.
Eric Jolly says that we wonít have true equality until you donít have to be at the table in order to have your issues addressed. Heís right.
If however, we all work together we might just get something done.
* This was the end of a speech I did yesterday.