July 26: Per an announcement, Tyme Ladow withdrew from the ballot.
[Note: In total, there will be 6 Q&A posts to cover all of the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. The candidates were limited to 300 words to answer each question, but they were allowed to rearrange and combine questions within a single post to more clearly express their thoughts. Candidate answers represent only the views of the individual candidate and are not endorsed by the OTW.
Due to a high volume of similar questions this year, many questions were merged and duplicate questions were left out. Other than this, questions appear in the form they were submitted. Questions represent only the views of the individual questioner and are not endorsed by the OTW.]
Fans of color have long expressed concerns about the way racism (especially anti-Blackness) in fandom is reproduced by the design and structures of OTW spaces. If elected to the Board, how would you work to make OTW spaces more welcoming to fans of color?
How will you support your chairs and staff in addressing racism in the OTW’s culture and platforms as with the technical projects?
Many fans of color have spoken out about racism and racist harassment in fandom. What *specific* steps do you propose that the OTW take to tackle racism on its platforms? (such as a diversity report of volunteers, an anti-harassment working group, etc) [merged question]
Will the candidates commit to the OTW publishing a volunteer diversity report, and an action plan for recruiting fans of colour? Will this action plan include disavowing well-known racist and early-AO3 architect franzeska?
What would you do to ensure that volunteers feel supported within the OTW, especially volunteers of color and other marginalized groups who may feel that their voices go unheard?
Please discuss what can and should be done by OTW to make AO3 a more welcoming environment for fans of color and a less welcoming environment for racists. How will you prioritize these action items? Do any of the candidates have experience in address the racism that is systemic in fandom as a whole? How would you go about improving Ao3 for fans of Colour? [merged question]
A lot of these sentiments I have so much empathy for. To begin to answer these questions, I want to clarify that I am not a person of color, but I am a part of the LGBTQ+ community and also assigned female at birth. I have not personally felt the injustices that affect the lives of people of color in this country, or around the world, or online, though I have felt some injustices towards me in other ways. These are of course in now way on the same level, but it’s my hope that it helps me to somewhat understand my place in the world when it comes to these issues.
A lot of the issues are really difficult to solve for many reasons. The first of which is that internationally everywhere has a different culture and population make-up, which means what is a minority and what is considered an injustice in one place, might be the majority or the polite way of speaking in another. An example of this would be that within America, in some places it’s more polite to describe someone as “African American” than “black” while if you go to the UK, describing someone as “African American” would be incorrect at best, and even within America itself, some places “black” is the more polite term. This of course is a very mild example, but is just to show that the world is not homogenous when it comes to injustices.
I’m not sure exactly what I think the organization should do about this issue, beyond what we have already outlined in the latest statement from the Board, and I don’t really think it’s my place to say entirely. Similar to when I attend Black Lives Matters protests, my role in this should be to listen to what BIPOC have to say and help lift those voices to be heard and attempt to facilitate any viable options into being. Last I had heard, we were discussing various options of exactly what we could do to fix these issues in a way that would actually help, as opposed to being a display of effort without any real change occurring to make our spaces safer for BIPOC fans.
I’ve heard many fans, and these questions also mention a possible diversity report. I personally am not sure how well that would work, or if it would be a good idea. We generally never know the race of any of our volunteers unless they tell us, and we could ask everyone, but I fear that if we place a race to a name without taking precautions, that would only facilitate more discrimination, not less. We all like to think that we don’t have biases, but we don’t live in a world devoid of color. Unconscious bias can sometimes get the better of people, and knowing who is what race might bring out some volunteer’s unconscious biases and not in a way that anyone can pinpoint the racism that is in effect. Some committees vote in new members when they do applications for example, and if we were to include racial information in those applications, people can unconsciously nitpick problems in the applications of minorities that apply, which would in effect cause more of an issue than there currently is. As for a population survey type of diversity report, I’m not entirely sure who or how that helps. I would love to hear more thoughts from BIPOC on this type of diversity report, but at present I’m not sure how saying a certain percentage of our volunteers are these various races would make any change happen.
I know this all sounds like I’m giving a non-answer and trying to not commit to anything. I assure you that is not true. I am giving a lacking answer because I feel it would be better to ask other fans and volunteers their opinions before I make any commitment to any possible course of action. I’ve followed these discussions ever since I was first made aware of this issue within fandom, but I haven’t been directly involved in these conversations any time recently with my attention being divided between this Board run, continuing my current volunteer activities, my job, and helping the communities in my city with their current protests each week, amidst this pandemic. As such, I feel I am not currently equipped to say what is the best way to solve the issue of racism within fan communities, and more specifically within AO3 and the OTW at large. So for specific courses of action that I feel we need to follow, would be that we need to make a way to have those types of conversations with other fans, experts, and volunteers so we can hear your voices directly.
Lastly on the subject of franzeska, I will not be commenting as I was not around for any of the things she may or may not have done, and as she no longer is a volunteer with the OTW, it would just reopen old wounds. However, I will say that if we find other volunteers within our organization, we will do what it takes to remove them from our ranks as soon as we can.
What is your response to the three points in the Open Letter to the OTW on Racism in Fandom? As a Board member, how will you help make fandom a space where all fans, particularly Black, Indigenous, and ethnically marginalized fans from all over the globe, can thrive? (https://t.co/5bmgFhAQKq?amp=1)
I will admit that I did not know we had an Open Letter to us about this until I read this question. Had I known, my name would have been signed in that list too. I was also upset the day that the news post was posted along with the rest of the people I spoke to, but did not publicly say anything with how busy I was at the time trying to attend a protest each day that week. Personally, I feel the three points are barely a starting point, and that we as an organization have way more to do to make up for everything we have done in the past. Again, I don’t want to commit to any one plan of action without hearing from more people, but we have so much we need to do if we want to make things right for our fans who are members of racial minorities.
In your work as an OTW volunteer (including prior Board service, if applicable), do you feel that you have contributed to anti-racist organizational change? If so, how? If not, why not, and how will you do so as a Board member?
I do somewhat feel that I have contributed to some anti-racist organizational change, but not as much as I should have. Within my position as a Policy & Abuse staffer, I have upheld our anti-harassment policies and had many conversations about what constitutes harassment especially when it is directed at a group of people as opposed to a specific person. However, I was also unaware of how deep this issue ran within fannish communities until somewhat recently as I generally do not engage in areas of fandom that cause people to become upset. As I started to engage more with a broader set of fans and communities, and also as I started this Board run, I was continually told about issues within these spaces that I had missed over the years. Regardless of if I am elected to the Board, I plan to do more to actively seek out these issues and try to bring them forward whenever possible and to be sure to listen longer even when the conversations are heading in a more upsetting direction. I can’t continue to be complicit now that I am aware of the issue. We all have blind spots, but it’s our job to do our best to identify them and seek information as soon as we do.
ETA July 16, 2020 – A previous version of this post said:
I apologize that my answer to the current round of questions will be delayed. This last week my mother had a health issue that I needed to attend to, which caused a delay in my ability to give my answers the thought and time they deserved. I have written my answers and they will be posted as soon as we are able, so please check back for my answers to this round of questions. Again, I am sorry for this unexpected delay, and will endeavor to plan extra time in the event of another familial health related emergency.