As I mentioned in my previous post, I was struggling to make sense of this situation. Was Crell treated fairly? Was he being discriminated for his beliefs? How is this possible in the confines of a community that supports diversity and inclusion? I spent parts of my day participating in discussions with team members, engaging community members, researching relevant topics, and reading responses of others that had their own questions and concerns. We are all still processing this and I ask you to please respect the diverse opinions from members in the community. In my post yesterday, I made it clear that I was not informed about the details nor the subject matter being discussed. I feel better informed and feel a level of obligation to respond to some of my earlier points in the spirit of helping others to process this highly complex and sensitive issue.
Crell was given due process
As my previous post noted, there is always two sides of the same story. More of the story came out throughout the day. Both the Drupal Association and the Community Working Group released statements that shed light into their process and the fact that Crell was given due process. Participants in this process had the opportunity to weigh in on this complex issue. This was not a dictatorial decision made by Dries - many other people community helped navigate a complex and very difficult situation over a long period of time. Crell exercised appeals and their stance did not change. Furthermore, there was acknowledgement that Crell did not violate the code of conduct. So, why was he asked to step down? I offer some potential reasoning below.
The question of "action" over "belief"
Many people have taken the stance that we cannot be inclusive without supporting the diverse beliefs of members in our community. Before today, I was naive. I thought this principle held no boundary and if we were truly inclusive, we would find a way to support anyone. Many, like myself, still question and seek clarity about what boundaries should exist between the community values we stand for and the beliefs we hold as individuals.
In support of diverse beliefs, it is fair to draw a line between a public and a private lifestyle and seek to understand what actions Crell performed within the community to warrant this attention. Comments on reddit and in the blog posts discuss solitication of community members with mutual consent. But, most importantly, the Community Working Group made it clear that multiple concerns were raised by various members of the community (the details of which are confidential as per the policies and protections afforded by the CWG). The notion that this was not affecting the community or these beliefs were left out of the community is invalid. Crell may have used discretion, but that is different. The purpose of the Community Working Group is to evaluate concerns from community members. Community members raised concerns. Many have been focused on what actions Crell performed without considering that his beliefs caused others to act based on their own concern. I strived to understand what could cause this concern.
Gorean principles are not inclusive
Crell's story was deeply personal and was written to evoke empathy as a victim of circumstances or inequality. We all need to pause and acknowledge there is more to this story than we are privy to. While his story was verbose, it was not a complete account that omitted details furnished by Dries, the CWG, and the Drupal Association. None of us maintain a complete account. It is only fair to acknowledge that Crell's blog post presented his personal thoughts, regardless of how you interpret them or what you believe.
To form a more objective opinion, I wanted to understand the principles of the Gorean community Crell spoke of. Before reading his post, I had never heard of the Gorean community. Crell's account of Gorean culture humanized Gorean principles that made me have doubts of whether he was being treated fairly. I found this:
The Books show us, over and over again, that the women of Gor are inferior to men
Even Larry highlighted the subservient nature of the "master" and "slave" relationships in his blog post. This is a caste system split into roles and functions, confirmed by this:
Like the books, these online Gorean worlds usually have a very specific focus: the relationship between free people and slaves. (It’s worth noting that none of the caste and Home Stone concepts apply to slaves; their only purpose is to be obedient.)
For those unfamiliar with this type of lifestyle (and those who make efforts to be sensitive to respecting differences), you may chalk this up to an individual's right to choose his or her own lifestyle. If you are an african american, what might your reaction be to hearing of modern day slavery? If you are a woman, what might your reaction be if a leader in our community holds the belief that women are inferior to men? Consent aside, your opinion as a white male may vary drastically from the opinion of an african american or a female. Many have commented that "this is just role play", but Larry even said he promotes this lifestyle. In my understanding, Gorean principles are not inclusive to those in our community, especially those that are under represented. We cannot reasonably expect all community members to feel included if community members do not promote equality. Gorean principles do not. Do we want anyone in the community to feel less safe or even threatened that members of our community hold these beliefs?
I am of the belief now that the "boundary" between inclusion and supporting diverse beliefs may be exercised when one's beliefs threaten the safety and equality of others in the community. I'm not suggesting Crell is a threat to any other member of the community. I'm acknowledging that these beliefs go against our community's values and that the well-being of all community members need to be considered. We need to honor and cherish all types of participants. This could be the motivation of the concerns raised by community members that were evaluated by the CWG.
Crell was not private
A widely communicated opinion is that Crell's privacy was violated. I still maintain this opinion if the outlined events hold true, but there are other considerations being raised. Many in the community have claimed that Crell was less-than-private about his affiliations and beliefs on the public internet, which promote the aforementioned Gorean philosophies. Any effort made to actively stalk him should be taken very seriously, regardless of if you agree or disagree with his beliefs. But, the claim that somehow this information was private and not available to the world seems to be misleading. In the event that a community member inadvertently stumbled on his beliefs on the internet, it is reasonable to think one could raise such a concern to the CWG without a deliberate attempt to stalk him.
Trust and Doubt
We all have a right to doubt the course of these events, the process, or the separation of Crell's right for his chosen lifestyle and our community. Many of us admire Crell's work and I'm more than confident that those placed in the difficult position of evaluating this circumstance also admired his work. We need to separate our admiration to more effectively seek clarity in this specific circumstance. So many doubts have been raised about Dries, the Drupal Association, the Community Working Group questioning a beloved member of the community and if this was fair. This is all reasonable but his work and this circumstance are totally different things. We should all be seeking the clarity we need to process this situation in an unbiased and fair manner.
In my previous post, I made it clear I did not form an opinion and I had doubts about all aspects of this circumstance. After becoming more informed, I have fewer doubts than I originally did. Processes were followed, appeals were considered, and I am less of the opinion this was some knee-jerk reaction based on the "optics" of a taboo belief system impacting our community. This process took time and was deliberately evaluated by many people I know to act thoughtfully and with greater purpose. It is clear to me that those mediating this issue operated in a manner that supported our community standards. As community members, we're not forced to like this outcome, but I have greater respect for it after becoming informed. Again, we still do not know the details of the information that was considered during this investigation to form a well-educated opinion. I ask that you consider all of those involved and seek to find trust in that which may ultimately never become fully clear.
Leadership requires greater scrutiny
In such a community, we elevate those that are technically brilliant. Crell is. And, naturally, he is a leader. He speaks at conferences. He advocates for our work in the community. Not only is he present, he is a paid evangelist. While this is my opinion, we need to acknowledge that his beliefs raise doubts for a leader that regularly represents our community in public capacities. I personally expect more from those who lead. They need to serve as role models beyond just technical skill. I believe it to be fair to say we expect our leaders to promote inclusion in our community. No one has claimed Crell misused or promoted his personal beliefs in a public capacity on behalf of the Drupal community. But, it's not unreasonable to suggest the conflict of interest between one's beliefs and the influence that comes with a position of leadership. I wouldn't want any community members to feel disadvantaged by a belief that "women are inferior to men." Our leaders need to maintain the values upheld by the community and Crell may be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny for these reasons.
Updates to the code of conduct
Some may still have doubts that the process is flawed. They may feel hurt or vulnerable to actions from the DA or CWG. I personally would like to see a discussion on boundaries. Like the code we work on every day, the Drupal Association and the CWG encourage community members to participate. As members of the community, we have the ability to weigh in and share our thoughts with the Community Working Group about their process or operations. I was not previously aware they solicited input from others in this manner. As community members and out of respect for everyone involved, we need to engage in discussion to address concerns in the process, the considerations that matter to us, and, most importantly, clarity on what maintains our values. These conversations won't be easy but they are neccessary for us to become the community we desire to be.
I wanted to thank the many people who helped me achieve more clarity. The #diversity-inclusion channel on Drupal Slack has been, by far, one of the most thoughtful and diverse places this conversation is being held.
Again, strive to support one another. We all are processing this situation in different ways and we need to help each other process this complex and difficult circumstance.