Conference Code of Code - Stating The Obvious

I’m working with others in the Chicago Erlang community to host the second annual Chicago Erlang Conference.

We wanted to publish a Code of Conduct, in keeping with other software conferences and so I turned to the language recommended by the Geek Feminism Wiki. Others have adopted it and I thought, why not start here?

As it turns out, I think the language is straight forward and completely reasonable:

And so I thanked Geek Feminism for their help:

Thanks to @geekfeminism for helping Chicago Erlang Conference sort out our code of conduct!

Here’s the full Tweet along with its responses:

I was surprised by the push back. Or what seemed to be push back. I’m a believer in being constructive and so asked for suggestions. The negative sentiment seemed to center on this observation:

I think the weird part is that you have to say it. These truths should be self evident without an explicit say so.

I think get it. Some folks are looking at this Code of Conduct and saying, seriously, wtf, why does this even need to be stated? Isn’t decent behavior something that’s self evident and, if it’s not to someone, we have laws to safe guard the innocent?

There’s a little “Those Crazy Americans” sentiment as well, and I’m all for taking shots at along this line. But I think this is one of those areas where the Americans are getting it right.

This is stating the obvious. It should not have to be stated. But sometimes we have to state the obvious.

It’s Not Always Obious To Everyone

A long time ago, one night at university I was sitting around in the common area got into a conversation about race with a handful of guys, two of whom were black. This typically would make no difference, but in this case it’s important. At some point in the conversation one of the two black men got in my face, aggressively, and called me a “white devil”. It was not, “you are acting like…” or “what you said is…” — it was “you are!” It was personal. It was unapologetic.

I was initially doubting my ears — here’s a smart guy, socially adjusted, seemingly unprovoked, coming at me full force with an utterly damning comment about my character. My response was, angrily, “What the hell are you even talking about? And how on earth is this appropriate? How is this not you being a racist asshole??”

He persisted.

I left.

This really bothered me. I didn’t think of myself as a racist, much as as a “white devil”. What the hell had I dont to trigger this? I took it seriously because I resepcted this guy.

For the term he used — it’s a proxy for a bigger point. This guy patiently listened to me making points about race from an intellectual perch that was completely void of personal experience. I acted like I knew what was what because I

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