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Re: Debian, lists and discrimination

On Sat, Aug 07, 2004 at 12:54:29PM -0400, Christopher M. Hagar wrote:
> On Sat, 7 Aug 2004 21:43:06 +1000
> Matthew Palmer <mpalmer@debian.org> wrote:
> > The culture of the project may be causing us to drive away Africans and
> > Hindus, yes.  If so, I think we should consider it's effect and whether
> > we are losing something valuable from their lack of participation.
> > 
> > - Matt
> This is absurd. One cannot tell the color of a person's skin from most or
> nearly all communications that are part of the Debian Project and if you
> are suggesting that there is discrimination in the New Maintainer process
> from ID verification, then that would be an issue that cannot be reflected
> throughout the Project and should be dealt with in the realm in which it
> is a problem. If you are suggesting that Africans or Hindus are timid, as
> seems to be one of the major arguments in favor of promoting female
> involvement, that is either racist or is not a problem that is
> exclusive to any one group, but rather "minority groups" in general (which
> is still not your typical "minorities" of ascribed characteristics, but
> includes personality types, socioeconomic status, etc.), in which case,
> having an exclusive "women" list, for instance, is silly. Instead, there
> might should be a "participation" list or somesuch, that reaches out to
> all such persons and attempts to facilitate their inclusion in the
> project.

I just can't break that up into parsable blocks, so I'll comment on the
whole thing at once.

I don't believe there is a culture of explicit discrimination in the Debian
project against any particular group.  Some developers no doubt hold certain
views which others deem unpleasant, but that's their personally held view,
and if it interferes with their Debian work, *then* it should be dealt with.
I certainly have no evidence that anyone in the New Maintainer process, for
instance, has discriminated against an applicant for reasons of race,
colour, creed, gender, age, or any of the rest of the usual suspects.

What I believe there is some evidence of is that our project culture is
unwelcoming to certain segments of our potential contributor base.  One of
the effected segments, namely some women, have seen fit to raise this issue. 
I believe it to be useful to examine the issues raised and deal with them if
the result would be of net benefit to the project.

As to the specific issue of the debian-women list, there is some benefit to
providing protection to disadvantaged groups as a means of aiding
reintegration.  While there are no shortage of disasterous examples of this
process, there are also some examples where this is working well, and I am
personally familiar with one such group.

The danger is that debian-women will become isolated and enclavist, but the
danger of that can be minimised if wider appropriate participation takes
place on both sides of the issue.  That is, interested extablished Debian
members take part in d-women discussions, and d-women participants do what
they can to get involved in the rest of the Debian community.  What isn't
helpful is full-blast attacks right from the outset.  You won't get very far
teaching a baby to walk if you beat it every time it falls down.

- Matt

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