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Re: Diversity statement for the Debian Project

Stefano Zacchiroli <leader@debian.org> writes:

> The long list of "features" we do not discriminate upon, in
> particular, seems to be contentious. TBH, I don't find it particularly
> inspiring either, while the rest of the text is.

Part of the cause of that problem, it seems to me, is that today's
common understanding of “discriminate” conflates it with “discriminate
on a prejudicial basis”.

By making that conflation, we lose the concept of discrimination
*without* prejudice <URL:https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/discrimination>,
which is the act of perceiving and noting differences which may matter
to a decision.

This is an essential aspect of making fair decisions: about people,
about their past actions, about their present convictions informing
their future actions.

A diversity statement that rules out this kind of fair discrimination
would be harmful to a project, by needlessly hobbling the ability to
make necessary decisions fairly.

So, while I don't know to what extent that issue is a conscious part of
the decisions leading to such diversity statements, it can partly
explain why they commonly include an extensive list of descriptors the
drafters think are prejudicial as a basis for discrimination.

> I also notice that other existing diversity statements in FOSS have
> avoided the long list, still managing to be inspiring and straight to
> the point. Maybe we could try without such a list?

There are some free-software projects with a diversity statement
including such a list, but being clear and to the point about what that
list means.

The diversity statement of the Python Software Foundation
<URL:http://www.python.org/community/diversity/> has this relevant text:

    Although we have phrased the formal diversity statement generically
    to make it all-inclusive, we recognize that there are specific
    attributes that are used to discriminate against people. In
    alphabetical order, some of these attributes include (but are not
    limited to): age, culture, ethnicity, gender identity or expression,
    national origin, physical or mental difference, politics, race,
    religion, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and
    subculture. We welcome people regardless of the values of these or
    other attributes.

That avoids the problem I objected to earlier: it makes clear that these
are intended to describe attributes of people, specifically as
attributes commonly used to (prejudicially) discriminate.

That leaves open – correctly, in my view – the entirely fair
discrimination on the basis of people's actions, and on the basis of the
content of people's expressed opinions (religious convictions, political
positions, etc.) when relevant to some decision.

It also makes clear that the list is not intended to be exhaustive.

 \                    “He who laughs last, thinks slowest.” —anonymous |
  `\                                                                   |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney

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