We stand for racial justice: On these issues, there is no neutral stance.
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We stand for racial justice

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By Katherine Maher and Janeen Uzzell

Katherine Maher is the CEO, and Janeen Uzzell, the COO, of the Wikimedia Foundation. This article was first published on the Wikimedia Foundation website and on Medium on June 3.

George Floyd’s death last week at the hands of law enforcement in Minneapolis lays bare the tremendous inequalities and racism that black people face in the United States on a daily basis. In the past few weeks, his name, along with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and David McAtee have joined a staggering register of victims of violent anti-Black racism in America.

“George Floyd protesters confront riot control outside of Lafayette Square on H St.” Image by Rosa Pineda, (CC BY-SA 4.0).

We see our Black colleagues, community members, readers, and supporters grieving, fearful, and feeling the weight of this week and the history of all of the weeks just like this. Today, and every day, the Wikimedia Foundation stands in support of racial justice and with the movement for Black Lives. As an employer and part of an international movement our work in every country depends on promoting and defending human rights.

Over the past week, we have witnessed communities across the U.S. and around the world stand up for racial justice and demand an end to police brutality and extrajudicial killings. This has been met with more brutality, arrests, and even lethal force against citizens from Minneapolis to New York City, Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. In many places this policing response has been accompanied by egregious attacks on freedoms of the press and the rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

On these issues, there is no neutral stance. To stay silent is to endorse the violence of history and power; yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is well past time for racial justice in America and beyond.

The Wikimedia vision, “a world in which every single human can share in the sum of all knowledge,” guides our commitment to the inherent dignity and value of every single human being. Our efforts are animated by foundational understandings: that the right to information is fundamental, universal, and inviolable, and that our work will be forever incomplete until all voices are heard.

In 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation adopted an explicit commitment to "Knowledge Equity." We pledged our focus as a social movement to supporting knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege, and to breaking down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge.

We understand our work to support free knowledge is about far more than a website. It involves reclaiming knowledge from gatekeepers and reestablishing it as something we do and share together. It is a radical act of freedom and reimagination of the status quo. It calls on all of us to shape what we understand of our world, be critical readers of conventional wisdom, and participate in writing history. Our work cannot be separated from the work of equality and freedom.

We recognize and stand with Black Americans in the fight for justice and equality. We reject racism and the ideology of white supremacy. We condemn attacks on the press and protesters in violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. To these ends, we make the following statements.

We call upon governments to:

We commit to advancing racial justice in Wikimedia work, including:

Furthermore, we wish to amplify the following Wikimedia affiliates and efforts:

We hope that one day the Wikimedia projects document a grand turning point — a time in the future when our communities, systems, and institutions acknowledge the equality and dignity of all people. Until that day, we stand with those who are fighting for justice and for enduring change. With every edit, we write history.

In this issue
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  • I disagree strongly. I can only express my support of good projects like AfroCrowd and Black Lunch Table, and we shouldn't make this about any other issue.--Pharos (talk) 21:04, 28 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    @Pharos: Support of affiliates that do good work on Wikimedia projects does not need to be connected to the advocacy for changes in government policy and legislation expressed in the blog post. --Yair rand (talk) 21:29, 28 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Yair, I cannot agree at all with your complaint here. Where there is systemic bias or a pervasive destruction of shared commons that pervades society, we and our institutions all have a part to play. This includes being a role model for our peers; which is not the same as formal advocacy as described in the public policy guidelines. I am proud that the Foundation took this public stand, and is sharing their approach and reasoning in this way. – SJ + 21:19, 28 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Moreover, the systemic bias affecting our knowledge of the world, influenced persistently by active injustice, sits at the heart of our work. And that is entirely ours to recognize, categorize, prioritize, and counter. – SJ + 02:56, 30 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Evidence, please. Just because two things are both highly desirable does not establish that one cannot have one without the other, and it certainly does not imply that any particular organization cannot work towards one desirable goal while remaining silent on another. There are a huge number of great wrongs out there that the WMF can attempt to right:
  • The goal of "creating the sum of human knowledge and making it freely available" absolutely and fundamentally requires income equality.
  • The goal of "creating the sum of human knowledge and making it freely available" absolutely and fundamentally requires nuclear disarmament.
  • The goal of "creating the sum of human knowledge and making it freely available" absolutely and fundamentally requires CO2 reductions
  • The goal of "creating the sum of human knowledge and making it freely available" absolutely and fundamentally requires LGBT rights.
  • The goal of "creating the sum of human knowledge and making it freely available" absolutely and fundamentally requires a balanced budget.
...and so on, and so on. --Guy Macon (talk) 04:23, 29 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That is a cool story, bro.--Jorm (talk) 04:25, 29 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Go away, Jorm. For those who don't know why Jorm keeps posting that same snarky comment, I criticized Visual Editor, Flow, and Mobile App back when he was a W?F employee and he took great umbrage to my doing so. I don't mind him defending the W?F, but repeating the exact same snarky comment again and again is just annoying. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:57, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Cool story, bro!--Jorm (talk) 19:06, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Jorm: What does this phrase mean? Cool story bro redirects to Internet troll, but the article doesn't explain further. Are you trying to identify as a troll, or calling Guy a troll, or something else? --Yair rand (talk) 19:24, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
" 'Cool Story, Bro' is a catchphrase often used as a sarcastic response on message boards or in comments to posts that are deemed boring, pointless or too long to read."[1] --Guy Macon (talk) 19:37, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If you want to lock people up for life without access to a lawyer, being charged with a crime, or a court examining the evidence against them, you don't start with a popular politician or even a bank robber. Instead you start with someone everyone agrees is a terrorist. Bonus points if you can paint those who defend Habeas corpus as Al-Qaeda or ISIS/ISIL supporters.
If you want to violate the longstanding rule that neither Wikipedia or the WMF takes any official position supporting or opposing any political view or proposal (with the sole exception being proposed laws that directly interfere with our ability to be an online encyclopedia; see Protests against SOPA and PIPA) and you want to throw meta:Legal/Foundation Policy and Political Association Guideline, into the trash can, you don't start with something that half the population opposes. You start with something everyone agrees on, like deescalating police standoffs or reforming criminal justice systems, and avoid specifics on exactly how you want to accomplish those goals. Bonus points if you can paint those who want the WMF to remain non-political as approving of police officers murdering unarmed black people by kneeling on their necks.
When I see statements (in bold) like "On these issues, there is no neutral stance.", "Our work cannot be separated from the work of equality and freedom." and "We call upon governments to..." I say HELL NO.
I could say more, but instead I urge everyone to re-read the comments by Yair rand at the top of this talk page. Key quotes:
"Support for the projects cannot be dependent on whether or not the executives happen to like the Wikimedia projects best, out of available causes. They don't get to decide the scope and purpose of the Wikimedia Foundation based on whatever they feel is important to the world."
"Like Wikipedia, the WMF should not become a vehicle for righting great wrongs or otherwise be a soapbox for whatever causes the staff happen to support at any given moment."
--Guy Macon (talk) 04:10, 29 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Since there's a certain Canadian trio that's said almost everything worth saying, and better than any of us could, I'll just note their warning about being so full of what is right you can't see what is good. On these issues they preferred to show, not tell, by doing what they did best (side note, it's still jarring to have to write about Rush in past tense). The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 05:40, 29 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Are you seriously equating unambiguous support of human and racial justice to a coordinated and malicious government effort to suppress speech? That is completely beyond the pale. I am embarrassed to share the project with this comment and encourage you to delete it. ~ Amory (utc) 18:10, 29 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm pretty sure the answer to your initial question is "no". :) These kinds of "slope" arguments are complicated, and often draw analogies from areas that aren't equivalent in all respects, but still point to useful patterns for understanding things. --Yair rand (talk) 18:46, 29 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Re: "Are you seriously equating unambiguous support of human and racial justice to a coordinated and malicious government effort to suppress speech?", Bonus points for painting someone who wants the WMF to follow their own rules as someone who equates evil with good. Double bonus points for ignoring the [XKCD] that I carefully included to make clear the I was talking about the WMF and the government both using unpopular targets as justification for following their own rules, not comparing the government and the WMF in other ways that would be silly. Triple bonus points for having the unmitigated gall to try to paint me in a bad light after I repeatedly said "Bonus points if you can paint those who..." Did you actually think nobody would notice? --Guy Macon (talk) 01:46, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I did none of those things. You wrote three paragraphs with parallel structures saying "If you want to X", "If you want to Y," and "If you want to Z." That is, definitionally, a comparison by equation, differing in degree not in kind. Your first item was talking about the government making unpopular political statements actually illegal, which would indeed be a coordinated and malicious government effort to suppress speech. Do not put words in my mouth or hide behind "bonus points." I take no issue with you stating your views on the WMF's statement, as so many others here have; I am galled at the way in which you chose to do so. ~ Amory (utc) 09:34, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Amory, I find your comments disgraceful and your argument against Guy embarrassing. Don't bother to apologize, just stop. Chris Troutman (talk) 18:09, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • As an employer, WMF is committed to treating its employees and affiliates fairly, regardless of race.
  • WMF celebrates the efforts of our editors to create reliable content regarding these major events related to the killing of George Floyd (just look at all the photos Wikipedians have uploaded to commons from the protests)
  • WMF supports and encourages efforts to minimize systemic bias on Wikipedia through creating content on underserved areas. Here are some of our Wiki communities that do this [insert Afrocrowd etc.]. Here's how you can help [insert information on how to become Wikipedia editor]
  • WMF is committed to ensuring everyone around the world has equal access to Wikipedia content and the equal chance to participate in creating it [insert possible initiative that is directly related to our mission, such as funding more computers/broadband internet connections in underserved communities].
-Indy beetle (talk) 02:22, 30 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks, Indy beetle. That's exactly what WMF should have done: commit to cleaning up its own house. Instead it has tried to earn cool-points by carrying the banner ... but the whole point of NPOV is that Wikipedia doesn't carry banners. --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 23:09, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The WMF's statement should have been restricted to the narrow issue of what WMF itself will do to uphold equality and anti-racism as an employer, as a host of a community of editors, and as a publisher. This foray goes way beyond that remit into issues of police militarisation, excessive police force, mass imprisonment, failures in education etc ... and despite the explictly global scope of some of the statement, the context is clearly a response to events in one country.
This sets a very bad precedent. Is the WMF going to be driven to similar statements about events in other countries? If it does comment on injustices anywhere on earth, it will be kept very busy indeed. On the other hand, if is only going to comment when driven by events in the US, then Wikipedia's proclaimed global mission looks more horribly Amerocentric.
As Guy Macon noted above, if this issue justifies the WMF dropping neutrality, why not others? It's easy to condemn the "the violence of history and power" in America, and to rightly note that the WMF mission of freedom knowledge is impeded by such repression. But where's the logic in doing that without condemning, for example, the US-equipped Saudi bombing of Yemen, or the Xinjiang re-education camps for Uyghurs, or the Israeli military occupation of Palestine? People can't share and access knowledge when they are being bombed into the stone age, or held in an indoctrination camps or being driven off their land. Where's the logic in condemning police militarisation as a threat to freedom of knowledge without condemning the capture of news media by corporate interests, or the deep poverty and lack of medicine which leaves so many Americans struggling to survive?
The WMF has opened a massive can of worms here, and severely damaged Wikipedia's reputation. This statement reminds me of student politics: full of righteous indignation at th latest selected injustice, but with no coherent strategic view of what the student body's role is. This WMF statement may make the CEO and COO feel good, but its lack of understanding of the WMF's role is dangerously naive.
Those who want to pursue the current agendas of American liberalism have many vehicles to do so, and adding the WMF to that huge convoy makes little or no difference to their campaigns. But there is only one Wikipedia, and hitching it so overtly to one convoy in one country diminishes its stated neutrality, and makes it look as sadly parochial as it does partisan. I hoped for very much better.
(Please note, BTW, that I use the word "liberalism" narrowly, and not as a synonym for everything left of the hard right. This statement looks just as partisan from the left as it does from the right) --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs)
Great point! "Is the WMF going to be driven to similar statements about events in other countries" indeed. The WMF explicitly took a political stand by calling for specific changes by the US Government, but I can think of several other nations that are doing evil things that they should change. Why doesn't the new "This is bad, thus we cannot remain silent about this" rule apply to those other countries? Or to nongovernmental organizations who do bad things? Plenty of those around. --Guy Macon (talk) 02:00, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
W?F has the courage to ruin everything.
I have found that organizations (businesses and the like) mouth the words of solidarity with the alligator, in the hopes that they will be eaten last. They think making a corporate statement about responsibility only has upside and never has downside, so it's our job to remind them that they lose respect every time they talk out of turn. Also, Kudpung was right: The Signpost ought to quit re-publishing W?F's content. The W?F deserves to be ignored. Chris Troutman (talk) 18:09, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Who came up with this question mark thing because it looks really childish. Is this some sort of QAnon thing? Don't say Voldemort's name or something?--Jorm (talk) 19:08, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It employs a wildcard character, which is part of computing. I guess you're unfamiliar with that subject. -- llywrch (talk) 20:58, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That would be me. No need to thank me. Ours is a love that must never speak its name... :)
As a minor gesture of protest against the Wikimedia foundation's decision to rebrand itself with Wikipedia's good name, until they back down I choose to call them "the "W?F".
Feel free to assume that this stands for "WMF", "WPF", or "WTF".
I call on those who oppose the rebranding to start using "W?F".
"We should have been clearer: a rebrand will happen. This has already been decided by the Board."[2] -- Heather Walls, head of the Communications department at the Wikimedia Foundation and executive sponsor of the Brand project.
Sometimes it is the small things that tip the scales. --Guy Macon (talk) 19:18, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
(edit conflict) @Jorm: The W?F is having an identity crisis; you should be more understanding, honestly. Chris Troutman (talk) 19:22, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Chris troutman: I should be understanding about what? I think there's probably far more important things to care about, but you kids do you. I am going to say that it doesn't make you seem serious at all.--Jorm (talk) 19:47, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You could be more understanding that W?F is experiencing an existential nightmare. Anyway, it's not my goal to impress you; us kids are doing us, so to say. Chris Troutman (talk) 20:02, 1 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"On these issues, there is no neutral stance." That's absurd, if there is no neutral stance, than why do we bother covering it on Wikipedia when doing so would violate one of its core values? There is always a neutral stance. In this case, the non-neutral those who believe Floyd was murdered and those who believe his death was accidental. The truly neutral are the ones that don't pick sides, the ones that watch from sidelines waiting for a full investigation into Floyd's death before jumping to conclusions.
Encouraging people to write articles about black/indigenous people is one thing, but shaming them into doing so is another. This whole "combating systemic bias" thing has been taken to an extreme by making people who write such articles feel better about themselves and rewarding them just for participating. - ZLEA T\C 17:27, 3 July 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]


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