Recently the subject of discrimination has been something I have been thinking a lot about. It was the subject of some meetings with ubuntu-women, something I have discussed with my friend Sulamita in a Brazilian bar at 4.30am and the subject of various ad-hoc discussions at the Ubuntu Developer Summit. As the wider Open Source community grows, it becomes more of an issue every day, and something we all need to be aware of.
While in Brazil I made a promise to Sulamita that I would be blogging about the issue of discrimination against women, and I have been holding off writing an entry until I had some real, practical, implementable steps that I can advise people to take to help make the situation better. Although I will never fully understand how some women are made to feel at the hands of such discrimination, I have been hoping my contribution could be to help contribute to an awareness of the issue, and for that to happen I felt I needed to construct some doable steps that people can execute. Solving social problems is hard though, which ain’t all that surprising, so I had held off on a blog post until I had some such action points. I have since discovered that there is really one key step that we all need take – don’t accept or allow discrimination in your community.
In my mind all discrimination is bad. Every day people get up and are discriminated due to gender, age, race, mobility, technical knowledge and more. The issues of discrimination, while different in the specifics (e.g. women are discriminated in different ways to age discrimination), the underlying issue is very similar – mistreating people because of a grouping they are part of. We have all suffered this in different ways, from serious racial hatred to someone not taking you seriously because you have long hair and an Iron Maiden t-shirt.
Equality is not a luxury, it is a requirement. To achieve this we need a change of thinking, a new philosophy. A few years back, environmental issues were largely the concern of a niche group of people; those with an expressed interest in the issue would recycle, bike to work and try to avoid wasting energy. As time went on and the issue grew, it was clear that saving the planet was most certainly not the responsibility of the few, but of the many. As the media and foppy haired politicians jumped on the subject, environmental issues became something that all of us should care about. Caring for the planet is now something that everyone is responsible for.
We need to take the same approach to discrimination in our community. Our community is defined by diversity, it is a pulsating machine driven by ideas, culture and experiences that each one of us brings to the table. The vast majority of us understand this diversity, relish it and enjoy exploring each other’s thoughts and culture as we create this incredible free software platform. Then, out of nowhere, we allow a bunch of ignorant muppets to come in and undermine this diversity with their nonsensical views.
Remember how I said social change is hard. Well, it is hard, but not impossible, and we can make very real change by simply not tolerating discrimination. Say no to discrimination. It is a responsibility that every one of us is tasked with. We may disagree on the direction of free software, we may disagree on who we like and dislike in this community, but I think we all agree that each of us should be treated as equals. If someone discriminates on a mailing list, in an IRC channel, on a forum, at a LUG,at a conference or anywhere else, don’t stand for it. It is a small step, and one voice that may not be heard alone, but this is the ethos of Open Source – each of us coming together as one to make amazing things happen together. Lets make something really amazing happen and stop discrimination in our community.
I would like to encourage every blogger, podcaster, forums poster and anyone else to raise this issue. We need a unified voice, lets work together.