One of the core goals stated in the Scala Code of Conduct is “making this community a welcoming and safe place”. But from the very start of when I joined the Scala community, I was treated in an unwelcoming fashion, and made to feel unsafe.
My first foray into the Scala community was when I joined the (unofficial) Scala IRC channel. I was new to the language, and I wanted to learn more, participate in the community, and hopefully even give back to the community at some point. The people in the channel were talking about JSON serialization, and comparing different libraries and strategies. One person in the channel said that a particular library was better, and gave a vague reason. When I asked for clarification about the reason, and said it was unclear, they ridiculed and mocked me, and several other people in the channel laughed along with them. Within a couple hours of joining the channel, I left for good, feeling humiliated, discouraged, and unwelcome.
I later learned that the person who had mocked me was well known in the community for treating others extremely poorly.
At the time, there was little direction for how to deal with Code of Conduct violations, and the best information I could find was to send a message to an administrator on this very forum, the Contributors’forum. I sent a message detailing what had transpired in the IRC channel and how badly I had been treated. I have not received a response, to this day.
By a stroke of luck, either due to time waiting requirements for messaging administrators, or perhaps just by me stumbling onto the list of topics, I became engrossed in the Contributors forum. At first, I just read threads, learning eagerly. Then after a while, I felt comfortable enough to leave small thoughts of my own occasionally. Here, I felt welcome.
Slowly over the course of a few years, I started contributing to the language and standard library. But I also started learning more about the community, and the more I learned, the less welcome I felt. The folks at Lightbend, the primary people with whom I interacted when contributing code, were and continue to be kind, compassionate and welcoming. But the more community channels I joined, the more unsavoury individuals I bumped into. Some were repeatedly rude to others. Worse still, some have well-documented records of publicly supporting, enabling and/or perpetuating bigotry of all sorts. To my knowledge, none of them have been banned from this forum, or from any part of the Scala community.
And with my growing knowledge, I have felt less and less safe, since nearly the beginning of when I joined the community. When I’m reading a thread and I see these unsavoury individuals, particularly those who espouse bigotry or promote other bigots, I withdraw. They probably don’t know who I am, but if they decided to find out, who knows what they’d do to me? Many have histories of targetted harassment. And each time I see one of their names participating in the community, I feel less and less safe.
Martin, I’m disappointed in you.
Two days ago the BBC published a piece suggesting that transgender women are sexually predatory featuring a woman who has called for all trans women to be murdered1, and you have the gall to say that you’re “sick of this kind of politics”?
This very day, there are ongoing court procedings for the rally where a white nationalist drove his car into counter-protestors, killing one and severely and permanently injuring several others, and you have the AUDACITY to say that you’re “sick of this kind of politics”?!
To Martin and the many others who want to ignore differences in views and just focus on programming:
You may be able to ignore politics, but many of us—particularly the most vulnerable of us—cannot. I am a transgender, neurodivergent, disabled woman. My very life and existance is political. I do not have the luxury or privilege of ignoring politics. My political differences with some others in the community is that I want to live, and they want me to not exist. There is no reconciliation there.
Several times I have considered leaving the Scala community because I do not feel safe, and it is still something I consider. Every time I see the name of someone who tweets racist or bigoted ideas or dogwhistles, I wonder if I should give up and move on to something safer. I love Scala, and I cherish the friendships I have made. But at the end of the day, I have to take care of myself.
I’ve no doubt that there are many who did not stay in the community as long as I did, and whose names none of us will ever learn, because they left without saying a word. Safety is not just something you need to care about when a loud, major incident happens. Safety is a thing you need to worry about all the time, to protect all the people who aren’t even here yet. If not, the community will be a worse, emptier place for it.
I understand that what I’ve said here may be quite unpopular to many. I will not deny that I have been harsh, and some may consider what I’ve said unacceptable.
This post may be deleted. I may be banned from the community. I accept that. But I cannot continue to participate in a community where I and others like me are not safe.
The people who leave because of people who make them feel unsafe do not announce themselves. You never see them. But they’re real.
I hope this community can change to be more inclusive, welcoming, and safe. But we need to work together as a community to do that.
1 The BBC later removed the contribution, but did not issue an apology, and left the rest of the extraordinarily transphobic piece in place.