Guidelines for Participation and Communication

Bh4wp offers these guidelines to support conversations grounded in respect and accountability. Interactions are guided by principles rather than personalities.

These Community Participation Guidelines cover the following behavior:
  • as members of the Black History for White People Community
  • in Black History for White People-related forums
  • on mailing lists
  • web sites
  • at events
  • public meetings
  • in person-to-person Black History for White People-related correspondence.

The Community Participation Guidelines have three parts — a general section, an Inclusion and Diversity section, and an online section about how we hope to treat each other. Each is an important part of the community we’re building.

General Guidelines for Participation + Communication

  • Be Curious and Open to Learning

    • Listen and be open to hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration and learning. 
  • Balance Advocacy and Inquiry

    • Seek to learn and understand as much as you might want to persuade. Conversations are as much about listening as it is about talking. 
  • Show Respect and Suspend Judgment

    • Setting judgments aside will enable you to learn from others and contribute to others experiencing being respected and appreciated.
    • Do not feel like you have to re-say what someone has just said in your own words. Read more about it here. 
  • Seek Alignment rather than Agreement

    • Alignment is shared intention, whereas agreement is having a shared belief or opinion. 
  • Be Purposeful and to the Point

    • Notice if what you are conveying is or is not “on purpose” to the question, issue, or task at hand.
    • Notice if you are making the same point more than once.
    • Do your best to make your point quickly with honesty and depth. 
  • Own and Guide the Conversation or Process

    • Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and the quality of the work conversations by noticing what’s happening and actively support getting yourself and others back “on purpose” when needed.

  • Be Excellent to Each Other.
    This can be interpreted in many ways, but essentially asks that you try to think well of your comrades; have patience, defer to their best intentions, put yourself in their position. We’re all in this together and the best way to succeed is by working together.

    • Share what’s important to you.
    • Speak authentically; from your personal and heartfelt experience.
    • Be considerate to others who are doing the same.

Inclusion and Diversity

  1. Black History for White People welcomes and encourages participation by everyone. It doesn’t matter how you identify yourself or how others perceive you: we welcome you. We welcome contributions from everyone as long as they interact constructively with our community, including, but not limited to people of varied age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views.
  2. Black History for White People-based activities should be inclusive and should support such diversity.
  3. Some Revolutionaries may identify with activities or organizations that do not support the same inclusion and diversity standards as Black History for White People. When this is the case:
    1. (a) support for exclusionary practices must not be carried into Black History for White People activities.
    2. (b) support for exclusionary practices in non-Black History for White People activities should not be expressed in Black History for White People spaces.
    3. (c) when if (a) and (b) are met, other Revolutionaries should treat this as a private matter, not an Black History for White People issue.

Raising Issues Related to Inclusion and Diversity

  1. If you believe you’re experiencing practices which don’t meet the Inclusion and Diversity policy, please contact Jackrabbit who has volunteered to help with conflict resolution – info@bh4wp.org.
  2. Intentional efforts to exclude people from Black History for White People activities are not acceptable and will be dealt with appropriately. It’s hard to imagine how one might unintentionally do this, but if this happens we will figure out how to make it not happen again. I suspect there will be some questions about when and if something moves from a private to a public matter, which we’ll have to sort out.

Interaction Style

  1. Be respectful. We may not always agree, but disagreement is no excuse for poor manners. We will all experience some frustration now and then, but we don’t allow that frustration to turn into a personal attack. A community where people feel uncomfortable or threatened is not a productive one.
  2. Try to understand different perspectives. Our goal should not be to “win” every disagreement or argument. A more productive goal is to be open to ideas that make our own ideas better. “Winning” is when different perspectives make our work richer and stronger.
  3. Do not threaten violence.
  4. Empower others.
  5. Strive for excellence. Our products must be great and our communities must be healthy and vigorous. Being respectful does not mean papering over disagreements or accepting less than we can do.
  6. Don’t expect to agree with every decision.

Raising Issues Related To Interaction Style

  1. Inevitably conflicts will arise. Sometimes we’ll differ about style, about what’s respectful. Sometimes attempts at humor will backfire. One approach could be to try to make Black History for White People as strictly business-like and sterile in an attempt to avoid all issues. This doesn’t fit with Black History for White People. If we become sterile we’ll have lost part of our essence. A community is a set of relationships and encompasses more than the interactions strictly required to ship software.

  2. We are also likely to have some discussions about if and when criticism is respectful and when it’s not. Let us speak directly when we disagree and when we think we need to improve. We cannot sugar-coat hard truths. Doing so respectfully is hard, doing so when other don’t seem to be listening is harder, and hearing such comments when one is the recipient can be even harder still. We need to be honest and direct, as well as respectful. That takes work.

  3. Here are some ways to handle conflicts:
    Direct Conversation. If you are comfortable having a direct talk with the other person, this is a good way to start.

Conversation with Other Trusted Organizers. If you’re not comfortable having a direct conversation, identify one or more people you trust. It will be helpful to identify whether the conflict is because someone is flaming, or behaving in a troll like manner or just won’t listen? Has the person been expressing some frustration and is now escalating into an increasingly strident tone?

Dedicated Conflict Resolution. We will be establishing a group dedicated to conflict resolution. Until then please contact Jackrabbit at: info@bh4wp.org if you have questions or need help resolving conflicts.

EMAIL AND ONLINE COMMUNICATION

Here at Black History for White People (bh4wp) we have some simple guidelines that have seemed to do us well in our collective online experience including email and Facebook:

  1. Please keep on the topics related to anti-blackness and reparations.
  2. Please keep your comments relatively upbeat and do not resort to insulting your bh4wp family or others in the greater progressive community. Differing opinions and viewpoints are great as long as expressed respectfully.
  3. Private matters should be addressed privately.
  4. We don’t do online bullying, harassment, excessive profanity, offensive comments, etc.

If you can follow these simple guidelines, online communications will remain a peaceful and respectful and productive.

Social Media

We are a group that respects and champions democracy. If you are the owner of a social media property, please consider following the guidelines in this document and work with others in a cooperative and democratic way.

Accountability

Accountability guarantees a safe space for participants and maintains group cohesion. Our community commits to holding individuals accountable to the following principles.

Foundational Principles

  • Trust
  • Respect
    • Listen before speaking
    • Step up step back
  • Unity of Purpose
  • Non-violence
  • Equal access to power
  • Justice
  • Self empowerment
  • Cooperation
  • Active participation
  • Commitment to resolving conflicts
  • Patience