Letter Sent to Samvera Community in Regards to Github
A Call to a Community Response
Nothing is given to people, and the little they can conquer is paid for with unjust deaths. But a person’s greatness lies elsewhere. It lies in their decision to be stronger than their condition. And if their condition is unjust, they have only one way of overcoming it, which is to be just themself.
, as part of my work in the Samvera community, I wrote the following:
Requesting a response from Samvera regarding Github
During the tech call a group of community members discussed our use of Github; prompted by the news that Github fired a Jewish engineer. According to the news article, on , during the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol, a Jewish engineer wrote in Github’s internal Slack “stay safe homies, Nazis are about.” That day HR reprimanded the engineer and two days later fired them.
This, along with past stories, leads us to recommend that we as the Samvera community should take action.
Before I go into the steps of action, I want to raise awareness that others and I have heard several Jewish people on Twitter voice their concern and discomfort about using Github at work.
In a way, our partnership with Github may be creating feelings of harassment and code of conduct violations.
See our Anti-Harassment Policy and Code of Conduct for reference.
The tools we use also say a bit about who we are as a community.
I think that we should look at this situation through that lens, but only as a framing guide.
First, and foremost, I believe that Samvera should quickly and formally address this event. The participants in the tech call recommended creating a short-term working group to do that.
Assuming the community proceeds with the working group, I also believe that we should each inform our home organization’s leadership about the working group’s activity. Perhaps those organizations will be able to utilize the working group’s effort so that they may also respond in kind.
I also encourage each of us as individuals to contact Github to express our personal concerns.
Touching on the Community Process
The above letter reflects the process the Samvera community uses. Someone raises a problem or concern, a small group might discuss it, and then we form a working group to clarify and develop our response.
See Samvera’s documentation for their working group framework. In having this documentation, we’ve established an interface for community members to voice concerns and explore solutions.
You can see this process in Samvera’s Branch Renaming Working Group. In our present climate of immediate responses and actions this can feel slow. But, I find that the sustained work best demonstrates commitment to espoused values.
My Personal Letter to Github
As there is urgency to this situation, I have also (as an individual and not on behalf of any organization) sent the following to Github:
I am expressing my anger and concern at the firing of a Jewish engineer. And let’s be clear, there were Nazis prowling the Capitol building that day.
One photographed and now arrested Nazi insurrectionist wore a 6MWNE shirt; a violent anti-Semitic reference to the Holocaust in which Nazis killed 6 million Jews. The person wearing the shirt supported the idea that the Nazi Holocaust did not kill enough Jews.
It is unconscionable for Github to not extend grace for someone who has certainly endured endless aggression and must also process the unfolding nightmare of an insurrection and coup. Your organizations actions demonstrated that it’s policies (written or implicit) and HR procedures lack empathy and sympathy for people.
In that post, I also implored each manager and leader to bring compassion and empathy in your interactions with the people you manage and lead. These wicked days draw heavily on our body and souls. Now, as always, is a time to hold each other accountable to the truth and to each other’s humanity.