The Internet has had lots of opinions about Adria Richards, the black technologist who was fired for tweeting a photo of two white male colleagues she overheard making lewd jokes during a conference co-sponsored by her employer. In the tweet, Richards asked PyCon conference organizers to come speak to the men, who were sitting behind her. And although organizers resolved the issue amicably by all accounts, once news of Richards’ tweet broke, the usual mob of faceless Twitter trolls made racist, misogynist threats against her. Then they crashed her employer SendGrid’s website with a DDoS attack.
The same mob, plus a lot of new joiners using their real names, also blamed Richards when one of the two men was fired by his employer, PlayHaven. (Interestingly, PlayHaven has yet to be the target of a coordinated web attack.) And the mob cheered when Richards herself was publicly terminated, seemingly in response. In the words of her former boss, SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin,
“[H]er actions have strongly divided the same community she was supposed to unite. … [T]he consequences that resulted from how she reported the conduct put our business in danger.”
Sound weird to you?
As Rachel Sklar wrote at Business Insider, “It seems clear that SendGrid and Franklin were aware of Richards’ conduct as the situation unfolded, yet the decision to fire her only came after the [website] attacks.”
Labor attorneys say this would be difficult to defend in a courtroom.
Last week Jamilah King assembled a list of survival tips for techies who are not men and not white. Now, let’s look at the other side and examine how trolls, mansplainers, amateur Internet career counselors — plus some self-identified feminists and well-meaning types — willfully or unwittingly contribute to a pattern that just so happens to rescue large groups of professional white men from the unchecked tyranny of individuals who aren’t professional white men.
In this handy guide guide brought to you by me, Colorlines.com’s self-appointed white male correspondent, I’ll walk y’all through the steps that lead up to almost every incidence of HR-by-mob. While the details of every case aren’t identical, let’s recall that we’ve seen this happen to black women all walks of life, ranging from former Department of Agriculture state director Shirley Sherrod to meteorologist Rhonda Lee to women of color targeted by DADT in the military. It’s also how cultural commentators such as Zerlina Maxwell, Anita Sarkeesian, Rebecca Watson and Courtney Stanton became the targets of months-long smear campaigns, obscene Wikipedia edits, and threats of sexual assault and other violence, solely because they called out racism and sexism where they saw it. The pattern is real and not new at all, and we can’t interrupt it until we understand it.
Step 1: Wear Down Your Subject
Step 2: Let The Trolls Do the Dirty Work
Step 3: Play the ‘Middle’ Between Rational and Frothing Racist
Step 4: Find and Spread a Politically Convenient Co-Sign
Step 5: Keep The Pressure On Your Subject and Off the System
Step 6: Wonder Why There Aren’t More Women and People of Color In [Insert Industry]
Read more about these 6 steps on Colorlines.com