Why Hackers Must Welcome Social Justice Advocates
Coraline Ada Ehmke
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Coraline! So well put. I was going to comment that Eric seems to think the categories of people, hackers and social justice activists, are mutually exclusive categories. They are not.

The first trans woman I met was my sys admin at a start-up in Silicon Valley in the early 90s. She certainly didn’t “not” belong in IT. And she was certainly active around issues impacting her because of her identities.

I’ve been in tech since the 80s. I’ve also been in clinic defense, reproductive rights, media justice and a long list of concerns while being part of tech. (I understand Eric wants to wall off open source but, I won’t do that because it’s not possible.)

Every “community” I have ever been in has bristled at the notion that it was not immune from the pervasive structural and cultural impasses marginalized people deal with day in day out, regardless of how progressive, conservative or aspirationally neutral (as some in open source contend) they saw themselves.

The same conversation happens everywhere because every community or group of people is made up of humans with varying degrees of actual power, actual access, actual wealth, actual life experience, actual educational attainments, actual debt burdens, actual life pressures and cares which are driven and impacted by the identities they inhabit. We live in a material world with material conditions…until the dubious goal of transfering our identities to the net becomes real. Even then, I know ingrained habits of mind die hard, as do expectations.

Come the singularity, when I am released from the burden of this mortal coil…I will still be able to identify a douchbag…even if they are entirely made of pulses of light. How? Because he will be operating as if his human experience is the default human experience and will signal that state of mind consistently until his ego is obliterated.

Is open source a pure valley of light and love? Rather than a set of tools communication stragies, platforms, protocols and social mores very much embedded in late stage capitalism? Open source projects are found in government, military, private corporations, communes, collectives and — the same tool kits are shared and used by all of these entities. How in the world can “open source” be considered a world apart when it is so firmly embedded in the status quo? When it came out of the belly of the status quo?

This is not a criticism of open source for “ lack of purity” or anything — it’s just a statement of fact. Fish swimming in water may or may not be aware that there’s such a thing as land.

Don’t get me wrong. I love open source, p2p and a long list of collaboration innovations opening up the world and opportunites in it. It’s a tiny piece of the tech-utopia we started imagining a long long time ago…

The open source community is embedded in the same social conditions as the paint ball community, as the yachting community, as the recreational hunting community, as the new age community, as the community radio community, as the major corporate philanthropy community, as the education community, as addiction community, as the veteran support community.

Marginalized people cannot out-source the work shedded off by the people not doing that work…the caring for the people that this economic model destroys.

Why do you have so much extra time on your hands to contribute and keep apace with passion projects on top of a full time job? Are you under 30? No kids? No debt? Is your sister taking care of your parents? Is your mom taking care of your disabled sibling? If you have a lot of extra time on your hands I am guessing there’s a lot of unpaid labor that goes into your life and liberty that is unrecognized by you.

I think the next question is — OK — we aspire to make open-source a true meritocracy. Wonderful goal. How about an app that collectively helps contributors who are care-takers AND hackers find those extra paid hours by taping the extended family of open-source for men who have unused family leave they are not using? An AirBnb for time-privilege if you will.

Paid? You laugh! People rarely get paid for these projects.

Well, sure but, having 20 extra or even 10 extra hours a week to contribute is an asset or to learn IS a luxury. In fact, extremely privileged people will admit — time itself is the MOST precious asset they have.

Marginalized people — caring for themselves and other marginalized people do not have this luxury.

The winner take all economy’s most prolific product? More deeply marginalized broken people without resources, without hope.

Love to help out, but many of us are taking care of people who our male counterparts ignore, wearhouse or leave to the criminal justice system to house (i.e. mentally ill people — brothers, sisters, dads, uncles — make a huge part of the population of people in prison.) For those people dealing with mental illness while incarcerated — for profit, I imagine — there was an aunt or grandmother who died and could no longer offer a roof or food.

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