LambdaConf Fuckery: White Supremacy Under the Guise of “Inclusion”

by Miql Alexander on April 1st, 2016

Recently, functional programming conference LambdaConf announced Curtis Yarvin would be speaking at the event. Yarvin, who writes online as “Mencius Moldbug,” is a prolific blogger whose devotees describe themselves as Neo-reactionary, or part of the “Dark Enlightenment.” A White supremacist movement, Neoreactionaries re-cast eugenics and scientific racism as “human biodiversity,” believe democratic government should be replaced by monarchy, and generally reject all humanity that isn’t white and male — particularly Black humanity.

Despite widespread community outcry, LambdaConf’s main organizer justified the decision in a blog post last week, stating the conference couldn’t support “excluding people for their belief systems.” Tech diversity is already a farce, but LambdaConf’s decision signals that “tech inclusion” has mutated into the absurd: LambdaConf has now provided a platform for white supremacy in the name of “inclusion.”

Since the post, many attendees and speakers have withdrawn their support, among them David Nolen, a highly respected, core Clojure contributor and functional programming enthusiast who tweeted that he would never attend LambdaConf. But many in the functional programming community continue to employ slippery slope arguments and false equivalencies to support the decision, insisting that “free speech” and the threat of censorship greatly outweighs a speaker’s “beliefs” that the likes of Nolen — a Black man — should be in chains. In this framing, white supremacy is a “belief” that should be respected and included, rather than an ideology that creates physical, verbal, psychological, and emotional violence.

These arguments are particularly harmful to Black people in the industry. Being Black in tech is a consistently isolating experience as you struggle to discover healthy environments that will acknowledge you, celebrate you. I’ve endured a decade of overt and covert racism in the form of too many fucking microaggressions. I’ve had to endure targeted harassment while on the job, while online in chatrooms, on Twitter, and, yes, even at conferences. The LambdaConf controversy is no exception: Moldbug defenders have even used racial slurs in their efforts to defend the conference’s decision.

Despite the prevalence of abuse and harassment targeting Black people in tech, LambdaConf insists that attendees’ safety should be limited to the physical, that other forms of safety are not a priority. This is part of a larger pattern in which Black people are required to trivialize our mental health and safety. In the face of anti-Blackness, we’re told to ignore it, it’s not that serious, it’s innocuous, non-threatening. Meanwhile, we collectively experience trauma as we witness Yet Another Black Body Destroyed by State Violence. In a work environment that doesn’t support Black humanity, we shrink behind our desks, escape to a bathroom or break room or DM a friend for some semblance of support to get through the day. More than likely a co-worker tells us ALL LIVES MATTER as a means to silence us. We’re told we’re not “a culture fit” as the industry hijacks “diversity” to platform a white supremacist/anti-Black speaker, and expects us to accept it under the guise of “tolerance” and “inclusion.” Our humanity itself is declared “a slippery slope.”

But Black humanity is not up for debate; it is not an intellectual exercise. Emotional and psychological torture of Black people is prevalent and on-going; society takes great pleasure in assaulting the Black psyche. I, certainly, do not intend to celebrate programming with or give time and money to a speaker who has written extensively in support of my oppression.

In fact, I invite more speakers to be honest about their “beliefs.” I encourage transparency regarding their worldview so that we can make more informed decisions by not supporting them — or the conferences that welcome them. Unlike your development environment, where you attempt to limit side-effects, here, in the real world, your “colorblind” decisions have consequences — consequences that signal the death knell of “inclusion” in tech.