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Black Lives Matter

Posted by Kim on June 2, 2020, 9:05am

We're in a very important moment for the USA, and for the world as a whole.

I and the mod team are feeling our way through this moment. We'll be figuring some things out as we go. I wanted to let you in on some of our thought processes so far.

Let’s start with this: The official position of the RPR is that Black Lives Matter. "All lives" can't matter if Black Lives don't matter too.
Many of our community members manage underlying mental health conditions and/or are members of vulnerable populations. We know that a certain amount of escapism can be an essential tool to help manage your energies and be able to bounce back from the truly frightening things going on in the world. The RPR serves that purpose for many. It can be a restorative refuge from traumatic events and news cycles, as well as toxicity in other online spaces. We do want to be able to continue to offer that to everyone.

At the same time, it can feel as if your chosen family is ignoring the real problems that face you, and abandoning you in your time of need when we don't discuss these things. Perhaps “feel” isn't even a strong enough word. It may be true.

This has been an uncomfortable tension over the years that has kept me up many a night. It was one more thing on the very long list of things I had no idea I was getting into when I opened a site for playing pretend with my friends. It screamed with importance but also felt unanswerable, too big to tackle, possibly inappropriate, or irrelevant to the RPR. I did my activism in other spaces, in real world protests or in calling Congress people or in registering voters. I know many of the mods did the same.

Over the years, we watched a pattern of excellent conversations about politics on the RPR get unfailingly derailed by slogan shouting and name calling. We were exhausted by the moderation requirements, as well as fact-checking bogus news sources, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories. We erred more and more on the side of letting the RPR be a bastion for escapism and recharging. Surely we didn’t sign up for teaching media literacy and asking folks to confront the truth about the racist history and present of the US, right?? We had volunteered to an unpaid position to look after a community of mostly young people playing (really awesome) pretend. Adding in the international nature of the site only added more layers of confusion and exhaustion.

We still want to be able to offer escapism and joy. We also want to care for and support those in our community who have more reason than ANYONE to want those things, and that means showing up for them.

We still don’t know the right way to go forward. But we’re going to try some things.

In the coming weeks…
  • We’ll be talking about media literacy skills in the news, so we can all get better about sorting out fact from fiction and the grey areas in between.
  • We’ll be allowing some discussion of current events on the forums, as it relates to how it is touching our users in their real lives, and their fear for their friends. At this point, the distinction between what’s “politics” and what’s just life occurring on our doorsteps is even more difficult than it was before.
  • Please DO NOT share videos or images of a violent nature, regardless of the discussion, especially the recent videos going around of violence against black folks. These videos far exceed the violence ratings of our forums, and can be deeply traumatic, especially for BIPOC folks to have to see again and again.
  • The mod team will shortly be opening a group specifically for discussion of United States politics. It will be considered more or less another official forum. We will ask that some discussions move there if they become too heavy, or go beyond how political realities impact your life directly. The group will be heavily moderated to remove racism, anti-LGTBQ+ sentiment, anti-semitism, gaslighting, and baiting.

If you’re champing at the bit to start talking politics, we ask that you wait for the opening of this group. Please don’t go making posts about candidates and how you feel about them on our public forums.

This will be an experiment in allowing political discussion on the RPR, while still preserving most of our spaces as places to recharge. This group may be shut down without notice if it presents too much burden on the team's time and attention, or temporarily locked if things get out of hand and there aren’t enough of us online to handle it. If it proves a failed experiment, we’ll regroup and try something else.

We hope that these are first steps on the road to finding an appropriate balance. Like I said, we’re figuring things out as we go. We’re going to make some mistakes and have to change policies on the fly as we learn more about them. Our role in all this is still not totally clear to us. What is clear is that we ALL have a role during these times. Even silly little websites about playing pretend.

Finally, remember that it’s okay to be overwhelmed. Everyone needs to do what they can. If all you can do is survive, then do that.



Q: What about other countries?
This is something that we’re still discussing. Most of us feel vastly less qualified to be able to moderate such conversations and evaluate other countries news sources, cultural contexts, etc. However, people have always been able to start their own groups to discuss these things, and that seems like the best solution we have right now.

Q: When will that group be dropping?
Probably early next week.

Comments

Kim

June 24, 2020
1:35pm

Just for people tracking this, the group did go live and can be joined: https://www.rprepository.com/g/american-politics

Kim

June 4, 2020
12:05pm

Thank you for the feedback everyone. I really appreciate it. You are being heard as we feel our way. :)

Malachite

June 4, 2020
10:26am

First of all, I'm incredibly glad that RPR stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. If I may, I'd like to share a couple of links with information about a BLM-organized general boycott (note: that's a link to the Twitter hashtag #BoycottAmerikkka that was started for the boycott I'm talking about, it does contain tweets with sensitive content and some videos and photos so peruse at your own risk) planned for July 4th through July 7th. The plan is to hit the US economy where it hurts by not spending any money on anything that isn't from a Black-owned (or at least locally owned, if there aren't any local Black-owned businesses in your area) business on those four days.

Now to my concerns regarding what RPR is going to do. If the staff are going to be opening an opt-in private group for the express purpose of discussing current events and politics in the US, I must request, as Hadeslicious did, that all such discussions be redirected to the group and not permitted at all in the public forums, not just ones that "reach a very political point" (key word being very) or "become too heavy" as Ben stated. Other parts of the internet are already inundated with these discussions in such a way that we can't avoid them except by avoiding those websites entirely, and constantly being reminded of the horrific things being done to our Black brothers and sisters and those who've joined them in protest is, to be frank, bad for one's mental health. The more resilient among us may be able to handle such a deluge of terrible news, but those of us who are sensitive to this stuff need spaces to escape, and RPR has always been one such place. It's fine to have a private space on the site to discuss current events and US politics, but those discussions need to stay there and not bleed out into public spaces.

Again, despite my concerns, I'm glad RPR is on the right side of current events. I just hope that the staff are able to handle this in a way that doesn't allow upsetting content to leak into the public parts of the site.

George Floyd, rest in power.

Grohiik

June 3, 2020
8:54pm

I have little to say besides thank you, and you guys are doing great. I'm so proud to be part of, and witness the amazingness of this community and team. <3

Abigail_Austin

June 3, 2020
11:49am

I support the experiment, and will join the group.

...but I do also support the sentiment that if the existence of a US Politics Forum starts leaking toxicity into the culture of the Rpr in general -- which is generally wonderful -- that it must be shut down to protect the "be nice" culture we have here, which is a powerful force for good in and of itself. It, in and of itself, is activism of a powerful kind.

All the things I just mentioned in the last paragraph -- to clarify, what I'm hearing from the original post is that those things are what you're doing (reserving the right to close it if necessary, keeping the rules for all the other forums the same, enforcing the "be nice" rule, etc.) This is what you already basically said, but I just felt like seconding the points I find important.

I'm both excited and cautious about this. Exactly as it sounds like y'all are.

I like to talk about U.S. politics, so that's why I plan on joining the group at the beginning, and seeing how it goes. Good luck~

JustaBitEvil

June 3, 2020
6:00am

I am very happy that the RPR is doing this. I don’t see it as political, I see it as taking a stand for what’s right.

lowlaville

June 2, 2020
9:48pm

My opinion on the subject matter is that "All Lives Matter" doesn't represent "Black lives matter" as much as it would vice versa. Here's why I think that.

First and foremost, All Lives Matter as a concept is supposed to signify, or it does in theory, because then you are assuming everyone, regard of race, creed or religion enjoys the same privileges and benefits, which they do not.

Fundamentally speaking, "All Lives Matter" activists has no place to contradict the "Black Lives Matter" movement because of the simple fact that I mentioned.

Auron

June 2, 2020
8:56pm

I'm glad that I can go about my time on this site without having to see news notices on my wall or such. Truthfully, I'm quite sick of hearing about it. Facebook, Twitter, the news, other places I didn't think I'd see it...I'm seeing it. It's driving me mad. And, while I wish I could say I'm optimistic about this. It just screams dumpster fire.

I blame only myself for being curious as to what this link was that was posted from the official RPR Twitter, though a bit of a forewarning of what it may have entailed would have been nice. I really could have went without being met with it here now too.

Sorry about my negativity. And good luck to the staff.

Daegu

June 2, 2020
6:28pm

I, personally, am curious and optimistic about this rolling out. It will be nice to have a space to safely discuss current issues.

The comments here are a bit.. disheartening.. but from my understanding, people will have the ability to ignore the forum as any other..? I personally do not engage in most of the forums and I find that my experience on RPR has not been affected by them. Perhaps this is one of those wait-and-see kind of things.

I thank the mods for this. As a nbpoc, I do use RPR as a place of escapism, same as anyone else - and it's nice to see that there will be an inclusion of a place where current events (which aren't all political but fall under the umbrella) can be discussed with peers. Especially for those of us who might not have anywhere else to safely do so. So thank you.

Rogue-Scribe

June 2, 2020
6:22pm

(Eight+ Hours after this was posted)

I saw this on my notification feed when I woke up and logged in today, and I have to say that I am of two minds about it. I thought about a reply here and deleted it a couple times as I'm very conflicted on what I wanted to say.

I've given it all some thought and say that I am fully supportive of the admin and mod team here and don't envy the task they have and will have with this new endeavour. I have to say I am worried about how much more effort will be taken out of them in monitoring a 'Current Events' member-only group. I personally am unsure whether I would take part in such a group. Part of me wants to, and part of me wants to run as far away from it as possible. RP Repository to me is a place of escape... a place to play and pretend and be creative. Letting one's political views be publicly known can, and in my case recently, has been damaging to connections writers may have between them in the escapist world. I can see little good coming from expressing 'political' views here. I can see good in talking about current events and expressing opinions on those events, but unfortunately in the current enviroment especially in the 'States of America', having an opinion on current events can and likely is seen as political by those who hold a contrasting viewpoint. There is much worth in this world of escape in not knowing or even caring what the political views of the writers/players of characters you are creating wonderful stories with. Breaking that 4th wall can, and is, damaging to what is being created behind it.


I'll close this ramble with some comments on what I read in this...
First, this:
Quote:
The official position of the RPR is that Black Lives Matter. "All lives" can't matter if Black Lives don't matter too.
... This is wonderful to see and it lifts my respect of this site to new heights!

And this:
Quote:
his has been an uncomfortable tension over the years that has kept me up many a night. It was one more thing on the very long list of things I had no idea I was getting into when I opened a site for playing pretend with my friends. It screamed with importance but also felt unanswerable, too big to tackle, possibly inappropriate, or irrelevant to the RPR.
It has to be stressful, and it is my hope that it all doesn't 'become too much' where you will call it quits. Again, the utmost respect to the admin and mod team in their resilence.

I fully back this experiment and the list of things that will be tried. I just hope it doesn't burden, cripple, or damage the escapist world that is so wonderful on RPR.

BrandyCat

June 2, 2020
4:32pm

I love this. I know how hard it is to keep charged topics on track so they don't shift towards a message that was not originally intended, but I think people need a place to talk about things like this.

"Sure, you can go anywhere else", but RPR is a unique community full of unique people. If politics on RPR isn't your jam, then I'm sure you'll continue to enjoy the site as is!

Marius

June 2, 2020
4:02pm

This is great and I'm proud of RPR.

Sanne

June 2, 2020
3:30pm

@Alecia Aaa that is very sweet of you! We're doing our best to respect our limits and share our spoons, and plan on doing so for a while to come! ;)

Alecia

June 2, 2020
3:26pm

@Kim & mod team - thank you for putting so much thought and energy into this. I’m certain that this will end up being one of the most respectful places to discuss politics on the Internet.

I just hope that you guys are also taking care to refrain from overextending. Because, to me, the current situation has stopped looking like a mid-distance run and it’s starting to look like an ultramarathon.

Ben

June 2, 2020
2:43pm

Hey folks, a couple things to mention.

We are doing our best to balance the needs of two different types of user, and the site has many of each:

Those who use RPR as purely an escape.
Those who find a source of solace and support in the RPR by talking about their real lives in a friendly and safe environment, in addition to playing here.

Users already do this, quite successfully, with the Here For You group. When someone expresses that they need advice or help with a difficult personal topic, they are often directed to the Here For You group, where other members have volunteered (opted in) to put in the emotional energy. When someone appears to be in a crisis or the subject matter is too triggering, the mods intervene not only to moderate the discussion, but since we're not able to offer mental health support, we provide users with a list of mental health resources.

This is how we are designing the new system for current events discussion. If discussion on the forums reaches a very political point or becomes too heavy, then it can be directed to the group, where folks have opted in to participate. When topics in the group get out of hand, the mods will step in to maintain the community standards.

The group its self will be an OPT-IN, not an opt-out, and so you will not see political discussion in your feed unless you choose to. You may see people posting about their personal experiences on the forums, in regards to current events, and we ask that you take care of one another. We have never enforced a policy preventing people from talking about their personal experiences, and actively encourage our community members to discuss and be open with their identities and experiences within the content ratings.

NOTHING is changing about our existing community standards, such as the "Be Nice" rule. The RPR remains one of the most carefully and painstakingly moderated communities on the entire freakin' internet.

Please communicate with us as this rolls out.

This community already deals with real-life issues and emotions all the time, and we've done it successfully so far. If we all do our part and take care of each other, this will be no different.

MissPixie

June 2, 2020
1:39pm

It's difficult to take actions, especially when dealing with such a wide and varied group of people gathered onto the site. Yet not taking any action would have been worse. Not everyone is going to agree with everything, so I'm glad that these politically charged discussions will be contained in a group for people to opt in or out of as they desire.

Kim - As a journalist and news editor, I'm really pleased to see that media literacy is one of the things that will be covered in all of this. Increasingly, there have been attacks on journalists and we've had to endure a great deal of abuse for just doing our jobs due to misinformation and misframing. I want to offer my help in any way I can with this aspect, if you would like additional resources or even a voice from someone on "the media side" of things.

Zelphyr

June 2, 2020
1:26pm

I appreciate the team setting up this space so that those who feel strongly about things they need to express that would otherwise be deemed too political will have that hopefully safer-feeling place to express it. While political discussions can certainly easily careen out of control, I have faith in our mod team and in the culture they have developed here to help keep things better focused and less vitriolic. I also know these topics periodically crop up on RPR anyway, in public spaces, but this will provide a less public place to put those conversations so that those who wish to avoid it can more easily do so.

This doesn't just allow a space for political-oriented discussion. It also better ensures that it is kept away from those who don't want to see it, whatever their reasons may be.

Cass

June 2, 2020
1:21pm

You're not wrong Mercy! That's exactly as it was intended. :)

MercyInReach

June 2, 2020
1:15pm

Cass wrote:
Instead of having the forums--public areas, where this discussion will inevitably happen due to the importance of its nature.

Hadeslicious wrote:
This is why I extended my request that this always remain in a private group and never the RPR public forums. If staff are stating that this is inevitable, then it's fair to assume that the plan is to push it there and my request is to never do that.

Hi just wanted to step in and say I think there's some confusion, I believe what Cass meant by that is that the private group is for this instead of it being in the public forums where it would inevitably end up if there wasn't a group.

Correct me if I'm wrong of course. ^-^

winplaceshow

June 2, 2020
1:07pm

@Kim Is there going to be any way for people who do not want RPR to be their source for this sort of information to block it?