George Floyd’s death last week at the hands of law enforcement in Minneapolis lays bare the tremendous inequalities and racism that black people face in the United States on a daily basis. In the past few weeks, his name, along with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and David McAtee have joined a staggering register of victims of violent anti-Black racism in America.
We see our Black colleagues, community members, readers, and supporters grieving, fearful, and feeling the weight of this week and the history of all of the weeks just like this. Today, and every day, the Wikimedia Foundation stands in support of racial justice and with the movement for Black Lives. As an employer and part of an international movement our work in every country depends on promoting and defending human rights.
Over the past week, we have witnessed communities across the U.S. and around the world stand up for racial justice and demand an end to police brutality and extrajudicial killings. This has been met with more brutality, arrests, and even lethal force against citizens from Minneapolis to New York City, Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. In many places this policing response has been accompanied by egregious attacks on freedoms of the press and the rights to freedom of speech and assembly.
On these issues, there is no neutral stance. To stay silent is to endorse the violence of history and power; yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is well past time for racial justice in America and beyond.
The Wikimedia vision, “a world in which every single human can share in the sum of all knowledge,” guides our commitment to the inherent dignity and value of every single human being. Our efforts are animated by foundational understandings: that the right to information is fundamental, universal, and inviolable, and that our work will be forever incomplete until all voices are heard.
In 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation adopted an explicit commitment to “Knowledge Equity.” We pledged our focus as a social movement to supporting knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege, and to breaking down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge.
We understand our work to support free knowledge is about far more than a website. It involves reclaiming knowledge from gatekeepers and reestablishing it as something we do and share together. It is a radical act of freedom and reimagination of the status quo. It calls on all of us to shape what we understand of our world, be critical readers of conventional wisdom, and participate in writing history. Our work cannot be separated from the work of equality and freedom.
We recognize and stand with Black Americans in the fight for justice and equality. We reject racism and the ideology of white supremacy. We condemn attacks on the press and protesters in violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. To these ends, we make the following statements.
We call upon governments to:
- Deescalate police standoffs. Recognize the right and legitimacy of public protest. Deescalate tensions, reduce police mobilization, and end the use of weapons in crowd control during such legitimate public protests.
- Protect freedom of expression. Safeguard protesters’ fundamental human rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. Respect and enable the right of the press to move and report freely and without intimidation.
- Affirm fundamental and equal rights. Everyone is endowed with fundamental human rights. Affirm our equality and disavow divisive, hateful, and white supremacist ideologies and their enablers.
- Reform criminal justice systems. Support efforts to increase community oversight, limit use of force, reform prosecutorial overreach and sentencing, and (re)introduce vigorous and independent accountability mechanisms.
- Invest in equity and education. Redress racial disparities in services essential to human flourishing. Resource and safeguard equitable healthcare, housing, and economic and educational opportunity, particularly primary and secondary education.
We commit to advancing racial justice in Wikimedia work, including:
- Our accountabilities: Completing a racial equity framework for the Wikimedia Foundation and its programmes, integrating equity goals into our annual planning, and using our operational practices to hold ourselves to account.
- Our strategy: Restructuring our resources, funding, and governance structures to share power with local communities and advance our strategic goal of becoming the essential support system of free knowledge and advancing knowledge equity.
- Our content: Building power, relationships, and resources to advance epistemic justice and redress the exclusion and omission of Black, indigenous, and communities of color within knowledge systems in general and the Wikimedia projects specifically.
- Our technologies: Integrating anti-racist and pro-inclusion commitments into our development lifecycle, including from user research, product and feature design choices, and development, training, and application of machine-learning algorithms.
- Our policies: Safeguarding the ability of minority and marginalized voices to participate safely in Wikimedia spaces, through the introduction and application of a Universal Code of Conduct that reduces toxicity and promotes inclusivity and respectful discourse.
- Our advocacy: Using our voice to stand up for everyone’s fundamental rights to freedom of expression, assembly, free inquiry, and privacy. Advocating for policies to advance equity and inclusion in the science, technology, culture, and knowledge sectors.
- Our governance and resources: Aligning with our 2020 Wikimedia community-drafted movement strategy recommendations to ensure equity and participation in decision making, funding, and resourcing, and provide for inclusion of all contributors.
- Our funding: Clarifying our donation review policies to safeguard against undue influence, and re-balancing our investments into socially responsible funds.
- Our workplace: Reaffirming our commitment to inclusive hiring and employment practices, including recruiting and retention of colleagues from minority and marginalized groups across the globe, and equitable and empowered representation in leadership and management roles.
Furthermore, we wish to amplify the following Wikimedia affiliates and efforts:
- AfroCrowd: seeks to increase awareness of the Wikimedia and free knowledge culture and software movements among potential editors of African descent
- Black Lunch Table: endeavors to create spaces, online and off, mirroring the activity and creativity present in sites where Blackness and Art are performed
- Whose Knowledge?: is a global campaign to center the knowledge of marginalized communities (the majority of the world) on the internet
- As part of our commitment to distributed power, we further encourage support of your local grassroots and community-based organizations.
We hope that one day the Wikimedia projects document a grand turning point — a time in the future when our communities, systems, and institutions acknowledge the equality and dignity of all people. Until that day, we stand with those who are fighting for justice and for enduring change. With every edit, we write history.