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Racial discrimination is real. My story

Disclaimer: Tweets are being deleted, therefore, I have put screenshots. After reading the post, a couple of folks reached out to me privately to understand more. I have honored each and every request, whether they agreed or disagreed. If you wish to understand more, feel free to drop me an email – ab AT amitbansal DOT net.

Racial discrimination is real. And I recently became a victim of it. I share my story.

One of the Azure Data Advisory Board Members (who is also a Data Platform MVP) publicly abused me, (another Data Platform MVP), and the Data Platform MVP lead kept quiet.

https://twitter.com/_randolph_west/status/1404489074488975377Incidentally, just a few minutes before the abusive tweet, the MVP Lead had addressed a different tweet from the same MVP in a response to me (in the same context, on the same episode). I appreciate and respect the intervention.

https://twitter.com/IrishSQL/status/1404463677319827461While the MVP Lead shared her inputs on that post, what stopped her from condemning the abusive tweet hurled by the same MVP just a few mins later at another MVP from another part of the world?

The MVP Lead is known to be quite active within Data MVP conversations, outspoken and righteous in most matters. Surprisingly, in this episode, the courage, sensitivity, care, and equality seem to have taken a backseat over favoritism.

When both the individuals are Data Platform MVPs, the lack of equal treatment by the MVP lead is called discrimination. If the lead decides to participate in an episode, choosing to keep mum (in this specific case) during the outburst of profanity, is a gross error in judgment.

The Azure Data Community Advisory board members watched in silence, too!

Annette Allen, Monica Rathbun, Javier Villegas, Tillmann Eitelberg, Pio Ballistoy, Gaston Cruz, Kevin Kline, Wolfgang Strasser.

Hey Board Members, Do you feel what I feel? Do you feel the outcry?

My questions to the board and the MVP Lead who has formed the board:

Is it OK to be abused as part of #SQLFamily or even as a human being? Do you have a code of conduct on the Board? Any governance? Any action? Do you have the audacity to condemn this?

Or is it OK because the usage of verbal vulgarity was done by a white to a non-white? Keeping mum – If this is not racial discrimination then what is?

PS: I have high regard for the board members in their individual capacity. They are tall leaders in the community. I am questioning the board (as a whole) in their official capacity.

This kind of favoritism is not new or surprising. Here are incidents from the recent past witnessing it.

Incident 1: During the last PASS (now defunct) elections, the MVP lead was advised not to publicly favor candidates as it undermines a fair election process. It was clearly called out by a prominent community leader. https://twitter.com/jenstirrup/status/1326143719318429697

Incident 2: There was another episode where the MVP lead demonstrated favoritism. To respect privacy, I will not name the individuals/organization.

Post the incident, I made a horrendous mistake of letting the MVP lead know that “this was favoritism”. In response, this tweet has put up: https://twitter.com/IrishSQL/status/1344650619307569152

And after that, I was targeted and faced retaliation. I was not even invited to be part of the Azure Data Community Network even after filling the form. A total letdown of my honest intentions.

You the reader, certainly want more shreds of evidence. Please see my response to Steph Locke in the comments section – there are some glaring pieces of evidence. (Thanks to Steph: she questioned by conclusions and that made me give out more details.)

And here comes this episode where the MVP lead fails to condemn verbal violence and fails to uphold the dignity of a community leader from another nation. Very disgraceful.

Is this the community leadership being demonstrated by the Data Platform MVP lead? It is unbecoming of this role, this position – and a true display of preferential treatment. And someone from Microsoft? WOW.

The most pertinent question one asks is: What gives an MVP the power, the courage, and the authority to abuse another MVP? And what sense and sensibilities does the lead have not to say a word about it?

Let me be BRUTALLY HONEST. This is racial discrimination. I feel being discriminated against racially. My skin color is brown. I am from India, a developing third-world nation. The SQL MVP strength here is minimal, just 3. We are in minority.

All this combined, made me an easy target, vulnerable and victimized, and the MVP lead, the board, none cared to bother. No apology. No regret.

Neither did the LEAD publicly condemn this act of verbal violence by another MVP, nor did the LEAD reach out to me privately to offer any kind of support. How conveniently she sidelined herself in this case of abuse? Where is the moral responsibility?

This is called RACIAL INJUSTICE. I totally disapprove of this biased community leadership coming from a Microsoft Full Time employee.

Racial discrimination is felt, not necessarily called out.

To be clear, I am not accusing Randolph of racial abuse or discrimination (it may or may not be that, I am not sure, as this is the first time). I felt racially discriminated by my Data MVP Lead, Rie Irish. She failed to demonstrate equal treatment. This has happened in the past too, on multiple occasions.

In this whole episode, I did not hear a word from #SQLFamily either. Hey #SQLFamily, I DO NOT blame you. If you speak up, you may be targeted, the way I was. In fact, I was intimidated!

And I know that’s why the silence prevailed. The majority of the #SQLFamily is made up of wonderful people but they are handcuffed!!! But remember…

The world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of the bad people, but because of the silence of the good people.

The entire incident has been mentally traumatizing. Racial discrimination is real and I have never felt it more strongly. I take the courage to speak up today. I will stand on my dignity to the very end.

Edit: July 11, 2021: I am not asking for any support from anybody. This is my fight and I will fight it alone.

And what about the abuser? Well, the abuser is an abuser. Period. No apology, no regret, no remorse. That is exactly what you expect from an abuser, so not even worth my response. Underserving.

While many incidents made me feel under-represented & ignored, this entire incident has taken the mistreatment to a completely different level. So here I am, the abused #SQLFamily member. Let’s stick it here.

Let it be a reminder to the community & Microsoft that a 15-year MVP awardee, 5-year RD, two decades of community work – was abused publicly by another MVP and NO ONE DID NOTHING ABOUT IT. The inaction and the silence.

A picture speaks a thousand words.
Witness yourself, how some of these folks ganged up in their endeavors to bully around.

Is Microsoft seeing this?

Published inDefault

17 Comments

  1. Steph Locke Steph Locke

    Amit, I’m sorry you’re feeling so distressed. It’s a significant period of stress right now without more added to the pile. I don’t have an experience of being racially discriminated against and I’m sorry you have to encounter it.

    I wanted to talk about a few of your points:

    1. RW should not have been so rude on Twitter to you. I can understand he may be frustrated but we should all be civil with each other. I believe there is an MVP CoC that should be adhered to in this matter.
    2. Rie is not our keeper nor our omnipotent twitter goddess. She engages on twitter like any of us and that means only seeing some tweets and issues. It is wrong to assume she sees everything and call her out for not acting on it. As an MVP lead, she may also be doing something about it that you can’t see – a lot of internal processes may need following and it’s rarely policy to disclose in progress Code of Conduct violations etc.
    3. You raised the fact Rie was a reference on my PASS BoD app. (I think!) Rie is a staunch supporter of her MVPs generally and I have been blessed to have her support over the years. I asked for her reference because of her engagement with PASS, not as MVP lead. In terms of sway, AFAIK Rie had not been told not to be involved beforehand so did nothing knowingly wrong. In reference to the tweet that happened after the fact, it is from someone who has demonstrated aggression towards me and my endeavours so I struggle to perceive it as honestly meant. I would also point out that something like 400 people only voted in the PASS election, I did not make a big deal of Rie’s reference during campaigning, and it was buried inside the application. You might question whether without the endorsement I would have been on the slate – the answer is yes, my scores in other areas clearly demonstrate my competency.

    So I’d like to sum up that we’re all human, we’re not infallible, and I’m sorry you’re struggling and have been hurt.

    • Hi Steph,

      Thank you for the response. Yes, this episode has been tough, but I am coping up with things.

      #1 Agreed. Unfortunately, some people have the guts to abuse, but no courage to apologize.

      #2 Our MVP lead is not a keeper, but she has some moral obligations (explained later). She may not have seen the tweet altogether (she did see, explained later). Does she owe a response? Does she have any obligation? Here is my take on it:
      Our MVP lead is very proactive on most (almost all) Twitter conversations involving Data MVPs, especially when there is a potential conflict (soft or hard) between Data MVPs. At least, in my case it is. Apart from the examples, I have put in the blog. Here are two more examples from last year, where she proactively jumps in:

      https://twitter.com/A_Bansal/status/1314629047146606592
      In this case, while I get the initial support, the moment she gets to know who the other MVP is, she starts offering an explanation on his behalf. A complete turn-around. She clearly has her favorites.

      https://twitter.com/A_Bansal/status/1316754091750506496
      In this case, where she misunderstood my tweet, she asked me to reach out to the other MVP because the other MVP might have felt bad (even though I never meant anything for another MVP colleague). Guess what, I did reach out to the other MVPs (just respecting everyone’s sentiments). Again, she has her favorites, and I was asked to reach out, even when I did not mean anybody.

      Happy to give you more context on a call if you need it.

      What am I trying to prove?

      The Data Platform MVP Lead intervenes to protect **ONLY** her friends from Twitter bashing.
      Where is equal treatment?
      Her favoritism wins over morality.

      Now, let us talk about the current episode.
      “She may not have seen the tweet when it was put up” – this is a nullified argument. Just a few minutes before she responded to another tweet of RW in the same context.
      She definitely knew about the tweet when it was brought up to the notice of the MVP program.
      Hiding behind the curtains that “I did not see it” – is appalling.
      So yes, in all certainty she saw the tweet. She chose not to respond and this is where she erred.
      With leadership comes greater responsibility. She cannot detach her official position at her convenience.

      Satya Nadella made this statement a few weeks ago:
      “I am appalled by the ongoing acts of hate against Asian Americans and the Asian community globally. Racism, hate and violence have no place in our society. I am united with the Asian and Asian American community in standing against this injustice,” Nadella said in a tweet, a day after US President Joe Biden said that the ‘vicious’ hate crimes against Asian Americans in the country amidst the pandemic was ‘un-American’ and it must stop.

      Microsoft did not cause any hate crimes against Asians, so what was the need of Satya Nadella to put out a statement like this? Well, this is about community leadership and this is what I mean by greater responsibility.

      RW is a white MVP from Canada. I am a brown MVP from India and we are in minority in this community. I get abused. The least my lead could have done was to condemn it. It did not happen. It goes down in history.

      #3 PASS BoD election. It does not matter what was the outcome of her tweet and how many votes it earned you. She just CANNOT voice her opinion because she is an MS employee and the MVP lead. And that clearly influences the votes. This is about morality. Her act only enforces that she has her favorites. Favoritism and preferential treatment are NOT ACCEPTABLE. Just to call out – many MVPs objected to this but they won’t speak up for obvious reasons. For a moment, take a step back, and think about the other candidates and how would they have felt? Do they not have the endorsement of the MVP lead of Microsoft?

      Anyway, Steph, I thank you for taking out time to respond and give your perspective. I felt racially discriminated and I spoke about it. Not everyone has to agree with me.

  2. Randolph West Randolph West

    Please send me the contact details for your legal counsel.

  3. Discrimination is real… Could be in any form (race, gender, skin and what not) but it is not acceptable at all… Atleast not from the community heroes/ MVPs / leaders.
    It projects your core values and your followers do the same with others.
    Let us all stand together against it.

  4. Satya Ramesh Satya Ramesh

    Discrimination, Racism do exist. Especially from the Western community towards the Asian community. The ignorance is felt, it is not necessarily called out that you are being sidelined/ignored because you are brown/black but by simply ignoring our very existence. Sometimes people may not do it intentionally but the end result is sidelining black/brown people. From the Indian perspective (as Independence Day is coming soon in a month), we got independence only after speaking up and fighting for it. If we would have not raised our voice then we would have still stuck in slavery. We should speak up when we felt ignored/discriminated/suppressed.

    Even the salaries/wages are less for Asian/Indians compared to western people for the same work. Don’t know why but some people just feel superior to others and try to dictate terms.

    There are so many good people in western countries, but because of the actions of few the entire west has to take the blame. Apologies to the good people from the west.

    Thank you for speaking up Amit. Pls make sure your #MentalHealth & #PhysicalStrength doesn’t get upset because of all the things that are happening right now. We know you & are with you always. How about playing Badminton, Tennis and some TT? I am sure this time the count of ‘W’ will be more 🙂

  5. Aarthi Nambiar Aarthi Nambiar

    Racial discrimination has to stop…. As long as it exists, it does ruin the lives of countless people of color. We each have a responsibility to stand up for change and to challenge ourselves to achieve a more tolerant, and equal society. To know what is right and not to do it is the worst.!
    Thanks, Amit for putting it up and sorry for what you have gone through.

  6. Subhash Subhash

    Racial Discrimination is real, Especially basis on their skin color, or racial or ethnic origin.
    Individuals are refuse to do business with, socialize with, or share resources with people of a certain group. which is not acceptable at all.
    Let us all stand together against it.

  7. nagendrababu tummala nagendrababu tummala

    Racial discrimination has to stop.

  8. VAMSI RAMISETTY VAMSI RAMISETTY

    Community Leaders are supposed to be against discrimination and abuse. Instead, a leader took a path to abuse another leader. And MVP lead did not condemn this. is it not Favoritism? Favoritism sometimes leads to discrimination and racism. Looks like this is what happened here. If not, any clarifications/explanations were given? As far as I see, nothing. Discrimination should stop.

  9. Rohit Rohit

    Women empowerment and all sounds good but looks like Mr. R has chosen the wrong tree to bark upon. I couldn’t help but go through the entire thread on Twitter and the one’s that followed. It’s astonishing how misleading this entire episode was. And for someone like Amit, who has devoted most of his life and contributed so much to the betterment of the sql community and the causes of women, to be defamed and abused like this, is a horror story. At best this whole episode was probably meant to gain some brownie points. I know how much DPS has grown over the years and the amount of effort Amit and his team put in to make it more inclusive and accessible each year despite all the setbacks. Amit has always been open to suggestions from the community and never shied away from criticism, constructive or otherwise. This whole issue could’ve been settled via an email or a direct message. But no, a white man wanted to show a person of color who is superior and that anything that does not please him will be called out. Talk about fighting for a cause by demeaning another cause.

    There were so many instances in the thread where I could sight such hypocrisy, below are a couple of examples –

    Mr. R says “this is an industry problem, even though I’m using a specific example” – This is an attempt to throw Amit under the bus on false assumptions and accusations while supposedly giving everyone else in the industry a message through him. This just shows how easy a target we (people of color) are for their virtue signaling.

    The said man did not think it wise to go through the entire website before “calling out” the conference, and no one in his comment section seems to have a problem with it. If he had looked further, he’d seen a very diverse speaker panel at the conference and sessions specific to women in technology. To defend themselves, some of them spoke of “first impressions”, looks like they’d rather be delusional than be right and understanding. Ridiculous. These are nothing but a series of blanket statements made by singling out a small portion of the website and taking it out of context. On top of that, look at Mr. R’s language and behavior towards a colleague. But apparently, that’s okay because he’s white.

    If Mr. R thought this was an industry problem, the best way to address this would’ve been to call out the high and mighty, the elite, for their inaction, just like how Amit did in this blog. But I’m sure R was aware of that option but chose to target Amit personally because he must have thought he could’ve gotten away with it.

    Also, look at how people treated the incident shared by Manohar, a brown-skinned man, versus a white guys opinions based on his half-baked knowledge in the garb of women empowerment. Our problems aren’t problems until the white people say it is, we just have to nod along and try to fit into THEIR moral compasses.

    Yes, just like every other community our global sql community too needs to evolve to be more inclusive at every step we take. But we should also make sure that genuine people who are trying to make a difference in their respective regions with whatever little resources and support they can get hold of, are not exploited. If you cannot be supportive of their initiatives that have touched so many lives, at least please don’t be condescending of something you don’t remotely understand.

    This is unfortunately what a lot of us in different industries face day-in and day-out and it has to stop. Thank you for speaking out Amit. It is very brave of you to stand up to such bullying. I can only hope that enough people draw inspiration from your story, come together, and put an end to all types of discrimination.

    PS: I’m aware I have generalized my arguments in some parts, but this was necessary as one cannot try to engage in a rational discourse when the other party is clearly delusional.

  10. Harvey Harvey

    Is it possible Rie held back saying anything about the f-bomb because she agreed with the sentiment, or just didn’t have time to play twitter cop, and not at all because you’re not white? People argue and raise voices and use profanity on twitter all the time, and I certainly hope Rie doesn’t feel the need to jump in and play referee every time any of us disagree. Perhaps Randolph was a bit terse, but just because it happened to you doesn’t mean it happened to you because of any specific circumstance, like your gender or the color of your skin. Imagine if someone disagreed with me about a speaker selection and I said, “See! They are discriminating against me because I’m from Germany! Won’t anybody stand up for Germans?” It’s quite similar to what you’re selling here… that what is happening to you is happening because of your skin color and not because of any other thing at all. I am certain you believe this, but that does not make it so; it is your perception and it is a pretty heavy stone to cast. Accusing someone of racial discrimination is a serious allegation and I do hope you’ll re-think your current stance.

    • Deepti Pillai Deepti Pillai

      Funny to read that “She doesnt have to be a Twitter cop”. Do you see a leader, jumping into mud to save colleague A, and yet ignores to help colleague B? A normal community person may not have to play Twitter Cop, but a leader who depicts the picture of a Twitter Cop for person A, suddenly goes mum for Person B – Well, that is called discrimination. And to know what Racial Discrimination is, you have to step down from whatever you perceive about it, and ask the people who “feel” it every day. Well, it is not right to expect every one to understand what racial discrimination is, as it is not something that you can always prove with evidence. But leading a group, and yet not been able to be JUST & FAIR to EVERYONE, is not the trait of a leader.
      PS: Not even writing anything about the so-called gentleman who has no shame in using his day-to-day language in public in front of a community of respectable people. What you are, shows in how you behave.

  11. Anonymous Anonymous

    Man, you are up against the whites of the SQLFamily. You C A N N O T win against them. They are a bunch of bullies, they will K I L L you online. I feel sorry for you.

    • Hi, I don’t know who you are and what your experience has been with the #SQLFamily.

      My experience mostly has been good. I put this in my blog too that the majority of them are good people, just that they are watching silently for obvious reasons.

      I do have a few distractors who occasionally get pissed off due to the success of my community work, especially DPS. They nitpick all the time, just to pull me down and bring disrepute to my work. In this case, the said person tried to act as a messiah of women empowerment, without knowing anything about what DPS has done towards promoting women speakers: https://dps10.com/diversity-and-inclusion/

      So, there are those who “Talk a lot” and those who “work a lot”.

      The sad part is, my lead, fails to see this and failed to stand up for me, knowing well about me and my work – I was not awarded MVP yesterday, it is my 15th year running.

  12. Surbhi Agarwal Surbhi Agarwal

    I am appalled after learning about this whole incident, more because I have known you @AmitBansal as a dignified and respectable person besides being an MVP. After doing all the community work selflessly for so many years and supporting community members irrespective of their gender, color, caste or any other such discrimination, if you get to hear such negative words on social media with no intervention from the leadership, then there is definitely a gap somewhere. Kudos to you for taking a stand on this! May this gap be acknowledged by the real people and may this community become stronger and “Respect for people” be given core importance alongside technical advancement.
    P.S. I am a woman and I do not need a ‘Women empowerment agenda’ from someone who would disrespect other men while doing so, as has been done in that tweet. Period.

  13. Gopi Krishna Pathri Gopi Krishna Pathri

    Madam Rie should have been just and it was a great opportunity for her to demonstrate equal treatment. She failed to stand up. She should have condemned it, especially when she participated in the conversation, in the context. This is targeting Indians and the success of Asian community. Abuse and discriminate. THis is happening for a long time and it is coragoeus of AMit to speak about it. As far as DPS is concerned, I have attended the event and also their community events at Microsoft Bangalore. THey had many women speakers also from Microsoft. So do not use the shield of women empowerment to abuse and discriminate. It is a shame.

  14. Rohit Rohit

    Ms. Rie, is undoubtedly had an error of judgment here. Yes, she doesn’t necessarily have to comment on all the circus that happens on social media. She is not a Twitter cop, nor a gatekeeper. But the gravity of this situation is quite different. Randolph, who also happens to be on the Azure Advisory Board wrongly abuses Amit, someone who among his other accolades also invested his blood and sweat in organizing the first international SQL Server conference in Asia at a time when only conferences in the West were being highlighted and supported. The point of me highlighting Amit’s achievements is not to boast, but only to say that even a personality with that portfolio is being abused on false accusations and treated unfairly without looking into facts of DPS history how the event has supported women empowerment. How much more should an Indian do to get some respect to at least be treated fairly and equally? In the midst of this, the only thing the MVP lead, Ms. Rie, did was to say to Amit that “First impressions matter” without even calling out Randolph for his disrespectful behavior and instead, defended him by saying “No attempt at deception by Randolph” – Really? Isn’t showing one side of the story by ignoring the rest, “deception”? Shouldn’t a Lead, especially from an organization like Microsoft (which other companies look up to) be more understanding when it comes to conflicts between two senior colleagues? But Ms. Rie, has clearly chosen a side. Isn’t that favoritism? Isn’t that discrimination?

    You see, even if one argues that Ms. Rie didn’t “intend” to discriminate, is she not answerable? This doesn’t seem to look like discrimination to some people because of its subtlety so let me try to bring in some perspective – Undeniably there is a very popular sentiment among quite a few in the west that Asians, especially Indians, are primitive or culturally backward compared to them (this may even be a subconscious bias), which is why during most conflicts that involve Asians and Westerners, you will see that Asians are more often than not, socially labelled to be guilty until proven innocent (This applies to other historically discriminated communities as well). Ask your Asian friends and most of them will attest to this. Do not forget that in recent times, there were multiple instances of hate crimes against Asians.

    A similar sentiment, knowingly or unknowingly, was shown here by Ms Rie. She apparently took a first glance of the web page/screenshot, preached to Amit about being diverse despite all his contributions towards diversity and inclusion, which is still fine, but not a word was said to Randolph on the absurdity of his accusations, autocratic behavior and his language. Why? Is this how people in leadership positions demonstrate leadership? Should they not go to the root of the matter? In such cases, where she happens to be the official lead of both MVPs involved, should she not have reached out to both the parties privately in an attempt to understand the matter before taking a public stand? And how on earth does she fail to condemn the abuse by Randolph. This blows one’s mind. Did she not dig deep because the accuser, Randolph, is a friend or part of the same community? Or because Amit is an Indian and was automatically perceived to be on the wrong side?

    Pick any of the above questions or justifications and tell me if it doesn’t point towards either favouritism, discrimination or incompetency in leadership? So where is the racist angle to all of this? Well, as Amit said, racism is felt, not called out. Rie had to be mindful that Amit is from India, brown skin color, minority representation in the Data MVP community – simple neglect of the minority can also be termed as racism when multiple races are involved in a conflict. It need not be called out that Amit is not even getting a word of support from his lead because his skin color is not white – it is felt. The under-representation is clear.

    And not a word of apology from Randolph. It speaks volumes of their characters. This just goes on to show why Amit is right about the discrimination part – Because clearly, he may be willing to admit to himself that he’s wrong, even delete his tweet, but won’t apologize to Amit for the trauma he’s caused him. Superiority Complex? And remember, this was the character Ms. Rie spoke in support of. Let’s see which leader can call them out for that.

    Finally, I came across this – DPS has done quite a bit about promoting women speakers – https://dps10.com/diversity-and-inclusion/

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