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. The purpose of this blog post is not to defame or disgrace any individual. I am just sharing what happened and what I felt. Yes, I am deriving my own conclusions. You the reader, can derive your own conclusions.
Racial discrimination is real. And I recently became a victim of it. In this blog post, I share my story.
I am a Data Platform MVP from India. One of the Azure Data Advisory Board Members, Randolph West (who is also a Data Platform MVP from Canada) publicly abused me and the Data Platform MVP lead (Rie Merritt), despite observing, keeps mum.
Of course, the MVP lead (Rie) has no responsibility to respond to every tweet happening in the Twitter world. But this case is a little different. Why? Read on.
Just a few minutes before I was abused by Randolph, the MVP Lead had addressed a different tweet from the same MVP (Randolph) in a response to me (in the same context, on the same topic). So take a note: she is actively participating in the conversation.
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 minutes later) at another MVP from another region?
So, what’s happening in hindsight is: The MVP Lead (Rie) is selectively participating in conversations on the same topic, lecturing about diversity, endorsing the tweet of her white friends, and a few white MVPs of the SQL community gang up against me, mock and hurl abuse – and the lead remains silent. So I call this favoritism, inequality, discrimination & racism – plain and simple. Racism? Am I suggesting that Rie Merritt is a racist? No, I am not suggesting that. I am only pointing out that “I felt racially discriminated”. And it is my right to express what I felt. Folks mentioned in this post may or may not be racially motivated, but their actions certainly point towards discriminatory behavior.
From Wikipedia: Racism is discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity. Racism can be present in social actions, practices, or political systems (e.g. apartheid) that support the expression of prejudice or aversion in discriminatory practices. The ideology underlying racist practices often assumes that humans can be subdivided into distinct groups that are different in their social behavior and innate capacities and that can be ranked as inferior or superior. Racist ideology can become manifest in many aspects of social life. Associated social actions may include nativism, xenophobia, otherness, segregation, hierarchical ranking, supremacism, and related social phenomena.
Therefore, their social actions made me feel the way I felt and my right of free speech, I am entitled to share what I felt.
So what is the MVP Code of Conduct? (Randolph and I, both are MVPs as of this writing). This is what Microsoft MVP Program says:
Update July 2022: You the reader, will laugh at the Microsoft MVP Program. The code of conduct clearly talks about abuse, profanity, etc. And guess what, Randlolph West is untouched by the MVP Program. Instead, I am removed from the program and Randolph West gets hired by Microsoft. The discrimination is hilariously evident :).
Coming back to the core issue:
Bunch of white SQL folks dog-piling. And they expect me to remain quiet 🙂
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 (me & Randolph), the lack of equal treatment by the MVP lead is called discrimination. If the lead decides to participate in an episode/topic, 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 the discrimination?
(Ironically the advisory board is also formed by Rie Merritt – yeah, so how can they speak up?)
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. But here goes the story: After PASS shutdown, a for-profit company wanted to start a similar organization like PASS. They scheduled two calls for the community leaders. I was part of the calls. I have no objection to any entity (profit-making or not-for-profit) trying to build something. Each has their agenda, whatever floats their boat. The problem was: the call was meant for community leaders and Rie Irish (a Microsoft employee) joined the call and ferociously supported the for-profit company in their endeavors. She represented Microsoft on the call and answered questions as an MS employee to the extent of saying that “it is easy for Microsoft to distribute funds to the community via a central org, for example just like SQLSaturday”. This statement can come only from a Microsoft employee which she is, so she cannot fake the world that she joined the call as a community leader. Not only did she make statements on behalf of Microsoft, but she also ferociously answered questions on behalf of the for-profit company. Favoritism of a different level!
Post these calls, I made a horrendous mistake of letting the MVP lead (Rie Irish) know that “this was favoritism”. In response, this tweet was put up by her: https://twitter.com/IrishSQL/status/1344650619307569152
And after that, I was targeted and faced retaliation. How?
I was not invited to be part of the Azure Data Community Network even after duly filling out the form.
Rie Irish + Team announced that after the demise of PASS they are forming a network of user groups focusing on Azure Data stack. Existing user groups can apply and officially be part of it. The initiative was heavily promoted on Twitter, blogs, emails, and the Data MVPs worldwide supported the effort. Rightly so, it was a good thing. I supported too. Just like many others, I also duly filled the form so that my community work, DataPlatformGeeks, can also be part of the network. After a few weeks, the network was announced and officially launched with approximately 60 groups from different countries. To my shock, my community group, DataPlatformGeeks was not part of it. It was not listed despite I filled the form.
I communicated with her about this. All sorts of crappy technical reasons were given.
An MVP for 15 years, my SQL community work for the last 17 years, one of the most active MVPs from India, consistently – I was EXCLUDED. This was clearly vendetta. It took time to sink in. I started realizing the grave discrimination I was dealing with. In the network, there were groups from many countries and a few new ones too. One of the oldest & most active communities from India was missing. What the hell was going on?
According to me, this was the lowest point in #SQLFamily history. I dropped a message to the MVP lead that I feel I have been targeted (and ignored) because I gave her feedback about the “calls”, etc. And most likely, I am going to escalate this. The moment she realized that this can blow up, we were onboarded. We were asked to form a new group in the meetup network.
This entire thing is incredibly amazing – how a Microsoft employee can go to such an extent!
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 my conclusions and that made me give out more details.) (Summary of the comments discussion: I am being asked to reach out to one of Rie’s favorite MVPs because he might have felt bad about one of my tweets. Seriously? Are you kidding me?)
So did I feel bad about Randolph’s tweet? Should Rie not suggest Randolph to apologize?
Update Aug 2022: To date, no apology, not a word.
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, courage, and 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 racially discriminated. 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. So some of these white folks frequently gang up in their pursuit to demonstrate their superiority.
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 against by my Data MVP Lead, Rie Irish. She failed to demonstrate equal treatment. This has happened in the past too, on multiple occasions.
Take a look at another episode. How easy it is for these folks to ridicule a non-white individual from another country. Both Manohar and I raised our voices and both of us are not MVPs anymore 🙂 – we were well aware of the consequences, so no love lost. I am happy we took the courage to speak out. Read through the twitter thread thoroughly and you will realize, how so easily they make us targets of their racial discriminatory behavior and when it blows up, they try to cover that up by non-sensical arguments.
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.
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.
Let it be a reminder to the community & Microsoft that a 15-year MVP awardee, 5-year RD, and 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?
The act of hate is so evident. The success of my community work coming from India certainly irks a few folks who consider themselves so superior that they can’t digest successes coming from third-world nations. What a pity.
Update July 2022: Microsoft MVP Program removes me from the program. Read more. Probably because I chose to speak up. And Randolph West gets hired by Microsoft. Congratulations. Bill Gates once said, Life is unfair, get used to it 😉