I'd like to talk about what went down at @armadillocon last weekend, especially since this incident report is live: armadillocon.org/d41/2019/08/08…

I was on the panel in question and I have Things To Say. This is going to be a long thread, settle in.
First, I want to say that @armadillocon took the right steps when the concom was informed of the situation. AFAIK there was no hemming & hawing or excuse making. They heard about the incident, they removed the person. Great.

And overall my experience at the con was wonderful.
There are some suggestions I have about what to do going forward (I'll get to that) and I'd planned on passing these on to the concom this weekend. Twitter is not going to be my only means of processing this.

Okay, on to What Happened.
I wasn't originally scheduled to be on the Writing From Other Perspectives panel (the why is... complex), but the moderator @IAmSuyiDavies asked me to be on it cuz, well, it's my area of expertise. I agreed. The panel was at 8 so there weren't a ton of people in the audience.
Right from jump I recognized that one of the authors on the panel, Becky (yes BECKY) Burkheart (@Rebecca1028), was going to be a problem. I can't remember if it was her introduction that tipped me off or the first question @IAmSuyiDavies asked us:
"What perspectives do you feel it's important to write from?" or something similar.

Immediately Becky was like: I write from the perspective of monsters and animals. It's important when writing from the perspective of a horse or a goat to understand that they don't think like us
Y'all. Y'all.

I'm paraphrasing but I AM NOT EXAGGERATING.

This woman came to a panel on writing outside your own perspective and started talking about horses and goats! And SHE DID NOT STOP. Every single question she started in on goats. GOATS.
I'm a veteran of these conversations, & there is a lot of white nonsense I'm prepared to rebut, address, and refute.

This is not something I was prepared for.


I had a moment where I wondered if I'd wandered into an episode of Punk'd. Cuz this has to be a parody, right?
Sadly, no.

At that point I had to make a decision: should I stop and challenge this woman on this fucking nonsense? Should I tell her that it's inappropriate for her to be discussing the perspective of horses when we were talking about humans?

I chose not to for a few reasons.
The first being that, if I did, the panel would become about me and her having a fight. And while that would have been satisfying, that would have been a disservice to the audience. They'd come to get some understanding and information, not to watch a train wreck.
Second, Becky wouldn't have listened to me, anyway. I understood this based on the way she spoke and her body language and how, as the panel went on and the rest of us wrested things back on topic, she refused to read the cues. Given what happened later I was right.
But in that moment I made that decision and tried to have the panel around and in in spite of Becky. The other panelists (Katherine Sanger, Ariane Felix), who were wonderful, seemed to make the same decision. We did our best to give useful answers & we all had smart things to say
The audience was very participatory as well (mostly in a good way), & one young Black woman in particular said insightful things about writing from other perspectives. At some point Becky decided that this young woman had told her she "wasn't allowed to write" certain characters.
I don't remember her saying such a thing. Becky fixated on it and brought it up more than once.

At the end of the panel the mod asked us about what resources we suggested writers use to understand different perspectives. The two other panelists mentioned autobiographies & such.
Then, I shit you not, Becky said: "I just try to imagine myself inside the body of a horse when I write as a horse and that really helps me. Your imagination is the best tool." (again, paraphrasing, not exaggerating.) I admit, I tuned her out for a second to soothe my rage.
But finally, the panel was at an end. Becky turns to me & says "I really enjoyed being on a panel with you!" and I made a noncommittal grunt. Then she invited me to have a drink with her in the bar. I declined.

I'd had a long day so I went up to bed. I missed what happened next.
I heard about the incident in the bar from people who were there and the person assaulted. All the stories match. That's why I'll relate this to you, but I'm not naming the person affected as I don't know if she wants her name out there attached to this.
After the panel I was in the room w/ the young Black woman (YBW) I mentioned before + a few other people talking about Becky and her nonsense and other things. We were in there 20, maybe 30 minutes. I left, & soon after they went to the bar, & soon after Becky approached the YBW.
Becky *grabbed her arm*, got within inches of her face, & proceeded to very loudly exclaim that the YBW needed to understand HER perspective on the stuff we'd discussed on the panel. There was apparently a mix of telling her she couldn't fucking say who was allowed to write what
& "patient" explanations of how Becky was right & other gross, inappropriate, white nonsense. Becky was, by all accounts, VERY drunk (how she got that drunk that fast I do not know, but the thermos full of whiskey/scotch she had in her hand was maybe a clue) and wouldn't let go.
The YBW froze in shock. She later told me she felt a way about this reaction, and I told her that this is a natural reaction to someone out of the blue violating your space, laying hands on your person, and verbally abusing you.
The reason people take self defense classes is that, w/o some training, humans tend to freeze up when assaulted because that's not normal! It's hard to think when something like that goes down. SD classes teach you what to do so you don't have to think, your body just does it.
There are no self defense classes for white nonsense.
So Becky is all up in the YBW's face for 10 or 15 minutes. the bar was full of people, yes, but folks did not see what was going on or understand, at first, that something wrong was happening, possibly b/c the YBW was frozen and from a distance, doesn't always ring alarm bells.
(sorry this is getting so long. this was gonna be a blog post, but I felt like if i didn't get this on twitter i'd let it fall by the wayside again)
I'll pause hereto mention that there are ways people might have been more aware something was wrong if ArmadilloCon was used to having more POC at their convention and thus more aware of why it might be a problem for a white woman to be all up in a black woman's space. Onward.
Eventually, folks who were near and/or friends of the YBW are alerted to her distress and it becomes immediately clear that Becky is a problem and drunk and they step in to pry her off the YBW. It. Takes. Effort. Seriously, Becky did not want to let go of her arm.
She was pried off and taken away (apparently the last thing she said as she was dragged was "Oh, I LOVE your hair!!") and the YBW left and went home, shaken and upset. She did not want to return to the con the next day and only came back when informed Becky had been kicked out.
She seems to have an excellent support system of other Black women in Austin and they checked in on her and such. When I found out what happened I went to find her to see if there was anything I could do. She was understandably still upset about the whole thing.
Everything about how this went was unacceptable. The way Becky acted on the panel, the way she acted after, all of it. I'm glad people stepped in when they saw something was wrong, that was the right thing. I'm glad they informed the con and the con kicked Becky out.
I'm glad the YBW has a support network.

That said, I don't think she feels safe coming back to ArmadilloCon next year. I don't blame her. As I said, I had a good time, but there are ways the con needs to change to be a safer place for people of color to gather. That'll take work
I won't detail that work here, this is too long already, but I will write about it. The main thing I have to say is this: programming volunteers, please vet your panelists. I know that's a difficult job and you can't catch 100% of problems. I know. You still need to try.
You also need a programming *committee* and not just a Person. That's too much work for one person and no one person should be asked to do all of it. It's not fair.

That's it for now. thanks for reading my wall of text.
An addendum! The Becky Burkheart tagged in this tweet is apparently NOT the Becky from ArmadilloCon. Someone told me it was and I should have checked myself. That's super on me and I apologize.

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