Hello and welcome to a new series of articles from the East Kingdom Gazette entitled: East Kingdom Law & You. Articles will feature detailed, sometimes riveting and always informative pieces submitted to or solicited by the East Kingdom Gazette by members of the populace on existing East Kingdom Law & upcoming Curia Agenda Items.
Reminder: The East Kingdom Gazette is an unofficial group of volunteers unaffiliated with any East Kingdom Office working to provide the best information we can. For official interpretations of East Kingdom Law, Society Law, or any Local/Kingdom/Society Policy, please consult your local Seneschal.
The first East Kingdom Law & You article has been sent to the Gazette by Master Philip White, OL, OP and includes information about one of the upcoming Curia Agenda items following Market Day at Birka.
The East Kingdom is committed to being a welcoming and supportive place.
As part of this commitment, a proposed Statement of Inclusion for Kingdom Law has been added to the Birka Curia agenda:
X. Rights of Subjects
A. Statement of Inclusion
The East Kingdom is committed to celebrating equity, diversity, and inclusiveness. We promote social equity and diversity in all activities including but not limited to race, ethnicity, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, national origin, veteran status, socioeconomic class, religion, and professional status. We are committed to providing resources and opportunities for all subjects of and visitors to the East Kingdom.
Before Curia at Birka we are sharing with you some thoughts and we are looking for feedback from you.
For reference, there are some related policies already in place. This Statement of Inclusion does not replace those existing policies.
From the SCA Organizational Handbook:
XIII. POLICY ON ACCESSIBILITY TO SOCIETY FUNCTIONS
The SCA, Inc. will not discriminate against any member or participant on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, age or disability. The SCA, Inc. will comply with all laws of the nation in which the meeting or event is held. For any meeting or event held in the United States, the SCA, Inc. will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The SCA, Inc. will provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities to enable all participants to fully enjoy the events whenever it is possible to do so. The SCA, Inc. will at all times attempt to provide reasonable accommodations, while preserving the fundamental nature of the SCA event.
From the Society Seneschals Handbook:
XXIV. SOCIETY SENESCHAL POLICIES & INTERPRETATIONS
- Harassment and Bullying
The SCA prohibits harassment and bullying of all individuals and groups.
Harassment and bullying includes, but is not limited to the following:
- offensive or lewd verbal comments directed to an individual;
- the display of explicit images (drawn or photographic) depicting an individual in an inappropriate manner;
- photographing or recording individuals inappropriately to abuse or harass the individual;
- inappropriate physical contact; unwelcome sexual attention; or retaliation for reporting harassment and/or bullying.
Participants violating these rules are subject to appropriate sanctions. If an individual feels subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, they should contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or the Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman. If a participant of the SCA becomes aware that someone is being harassed or bullied, they have a responsibility pursuant to the SCA Code of Conduct to come forward and report this behavior to a seneschal, President of the SCA or Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.
These policies are in place to stop things from happening in the SCA.
But what about what we do want in the SCA? That’s why we are looking at adopting a statement specifically letting people know that we are an inclusive organization.
Statements of Inclusion:
- Encourage different experiences and perspectives.
- Establish diversity and inclusion as underlying aspects of the principles and traditions of an organization.
- Strengthen organizations by specifically stating that everyone has a voice and is encouraged to contribute.
That’s our starting point.
We want to hear feedback, suggestions, and questions in order to make this a more useful guiding principle for our members.
Members of the populace can email me here.
To facilitate that next step, we wanted to help set expectations and answer some initial questions we anticipate people will have.
“Is this really necessary?”
Yes. There are people that look at the SCA from the outside and do not see it as a welcoming place. That’s because they can take a casual look at our organization and see a visible lack of diversity.
Our current membership has underrepresented populations. Our minority members may already feel welcome. And our majority populations may feel like we are already supporting diversity and promoting inclusivity. But that’s from an insider’s perspective.
A Statement of Inclusion tells everyone, prospective members and existing members alike, that they are welcome in the SCA even if they do not see people who look like them at events.
“Are we simply stating what we are doing anyway?”
In many ways, yes, this is something we already do. Putting what we do into law lets newcomers and prospective members know that we are committed to an inclusive organization.
“I don’t think this is a problem. So why are we changing things?”
That’s great. We’re glad your participation in the SCA is going well. Lots of our members are happy and productive participants already.
The policy, then, is not so much for you. You already feel welcome. This policy is put in place to let our current members and prospective members know that they are welcome too.
We want it to go well for all of our members alike. So, for you, it may not feel like a change. For them it will feel like an improvement. Your part would be to continuing helping them know that they are welcome, too. To let them feel some of what you feel when you are a part of the SCA.
“This doesn’t happen here. That’s only a problem in other Kingdoms.”
Adopting this Statement of Inclusion will help us continue the good work we already do. It will help us make sure it doesn’t happen here. And it will help us improve on it.
“Do you have proof that people are not being included? I think people are blowing things out of proportion.”
Experiences will be different for each of us. You may be in a position to feel like everyone has equivalent access and opportunity to the SCA.
If that were the case, I would ask you talk to some of your fellow local SCA members and hear about their experiences.
Do you have a friend who is underemployed? As them about event expenses. Do you have a friend that is disabled? Ask them about how it is to get around at a camping event. Do you have a friend that is dyslexic? Ask them about trying to write documentation for an A&S entry.
These are just a few examples of experiences we would like to find ways to make easier for individuals.
“We don’t even have enough minority or marginalized populations now to make stuff like this worth it. Why bother?”
That’s actually the perfect reason. If there is a lack of diversity then you need a tool to help promote inclusiveness and equity. This is a visible and articulated commitment to minority and marginalized communities.
“This is a history club. Isn’t this a modern issue?”
The historical times and places that we study and recreate in the SCA are wide and varied. Those times were diverse through people, place, and culture. Diversity is actually already part of our game.
We are also a modern day organization that studies history. Our membership deals with modern issues day in and day out. We cannot ignore that there may be modern obstacles and barriers in place that limit people’s participation. A Statement of Inclusion allows us to recognize that modern issues may limit potential members from enjoying the history we study. We want to help them overcome those limitations.
“Diversity isn’t period. And it is period to exclude people. Why are we even talking about this?”
Actually, diversity is very much period. It may not be very well known but it is well documented.
Improving membership diversity would make actually make us more accurate historically, not less.
That said, this policy is part of the administrative aspect of the SCA. This is not put in place for persona purposes only. It is part of the entire game that we play and applies to all aspects and interactions of the SCA, administrative and game-side both.
We’re a modern organization made up of modern people. That is our membership. We are addressing those needs here in this policy.
“Why does everything need to be so inclusive? Can’t this just be a game?”
We are a volunteer organization with limited resources on time and money. We’re a stronger group with more people to help this game happen. Many hands make light work. We do not want to turn people away, even unintentionally.
Inclusivity helps us with our shared values of generosity and kindness while showing many of the attributes of chivalry.
When a new person hears about the SCA we’d like to automatically feel welcomed. This Statement helps with that goal.
“Not everyone can be the same. Our award structure will not allow for that.”
We are promoting equity in order to encourage diversity and inclusiveness across the organization in all aspects of the SCA.
This is separate from the ceremonial hierarchy established by the award structure of the SCA.
The Order of Precedence is a game function important to persona play. We have inherited it as a way to interact together while dealing with game interactions.
“Does this mean I have to let people be a part of my household?”
That’s not what we’re asking. The SCA is made up of lots of different personalities. We have all sorts of individuals that cross multiple kinds of boundaries.
We’re not expecting you to form relationships with each other. You’re not being asked to make everyone your friend. You’re not being asking change your household or your other private gatherings.
We’re asking you to treat each other like neighbors or partners all working towards the same goal of making the SCA a welcoming place.
“Does this mean we are going to have religious ceremonies as parts of events?”
No. That’s not what it means. It means that people of different religions observations, or none at all, are welcome to participate in SCA activities where and as they are able.
The SCA has a policy regarding region already.
SCA, Inc. Policy on Religion:
- Having no wish to recreate the religious conflicts of the period under study, the Society shall neither establish nor prohibit any system of belief among its members. No one shall perform any religious or magical ceremony at a Society event (or in association with the name of the Society) in such a way as to imply that the ceremony is authorized, sponsored, or promulgated by the Society or to force anyone at a Society event, by direct or indirect pressure, to observe or join the ceremony. However, this provision is in no way intended to discourage the study of historical belief systems and their effects on the development of Western culture.
- Except as provided herein, neither the Society nor any member acting in its name or that of any of its parts shall interfere with any person’s lawful ceremonies, nor shall any member discriminate against another upon grounds related to either’s system of belief.
“Aren’t people going to falsely claim that they are not being included?”
Let us hesitate to label anything as false. What may feel inclusive to one person may feel exclusionary to another person. Avoid making assumptions about a situation and try to learn more about what the individual is requesting.
Now, the SCA will not be a good fit for everyone. We’re still following the basic precepts of our game. For those people who are interested in the SCA we want to give them a way to be involved without barriers in place.
“Will this be a philosophical mandate with no monetary backing?”
Yes, actually. That’s correct. We’re not asking for groups to fund individuals. Including others of different economic situations does not mean funding their hobby. We are asking you to be understanding of their circumstances.
What does that mean? It means finding new and different ways to help them participate. Can you teach through a website broadcast for people that can’t afford to travel? Can you provide instructions or access to public transit for people who need mass transit? Do you have loaner gear that others can use? Or do you have common materials people can try out new arts with?
“Will there be training?”
Yes. There can be. We plan to have this information on the Kingdom website with FAQs, access to diversity training, classes at events, sessions on the web, and availability for one-on-one questions.
“How do we think this will change our Kingdom?”
When an organization makes a commitment like this to its members it lets its members know that they can ask for help. Can they ask for help today? Yes, of course. That opportunity already exists. Does everyone know this? No. And by making this statement we can let everyone know that they are able to speak up.
“Are we thinking of a long-term plan?”
Yes. Our organization will develop and grow through our continued commitment to diversity and inclusion. We believe that this will give us more opportunities for learning and teaching.
“Who are the ones that are going to be responsible for this?”
Ultimately? We are all in this together. Anyone who want to see this organization grow will be committed to finding ways to supporting others participating in the way that they can.