Dover High School Paints over Black Lives Matter Mural

I grew up in a small town in upstate New York, Dover. On July 12, 2008, on this blog, I documented a part of the lead-up to me graduating high school:

There’s a little tradition at Dover High School – graduating seniors can elect to paint a mural on the high school’s driveway. It’s a great way to leave a mark until it’s paved over sometime in the next year. With the help of a few friends, I painted what I consider to be an awesome driveway mural.

A few days ago, on her personal website, Ariana Lasher described something that happened recently in Dover:

On May 27th, Jody Grant, a Dover High School senior, painted a mural of the “resistance fist”, a symbol used in the Black Lives Matter movement, on her school’s driveway. Within 24 hours, before she could even finish her artwork, the school’s administration made the decision to paint over the memorial. With yet another black individual killed, and riots breaking out among the nation in the fight for justice, Grant wanted to raise awareness in her own way. Now, she is left outraged.

It’s worth reading the whole writeup, if you haven’t already.

Mike Tierney, superintendent of the Dover Union Free School District, initiated the removal. I recently emailed Tierney and some other Dover administrators the following note, asking them to reconsider what they’ve done here:


Hello Mike Tierney,

I recently learned of the decision to paint over Jody Grant’s driveway mural, a memorial to Black lives ended by systemic, ingrained racism and the unaccountable institution of police in America. I wanted to drop you a quick note to explain why I’m disappointed by this decision, but also why I think it’s possible to make things right here.

Painting over a memorial to Black lives lacks empathy, and is itself an act of violence when considered in the context of life for Black people in the United States of America. And claiming to personally support the mural’s message is an empty gesture that lacks principles. In your job as an administrator of a public school, with authority over the direction of young people’s lives, I think it’s really important that you understand why your decision has caused real harm.

In an email, you said:

I decided to take down the mural because (although I agree with her message and proud of her want for change) it was not the appropriate time/place of manner for her message.

When is it inappropriate to mourn? I can think of driveway paintings that would be considered inappropriate by most people, but Jody’s mural does not fit into any of those molds. It’s not obscene. It doesn’t directly cause harm or incite anyone to cause harm. Instead, it’s relevant to living a curious life in pursuit of kindness, and reflects on something that’s personally important to its creator.

I suspect you would permit, or maybe celebrate, a driveway memorial to a specific student who was killed in a drug overdose, or was a victim of drunk driving. The same for a memorial to the country-wide collection of young people lost to the widely-acknowledged drug overdose epidemic. I suspect you would permit a driveway memorial by a student about someone who isn’t a student if it was a memorial to someone who was killed by circumstances almost everyone could agree were regrettable — if it wasn’t challenging or uncomfortable. And here again, I think you would permit a memorial to a collection of people lost in similar circumstances.

Assuming my characterization to how you would react to these other, hypothetical memorials is correct, what’s the difference in appropriateness of those circumstances and that of life and death for Black Americans? I think it’s worth taking a moment to consider and sit with that.

Jody Grant is grieving, like so many people in our country are, and you told her that her grief isn’t appropriate. Whether you meant to or not, you asserted that a tradition revolving around personal expression should not, and given your authority, cannot, touch on institutional racism. You said that this place of learning is not a place where it’s safe to discuss the epidemic of police violence in the United States that disproportionally affects Black people. In painting over this mural, Dover High School and Dover itself became less tolerant — less safe — and I hope you can appreciate why I call this a form of violence.

In an email to an alumnae, you wrote:

The general guidance has been as you know is [sic] to celebrate student accomplishments, celebrate next steps in their life, show gratitude to family and friends, and school spirit.

I fear that your framing here is retroactive, but I’ll dabble in accomplishments, celebrations, and gratitude briefly. It is an accomplishment that Jody’s eyes are open to pain. It is worth celebrating that there are young people who feel that their next steps in life are to combat extrajudicial killings of Black people. (This is more than worthy of celebration; we should join and support them.) Mourning the loss of life is a form showing gratitude; the act of mourning says that these lives were and are worth something. And transcending school spirit, Jody’s mural, conviction, and clarity are a form of the human spirt shining bright.

Mike, you have an incredible opportunity to do one of the most important things a leader can do: admit you made a mistake. You could bring some good, and some healing, into this world by telling folks that you’ve listened to their perspectives, really learned from them, and changed your mind. I know that this could make some people in Dover uncomfortable, but given our nation’s history and the moment we’re in right now, some discomfort is warranted.

Please rethink your decision here and let Jody paint her mural.

Sincerely,
Ricky Mondello
Class of 2008


I encourage anyone who feels they have standing to reach out and share their feelings with Mike Tierney and the rest of the Dover Schools administration.

WWDC 2019 Talk: What’s New in Authentication

I presented a session at WWDC this year. You can find the video on developer.apple.com, or in the WWDC app. If you’re interested in how apps and websites authenticate users, or you’d like to know how I’ve been spending some of my time at Apple, it’s worth checking out.


An aside: This was the fourth talk I’ve prepared and delivered at WWDC. (That’s four in seven years!) I’ve learned a lot every time I’ve done public speaking, but this time I picked up a specific, tactical lesson: empty your back pockets before getting on stage.

About fifteen minutes before showtime, I took a hairbrush to the bathroom to fix up my hair, stashed the brush in my back pocket, and then immediately forgot about it. I might have been too nervous to remember it.

As I was walking up the staircase to get onto the stage, a loud ~ THWACK ~ surprised me from behind. Oh no! My audio gear fell off the back of my jeans. It’s all over; I’m about to fail. The time I spent preparing and practicing doesn’t matter — the demo gods have enacted their revenge for my talk not actually including a demo.

Or not. When I turned around, I could see that the forgotten hairbrush was to blame, and that it hit the metal stairs on its descent, making the loud sound.

I got lucky. If the brush had held on for just a moment or two, it could have leapt out of my back pocket mid-sentence, as I was being filmed. I’m not sure how I would have recovered from that. Would I bend or kneel down to pick it up? Casually kick it to the side or off the front of the stage? Pretend nothing happened? While ignoring it, trip on it?

My brief terror turned into an overwhelming sense of relief and thankfulness. I haven’t failed. This could have been so much worse. Let’s go do the thing!

This whole episode, playing out over just a few seconds, neutralized a lot of the nervous energy I normally have at the start of a talk, and I think for the better. For me, a lot of what goes into public speaking is managing my emotions; I’m trying to be calm enough to be clear, but enthusiastic enough to keep the audience’s attention. The next time I’m in front of a crowd, I’d like to summon this feeling of gratitude — I’m so lucky; let’s do this! — and incorporate it into that emotional balance. I’ll just have to find a way to do that without first having a moment of all-consuming panic! 🙃

Talk at PasswordsCon 2018: How iOS Encourages Healthy Password Practices

The video of the talk I gave at PasswordsCon 2018 in Stockholm is now available.

My claim: a password manager needs to be more convenient and reliable than reusing memorable passwords to be widely adopted.

The talk covers:

  1. The fact that I have amazing colleagues
  2. Some background on Apple’s role in password management
  3. Why iOS 11.3 removed filling user names and passwords into web pages without user consent
  4. What iOS 12 does to make it easier to log into websites
  5. How iOS uses Face ID and Touch ID to secure logging into websites and apps
  6. What iOS does to guide users toward strong, unique passwords
  7. Why we changed the format of passwords that iOS generates for users
  8. Why iOS allows users to bring their own password manager
  9. Password Rules, a computer-readable description of a service’s password requirements
  10. The Well-Known Change Password URL, why it exists, and how to adopt it

I had a lot of fun preparing this talk, and I hope that folks find it useful.

Resources

Introducing Password AutoFill for Apps

I presented a session at WWDC this year. The video can be found on developer.apple.com.

What Twitter Means to Me

I tweeted for the first time ten years ago today.

That’s not very interesting, but it is an excuse to write a little bit about what Twitter means to me personally.


Lots of people are down on Twitter these days, and there are legitimate reasons to be. The open API that allowed third-party clients to flourish has been locked down in a way that’s discouraged the kind of innovation we used to see on the platform. Unchecked harassment that started on Twitter during GamerGate has fueled a movement of hatred that arguably contributed to the toxic atmosphere surrounding the 2016 US election. At different points, it hasn’t been clear whether the company takes harassment seriously, and if it does, whether it’s capable of addressing it. And recently, Twitter shut down Vine, a service that was source of joy for many people, including me.

Moving beyond issues that are within Twitter’s direct control, friends of mine have been talking about or actually leaving Twitter solely due to increased non-harassment negativity leading up to and persisting beyond the 2016 US election. Twitter reflects and amplifies our anxieties; it’s hard to escape news of Donald Trump, a resurgence of fascist tendencies, and a political movement that rejects empathy and science.

These are real problems, and if someone wants to stop using Twitter, that’s their decision to make. I still use it daily, because I love the people that Twitter has helped me meet or stay in touch with, and they’re an important part of my life.

When I was in high school in a small town in upstate New York, I didn’t really have anyone around to help develop or even share my interest in technology with. Twitter was my connection to the world I wanted to live in. Although I’d been a member of several forums in the past, I liked Twitter more than any forum because there was no pretense of being limited to any particular topic. In 2008, Twitter was accessible on my iPod touch in a way that other communities weren’t. From that iPod, I followed people who talked about Mac software, making web pages, podcasting, and politics, and that stream of information helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my future.

What started as a way for me to fill a void in the types of people I knew in “real life” changed as I left that small town. Today, Twitter is how I get my news. It’s helped me see different perspectives, particularly around gender-related issues both in and outside of the technology industry. It’s how I tell the world about the cool stuff I’ve worked on. And recently, I count on it as the first place I’ll find out where important protests are taking place.

I can find humor and entertainment in all sorts of places, but Twitter is the online community where I can check in with friends I care about. Friends who share common interests, like Apple, web development, certain music, or a narrow interest in video games. Friends who are sincere, thoughtful, and willing to change their minds. Friends who share their jokes, their hopes, their fears, their good days, and their bad days. Friends who cheer each other up, push each other forward, and celebrate each other’s accomplishments.

From what I can tell, the cloud of anxiety that has surrounded everything since the 2016 US election is real, and it’s affected a lot of us. As a society, we’ve moving backwards, and many of us are directly under attack by the new administration. While attempting to cope with this new reality, my Twitter friends have been a bright spot. If you are one of these people, I hope you know that I think you’re great.

Introducing Safari View Controller

I presented a session at WWDC this year. The video, along with a transcript, can be found on developer.apple.com.