As folks think through how to disentangle and deconstruct systemic racism in many of our institutions, it comes as little surprise that the tech industry falls under similar scrutiny. Long a falsely held “meritocracy,” our largely white industry has any number deeply troubling racist dynamics to it, from its current demographics to its culture to its technology. And it’s going to take long term work — and constant dedication to that work — to address these issues and implement necessary changes.
To inform that my own work — as when creating any solution — I always feel it’s important to have as much context as possible. These are just a few articles that I have personally found helpful and illuminating for me as I work through my own journey of what to do and how to help. I thought they might be helpful to some of you, as well. So I’m sharing them with you.
Your silence because you’re afraid of what your family, colleagues, or regular group of brunch friends will say is your complicity. Your quiet, gullible optimism that if you work to “fix” racism then the discomfort you feel in being confronted about it will go away is your tacit consent to targets put on Black lives everywhere.
For the tech industry, this reckoning has been going on in some form since 2014. But while large tech and venture capital firms have promised to do better, little has changed in how Black people and other people of color are treated as job candidates, employees and investors.
Black entrepreneurs say they are encouraged by the movement but deeply skeptical that the industry will change. Interviews with 20 Black tech leaders depict a position of power that can sometimes feel powerless. Repeated assumptions that they’re not in charge of their own companies, a common experience among Black chief executive officers, can instill a lingering sense of self-doubt. They describe a career of subtle slights or outright discrimination in which they face regular inquisition about their credentials and peculiar suggestions to hire a White business partner to make investors more comfortable.
The protests, and renewed outcry from both Big Tech’s critics and its own employees, have focused the attention of Silicon Valley leaders on the industry’s racial inequities, and its products’ discriminatory impacts, as never before. And yet the partial pullback from face recognition stands as one of the few tangible changes to emerge from this reckoning so far.
Ford’s register is a sort of ferocious kindness. To discuss his experiences as an activist and his thoughts on the present political conjuncture, I spoke with Ford at numerous protest events and did two formal interviews in June.
When I talk about dismantling racism and ending white supremacy at the systems level, I’m talking about more than just putting a bandaid on injustice by increasing the number of women, non-binary and non-white people in your organization. Diversity and inclusion (DNI) initiatives are table stakes. These initiatives are necessary but not sufficient to drive systemic change.
I’ll continue to share and amplify these resources on social as I find them. If that would be of interest to you, please consider following me on Twitter or LinkedIn where I most regularly share these finds.