Abstract: Today every organization is pro-diversity. They exclaim it on their websites and list all the great things they do in their job descriptions. Which is good. Like, way better than it was. But, not many organizations are doing the hard work at increasing inclusion amongst their team members. Hard conversations are not being had. Changes are only superficial. It’s still uncomfortable for me in my black skin to exist in these majority white spaces because white folks are still uncomfortable with my black skin. In this talk we’re going to address these truths head on. I’ll share my own and other black developers experiences and we will walk through ways you can develop the empathy, patience and courage needed to be okay working beside a black person tomorrow.
I’M STILL BLACK
AND YOU’RE STILL RACIST
AKA WHY YOUR PRO-DIVERSITY
CULTURE IS HIDING RACIST PARASITES
PREREQUISITE: WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO ME SLIDE
▸ Black Woman
▸ Mother of Black Boys
▸ Progeny of Enslaved and
▸ Employee of Detroit Labs
▸ Android App Developer
▸ Diversity and Inclusion Coach
▸ TEALS Volunteer
SHARED POOL OF KNOWLEDGE
WAIT! ENTERING POTENTIALLY TRIGGERING CONTENT
▸ Racial Slurs
I’M STILL BLACK AND THE TECH INDUSTRY IS STILL RACIST.
▸ Racism is a system of oppression based on the fallacy of
the existence of human races that creates a hierarchy
where people socially identiﬁed as white are at the top of
the food chain.
TECH IS OVERWHELMING WHITE
▸ The percentage of Black folks (with any degree) working
in tech as of:
▸ 2002 was only 7%
▸ 2006 was only 5%
▸ The percentage of Black folks in the labor force in 2006
IT’S NOT A PIPELINE PROBLEM
▸ The percentage of Black folks (with any degree) under and
unemployed in tech as of:
▸ 2006 was 25.3%
▸ And for comparison sake, for white folks in that same
time frame it was only 13.7%
TECH ORGANIZATIONS ARE TRYING… THE SAME THINGS
▸ Google, FB and Amazon all have D&I Initiatives to improve
their organizational diversity
▸ Employee Resource Groups
▸ Unconscious Bias Training (Google and FB)
▸ Targeted Recruiting
▸ Engaging with youth from underrepresented
TIME AND INITIATIVES HAVEN’T RESULTED IN PROGRESS
▸ The percentage of Black folks (with any degree) working in tech as
▸ 2015 was 5%
▸ 2017 was 7%
▸ 1 in 4 PoC reported being stereotyped and 35% say that
contributed to them leaving
▸ In 2017 Google admitted attrition was highest among their black
This shows us that even when organization’s eﬀorts increase the demographic diversity of it’s hires, they are losing those same demographics due to racism.
The “pipeline” is really a sieve.
WHY HAVEN’T THINGS IMPROVED?
If organizations are doing things, legit things, why hasn’t anything gotten objectively better?
THE WAY FORWARD IS IN THE TWEETS OF BLACK FOLKS
Almost everything any organization needs to do to improve their demographic diversity is provided for the free by Black folks who just be giving it away on the twitter
And if you need more intensive care, many are available for a fee to show up at your door and help you save yo self.
Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral Album Cover
* Last fact started downward spiral
* What could I say that hasn’t been said?
* If this info is available - why no changes?
* And then I end up back at my title slide - Orgs aren’t doing better because the information, while freely available, is provided by Black (and brown) folk they don’t
follow, respect or trust.
* How do we solve systemic racism when our individual racism gets in the way of us even learning about racism?
THE PERMEANCE OF RACISM
▸ Proposes that racism is integral to
the United States
▸ Uses ﬁction stories to demonstrate
how racism inﬂuences decision
making in the United States
▸ Encourages folks to commit to the
work for the sake of the work
* Faces at the Bottom of the Well by Derrick Bell, the ﬁrst black tenured law professor at Harvard Law School and a civil right’s activist.
* rRacism is integral to the United States and can never be solved.
* He’s like, it’s not a patch in the quilt, it’s the fucking thread. Which is - so demoralizing on contact.
* I was straight arguing with the book like, “What you mean, sir? How you gon’ tell me my kids will never reap rewards from this labor I’m doing?”
* why am I doing this work if it’s never going to make a diﬀerence, right?
* Well, he goes on to explain that to really do this work - one must be intrinsically motivated by the righteousness of the work itself. Would you still be willing to journey
on if there was no promised land to arrive at?
* Would you? - Why are you here today?
* Reﬂect on myself.
* Not just my work in D&I.
* Am I in this to win this or am I in this because it’s right and I believe in it? Is this work my reward?
* It is for me.
* And it’s not for them - which is why those organizations aren’t seeing the changes they proclaim to want. They looking for data, for kudos, for a promised diversity
wonderland they will never see.
“IF YOU WANNA
HIDE THE TRUTH,
PUT IT IN THE
MOUTH OF A
Has anyone heard the saying “If you want to hide knowledge from a black person, put it in a book”?
YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG
* Does your organization have diversity initiatives? Things like targeted recruiting and leadership tracks?
Ok, I want you to stop. Seriously, stop doing D&I cuz you’re doing it wrong and you’re not helping. In actuality your eﬀorts are more likely harming Black folks who buy
the public face bullshit and end up working in a cesspool and sometimes exiting the industry all together.
* Check your reﬂection/motivations
* Why do you have D&I?
* Are you looking for Diversity Wonderland?
* Are you focused on the business case?
* Do you feel pressured by customers?
* Prefer orgs just don’t do it if they ain’t in it
* If motivated by righteousness of work
* Fuck the status quo cuz it’s wrong as fuck
* I’m here for it
INCLUSION BEGETS DIVERSITY
IT AIN’T CHICKENS OR EGGS
* Go back to Fact 5
* Attrition rates mean that there is 0 gains
* That’s because organizations are trying to plant new ﬂowers into ill-prepared soil.
RE-ORDER THE ORDER OF OPERATIONS
▸ Inclusion must come ﬁrst
▸ Diversity only works in
* Assumption that ﬁrst get black folks then inclusion just happens
* McKinsey Study proved increased proﬁtability of diverse teams
* Diversity has a downside
* Biases (historical oppression) gets in the way
* They failed to understand the psychology of humans and our deep-seeded need to create a hierarchy and how that gets in the way of teamwork.
* Deloitte Study - You need an inclusive culture to get the beneﬁts of a diverse team
NO INCLUSIVE ACCIDENTS
TILLING THE SOIL
INCLUSION AND ANTI-RACISM DON’T JUST HAPPEN
▸ Inclusion is not a by-product of diversity
▸ It takes intentional work to create an inclusive culture
▸ Every person in an organization is responsible for
contributing to - or negating from - the inclusiveness of
* Inclusion is the glue that holds diversity together
* Everyone has to work together to till the soil to prepare it for diversity to bloom
* How many folks in here are CEOs or directors? -
* okay, well, the organizational changes you are able to make from those positions is a whole ‘nother talk. What I’ll touch on today barely skims the surface. So,
just know, that that work exists too - separate and no less vital to the work I’m going to go over today.
ALL PRAISE RI-RI
ANTI-BLACK RACISM HAS INFECTED YOU
▸ You hold anti-Black beliefs
▸ Most of those ideas are not conscious to you
▸ Possessing anti-Black ideas is not an indictment on your
▸ What you do with them - ARE
* Yes, everything is about race.
* In the United States, racism has a particular anti-Black ﬂavor
* Knowing that, and that you are infected by the system we all live in - you got some choices to make
* This is going to be hard and never-ending work
* There are stories, social narratives learned since birth
* They were told to you in the womb
* They have shaped your life, beliefs and values, ambitions, goals, fears, interactions with others
* If your parents were white
* likely got good medical treatment
* mom had access to medical doctors in a hospital
* received pain medication when requested
* If you parents were black
* 3 to 4 times more likely to die carrying, birthing or holding you
* less likely to get adequate pain medicine and care
* Growing up white
* greatness of whiteness and your place in society
* also taught about “others”
* close relationship to savages
* generosity of whiteness
* if only they could be more white
* Growing up black (brown or red)
* white as apex and more desirable traits
* closest to gods, inﬁnite possibilities
* whiteness saved us
* need to be grateful
* dangers of ingratitude
* your animalistic genes
* capacity to taint whiteness
* must be fully broken to roam free with whites
* Stories always within us
* dusty bookshelves
* Checked out when your mind needs to write a paper about black folks
* when we see a group of black teenage boys on the street, we remember the stories about their propensity for violence
* we remember to cross the street, lock our car doors - be safe. But not why.
* To stop playing the same roles you gotta wake up
* Have to be willing to look at those shelves
* books, stories, authors, what to keep and what to keep
* everything else is to be challenged and probably tossed out
* It’s like a deep Spring Cleaning except those dust-crusted spaces will take constant addressing
* done something bad - felt shock
* did I cross into the darkside?
* am I darth vader?
* It can shake you to know you have the capacity for bad
* especially if your ego prides itself on being “good”
* Makes sense why some default to color-blindness and MLK quotes
* It’s hard and folks shy away from hard things
* Objective outside evaluations can help
HARVARD IMPLICIT ASSOCIATION TEST
▸ Measures strength of associations
between concepts and evaluations
▸ Available for the FREE online
▸ Takes minutes to complete
▸ Widely enough used and studied
that it’s deemed pretty accurate
* There are diﬀerent kinds of implicit association or implicit bias tests
* some are really cool and combine brain scans to our responses
* focus on Harvard IAT
* From the website: concepts like race, religion and evaluations like good and bad
* Good starting point
TAKE THE RACE IAT
▸ This will test how you
subconsciously associate black and
white folk (concepts) to good and
▸ Put it away overnight
▸ Review the results the following
▸ Accept the results as current
* The results can be startling so I suggest not diving into them right away. Save it and put it away for a night
* The next day, review them and be conscious of how you feel about them.
* Accept them as truth no matter how it challenges your self image
* This isn’t enough tho
* research shows that simply knowing you have a bias is not enough to eﬀect changes
* in some cases it can increase biases because it feels so common and normalized
* The point of taking it is to have objective results that you can do something about
* The results of an IAT are only the opening paragraph to a Song of Fire and Ice length story.
After you’ve taken the IAT, it’s time to learn more about unconscious racism and more importantly, how that racism is inﬂuencing your decision-making processes.
▸ Learning modules on Unconscious
▸ Module 4 is about Bias Mitigation
* has modules that walk you through what your simple brain is doing with complex information behind your back, so to speak.
* While not long, it’s depth of study and relatable language makes it a great place to start.
* Module 4 gets to the good stuﬀ - bias mitigation.
* I know what you’re thinking… isn’t Unconscious Bias training what orgs are doing and didn’t you say it wasn’t working?
* Indeed, it’s not enough. So, In addition to the information Kirwan provides for individual bias mitigation I have some exercises you need to do:
START AN UNDOING DIARY
▸ On the ﬁrst page, record your Race IAT results and:
▸ The date you took it
▸ Your feelings about the results
▸ Are you shocked? Uncomfortable? Guilty?
▸ Why do you have these feelings?
* I’m a writer so I consume my feelings in words. I process them on paper, always have.
* For non-writers I know that writing isn’t as reﬂexive - regardless, I think it’s vital for documenting our selves through this work.
* Use whatever modality works best for you
* It should be something you feel safe using
* Feelings - did you think you were beyond such biases?
COMMITMENT TO IMPROVE
▸ Decide if you want to improve
▸ If you do want to improve, investigate why you do
▸ Record a commitment to improve
▸ If you don’t want to improve, investigate why you do not
▸ Record your decision to not improve at this time
* First you need to decide if you want to improve.
* Think results == who we are as people
* you were racist before you knew you automatically associated whiteness with goodness.
* Your inherent anti-black racism existed before you took this test and will exist after if you let it. But don’t go committing to a change you don’t genuinely want to make.
* First, you will fail. Second, you will hurt black folks in your failure. Third, you eliminating your anti-black racism is for *you*. Not me or any other black person. You aren’t
our savior. This is about if you want to save yourself.
* If you want to improve, you have to commit to it
* Put it in writing
* To be real, sometimes we aren’t in the place to address certain things at that time. And sometimes we simply don’t care to do so
* If you choose not to improve, put that in writing too
CREATE AN IMPROVEMENT PLAN
▸ Use some of the suggestions from Kirwan
▸ Self Interrogate
▸ Get out of your comfort zone
▸ Question everything
▸ Enrich your entertainment
▸ Research cultures
▸ Find your tribe
▸ Get good at apologies
WORK, RECORD, REVIEW, REPEAT
▸ Set a regular schedule for checking in with yourself
▸ What did/didn’t you do?
▸ What was really challenging?
▸ How do you feel now?
▸ Keep iterating
Remember there is no promised land. This is work that you don’t stop doing. This is work you’ve committed to do because you want to do it.
ZOOM IN ON IMPROVEMENT
TELL ME MORE, TELL ME MORE
Let’s talk a little more about those improvement activities I mentioned
INTERROGATE THY SELF
▸ You need to ask and record your answer to the following:
▸ Do you have any Black people in your immediate family?
▸ If not, would the introduction of a Black person cause issues?
▸ Do you have any Black people in your close circle of friends?
▸ If yes, have you talked to them about race and racism?
▸ Do you have any Black people in your community?
▸ If not, would a Black family next door cause issues?
* Ask yourself some hard questions about where your social narratives came from and why they’ve persisted.
* If black folks entering your family would create a problem, then it’s probable you got some of your stories about black folks from them.
* What does that mean for you now?
* No, one black friend does not count.
* Why don’t you have more intimate friendships with black people?
* If your black friends aren’t talking openly with you about race and racism… they ain’t your friends.
* If a black family moving into your neighborhood would be a major event that caused stress for those there - well, you just got an up close glimpse at Racism in
GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
▸ Seek out majority black spaces
▸ Take up only the space you physically need
▸ Listen intently and openly
▸ Backseat your ego
▸ Reﬂect on the experience in your Undoing Diary
▸ How was the experience?
▸ If it was hard, why do you think that is?
ENRICH YOUR ENTERTAINMENT
▸ Think about the kinds of entertainment you consume?
▸ How much of that entertainment is by and featuring Black
▸ Consciously choose entertainment created by Black folks,
featuring the lives of Black folks
▸ Do this for multiple genres - not just drama or comedy or
▸ Ask yourself why these portrayals seem so unusual to you?
* A lot of culture is shared through what we consider entertainment.
* Books, movies, music and other forms of art.
* Go get a book about Black life written by a Black person.
* Watch ﬁlms written, directed and acted out by Black people.
* Go to an African American Museum and ask yourself why you never learned the history it displays?
STEP UP YOUR CULTURAL HISTORICAL EDUCATION
▸ Read about Black culture
▸ Seek out materials written by Black folk
▸ Read about the history of African dynasties
▸ Read about race and racism
▸ White Rage by Carol Anderson, PhD
▸ Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi
* Almost every person educated in the United States has learned White Supremacist history.
* The Native Americans are paragraphs in books about white rights. Paragraphs where they are made out to be violent savages who attack without provocation
white folks just trying to live in peace.
* Black folks are slaves. Our existence started on those ships and as only made the lives of generous white folks here more challenging with our violence and
demands for unequal treatment.
* The great thing about the internet is that we are no longer constrained to the knowledge spoon-fed us in school. We can and should and must go learn what has been
hidden from us.
* Have you ever heard of Kush? What about Kemet? Did you know there were great civilizations all across the globe long before the Greeks and Romans?
* If you’re curious about how racism and white supremacy has infected the United States you should read Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi and White
Rage by Carol Anderson, PhD.
* Both these books illustrate just how inﬂuential and devastating white supremacy has been here.
* It will also, hopefully, help you understand where the social narratives you’ve consumed came from.
FIND YOUR TRIBE
▸ Seek out and join a community of like-minded folks who
share your identities
▸ Share your frustration in this space
▸ Seek and give support to others in this work
▸ Be open to learning
* I can’t stress enough just how hard this work will be. How isolating and soul wrenching.
* It’s important that you seek out your kinfolk. People who share your identities that are also engaging in this work.
* Create a space where you can come together and share your frustrations with one another.
* Learn together. Support one another. Keep each other uplifted and committed.
* Lament here, and not in the spaces of those who are enduring the harms.
GET GOOD AT APOLOGIZING
▸ Be prepared to make mistakes
▸ Be humble when someone calls you out
▸ Remember your intentions < your impact
▸ Own your mistake
▸ Apologize for your IMPACT
▸ Express your gratitude
▸ Take it as a lesson - Do better next time
* You’re going to fuck this up. You are. It’s predestined.
* You are undoing a lot of tangles that have knotted up your thinking.
* One day you’re going to trip someone.
* They’re going to get hurt by your actions. You’re going to feel like shit.
* This is not the end of the world and deﬁnitely should not be the end of your work.
* Note here, if you wanna quit because you got called out - you should. You were never really committed and you’re doing more damage than good.
* When this happens, be humble.
* Recognize that your intentions don’t matter. The impact of your actions outweigh whatever is in your heart.
* Own your mistake. Don’t ﬁnger-point, place blame or otherwise try to escape your error.
* Apologize for your IMPACT. Don’t, for the life of you, even mention what you meant to do. No one cares if you meant to step on their foot when their toe is broken.
* Be thankful. You just learned something. Be grateful that someone was willing to let you know. No one owes you that labor.
* Do better. Take that lesson you were just gifted and recommit to your self improvement.
RIPPLE YOUR EFFECTS
SPREAD THE LEARNING
▸ Pay attention
▸ Be aware of the power dynamics in your ofﬁce
▸ Play offense
▸ Strategize how to minimize the dynamics
▸ Leverage your privilege to advocate for others
* Be aware of the oﬃce politics and power dynamics in your oﬃce.
* Are there certain groups that have more voice that overshadow others’ attempts to participate?
* When you’re in meetings, do some folks ideas get summarily dismissed only to have those same ideas repeated by the dominant group and be applauded?
* Play Oﬀense
* Once you’re aware of which groups have more power, you can strategize your oﬃce before meetings to minimize the dynamics.
* For example, let’s say the power dynamics are that white cis het middle aged men on your team are seen as more knowledgable. And let’s say you’ve
witnessed that in meetings when a black woman on the team tries to share their opinions they get ignored. You can circumvent this in the next meeting by
starting oﬀ with intentionally inviting that black woman to share her idea.
* Use language like “Brandy, you’ve always had great ideas and I know you’ve solved similar problems successfully in the past, what do you think we should
* If you’re in a position to introduce a Black person to others, include all their credentials and use language that shares your respect for their work. Studies
have shown that doing this actually reduces the biases of the group.
BYSTANDER INTERVENTIONS (CONT)
▸ Play defense
▸ Call Foul
▸ When you hear someone using biases to support a
decision, call it out
▸ When you witness someone being targeted, get in the
* Sometimes, even when we strategize how to keep biases at bay, they crop up in the moment. When that happens we have to be willing to act.
* Call Foul
* When you hear someone using biased language, call it out for what it is.
* For example, if, when discussing the promotion of a Black woman to a leadership position someone says “She’s so aggressive, though. I don’t think
the team will respond well to that.” Respond with “Can you give examples of her being aggressive?”, “When Dan was up for promotion, his
aggressive leadership was seen as a beneﬁt. Why is Brandy’s seen as a hindrance? Could there be something else at play here?”, “I think we should
be conscientious of the fact that generalized language like that has been used to historically to keep Black women from leadership positions. If we
have speciﬁc examples of behaviors that don’t align with our rubric, let’s share that to ensure our biases don’t get in the way of us making a fair
* When you witness a bias, like a micro-aggression, taking place - get in the way of it.
* Use your privilege to draw attention from the target and provide cover.
* For example, if you over-hear someone asking a Black team member if they grew up in the ‘hood, interject by saying something like “George, that
question is a lot of things and none of those things are your business.” then immediately begin conversing with the Black teammate about something
professional and using your body language invite them to exit the space with you.
DEMAND NEW PLAYS
▸ Use your privilege to address organizational inequalities
and push for changes
▸ For Teams
▸ Suggest the use to inclusion building activities
▸ Suggest the creation of team agreements
* Suggest that teams make use of practices like the One Mic Rule to ensure that everyone gets uninterrupted time to speak.
* Or that teams use activities like the 30-second Sound Byte, to start oﬀ brainstorming sessions to ensure no one person gets to overwhelm the conversation.
* There are hundreds of other techniques and activities that teams can do to stave oﬀ biases when working together.
* Another really useful one is just sharing our stories.
* Suggest that when a new team is forming they meet before starting the project to get to know one another on a personal basis. You can use diﬀerent ice breaker
activities or just take the time to share a meal and chat.
* Studies have shown that taking this time and getting to know team members as people increases inclusion through vulnerability which builds trust which in
turn increases psychological safety. So many wins with one small action.
DEMAND NEW PLAYS (CONT)
▸ For Organization
▸ Request an investigation into pay and promotion disparities
▸ Urge the formation of an ERG
▸ Request annual unconscious bias mitigation training
▸ Starting with the Senior Leadership
▸ Request an Inclusion and Diversity policy
▸ Ask that it has language of expected behaviors and consequences
▸ If there are any team members who are outwardly hostile to Black folks -
Demand they be ﬁred
* This is really the lynchpin that organizations fail to implement. No matter how pretty the words of support for diversity and inclusion, if they won’t support and protect
their Black employees, it’s worthless.
* Start Where You Are With What You Have
* Doing this work is scary. Once we get started it only gets scarier in some ways.
* We worry that we will be seen as one of them and shunned and excluded. Or that we’ll get called out for making a mistake and shunned and excluded.
* We worry that we aren’t doing enough. Or that we’re doing the wrong things. Or that nothing we do really matters in the scheme of things.
* If you wait until you’re not afraid you’ll never start. If you wait until it’s socially acceptable, you’ll never start. If you wait until you know you will be comfortable, you’ll
* If you care about doing this work because you genuinely believe in this work. If this work is the reward, in and of itself… then you need to just start. With the fear. With
the uncertainty. With the discomfort balled up in your gut. There will never be a right or better time.
* And for real, for real, us Black folks aren’t sitting around waiting for you. We can’t.
* Our very survival in this land has always depended on our ability to learn, adapt and never take any progress for granted.
* We live in suspicion of and preparation for white folks rage.
* We’re not passing out cookies to white folks for being nice because we know that the second the cookie isn’t the ﬂavor y’all want - you wanna speak to our
* So - nah - we ain’t here for you. And you can’t be here for us.
* You gotta be here for yourself. Motivated by your own internal desires to do better, to detox from your racism.
* Committed to the continuous work of reworking. Because, there is no promised land.
* Your organization will never not be racist.
* You, will always be racist.
* So the best you can do, what you must do if you want an inclusive and diverse organization - is do the work anyway.
▸ Join #still_back
▸ Follow folks on twitter
▸ I’m @bcwf
▸ GET THAT WORK!