I primarily talk about software, hobbies, and my general interests on this site. However, we all need to help keep the conversation moving. Specifically, people who look like me need to help keep the conversation moving.
The protests following George Floyd’s murder need to result in actual change, not trendy profile pictures that fall out of public interest. Fortunately, I believe many fellow software engineers, and their employers, feel the same way.
I’ve deliberated over what to write about, how to write it, and how to “say something” without producing noise.
While I believe I will never be 100% comfortable with what to say here, silence is not an option. Thus, I’ll talk about action upfront, and will continue to talk experience later.
I am always learning, I do not have all the answers, and I still get things wrong. While I do not think I’ll ever “be fully prepared” to talk about action, I cannot be silent when the fire is hot.
There are countless essays, documentaries, books and resources that you have probably seen already. If not, your favorite search engine will point you to several breakdowns of what to do.
However, I’ll throw one film and one book into the ring before continuing here…
For folks in the early learning stages of learning about systemic racism, and injustice, I recommend watching 13TH on Netflix. Ava DuVernay’s documentary provides an essential backdrop to the global conversation.
For folks who would like to read Black literature, I highly recommend Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. It was my favorite book in high school, and highlights many multicultural experiences in the USA.
I’ve had the privilege to work alongside, befriend, and look up to countless Black people in my life. Whether it’s DJing at Black-student-led events, hanging out at my university’s Intercultural Center, creating software and music with Black engineers and artists, or just including me in pre-dominantly Black circles, I have to thank many Black people who have helped make my life that much better.
It’s always time to do the right thing, and I believe that now more than ever. It’s a tired expression, but we need to “be the change we want to see”… in a very literal way.
Learning, knowledge, and donations are a good start, but there is so much more to do. The best way to “be an ally” is to not say it. It’s to be one. The next steps are to have the uncomfortable conversations in non-Black circles, amplify Black voices, and say “these things are not right”.
However, I understand that all of this is not easy. It’s all too easy to delete social media, and tune out the noise. Not everyone has that luxury though. Thus, strike an in-between: take action while taking care of yourself.
So… let’s return to what’s a good start: learning, knowledge, and donations. I’ve mentioned learning and knowledge earlier, so I’ll end this action section with some organizations that I would recommend researching and donating to.
There are so many more organizations, and I recommend doing your own research. Look into your local community, and choose the ones you think are best.
This is a start, but it’s time we all take action.
In my later high school years, I reconnected with a friend from middle school. I became friends with the rest of his circle, and we hungout often, just like with any other friend circle I had been a part of.
However, one night, it became apparent that I could not ignore that things were different. It was about 10pm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We were in a middle class neighborhood of townhomes, just talking on the sidewalk. There was five of us, and I was the only non-Black person there.
Headlights rounded the corner and the slowest moving police car I had ever seen began to approach us. Two officers stared into the faces of my friends and our conversation came to a halt.
It was only after this had happened that I realized I was out of the streetlight’s rays. I stepped forward to get a clearer look at what was happening.
The two officers looked at me, now underneath the streetlight, and then the vehicle sped up. The car left the neighborhood; thrice the speed that it came.
I asked the group why they just… left. The group burst out laughing and said “you are White”.
I don’t talk about this story often because I rarely thought there would be a time or place. Would other White people believe me? Would they believe that this was racially motivated? I was never really sure.
I bring this story up now to help reaffirm that the Black experience is beautiful and real, but also demands change. It’s something that many have only just witnessed for the first time.
Sure, there’s intersectionality in my personal, White experience. I’ve been called “terrorist” and “Mexican” several times in my youth (I guess Italian, Pakistani, a large European mix, and a summer tan will do that), but this post isn’t about me or those with similar experiences. The point: I will never experience the injustice that Black people uniquely do.
I ask that my fellow software engineers, and their employers, recognize that while all experiences are different, we must do our part to ensure the Black experience finds justice. I’m naturally optimistic, and I know we can do this.