The other side of diversity
November 5, 2014 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Here I’ll try to highlight how it has affected me, as I grew from a young black lady to a black woman in the predominantly white male tech industry.
posted by forza (15 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
I avoided the one place in the Bay Area I could go and feel not so different. It never dawned on me that the people who were telling me not to go there were the people who might go there and feel uncomfortable. It never dawned on me that I’d let other peoples experiences and cultural upbringing completely negate my own. It never dawned on me that I really wasn’t in the set of Us.

Damn, yeah.
posted by rtha at 1:25 PM on November 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


And people wonder why I hate mono-culture and homogeneous groups.
posted by daq at 1:27 PM on November 5, 2014


"I know this: I am not my job. I am not my industry or its stereotypes. I am a black woman who happens to work in the tech industry. I don’t need to change to fit within my industry. My industry needs to change to make everyone feel included and accepted."

hell, yes.
posted by jammy at 1:28 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are so many facets to diversity in the workplace and I'm really glad to see a slightly different perspective. Her story as a black female tech worker illustrates quite cleanly the concept of intersectionalism and how being a black woman in tech is an entirely different beast from being a black man in tech, or being a woman in tech.

Tokenism is the flip side of diversity. It makes the dominant group feel good about themselves without ever having to be inclusive or understanding. I once had the bizarre experience of being the only gay employee in an obnoxiously hip San Francisco restaurant, being told explicitly that no more were hired because they already had one, being asked ridiculous questions by management that often resulted in them saying "But I thought gays ______", and ultimately getting fired for being too sassy. Not that it matters, but I'm almost entirely hetero-presenting so the constant label of sassy was both hilarious and infuriating. Straight male coworkers regularly behaved belligerently but were not even reprimanded.

I think every person who belongs to one or more minority groups can relate to the microaggressions, the paranoia, the feeling of being different. Without pretending like I understand what people in different groups than mine go through, I at least derive some comfort knowing that all of us go through similar-ish things. I've really come to appreciate the fact that in our difference there is a sameness- our circumstances may intersect in a thousand different ways, but intersections after all, are where we meet.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:35 PM on November 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


That's a great read, and I hope it has an effect. Thanks for posting it.
posted by languagehat at 1:35 PM on November 5, 2014


This isa great essay that starts from a great place of simply saying how the author feels rather than trying to prove any gigantic universal point. Really well-written.

I have one quibble (of course):

I visited Oakland, went to First Friday, walked Lake Merritt, talked to the people at the corner store, that sense of community found me. I felt like I was home. I don’t think it’s coincidence that I felt that sense of belonging in a place that wasn’t so homogeneous. Some part of me felt free to relax and breathe. It was ok to be me, there was nobody I had to make comfortable with my existence.

Many other parts of the Bay Area are plenty non-homogeneous, but they probably don't have any black people. Sunnyvale? Lots of people from India and Pakistan. Cupertino? Lots of people that would broadly lumped together as "Asian". There are very large minority-majority areas around there where the majority population (white people) are less than 50% of the population.

But that said, she's well within her rights to want to be in an area with more black people. "I regularly see other members of my own race" is like one of the first few points in the privilege checklist. So good for her.
posted by GuyZero at 1:39 PM on November 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


I have only read the first section (and now I must leave my computer) but I can sympathize.

I suspect that we have some things in common. There is a reason why the Hispanic faculty on my campus talk to each other in Spanish as often as we can. (Which is not often as there aren't many of us and we don't work in the same physical spaces.)
posted by oddman at 1:42 PM on November 5, 2014


It was interesting how she mentioned dressing the part to fit in. I hadn't considered that before.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:27 PM on November 5, 2014


And dressing the part can be hard - sometimes it only makes you stick out more.
posted by maryr at 2:58 PM on November 5, 2014


While reading comments on articles is often depressing or infuriating, I found the comments on hacker news for this mostly interesting and informative.
posted by Death and Gravity at 4:02 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm really glad she spoke up about this.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:04 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I found the comments on hacker news for this mostly interesting and informative.

Yeah, HN usually blames the victim or pretends whatever -ism doesn't exist, but I guess everything is possible.
posted by GuyZero at 4:25 PM on November 5, 2014


A really great article. Most of the things I hear about promoting diversity is about how diversity can make a company's products better, but this is one of the few articles that I've read that clearly elucidates how diversity can also really help the work environment.
posted by gyc at 5:18 PM on November 5, 2014


Her story as a black female tech worker illustrates quite cleanly the concept of intersectionalism and how being a black woman in tech is an entirely different beast from being a black man in tech, or being a woman in tech.

She is a woman in tech.
posted by KathrynT at 9:05 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, HN usually blames the victim or pretends whatever -ism doesn't exist, but I guess everything is possible.

There was definitely some good comments there, but you don't have to scroll that far down to find someone arguing that hiring a more diverse workforce will just result in two disjoint groups, diverse people and non-diverse people, that have nothing in common and won't talk to each other... #whatisthisidonteven
posted by effbot at 9:22 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


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