This article was published in the Summer 2020 issue
by Cydni Tetro, President of Women Tech Council
One of the greatest assets of our technology community are the activators—people who seek to be change agents for innovation, progress and solutions. This spirit of action has built companies, disrupted markets, created new technologies, and inspired meaningful relationships. It is a foundational part of our community, and a fundamental component of our past successes.
But right now, the greatest need in our community is not to build startups, increase capital or reinvent processes. It is to push for social justice reform, to eliminate racial inequality, and to create more inclusive environments. We need the collective strength, energy and determination of all our activators aligned to these objectives, starting with the commitment to become an ally to the Black or BIPOC community.
Becoming an ally is committing to a lifelong process of forging relationships built with trust, accountability and consistency. It means more than building bridges with marginalized individuals and groups. It means listening, learning, engaging and speaking up—even when doing so is uncomfortable, painful, confusing, or difficult. True allies have a great capacity to impact those around them, and when they support other change agents and solutions, the impact will reach far beyond their immediate circles.
As we embark on the work of rebuilding systems, organizations, and our own perceptions when needed for greater social justice, we call on all in our community to join with us to become better allies to our colleagues, friends and community members who are Black, Indigenous or of color. While this is a lifelong journey, here are four ways to begin:
1. Listen more than you speak – Good allies are good listeners. Seek to hear and appreciate the experiences of Black people and people of color. It’s okay if you don’t know what to say in response. Don’t get defensive or feel the need to explain or show how you are not racist. Listen to and appreciate their experiences not as a personal attack, but as lived realities of racism, injustice, and hate.
2. Educate yourself – You can’t be an ally if you don’t know, recognize and understand the issues, or how to help fix problems and rebuild systems. There are dozens of books, podcasts, TED talks, and other resources that can help. You can also go to a local organization’s event. Whatever you choose, don’t make your Black friends and people of color be the ones to explain racism and injustice. Do what you can to learn as much as you can first.
3. Don’t assume you know – Good allies don’t give advice to Black people of color about dealing with racism. Without meaning to, this can minimize painful, real, lived experiences. It can also communicate that the onus is on them to fix or overcome issues that are much bigger, broader, and deeper than any one individual. It can even suggest they haven’t done enough, or aren’t doing the right things. Instead, you could ask what needs to be done, if they need help, or if there’s anything you can do to help.
4. Be vigilant – Allies don’t stomach racist or microaggressive comments wherever they hear them. Say something, even if there are no Black people or people of color present. When you recognize policies or practices that perpetuate racial discrimination, help those in positions of power see the problem and hold them accountable for change. And if you get called out for something you did that was unintentionally racist, restart with listening, learning and changing.
The effects of these efforts are both small and monumental. Individually, they make deep ripples into relationships and teams. Collectively, they make broad ripples into organizations, systems, and communities. We call on all in our community to join us in these and other measures to create solutions for social justice, and combat racism in all its forms. With such a strong community of activators united as allies, we can support and elevate those pioneering individuals and movements whose solutions can truly drive meaningful inclusion for the benefit of the Black community, people of color and all in our society.