I don’t particularly enjoy ruffling feathers or starting tough conversations, but I feel this is a necessary thing.
I’m the oldest of 5 children, but am the only Caucasian out of those 5. My stepfather is African American, and so is my uncle, and my cousins as well. I went to a high school that did and still does have a majority African American student body. I have two sisters, and I now have a daughter. My wife and both of my children have red hair and pale skin. For the most part, I am surrounded by and in love with some of the most disenfranchised groups of people in the U.S.
My experience with all these peoples is that they are no more unintelligent or ignorant than I am. They excel in some things that I’m just plain awful in. They are intelligent, passionate, and determined, just like any other peoples. They can often differ, just like any culture or people. They can often have their own style of talking, dressing, driving, eating, working and playing. But nonetheless, they are worthy of respect. As a matter of fact, they are not THEY. THEY are WE. We are humankind, with our own unique eccentricities and cultures and tongues and activities.
I make this point because there are some that look at my wife, daughter, sisters and mother and see someone that is only useful in the kitchen. There are some that look at my stepfather, uncle, cousins and siblings, and see people that are unworthy of nothing more than manual labor, lacking the ability to comprehend anything more than brute force and violence. There are some that look at my wife and kids and see a weak people, only worthy of being picked on and bullied. If it isn’t already obvious, these things concern me.
I went to a Girl Develop It meeting the other day. For those who haven’t gone before, it’s not a “no-man’s land”. It was created to emphasize that women are pretty scarce in the IT field, and to help teach women so they can learn software development skills. What I found there was highly intelligent women and a few men who came together to teach and learn. It was a great experience that I learned much from.
For quite awhile now, I’ve been following Black Girls Code. This group is not only fighting the troubles that women often run into, but also overcoming cultural stigmas concerning being of African descent. I sadly haven’t made it to one of their meetings, but I plan to in the near future.
Why is this important? Why should anyone care? Just look around in your development groups, and you’ll notice a trend: there are not a whole lot of these different peoples in nearly all development groups. This isn’t because these people don’t want to be software developers. If that was so, the groups I listed above wouldn’t exist. It’s because there is a silently enforced inequality that discourages them, and sometimes even prevents them completely from entering these circles. For someone who loves these people, that upsets me. I’m looking for a change.
So, instead of just talking about change, I’m going to push for it. I’ll be spending my time helping out with Girl Develop It. I’ll be looking to attend a Black Girls Code meeting. I’ll be encouraging my family to follow their passions and ignore those that think lowly of them. I’m even considering making a user group dedicated to respect and learning, regardless of background, color, culture, gender or life choices. I’ll need some help ironing out the details for that, so volunteers would be awesome :).
And that’s all I have for now. Please comment or send me a message if you have any questions or concerns, or would like to back me up on this.
Thanks for reading!