Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man

Emmanuel Acho sits down to have an “uncomfortable conversation” with white America, in order to educate and inform on racism, system racism, social injustice, rioting & the hurt African Americans are feeling today.

Its still early days but I quite like it, especially the discussion with Matthew McConaughey who brings up the notion of “White Allergies” – I have never heard the term

Where we were raised and how we were raised in our history growing up, there’s certain just imported obvious ways that we’re prejudiced in ways that we don’t even understand. We got white allergies and may not even know it. And so, I was sitting there, you know, looking at my own life, and I go, all right. To me, Longview High School, it’s over 50% Black. I applied to Grambling (a historically Black college). I was the first white [person] to ever work at Catfish Station, [a] Black blues bar on 6th Street. I am married to a non-white immigrant. I have Black friends all through my life and still do. But, what prejudices may I have via white allergies that I may not even be aware of?

I think like myself Acho hadn’t heard the term but got it…  He pointed to a example of backhanded compliments, such as “You don’t talk Black,” or ”You’re pretty for a Black girl.”

This reminded me of an experience I had in America on the road while getting some food, I think I was in Iowa or Wisconsin

I walked in to a takeaway place, the white woman with blonde hair  behind the counter. Says to me

“Yo yo brother, whatsup, how ya doin, whatdu want?”

I looked shocked and said in my normal English accent…

Ummmm what….!?

She was so shocked like I had suddenly changed my form completely. I can’t forget the way her face and posture changed.
It was clear she hasn’t heard a black man with a British accent and you could see her world view evaporate like a magician.blowing a puff of smoke.

How to make people of colour’s life a little easier

Wedding
Photo by Slim Emcee on Unsplash

I saw this piece from Vice and was shaking my head in agreement going through the list.Heres some key ones for me…

2. Don’t assume that all people of color share the same views. We are not a monolith.

Absolutely… Can’t tell you how many times people assume they know what my views are simply because of my race

6. Oh, and rest assured that literally no person of color ever wants you to get back from holiday, show off your tan and excitedly exclaim, “Look, I’m almost as dark as you!” Cease and desist.

I always find tans super strange, especially when people compare them to my skin. Stop doing it…

20. Understand that some days are even more mentally exhausting for people of color thanks to the news cycle. Try not to badger us for our opinions on the latest atrocity that has occurred. Leave us to grieve.

I generally ignore the news cycle as I know it doesn’t help my mental health. If you want thoughts on news items, let it sink in first and see what other people of colour are writing.

22. Share articles relating to the everyday experiences of race and racism written by people of color.

There is the hashtag #everydayracism, use it, repost, retweet and retoot. Just like there is #everydaysexism. More people see it the more peopel will realise.

23. But don’t be that person who is weird and sycophantic and loves to demonstrate their wokeness constantly to the people of color around them. Be thoughtful.

You don’t think I notice when you say Yo to me but not to anyone else? We notice

26. Have a critical eye when watching TV and movies. How are they portraying people of color and why? What purpose does it serve?

Just like the Bechdel test you should check out the DuVernay test

31. If you have kids, buy them dolls of color and books with characters of color.

I don’t have kids but I was very happy when a friend bought his daughter a black doll. That child will hopefully grow up being much more comfortable with people of colour

42. People can be Black and gay and disabled and trans and middle class. Blackness is expansive. It doesn’t look one way. Keep this in mind.

Indeed! This is why we need to start thinking much more intersectionaly.

Mixed race couple
Photo by Creative Hina By.Quileen on Unsplash

48. Never try and pull any uninvited “race play” shit in the bedroom. Seriously, what the fuck?

I had quite a few times while dating, discussions about never having sex with a black man. Its massively upsetting and is like number 50, being called exotic! If this happened in the bedroom it would be over in a heartbeat.

59. Look around your workplace—are the only people of color cleaners or assistants? What can you do to change that? (The answer is almost never “nothing.”)

One of my biggest problems, companies who have a diverse workforce but all the people of colour are cleaners, security guards, assistants, etc.

70. Don’t? Vote? For? Racist? Politicians? Can’t believe I need to say this one but it seems like possibly, maybe, some of y’all did not get this memo.

Its simple, don’t vote for those who make their views clear about which side of the fence they sit. People seem to forget this when election time comes around.

78. If you have ever thought a phrase like “Black lives matter” is too assertive, consider why you’re so uncomfortable with Black people standing up for our humanity.

Absolutely… You need to check your white fragility because people of colour of dying

90. Care about race on the 364 days that aren’t Martin Luther King Jr. day.

Black history month is something which bugs me, I get there are seasons but it feels so insulting that everything is held to then or not bundled together because of that month.

96. Understand that nothing in your life has been untouched by your whiteness. Everything you have would have been harder to come by if you had not been born white.

Its hard to discuss but we are getting closer to the point when we can finally have those conversations. That is progress

99. Recognize that fighting racism isn’t about you, it’s not about your feelings; it’s about liberating people of color from a world that tries to crush us at every turn.

The problem is systematic racism, we need each other to make things better for everyone.

Family stands for black lives matter
Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

Racial microaggressions I have heard in the past

Racial microaggressions

I found this on the black leaders facebook network which I was invited to a while ago. I have had at least a couple of these thrown at me in the past. Usually with people who just met me. I do tend to look up thinking here we go again…

Most minorities face microaggressions. If you are woman, LGBTQ+, have a disability, are neurodiverse, etc.

Its tiresome and the people who say it just don’t think. But its certainly time to start making super clear its not alright by playing the question back on the other person.

Re-watching the Watchmen TV series

Spoiler alert!!!

If you have not seen the Watchmen the TV series, Do not watch the explainer above. Instead watch this one,

I can’t tell you how amazing the TV series is and its excellent follow up to the excellent film.

I’m watching it again because although its amazing, and I needed to watch it all again to understand it all. However I also wanted to watch it during the black lives matter protests for its extremely strong race in America storyline and references. This is how I found out about Tulsa in 1921.

Reading/Listening to White Fragility again

I had a re-read/listen to Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility again as its been a while since I heard it the first time, I also felt the context and timing was well worth a re-listen.

There is a lot of hate for this book but honestly its one of the books I highly recommend along side Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race.

 

Why Im no longer talking with white people about race bookWhy Im no longer talking with white people about race book

Screenshots from my Likebook reader

Theres a few lectures and podcasts for those who don’t have the e/book or audiobook.

Are you culpable or a true ally?

Been back and forth about why black lives matter isn’t something you can sit on the fence with. I personally hate binary choices but its clear the middle ground is a problem. Its a problem because silence works in the favor of the system of oppression against the minority. Exactly why the #metoo movement was/is so important.

There’s been a lot of anger at the police and honestly I was crying my eyes out seeing not only Floyd’s murder but other black people’s death at the hands of police officers. I have had enough bad experiences to be weary of the police (Recently I even did the work for them before they would come and help!). I do think all the police involved in the call to the Floyds murder are culpable/responsible for his murder. Not just the one with his knee blocking his airway. But its not just the police, thats just chipping away at the surface.

Think about the courts which hand out police officer short sentences for killing black lives

Its the system of oppression/systematic racism. A system which is built on white privilege and maintains that state no matter what (shootings, throwing as many black people in prison, whatever it takes). Its even the smaller things like the gig-economy, sharing economy , waiting for a meeting, etc.  There is so much to understand and learn if we are going to change it. I say we, because… The only way to change the system is with unity from all.

This is why its been really interesting to see the amount of white people who have also joined the movement. I’m sure they realised this isn’t just a black problem. The system of oppression affects all, the more true alies the better.

I can’t believe it but Cosmo magazine actually has a really good guide to share with parents and friends who don’t understand the problem. While Vogue has a detailed ally guide.

Have you ever noticed the overwhelming whiteness? Yes!

Employees stand up to racism

I remember reading through Dan Lyons archived blog entries after reading Lab rats recently.

He asked the question in this entry while looking through the Business Insiders “50 Best Small Companies to Work For of 2017, According to Employees.”

The companies that end up on lists like this are often the pep-squad types who work really hard to get on lists like this. It’s free marketing. It helps them recruit. But mostly, they totally think that they’re totally awesome. They’re the best.

Presumably the photos you see above were provided by the companies themselves. Which means someone gathered up the whole gang, took a bunch of photos, chose the best one, and sent it along.

Then concludes with …

And no one ever noticed the blinding, overwhelming whiteness. Which kind of says it all.

This is old (2017) but its every day I see this all the time as I scroll through pictures of cool new startups. The 2019 version is better but its not massively different?

 

56 Black men changing stereotypes

56 black men

I first heard about the 56 black men project through a podcast by the resource group’s Jonathan.

In the podcast Jonathan talks about archetypes and stereotypes, defining them very carefully.

Archetypes & Stereotypes are similar but not the same

“I find when people think of positive stereotypes, they are more likely to use the word archetype”

Humans find Archetypes And Stereotypes Useful

“Stereotypes are great examples of heuristics or mental shortcuts that we use to help us negotiate our day-to-day lives.”

Archetypes & Stereotypes Can and Should Evolve

“existing archetypes and stereotypes have led to the world we live in now, new archetypes and stereotypes could lead us to a new world”

This all leads nicely in to his role taking part in the 56 black men project.

Reading through the twitter feed and hashtag, there’s some really interesting comments from others. I personally have avoided wearing hoods slightly because of the stereotype and I don’t find them that comfortable to wear. I like seeing around me (being aware of my surroundings is important for me).

I’m super aware of my presence on people around me, especially females. Its been drummed into me from a very early age mainly media like films and tv. Anything to help change this stereotype especially around black males, is very welcomed!

I’m in the Inclusive top 100 #IB100

I’m extremely happy to be announced as one of the top 100 most influential Black, Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) leaders in the UK tech sector. The list, produced by board appointments firm Inclusive Boards, was released today at the House of Commons as part of the official launch of the Inclusive Tech Alliance.

I have been sitting on this news for quite some time as it was embargoed from publication.

Inclusive Boards Logo

I’m unsure who(m) nominated me (lots of names come to mind) but I am very pleased they did. Maybe it was something to do with my keynote at Afrotech earlier this year? Maybe it might be something to do with Afrofutures a few years ago? Or maybe its a combination of different things and just me and my outlook. Its clear as day I have been fighting for diversity and inclusion at work and everywhere I go, its critical and I’ve become less and tolerant when theres a willful lack of it.

I say tolerant and it might be a strong word, even the wrong word but I do feel very strongly about it and every-time I read the figures of actual levels of racial diversity it just eats me up inside. There’s a real push to increase gender diversity which people keep confusing with actual diversity.

I’m always reminded of this picture when thinking about gender diversity in tech. Like gender, like sexuality, etc (Likewise for Neuro-diversity but thats another story.). Racial diversity needs an equal amount of people pushing for it too. The inclusive tech alliance can help make this a reality. Never underestimate how important this can be for young BAME children living in forgotten parts of the country wondering about their place in the future. I was reminded of this very recently in Macedonia of all places…

The Alliance has been set up in response to new research by Inclusive Boards that will show the sector is significantly lagging behind others on diversity within senior leadership. The founder of the Inclusive Tech Alliance (ITA), Samuel Kasumu, who is also a member of the Prime Minister’s Race Disparity Advisory Board said:

“Technology is increasingly playing an important role in driving our economy and there is a great need to ensure that everyone can fully participate in the jobs and opportunities technology brings. Ian Forrester and others featured in this list today are role models that will inspire the next generation, and hopefully help to improve diversity within the sector.”

I can do better, we can all do better, and being part of the inclusive tech alliance, will help greatly to get the message of diversity and inclusion out there. Especially in the tech sector which seem to shy away from the arts. A sector which dominates so much of our modern lives but fail badly with diversity.

Without technology I would be a very different person and I want to help many others realise there true potential without prejudice and without fear. If I can be a part of this, I will hopefully inspire others to join us as we drive the much needed change…

I won’t be at the event in the house of commons, unfortunately. But look out for the full list of people in newspapers and online.

Thank you!

We got to do better than this…

I know its a first world problem but theres an issue with microphones while doing talks on stage. The problem I have is the head mics which are always too small and therefore squeeze around my larger skull. Or if they are loosen, then tend to slip and make things awkward.

Skin coloured mics right & wrongs

But the big problem I have with them is they are always pink. I get the idea that pink head mics are meant to blend in with speakers skin tones. Except my skin is not pink, so it always looks super weird on top of uncomfortable.

Skin coloured mics right & wrongs

Hummmm, looks good right? Not at all! Looks like my head is partly cut from my body?

Skin coloured mics right & wrongs

Thankfully some conferences get this right by using clip on radio mics but I also know this is a big problem for some women who sometimes don’t have anywhere to clip the mic or hold the radio unit. Some are happier with a handheld mic too. To be honest I don’t mind holding a mic but have experienced the issues of using a handheld while operating a clicker at the same time. Luckily I’m quite Ambidextrous.

I would suggest options for the diversity of your speakers. A headset mic, radio mic and a handheld mic as choices… I know it seems like a lot of work but at the very least a radio mic and handheld mic? Forcing one type of mic on all your speakers will not get the best out of them.

There are a few conferences which have given me the choice thankfully… maybe the rest will follow suit if we complain more.

Intersectional Feminism…

Don't forget white women voted for Trump

I can’t really believe I missed this term and thoughts around this photo.

Washington Post

New York Tines

I first heard about the term when listening to the podcast what mom never told you.

There is a great interview with the woman in the picture

TR: Why did you decide to create the sign “White Women Voted for Trump”?

AP: We need to be really honest about why we’re here. There was a sense for me of being at the march and in community with folks that were wanting to resist this horrifying reality, but also not wanting folks to get complacent.

TR: How did people respond to you and your sign?

AP: Most were saying, “Not this white woman,” or “No one I know!” I’d say, “[Fifty-three percent] of white women voted for Trump. That means someone you know, someone who is in close community with you, voted for Trump. You need to organize your people.” And some people said, “Oh, I’m so ashamed.” Don’t be ashamed; organize your people.

That’s why the photo was such a great moment to capture, because it tells the story of white women in this moment wanting to just show up in a very superficial way and not wanting to do the hard work of making change, of challenging their own privilege. You’re here protesting, but don’t forget: The folks that you live with every single day—and probably some of the women that decided to come to the march—voted for Trump, made the decision to vote against self-interests to maintain their white supremacist way of life.

Its something I’ve thought a lot about, especially when thinking about diversity and inclusion. Its one of the things which has bugged me when thinking about the numerous women in tech events. Not taking anything away from them but if all the women are white, middle class and went to the same university – then we got a long way to go.

Maybe it also starts to explain why a lot of the women (of colour if thats what you prefer) I talk to are unsure about the term feminist?

Rather than weight in to this topic with limited insight, I thought I’d share some things I saw and heard.

Want to Learn More about Intersectional Feminism? Watch Shows created by Black Women

Why feminism can’t ignore race

100 Women 2016: Is feminism just for white women?

A split in sisterhood

Your telling me theres no need for feminism?

The fact most males are paid way beyond females is terrible, but hardly surprising.  The gap is pretty vast. This is part of the reason why I find it extremely hard when women, have said to me in past, theres no real need for feminism anymore. Very difficult indeed!

On hearing the story break, I wondered if Jodie Whittaker will earn the same kind of money as previous male doctor whos?

There was also another story which no one really picked up on, but it was noticed by a few and later acknowledge by the BBC.

Trade union Equity said in a statement: “The apparent pay gaps in gender and for those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background are troubling.”

There is also a gap between the pay for white stars and those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background.

George Alagiah, Jason Mohammad and Trevor Nelson are the highest paid BAME presenters, each receiving between £250,000 and £300,000.

The highest-paid female star with a BAME background is BBC news presenter Mishal Husain, who earned between £200,000 and £250,000.

Google apologizes again for bias results

Google once again was in hot water for its algorthim which meant looking up happy families in image search would return results of happy white famalies.

Of course the last time, Google photos classified black people as gorillas.

Some friends have been debating this and suggested it wasn’t so bad, but its clear that after a few days things were tweaked. Of course Google are one of many who rely on non-diverse training data and likely are coding their biases into the code/algorithms. Because of course getting real diverse training data is expensive and time consuming; I guess in the short term so is building a diverse team in their own eyes?

Anyway here’s what I get when searching for happy families on Friday 2nd June about 10pm BST.

logged in google search for happy families
Logged into Google account using Chrome on Ubuntu
incognito search for happy families
Using incognito mode and searching for happy families with Chrome on Ubuntu
Search for happy families using a russian tor and chromium
Search for happy families using a russian tor node on Chromium on Ubuntu

 

It’s hot out here being so geeky

Jeremy

I do like a little Catfish, its one of my guilty pleasures and perfect for when I’m cooking in the Kitchen.

However Episode 11 of season 6 (catfish s6x11) stood out for me

Colleen met Tony online and fell madly in love. Though they’ve never met, Tony proposed to Colleen over the phone and she accepted. Now, Nev and Max help her finally face the truth to reveal the mystery man she’s engaged to.
I’m going to spoil the episode, so if you want to be unspoiled stop now.
Tony is the Catfish and pretends to be a white geeky guy to Colleen. Shes suspicious calls in the Nev & Max to check him out. They find out that he’s actually this geeky black guy who has been pretending to be a white geeky guy. Almost everything else is true and when they finally out him, theres a moment of … why did he lie? Usually a clear reason why they Catfish, like they are the opposite sex, super young/old, a friend, ex-partner or even dangerous.
When sitting down with him, Nev & Max uncover a problem which is based around stereotypes. Tony’s personality is geeky and shy; from his previous experiences he found some women assume things of a black man and are disappointed when he’s honest about who he is deep down (Thats the crux although a lot more is said which I could dig right into).
He then goes on to talk about how his family are not accepting of mixed race relationships and this further blows up in a later discussion with his family. They ask why a white man and when he gives his reasons, they are even more mortified than the whole proposal of marriage to a white woman (Colleen).
The whole thing serves as a reminder of how many people have to live up to these bollox stereotypes, and how we oppose our stereotypes on each other. Its also a reminder of how uncool its still seen to be geeky in black culture. You could argue this is Tony’s problem but I’d argue you haven’t been paying attention.
Interestingly I finally watched I am not your negro, which is a uncomfortable watch for many as it centres around race relations and power in America.
By and large this film concerns itself with the greater philosophy of why groups in power behave the way they do. This might be the only movie about race relations I’ve ever seen that adequately explains – with sympathy – the root causes of a complacent white American mindset. And it took a black writer and director to do it.
Watching I am not your negro points at why someone like Tony may feel the need to lie about himself? Lovia from the new republic said…

The last half of I Am Not Your Negro moves out of the lives of Malcolm, Martin, and Medgar and takes a broader look at American culture. Over clips of daytime dramas like The Steve Wilkos Show and The Jerry Springer Show, Jackson reads Baldwin’s prescient commentary:

“To watch the TV screen for any length of time is to learn some really frightening things about the American sense of reality. We are cruelly trapped between what we would like to be and what we actually are. And we cannot possibly become what we would like to be until we are willing to ask ourselves just why the lives we lead on this continent are mainly so empty, so tame, and so ugly. These images are designed not to trouble, but to reassure. They also weaken our ability to deal with the world as it is, ourselves as we are.”

Americans in the age of Trump are undergoing a painful period of self-reflection. The election of a reality television star to the highest office in the land would be disconcerting on its own. But the fact that this same star proved time and again that he has no respect for women, minorities, and the disabled makes his election that much harder to understand.

Almost feel like some of the works from Andy Curtis could be very fitting too.