“I’m not actually able to visualize it in my head, so it doesn’t have an actual structure to it. A lot of this is mathematically related…ya know numbers and variables…can be very abstract and so I had difficulty. It was like constant confusion. Between the autism and the non-verbal learning disability I’m a veritable cornucopia of mental illness and neuro-divergence at this point. But ya know what, I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way because it’s made me exactly who I am.”
Nicole Archambault is a Boston-based web developer and educational technology (EdTech) entrepreneur.
After abandoning a CS major in college, she taught herself to program in 2015 using Treehouse. She still has a long way to go. But most importantly, Nicole made a career change to an industry that she loves, doing work that she’s passionate about, and solving problems that matter.
Nicole is incredibly passionate about issues concerning women, and technology is no exception. So it should come as no surprise that she wanted to help other women successfully become web developers and software engineers, by breaking down walls and effecting real change.
Kim Crayton: Hello, everyone. And welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene podcast. My guest today is Nicole, pronouns she / her. Nicole, please introduce yourself to the audience.
Nicole Archambault: Hey again Kim. I haven’t actually talked to you in a minute. We had done the podcast together back in 2017.
Kim: Yeah. Man, that was a while ago.
Nicole: [Whispers] Oh my god.
Kim: You’re supposed to be introducing yourself. Stop talking and introduce yourself. [Laughs]
Nicole: Yes, well, I had to say hi again. I’m Nicole Archambault, and I am a self-taught developer. I’m also the creator of La Vie en Code, which is my little brand that includes a podcast, I have a blog, that—it actually started out as a blog when I was teaching myself to code originally and then it kind of grew into the podcast—still the blog, and my online courses, most importantly, which has been a direction that I went in, and that’ll be tying into what we’re actually talking about today with problem solving. But yeah, that’s more or less my story. I have a whole lot more to it. I don’t know how much you want to go into, but I’ve been told that it is a pretty inspiring story. So we… but yeah, I don’t know what we have enough time for.
Kim: Oh, we’ll get to… we will fill this hour with whatever we fill this hour with. There is no agenda here. So we always start this conversation with two questions: why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you causing a scene?
Nicole: Hell, yeah. So I actually embarked on this journey, and I… my journey, my mission, is to bring self-taught developers—and actually developers of any level—some foundational, really important foundational skills that they’re currently not getting. And those two skills that I focus on are programmatic problem solving and auto-didactic skills; so that’s your skills of being able to teach yourself effectively and efficiently. So teaching people these really important lessons, it ties back into my experience as a woman of color back at Wellesley College. I had tried my computer science degree there and ended up switching out of the major because it was too freakin’ hard for me.
And the reason—I mean, there are a few reasons, actually—but one of the primary reasons, at least, why I hadn’t been able to succeed is because I had never had any actual formal training in programmatic problem solving. And when I mentioned that to a group of people, so I’m like, “Who’s actually had a course on programmatic problem solving?” No hands go up, you know. And a lot of folx in the industry will tend to say, “Oh, you just gotta learn it as you go along.”
But that’s how we’re causing a scene out here today because I want more people—and that includes people of color, people, women—to be sticking here and not assuming that they’re not good at programming just because they’re having difficulty creating an approach to an actual problem. You know, they don’t think that they’re a bad developer because of that. So, yeah, there’s so many rewards to that that I’ve seen in my work.
Kim: OK, so… wow. So that says a lot because as I’m listening to this, I remember being on the podcast in 2017—I forgot that it was that… So that was before I even started #CauseAScene. That was my old podcast when I had Community Engineering Report.
Kim: So, fuck that was a long time ago!
Nicole: [Laughs] I know. It was about an idea at that point.
Kim: Yeah, and I see, and at that time… Oh, wow! I mean, you were building your platform.
Nicole: I was a baby.
Kim: Yeah. You were building your platform, and I was—you hadn’t even gotten to these two core strategies.
Nicole: I hadn’t.
Kim: Yeah, you were building your platform, and you were struggling with how to get paid. [Both laugh] Or understanding your value that you need to be paid.
Kim: That’s why—let me be clear about that. It wasn’t that you need to be paid. Fuck, we all need to be paid. We have bills to pay. But you were struggling—as most people who’re coming into this community who are from a marginalized backgrounds—with asking for your value, or even knowing what your value is; stating your val—no, fuck this. Deciding what your value is, stating your value, and demanding your value. And that… I am like blown away just listening, because I follow you, and I watched you—I’ve been watching you—there’re some times that you will do some shit and I’ll go into your DMs like, “Nope. Cut that shit out. Cut that shit out. You’re doin’ it. You’re givin’ ’em too much. You’re givin’ ’em…”
Nicole: I’ve been pretty good.
Kim: No, I’m talkin’ about the beginning. You know, “You’re givin’ ’em too much. You’re givin’ ’em too much. You need to back off.” And, because I remember specifically—shit, when was the Grace Hopper shit? Oh, my god. That’s when I was pissed the fuck off at you. You were doing a GoFundMe or something, to get to speak at fuckin’ conferences that people have invited you to speak at. And you were funding yourself to attend to speak. And I was like, “What the livin’ fuck are you doin’?”
Nicole: While fighting them. Granted, I needed to make sure that I was gonna be able to go for my peace of mind. I didn’t wanna be stressing at the last minute. But yeah, no, trust me, I was fuckin’ pissed the entire time I wrote about it. I wrote about it and I talked—I wrote on Dev, too—and was like where these conferences are fuckin’ up from the top down, and how every level from the actual conference, you know, the organizers to the speakers and then the attendees, oh, and then the sponsors. Or in between those people. So at every level, I was just like, this is fucked, this is fucked, this’s fucked… See, you got me goin’ with the energy now [Kim laughs] because we were like this originally when we did the episode. Except I was such a baby; I hadn’t really formed a lot of these opinions yet, and I hadn’t really seen a lot of the shit that goes on there. And yeah, I’m telling you, I was set up too, and I wanted to fight the fight, but yeah, and I feel like by fundraising also, I raised so much awareness of the fact that this was going on, while being like, “Open your wallet!”
Kim: Yes! Because it made absolutely no sense that a Grace Hopper—I have had serious problems with Grace Hopper—and they have a new CEO at Anita Borg Foundation who was supposed to reach out to me, but I guess they got offended again by me, [Nicole laughs] and so she never.
Nicole: Offended by you?
Kim: Oh god, yes. You know. You know. Because it’s bullshit. It’s absolute bullshit. You have 20,000 people at an event and your numbers consistently, when it comes to speakers, when it comes to marginalized groups, is so abhorrent. And yet you have all—you’re making millions of dollars on this conference and you can’t afford to pay speakers travel and accommodations at minimum. What the fuck?
Nicole: They can. They know what they’re doing. They absolutely can if you look at their financials.
Kim: No, no, no. That was… oh no.
Nicole: Rhetorical. I miss rhetoric all the time. Now that’s the Asperger’s coming out there. [Laughs] I miss rhetorical questions all the time.
Kim: That’s OK.
Nicole: Then you know as well as I do: hell no! They just don’t give a fuck, that’s all.
Kim: Exactly. And I just was so angry because I saw how―again, you and I have been in each other’s lives for more than what most of these white folx been in this #CauseAScene. These people didn’t know me. We met when I was just fed up. We met when I was like, I am so sick… I’m not a diversity and inclusion expert; why are y’all botherin’ me, y’all don’t wanna pay, y’all wanna do all this stuff, and consistently seeing how you are screwing students, all that just pissed me off so badly and then seein’ you trying to break in, and then all of a sudden I see a tweet, “GoFundMe so I can speak at these conferences.” I blew my fucking lid.
Nicole: I know. And I felt…
Kim: ‘Cause it was like a mother bird. It was like a mother bird. It was like, “What?” [Both laugh]
Nicole: You know, and it’s funny ’cause I have been doing a lot of work in the community for fundraising as well for individual causes. I’ve helped Black women get laptops when everyone’s sayin’, “You don’t need the MacBook, you don’t need this,” and I’m like, “Just shut up and let a Black woman get what she wants for once.” You know, don’t give money if that’s what your problem is, just don’t give money. But they want to sit there and flap, but I didn’t care. And I really got the message across. I fundraised—and it sucks that I have to actually say it because fundraising isn’t my fucking job.
Nicole: It’s not my job. I have other things. I am a content creator. I’m an educator. And I don’t have the time or energy to be doin’… and that’s the same place you were.
Kim: Yeah, and you just hit it because in addition to our jobs, we’re supposed to do all these other things that other people don’t have to do. And yet people wonder why we’re tired, why we’re frustrated, why we have no fucks to give, because for us it’s always, you know, like at the bottom of the job description, there’s an asterisk: other duties as assigned? We’re always dealin’ with other duties.
Nicole: I—you know, and it’s crazy, too—I was telling someone the other day, you know, I take care of my 88 year old grandfather, who’s currently in assisted living. He is the love of my life, you know, and he raised me actually, when I had a very bad home situation, otherwise I would have—and it wasn’t a great home situation there either—but I am officially, since I lost my mother on my birthday back in 2014, I’m officially the matriarch of my family. And you know, I’m old enough; it’s not like I’m 21 and a matriarch or something. I couldn’t have handled that emotionally. But I’ve got to take care of my family. My younger brother also looks up to me. He’s 10 years my junior. He just turned 26—or 25—and I am just so… I have those responsibilities.
Oh, and I saw some meme floatin’ around the other week that I felt like shot me in the chest 10 times, because it’s like, “Is it really your love language? Or are you just starved for attention in certain ways because you’ve had to be the main person taking care of everybody else in your family, and you’re looking for somebody who is going to be able to give you some kind of relief?” And I was like goddamn, that’s it.
Kim: That’s it. [Laughs]
Nicole: That’s totally a part. That’s enough for anyone else. So now you’ve gotta deal with this intergenerational trauma. I go to therapy every week and I do the fucking work. I’ve been doing therapy for nine and a half years now, Kim. Nine and a half years, once a week, sometimes twice, depending on what was going on. [Kim laughs] But you know, I haven’t reached three times yet. That’s good. [Laughs] Maybe that’s my marker. But no, I’ll tell you all of this shit, and then I gotta go—after having convinced them that I can talk and that I’m worthy of talking—then I gotta fight them on paying. And I did fight them, and I managed to get folx to make some leeway, certain places I didn’t; and I made sure that everybody knew about that shit.
But I hear you were heated and you’re in the same place too; I remember when we talked, it was the business of diversity and inclusion. And we had a two-parter at that point, when you were basically like, “Fuck this. I’m not doing… I see Cause a Scene as something that I want to be compensated for if I am going to do some work,” but you wanted to work with businesses to actually have them see that they’re a liability. That they are creating, setting themselves up for failure in so many ways if you’re not advising them on how to do this. But, you’ve gotta open the wallet. You know, like that’s it. Big time. You better break the bank. And somebody has to do the work.
Kim: And the thing is, they don’t have a problem with breakin’ the bank for people who are not fuckin’ qualified.
Kim: Who are mediocre at this shit. Who just do the bare minimum. You have no problem paying somebody with a white penis to do this work. It’s just like…
Nicole: Or Micaela will come in, and that’s diversity and inclusion, and it… it don’t make no sense.
Kim: Oh my word, it’s just like…
Nicole: It’s exhausting just to think about.
Kim: It is exhausting. And then they want to know why—so someone tweeted something to me this weekend, and I just fucking ignored it. He thought it was a compliment, [laughs] and I just had to shake my fucking head. It was something to the effect of, he retweeted one of my lives and said to his followers, “Ignore that this seems harsh and blah, blah, blah because she’s trying to help us white people, blah, blah, blah.” I was like, “Oh, my god.” Even in trying to elevate my voice, you center yo’ fucking feelings in my work. The reason I am on 10 to most of you is because I want when people like Nicole to walk into the room on a 2, y’all know what the fuck that looks like. If I give you a 10 all the time, then when she comes in at a 2, you’re like, “Fuck, that’s a breath… whew! Bring her on in! ‘Cause she’s not even on a 7.”
And it’s ridiculous that that has to be my strategy. That is my fucking strategy. I want to make white people as uncomfortable as possible, so when marginalized folx come into the room, they’re not like, “Well, you know your tone, and you’re so aggressive.”
Nicole: Oh god, the “aggressive.”
Kim: “And you’re just… why are you so angry?” I don’t, I’m so tired of that.
Nicole: Let’s have a reasonable, civil conversation about this. [Both laugh] Like, shut the fuck up. I’m not about to have a civil… No, because I’m not feeling civil today.
Nicole: That’s it. I didn’t feel civil yesterday either.
Kim: Your treatment is not civil, so I’m not meeting it with civility. [Laughs]
Nicole: I tell you, I didn’t feel civil yesterday, I’m probably not gonna feel civil tomorrow, so let’s just go with this.
Kim: Let’s just move on. Does what I have to say have value to you? How I say it, if how I say it is the important thing, you hirin’ the wrong mu’fucka. Because I’m not it. [Laughs]
Nicole: No, no, no, no. And AAVE’s sinkin’ us. [Laughs]
Kim: So tell us about… oh wow, so just catch me up on what you’ve been doing. How did you get—OK, this is—how did you get to, from 2017, starting it, trying to figure it out, to these two tenets? Because there are some things that I want to—that all resonate with me with a project that I’m about to launch that I’m like, “Fuuuuck.” People come into my life right when they’re supposed to.
Nicole: I’ve been findin’ that too lately.
Kim: Yeah. So tell me about how you got from building your platform and just wanting to teach students, to understand—because you articulated this back then, but you didn’t have…
Nicole: A clear vision.
Nicole: I didn’t have a vision yet. And I didn’t sense that purpose. I knew I had a purpose, for something, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was yet. So it was actually pretty interesting because, like I said, the problem solving goes way back… and it’s funny, when I was 32 years old—so this was the year after I spoke with you, I believe. OK, so we had spoken that year and I was diagnosed on the autism spectrum that next April. [Laughs] Or no, I’m sorry, technically, it was February. I went on my little Aspeymoon, as I call it in April to kinda process everything.
But you think you kind of know yourself by that point. And the reality was I got answers to things, questions that I didn’t even know that I had. And they also slapped on there—I’ve talked openly about bipolar disorder and how I have, you know, my dad is very much the same way, very much on the spectrum and, you know, but I only knew what white men looked like. So that’s kind of a big deal. We don’t really have a bigger picture. Or a profile of what a lot of women and young women of color and children, children of color, look like when they’re expressing the thing, the parts of their lives that are related to being on the spectrum. So that was a huge, huge realization for me. And it did open a lot of discussions like, I’m in a women of color Asperger’s group and a lot of them have children as well that are on the spectrum, and talking about those issues surrounding how can we create awareness.
Now, along with the spectrum, I was also diagnosed at the same time—they study a brain and they’re like, “OK, here’s what came up.”—and I also have a non-verbal learning disability, So basically what that means—it’s kinda funny to see in practice, in real life, I had tweeted about it before—but what it means is that I have difficulty with contextualizing concepts that don’t have a concrete form, kind of a… something that doesn’t have an actual… [laughs] what is it? Almost… I’m looking for the word here, and I’ve actually said it before, but I’m not able to actually visualize it in my head so it doesn’t have an actual structure to it. A lot of this is mathematically related. Which is why people with numbers and what have you, and variables and what have you can be very abstract. And so you really can’t—I had difficulty just creating some, so it was constant confusion. So between the autism and the non-verbal learning disability, I’m a veritable cornucopia of mental illness at this point. [Laughs] And neurodivergence. But you know what? I love it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way because it’s made me exactly who I am.
Nicole: …I wouldn’t have it any other way because it’s made me exactly who I am. And in the literal sense, those struggles that I went through, I’ve written actually—part of a series that I’m hopin’ to make into a book next year, but you know, that’s very early-ish—I have been writing a series called “Late Diagnosis,” and one of the many parts of it, the stories within it, is about my school years. And I had struggled so hard, and being on the spectrum just made everything really distracting around me, and I also wrestled with focus issues. But damn if I wasn’t at the top of my class, that’s how hard I worked.
And you know, there were other factors to it, too. And I think this isn’t—people have been kinda shocked to hear this perspective—but I had a lot of home issues that were going on as well, so kinda the better of the two options. And the thing is about having those issues; there’s a lot of pressure to be a great student because nobody looks under the hood of the good students. But they will absolutely take a look at your home situation if you’re struggling.
So I had a lot of pressure on myself. I got through, but I feel like at the end of everything, I was just dead. And I didn’t even have time to recover most of the time. So I was getting migraines, all this shit. And fast forward, though, to Wellesley. I got into Wellesley College and I went there and I said, “I’m going to do a Computer Science degree.” I was datin’ this guy—I didn’t even know CS was a thing—but I was datin’ this guy at that point who went to Worchester Poly Tech, some nerdy white boy. [Laughs] And he was doing Computer Science along with virtually everyone that wasn’t doing some Electrical Engineering, I think.
And I was like, “Oh my god, I only knew about, like, IT.” I didn’t really think about the fact, you know, like I had built websites back in the MySpace days, as I know a lot of us have, but I was like, I didn’t know there was actually, you know, I never considered writing actual software, and also recognizing that the web was built into this now, kinda this one big picture. I thought, “I want to build websites.” So I am—we didn’t have the web component—started learning with Java, got to data structures and algorithms, beginning of my sophomore year; hit a wall and then ended up switching majors.
And I blamed myself for hitting that wall for the longest time. And the crazy part is I had a white male adviser; this other woman that really I’d wanted to work with, it looked like she probably wouldn’t have a lot—I assumed—that she wouldn’t have a lot of time for me because all the women, they all wanted her as a mentor. And so I am working under this white dude, with very high expectations. He literally had his favorite students at the front of the class; I was in the back crying like every class. [Laughs] And he was the one at the end of the day that opened the conversation. I was the one that decided. At the end of the day nobody decides for you. But he encouraged something that I had been considering anyway, which is that maybe I’m just not a good fit for this.
And why—to tie it back in—why I was really struggling, which took me until my thirties to figure out, as you see; is why was I having such difficulty getting a grasp on these concepts? And as I mentioned, it’s relevant, the non-verbal learning disability creates a lot of problems for people when they’re considering… you know, some people can contextualize these concepts and create a mental model—that’s what I was looking for before—it’s like a mental model. And that’s what helps people make it click. It never clicked for me, and so that was that. And not only that, but had I been diagnosed before I would have been qualified for like…
Kim: Support. [Laughs]
Nicole: Exactly! Untimed testing. And what it turns out with this autodidactism as well, I had really recognized that once I started teaching myself, I was able to do amazing things, and I felt like the possibilities were endless once I had started to recognize how I best learn. So those were how those two parts of my life kinda came together. Now, what happened after you and I last spoke is that I was freelancing at that time, I had a hell client who unfortunately was an alum that was referred to me, and so… But she was the one that made me basically just go, “I don’t want to be working for people anymore.” Period. End of story. I don’t know what it’s gonna take to not have to put myself in this position, and I never really considered myself to be an entrepreneur by any standard, but 2016, came across Pat Flynn’s “Smart Passive Income” podcast. I don’t even remember how the fuck I found it.
It was almost like a lot of things were kinda put in front of me. And it created a path for me to exactly where I am now. And I just kept kind of looking at the signs that would come up and slap me in the face, and I’d be like, “OK, right. Maybe I should pay attention to this.” And what it equated to is that Pat was talking about online courses and how they could be very lucrative, they give you independence. And from me, that’s great. I want to be able to pay the bills. I want to stack cash. I want to live a great life. Those are all very important things to me.
So I wanted a vehicle because I was tired of all of my social issues in the workplace, having to navigate this fuckin’ professional, passive-aggressive… one of the hallmark staple traits of me being on the spectrum is that I’ve always wondered why I was so very anti-authoritative and also why a lot of things would just—I couldn’t socialize the way that other people would. I had to really stress myself, to learn and almost go through the weirdest ones first, and then you take them really personally.
But I knew that I could not go back into an office and I never—if you had asked me too—if I would be an educator, if I ever thought I’d be an educator, I woulda said, “fuck no.” I mean, why would I want to do that? I didn’t have confidence in my ability to teach or to share what I knew, up until 2015 when I started blogging. Alongside learning to code. So just gaining this confidence and it kept clarifying my path bit by bit. And I decided to create the courses. And then I decided to expand that: my newest course, “Newbie Coder Problem Solving School” had come out as part of my larger suite of courses, “Newbie Coder School.”
So I wanted to make sure that people’re gettin’ these skills, because I had seen what happens when you don’t get them. I’ve spent tons of time talking to new coders, to recruiters as well, because I want to know what they’re looking for to help people get hired and give them an edge. And I just, I want to see them succeeding in the areas where I failed. And I came back to it and I learned it. I have a strong grasp on a lot of Computer Science principles now, but it’s just taken some time. But here I am, and now I focus on that in—via different media; I still do the podcast every week. And yeah, so I’m kinda spread out. But that is my mission.
Kim: Well, first of all, it’s interesting to see so many parallels, because you talking about a diagnosis in your thirties. It was only last year, and I’m 51, that I realized I’m ADHD. [Laughs]
Nicole: Oh yeah.
Kim: And that has answered soooo many fuckin’ questions, ’cause I gaslit myself through my whole education. And teachers gaslighting me, and my mom like, “I don’t understand why you can score so high on standardized tests, or if it’s a class that you like, you are so into it, but if it’s not, you could give fuck…” I mean, I would calculate how to get a C and be done. [Both laugh] So that’s something we in this space need to talk more about, with qualified professionals, because there are so many people—because although tech is very homogenous, the folx who are coming in the space are very diverse, not in just gender and race and ethnicity, we’re very diverse in how our brains work.
Nicole: Oh yeah.
Kim: And this traditional model—this is why I tell people that we’re not in a industrial economy anymore. And we’re not making widgets, when you put anybody on a—it doesn’t matter what, as long as they can make this machine run, they can create something. No, we are—this is a knowledge economy, and you need to get out of my head what you need to learn as a organization to scale, to grow, and to be profitable, and it does not fit in that box. And so I’m with you about this whole… once I entered this space and I saw what these companies look like, I’m like, “Noooo. I’m not working for them. Noooo, I got to figure this out myself.” [Nicole laughs]
Another thing that I found the parallel to is, that we’re—the fact that you were saying you never thought about Computer Science as a career—because we’re—in our communities until very recently—we weren’t considered as anything other but consumers of tech. We weren’t seen as producers of tech. And so people don’t talk to us about the producer side; it’s always some marketing, PR, sales thing pitch that they’re tryin’ to get our money to buy something or to use something, but it’s never, “Hey, you should be making something.”
And then the pivot to the entrepreneurial thing. So each one of these things you talk about, it’s something, projects that I’m currently working on, and I find that—just like again, as I say—the universe brings to you what you need.
Nicole: It does. It sure does.
Kim: It’s really, really interesting, because one of the projects that I’m—I don’t know if it will be… I’m sure it’ll be announced by the time this podcast airs, because I announced it on the end of the Jonathan Martinez episode—where I am no longer talkin’ about coding bootcamps. I’m no longer talkin’ about ISAs. I’m no longer talkin’ about things that cause harm and tryin’ to negotiate and tryin’ to get them to change—they’re not changing—and I don’t care, that’s a waste of my energy. So one of the things that I’m launching is the #CauseAScene Technology Bootcamp.
And your two tenets are the two things that—very interesting about what I’ve already in my head thought about how this bootcamp will present itself. And so I could very much see licensing your content for some stuff that I want to do because one of things is there’s no need for me to create content. There’s—if you don’t know anything—so I see it as three levels—if you don’t know anything about code, OK, we got you on Code.org. You know something about code? OK, we’ll start you with, freeCodeCamp. If you are more advanced, then we’ll start you—so you can understand about Computer Science—with the Harvard CS50 class.
The content is there. What’s missing is how do you—so for me, if it’s a nine month to a year-long program, those first few months, three to four months, are the instructor / mentors teaching students how to learn.
Nicole: Yeah. Yeah.
Kim: So that they as a cohort can start workin’ together and helping each other out, so that the rest of the program is about teaching them that problem solving; teaching them, connecting them to internships; all these other things that they are missing that is required to transition successfully—’cause you know, mentoring is how I started speaking in tech. And so I find it very interesting that I’m goin’ back there ’cause I actually forgot—this is my ADHD: if it’s not top of mind, my ass completely forgets about it—I completely forgot that I built a whole website, junior dev mentoring website. I totally forgot that until recently. I’m like, “What the hell?” I’ve built a website that matches mentors and mentees. Where did?—but that’s how my brain works. Now had I not known…
Nicole: That’s the whole last project.
Kim: The whole last project. [Nicole laughs] That ran for over a year! [Kim laughs]
Nicole: It’s so easy to forget what we’re doing, though. I totally got that. You’re all over the place just like I am.
Kim: Yup, yup.
Nicole: We’re busy savin’ the world out here.
Kim: Yes. Yes.
Nicole: Looking good while doin’ it. [Laughs]
Kim: Yes girl, yes! But yeah, so I see so much—and I wanted to take a pause here and tell you, I am very proud of you. Because you are so—for lack of a better word—stereotypical of who is trying to come in tech and the challenges we have, not only internally that we have to deal with, but how the system—how all the gatekeeping gets in the… if I have had to deal with Asperger’s and, you know, my processing issues and shit, please don’t put any barriers in my way to get here.
Nicole: Oh, right?
Kim: So damn, I’ve done a lump! [Laughs]
Nicole: If I knew this was church, I would have worn pants. [Both laugh] I just wanna say it: just please. I legitimately wanted to ask somebody the other day, in almost those exact words. I have been through hell, OK? I know everybody has, but at the same time, I am asking you directly: fuckin’ take it easy on me [laughs] for a minute. Can I get one thing? ‘Cause I won’t get it unless I ask; and make it very clear to people, like, “You’re asking for so much!”
Kim: Oh yeah, ’cause they don’t offer us shit. They don’t offer us shit! Oh, no.
Nicole: Not even a little bit.
Kim: They don’t offer us shit. We hafta—they can see us, they can see—there could be two people coming in, and—I’ll just use this as an example—there could be two people coming in, like you said, they will give this person a laptop, a iPhone, all these other things, and then they’ll look at us and say, “So what do you have at the house?” [Both laugh]
Nicole: Oh my god, you’re so right. Oh, man.
Kim: It’s like, “So I’m supposed to make some shit do with what I already had, but you…”
Nicole: Yup. Yup. And you get the PC. [Laughs]
Kim: And this is why I don’t believe in fuckin’… I’m not talkin’ about equality. I’m talkin’ about equity.
Nicole: Mhm, mhm. And it’s a difference.
Kim: I’m not tryin’—why am I tryna make code out of spoons at the house? What the hell is this shit?
Nicole: When we’re given the tools, the same tools, in the same situation, Black people thrive, native people thrive, and that’s my intersection. You know, we’re so blessed this year. The numbers at Grace Hopper as well… I was on a panel at Native American Women in Computing at Grace Hopper, I think a few years ago, that was the year that my grandfather had actually accompanied me—it was so cute—and we had done that talk—there were less than 20 Native American attendees at a conference…
Kim: Of 23,000 people.
Nicole: 25,000 people.
Kim: Oh, 25,000 people?
Nicole: 25,000 people.
Kim: And there were how many natives? In attendance?
Nicole: We had less than 20.
Kim: That is ridiculous.
Nicole: I mean, I don’t even know how many zeros—point zeros—there are in my intersection. And the further that you go, the more alone I feel. And just in my tribe—I was thrilled this year, the 2020 graduates—we have four students in my tribe, in the Wampanoag tribe, that are actually looking to go on to Computer Science degrees.
Kim: Oh, wow.
Nicole: And I was like, “I’ve got you! Please give me their names and I will take care of them. I’ll make sure they get everything they need.” And it’s a tough time right now to be going through this transition period. I had a tough enough time, you know, to decide your life. I feel so badly for the graduates this year. I graduated into the recession in 2007 and that was bullshit. I mean, that’s why it took me so long to establish a career; it wasn’t until like 2015. And shit, I still have student loans. [Laughs]
Kim: Oh, girl, I don’t even wanna talk about student loans.
Nicole: Mmm, my god.
Kim: Yeah, we gonna leave those alone. OK. [Laughs]
Nicole: I know, and this has been hell, but I just can’t imagine, I can’t contextualize what this must be.
Kim: And then you put that—so you have the pandemic, where Black and Native people are being disproportionately impacted by COVID, and that’s just in not only contracting the virus, but also we are the…
Nicole: We’re dying.
Kim: …essential workers. [Laughs] Yeah, we’re dying, and we’re the essential workers, you know? And yet, when we ask for something, it’s a handout. When other folx ask for something, it is, you know, to help them, lift them up; it is, you know, they deserve this. But we have to beg for every crumb we get. And this is again why I’m on a 10 all the time. Because if I’m on a 10 then they know I have set a precedent of what you should expect to give people who are marginalized.
Kim: I don’t want people like you or others to have to go in and ask for this shit. I want it—because of me—that this shit is the default. When you see us comin’ in the room, when you see a Black person, you need to know our time, our effort, our experience in your bullshit-ass culture is gonna be 10 times worse and you need to prioritize us and figure out what the hell we need so that we can at least have some sense of psychological safety. Just some sense.
Nicole: Yes ma’am. Something.
Kim: Because diversity is only about recruitment, inclusion is about retention. And you cannot retain us.
Nicole: Nope. We come in, and you don’t wanna stay there. You don’t see anybody that looks like you; you don’t feel like you’re gettin’ same damn treatment; you don’t have the same options; you’re not given the same equipment; you’re not set up for success…
Nicole: …the way, you know. And it sucks, because like I said, we’re already wrestling with this intergenerational trauma in a lot of cases, in getting that job, and the pathway that it opens up for us…
Kim: And how it impacts our families.
Nicole: Yes! That’s what I’m saying, if you have a poor family, a history, you know, three generations going back sometimes, of poverty, or more.
Kim: Yes, I’m gonna say more than that.
Nicole: You’re even goin’ back all the way, technically, if you’re still there. If you’re still there, I’m thinking my family, [laughs] but it’s like you’re going through that intergenerational trauma, because poverty comes with its own trauma, and it hits different communities differently. But we see the way that it affects our communities, and this includes looking at reservations. I have a whole bunch of friends back in Warm Springs in Oregon, and it’s not good. And we’re looking at susceptibility to illness; we’re looking at not having adequate resources. You have sometimes three generations under one roof. Elderly can’t even isolate. If you want Internet access, it was so expensive—I think we talked about that in the Native American Women in Computing panel—but it is so obscenely expensive because they have a monopoly—one company—over the reservations, all their Internet, their phone—it’s usually a telecom company—and so a lot of folx will have community computers. How’re you going to come in as a community when you have COVID?
Nicole: How are you going to come in as a community when you have COVID?
Kim: And I’m glad you brought that up, because this is the difference in what I talk about between whiteness and marginalized community, and that’s it. We have survived white supremacy in spite of, because of community. Now the thing that has kept us together is that thing that’s harming us. The thing that has created our ability to survive centuries of white supremacy is now the thing that is killing us, because you’re absolutely right, we don’t drop our—unless we can’t deal with… I mean, like your grandfather has dementia, right?
Nicole: He’s got a whole buncha stuff. He’s… yeah, cancer is spreading. It’s metastasized. But yeah, it’s dementia.
Kim: And so, until there’s, unless there’s something like that, we keep our elderly in our homes.
Nicole: Yes! I was just having that conversation the other day.
Kim: And so white people send their elderly to nursing homes. We don’t have that. So it’s that thing of, if my mom was in the city with me right now, she would be in my home.
Nicole: Exactly. And we don’t send them off. You keep your family with you; it’s important to have those culture and the experience.
Kim: And that was one of things that I found so—now I call myself a studier of whiteness. I call myself The White Whisperer. [Both laugh] But one thing that blew my fuckin’ mind was in the pandemic, you have white people saying, “Hey, let’s send the elderly back to work or da da da da da because they don’t have long to live.” I was like, “What the fuck?” We would never! [Sputters in frustration] My grandparents could be on one knee, have one leg missing, no arms, no teeth, no hair, and I still would want them here. There is no such thing as sacrificing our elderly. That is where the wisdom of our communities come from.
Nicole: Yeah, and we don’t have the accessibility; I mean, shit, the place where I have my grandfather—and he is blessed—you best believe I’m gonna go out and get some long term care insurance. Everyone who’s listening, get it, because you’re going to need it eventually when it comes to reimbursing a $7000 a month bill for my grandfather. And yeah, he needs to have that care. And oh, and another huge factor I was discussing with one of the wellness staff—there are a whole bunch of Jamaican ladies—and you know, we’ve got folx… they have a blast. And of course my grandfather’s all bein’ fresh toward ’em, and I’m like, “Look at you!” He’s like, “I like Jocelle.” I was like, “Yeah, Jocelle isn’t about you. [Kim laughs] You need ta relax wit’ yo old ass.”
But that is the thing, we don’t have homes—this generation. In past generations, we have had a home in which we could bring our family into. I am renting and I am turning 35 this year. I will own a home—it’s gonna be a tiny home; but earlier, the tiny homes, you’re gonna build one—but like I don’t—and even then, I can’t bring somebody in. Fortunately, I won’t be put in that situation after my grandfather passes, and he’s gonna be in there, but I’m blessed to be able to get him the care that he needs, because otherwise I can’t imagine, you know, it’s good enough that I decided to be an entrepreneur because I couldn’t have held a job while caring for him. We can’t do both. And thank god I don’t have kids on top of all of it.
Kim: What I find interesting now is all the white folx who complain because they kids at home. “Oh, I can’t do this because how do I work?” Baby, we been doin’ it for centuries. We’ve been not only taking care of our folx but Black folx been takin’ care of yo folx.
Nicole: Yeah. Throw in transportation limitations; throw in multiple jobs havin’ to travel all over. Yeah, and rent comin’ in between.
Kim: Welcome to our… and whatever your experience, it’s nothin’ compared to what we’re still experiencing. And this is what I want—so it’s like all of a sudden they are awake to the pains, and as I said before, white people weren’t gonna do anything until it became a direct pain point for them.
Nicole: Of course not. They became uncomfortable. That’s all they need. [Laughs]
Kim: But see, I recognize that they can endure a lot of discomfort. They needed to be in pain. And so I have been predicting something—I never coulda predicted a fuckin’ pandemic—but I have been predicting that it was gonna take something huge for white folx to wake the fuck up and realize that they themselves are also being harmed by white supremacy. They are not escaping this bullshit privilege and power that they think they have.
Nicole: It’s really interesting also that we have the pandemic going on at the same time as Black Lives Matter is really… I mean it never…
Kim: Well, no, no, let’s be clear. No hold on, I’ma stop you there. The only reason it’s happening now is because of the pandemic. People have been talkin’ about Black Lives Matter before. The only reason it made sense now is because white folx had no distraction, nowhere to go, and they got this…
Nicole: Um-hm. That’s very true.
Kim: They saw a man getting killed. They saw it.
Nicole: It’s not that it’s not happenin’; it was out there.
Kim: They could not turn they head away.
Nicole: You’re absolutely right.
Kim: That’s the only way, because I don’t want to give white people a pass on this. They didn’t get to this shit because of the goodness of their heart. This is why months after that, you don’t—you have some people who still have “Black Lives Matter” in their Twitter bios—but no one’s talkin’ about… I definitely am not gettin’ paid like I was right after George Floyd. Oh my god, motherfuckers was throwing money at me like I was a stripper. I was like, “Where the fuck this money comin’ from?” [Nicole laughs] I knew y’all had money. I knew…
Nicole: Up next on the pole is D&I. [Both laugh]
Kim: I knew ya’ll had money, I just—but and I said before, you wasn’t gonna spend it until it became a pain point for you.
Nicole: Mhm. Yeah.
Kim: And so now it’s this whole… and so what I’m seeing now, though, is with this—I can’t even call it a second wave, because we never got out of the first wave—what we’re seeing now is, if the stories are true that the president’s son in law decided, “Oh, well, we had a pandemic plan, but because it was only affecting blue states and blue state people were dying, we’re gonna put that aside.” But what we’re seeing now is red states are being ravaged. And so now white folx are losing their grandparents, and now they’re in pain. Because when we kept tellin’ y’all that the medical system is racist as fuck, is the only reason we are being impacted the way we are, because we are the majority of—between Natives, Black folx, and Latinx—we’re the majority of the essential workers. This is why we’re getting hit.
We don’t have the luxury—’cause many people, let’s be honest, many people who’re listenin’ to this fuckin’ podcast, all they had to do is to roll out of bed and turn on their laptops. Nothing really changed for them, except for where they did their business. Until this moment now, and they’re feelin’ it, and I find myself being very—have to be very careful, because it’s not that I don’t have sympathy. There’s very—based on my experience with whiteness—it’s very hard for me to… whew, lemme say this in a way that… it is what it is. It’s very hard for me to feel anything when I hear stories about white folx who are losing people right now, because in the first few months I lost five or six folx that I knew.
Nicole: Mmm. Wow. The first month. And either way, it could have been the whole time. Doesn’t matter.
Kim: Between March and April, in March and April, I lost five or six people that I knew very close. Some were relatives, and some were just really… and so now it’s hitting them, and I’m supposed to turn my focus? No, no. It’s unfortunate you are part of a club that you never signed up for, but neither did we. We didn’t sign up for this shit either. So we either get there together or we don’t get there at all.
Nicole: It’s gonna be a long journey, apparently, no matter what, because we got fools out there going to Sturgis and whatever, and…
Kim: And I have no sympathy. I don’t.
Nicole: Well, the unfortunate part, they’re all going back to wherever they came from and bringin’ whatever they got with them.
Kim: Yup. I tell my mom, as long as me and mine are taken care of, y’all stay y’all asses in the house. Do not go no fuckin’ where.
Nicole: Oh, I’m home. Mm-mm.
Kim: And this is the shit that pisses me off about people who wanna be—yes, Amazon is a shit show. Yes, absolutely. And yet we cannot be binary here. This is how my mom gets her food safely. So no, I’m not, I cannot, I’m not gonna, I’m not boycotting Amazon because it’s either deal with this motherfuckin’ shit or have my mom out there in danger? No, not gonna happen. [Laughs]
Nicole: On a lesser scale, actually, it’s funny; I had had—I’ve been hosting, since lockdown down actually started, I’ve been hosting a Saturday night open Zoom room. Basically we started calling it the After Hours Vibe or just the Vibe for short, and I have all these regulars. I have met over 100 people, definitely, through just kind of coming in. And the beautiful part, we use Zoom for it, I can stream music, we can use a collaborative playlist, and it’s a lot of fun. You need to show up, like I think I sent you an invite.
Kim: Yeah yeah yeah.
Nicole: It’s usually hoppin’. And so we stay up late, but I had a friend who was like, “You use Zoom? You know they’re a Chinese company and blah blah blah or they’re affiliated with that,” and I’m like, “You know what?” I don’t even know the exact story. And I said, “I am quite sure, and that doesn’t surprise me at all.” Whatever is the issue here, if there is crossing of income streams with some other organization that—I mean, there’s so many ways that money and organizations and political platforms all fit together, you know? And they affect the applications that we use at the end of the day.
Kim: There is no perfect application out there because…
Nicole: There isn’t!
Kim: …there are no—traditionally, there have been such homogeneous teams that all of these mu’fuckers are fucked up. [Laughs] And so it’s… but the thing is, and I know this is—I’m gonna assume this is in your community as well—Black folx are used to dealing, measuring, “Hell, this is bad. This is shitty. Let’s go with the bad.” Neither one of ’em…
Nicole: Oh, yeah.
Kim: And so it’s the same reason we have Biden as a goddamn candidate. Nobody want his racist ass as a candidate. But my Black ancestors…
Nicole: That’s all we got.
Kim: … my Black older generation—what you’re not gonna do is call them low information when they know good and damn well that yo racist ass was not about to vote for no Bernie Sanders. Y’all would talk about how progressive y’all are at the goddamn yoga class, [Nicole laughs] but will go in the voting booth and do something totally different. So my Black folx said, “No, no, no. We gonna take that decision out yo fuckin’ hands.”
Nicole: Mhm. I mean, to be… [laughs] white folx will really never understand how it feels to have even a candidate of your own—I mean, they’re never perfect—but the issues are so critical when dealing with policy that affects, you know, disproportionately affects certain marginalized groups. We’re used to not having Black representation. We’re used to not having Native representation [Kim laughs] for the concept of just having—well, we have some sweeping of elections nationally by women, Native women, which is just like, I’m so for it, and it gives me goose bumps—but we’re used to not having the representation. And when you don’t have the representation, you don’t even hear about yourself, you know straight up, when you’re being pandered to.
Kim: Exactly! Exactly! [Laughs]
Nicole: You know straight up. You’re not foolin’ anybody.
Kim: You’re not foolin’ anybody! We’re havin’ to choose between piles of shit. This is what the fuck we’re havin’ to choose between. So we go and choose the pile a’ shit that is less shit-smelling and say, “Today we’ll deal with this; tomorrow let’s find another pile a’ shit that smells less shitty then this one.” [Laughs]
Nicole: The shit you might have a chance to clean up. [Laughs]
Kim: Yes! I mean, every choice we’ve had, except for Obama, was a fucking racist; and he was an assimilationist. He’s not antiracist.
Nicole: Oh, no.
Kim: He could not have been. He was the perfect Negro for these people. So he could not… there is no way in hell—I mean look at how much shit he got from wearing a tan fuckin’ suit. Like that has anything to do with policymaking.
Nicole: [Inaudible] issues. [Both laugh] Remember that’s all we had to look at was his clothes.
Kim: Oh my god, let’s… boy, boy, boy, boy, boy. Instead of somebody who on a daily basis makes shit up, like, “Let’s pull this out our ass. OK, that sounds stupid, but let’s go with that.” And so it’s so funny to sit back and listen to these white people bitch about, “Oh, this is so bad. This is the worst.” Where the fuck you been? It’s like… [Laughs]
Nicole: I know. What rock have you been under? And yet… is that the silent majority?
Kim: I just laugh. I’m like, “Oh, my word. Wow. This is the worst? This is the worst? This one dude right here?”
Nicole: This is a strange landscape.
Kim: “This one dude right here is the worst? OK? All right.” Well no, what this one dude has done, which y’all have never done, is exposed a whole bunch of shit y’all been hidin’. Now that’s what’s different.
Nicole: And you find out with the transparency of the shit they’ve done.
Nicole: You know, I’d rather know that somebody did some shit than just sit there and be like, “Mmm, I know that they’re not that good because none of them…”
Kim: “Rather tha…” What’s that? Something about knowin’ about the devil or somethin’ or nother, I don’t know.
Nicole: Yeah, the devil you know?
Kim: Yes. Yes, mhm.
Nicole: Yeah, the devil that you know.
Nicole: Yeah. It’s a very interesting time right now because so many issues are coming to light that have been buried down for a long time, issues that are disproportionately affecting communities of color and they’re dying. Literally. It’s the ultimate price right now is that violence in—police violence—in communities of color is killing people.
Kim: What’s funny about that is…
Nicole: Food access.
Kim: …is folx who are, “Oh my god, a protester was killed.” What the fuck did y’all think protest was? It’s like…
Nicole: First time at a protest?
Kim: This is not Running Man. What the fuck is wrong wit’ y’all? [Nicole laughs]
Nicole: I don’t know, I think every day for—I’m trying to be mindful of my emotions during the pandemic. And they’ve definitely been a roller coaster, I think is what a lot of people have experienced. In the beginning, oh god, in the beginning—although for me, I love being kind of isolated—and…
Kim: I was about to say; I was made for a pandemic. I was made for a quarantine.
Nicole: That’s exactly it. That was the part, though, when I was using that line. You know, I’ve been preparing for this my whole life. I’ve been training for this; shit, this is the introvert Olympics now, OK. [Kim laughs] Then summer rolls around, I’m like, “Yeah, this ain’t a hot girl summer at all.” This is some COVID summer, like cold COVID summer, and I’m done, already.
Kim: My thing was, I was—at the beginning—I was like, “OK, this is…” And then I started, what I realized is—and I’m sure you had that—we started grieving. It was a grief process.
Nicole: I wanna travel this year.
Nicole: I wanna talk at conferences.
Kim: Yeees! We started grieving what couldn’t—because I’m an introvert, but I get to choose.
Kim: This was like, I don’t get to choose.
Nicole: And it’s not having control in general.
Nicole: And I found I don’t have control always of who walks close to me. I don’t have control always of who’s wearing a mask and who isn’t.
Kim: And I live in a state where they bought all the fuckin’ guns. So I was like, white people who are stressed out with guns? I need to stay my ass in the house. [Nicole laughs]
Nicole: With a gun and no mask.
Kim: Exactly. Exactly! You know, it’s like, “OK, I’ma stay over here, because y’all don’t handle stress well.”
Nicole: No, can’t act right.
Kim: Oh, my word, yes.
Nicole: It’s madness though, right now. And I want to make sure you know, there’s—and kinda to bring it back around to mental illness and mental health in our communities—I’ve been seeing—what was it? I don’t know if you’ve seen the show on FX, “Dave” at all. Oh my god, it’s so good, first off. It’s with Lil Dicky, white Jewish rapper—he’s hilarious and adorable—but they have a great representation—and heartbreaking; that’s how you know that it’s great and accurate—of bipolar disorder in a Black man and how they’re communicating it to their friends and just kind of the expectations and how the dynamic shifts. Because that’s a big thing. That only a certain actor, I think, can be able to pull that off is the dynamic shift that happens when somebody knows that part about you and you suddenly become a little bit less predictable in their eyes.
We need to be having these discussions that are uncomfortable now more than ever, because the suicide rates in particular are astronomical for our communities. Suicide in Black, Native American communities, Latinx communities, it’s so much more, so much higher than we faced with our white counterparts. It’s distressing because we’re still not, even when it’s available, it comes down to people having access to it. It comes down to the training.
Kim: And getting over the stigma of it.
Nicole: Absolutely. Stigma’s always there.
Kim: Because everything we get is a fight. So any sign of weakness, which is—folx consider mental illness as a weakness instead of a illness which needs to be treated—it becomes something you run away from. And then you project that or you act out in ways that harm family—because again, we’re all family. We’re gonna protect you. We’re gonna… and I can tell you…
Nicole: And there’s enabling behavior.
Kim: And I can tell you, honestly, that I went through a period at the beginning of the year where I just shut myself off, and this was before the pandemic. I said I was going through what I call my snake shedding skin phase; where snakes when they shed—snakes shed their skin because they’re growing, which is good. But until that skin is ready for them, they’re at their most vulnerable, and they’re most likely to attack. And so I isolate myself because I don’t want to harm people in—’cause I’m feeling all this—and I don’t wanna go back and apologize. I’m not trying to cause harm, and I don’t want people to harm me. So I’m gonna, you know, close myself off.
And yet it was in those moments that I consciously, for the first time in my life—again, 50 years old—consciously the first time my life decided that there were certain relationships that I could not have anymore because they took up too much for me. They were mentally exhausting.
Nicole: Oh yeah. Toxicity takes many forms.
Kim: They were mentally exhausting. And it’s hard, because in the Black community, you hold on to everybody. And I was like, I just can’t do it.
Nicole: And we struggle with boundaries in particular. It’s hard.
Kim: With the work that I’m tryna do, I cannot do that and have to deal on a daily basis with somebody who is fundamentally depressed all the time. I cannot do it. So I need you to go get counseling. I can’t talk to you about those things. I can support you, but I’m not—I cannot be that person that you put all that on. And it becomes a struggle because it is—you love and you want to care for, and yet I have to get, like you said, put those boundaries on myself.
Nicole: Yeah, boundaries are a difficult concept to build. It took me years of therapy—like I said, nine and a half years of this shit—and for what? They say we do therapy because other people don’t.
Kim: Oh! [Claps]
Nicole: Mhm. That one hit me really hard when I first started. I go to therapy for all my ancestors. I go to therapy because of all the addiction that we faced that is passed down; you know, that misery and the pain that comes from the epigenetics behind it. My tribe was slaughtered down to triple digits. And then to have to build up from that, you best believe that it’s changed how my genes…
Kim: Who you are. I mean, your natives were annihilated, and the US was built on the enslavement of my people. And anything that could be put into the system to promote anti-Blackness. That’s shit we’re dealing with now; so don’t tell me about, “Oh, that was years ago. I ain’t have nothin’ to do with that.” Yeah, you might notta had nothin’ to do with that, but you inherit your white supremacy and your anti-Blackness. As well as I have to do with my own internalized white supremacy and anti-Blackness. And I tell people all the time, the reason my target audience is white people, ’cause I can go in classroom management; “Stop doing that. This is why you’re gonna stop doing that. This is what you’re gonna do instead.” I don’t have to deal—I understand that I am educating the oppressor while also processing my own oppression. I do not have the bandwidth, I cannot deal with Black people just because they’re processing their oppression, I’m processing my oppression; I would never get anything done.
Kim: And that’s what people don’t understand.
Nicole: They don’t.
Kim: I mean, this is some shit. This is generations, and generations. And then I see it played out on Twitter, and I just sometimes just wanna say something, and I’m like, “Nope.” I have to let these people figure out their process their way. At even in that, just like I tell people, I will never throw a Black woman under the bus. Candace Owens? I would never wanna be in a room wit’ her. But you know what? She figurin’ out how to survive in a white supremacist world. And I don’t have to talk to her. She gonna hafta deal wit her own consequences to her behavior. But I’m not throwin’ her under the bus. I’m just not going to do it.
Nicole: No. And there’s a difference, though, between supporting and enabling, you know, the platform of. And then just kind of recognizing that this’s it; I’ve still got my own code and that’s that. And we’re gonna have a code for everybody. And, yeah, I’m in a weird position too where, with that intersection, I try and do the best work that I can really spreading awareness for my tribe. It’s so funny that there’s so little… even photography around my tribe, because really, we don’t allow it. The photography is, you know, somebody couldn’t just show up and take photos of us. So that’s very important. And I looked on Google the other day, and my uncles show up like three times just in the first page. It’s not even—I just searched for like Native American—it wasn’t even Wampanoag in particular. But no, it’s… oh man, I’m just… this year’s been a lot. It’s been a lot. You’re takin’ care of yourself, right?
Kim: And that’s what people don’t understand. When we come in, it’s great to say, “Oh, I wanna divert…” Oh, so what I’ve been getting, so many calls, “Kim I wanna have… Could you help me build an antiracist organisation?” So first of all, I’m like, “What the fuck? Y’all talkin’ about… y’all makin’ leaps here. OK.” And then…
Nicole: Wanna build an app. [Both laugh]
Kim: But what you don’t understand is what it takes for us to feel psychologically safe in your organizations, and you’re not equipped for it. You’re not equipped. The stuff that makes white people feel safe is the stuff that… I’m gonna tell you, it’s red flags for me. I’m just like, “Uh-uh. Nope.” [Laughs]
Nicole: Yeah, I mean a great example that we had brought up on the panel is that Google, their language preservation initiatives, in terms of wanting to be able to translate any language; well, when you’re looking at—it’s Algonquin for the Wampanoag tribe—I don’t even… I know phrases, but I don’t speak, but it’s passed down pretty much orally throughout the generation. Why would we ever, ever trust you colonizers to manage our language?
Kim: Yes. Yes! Yes, ’cause we see that right now with everybody wantin’—white folx talking about that African American Vernacular is the Internet culture. Bitch, we are the Internet culture! What the hell are you talkin’ about?
Nicole: The original Internet culture. [Laughs] We been the Internet.
Kim: There’s nothing original about whiteness. Everything about whiteness has been stolen and appropriated from other people.
Nicole: Yup. That’s so true, though. It really is.
Kim: And so you’re havin’ to make a decision. Do we allow this colonized organization—this entity—to… do we trust them with our language? No.
Nicole: Mm-mm. Not even a little bit.
Kim: And yet, if we don’t do something, it will be gone.
Nicole: That’s the quandary.
Nicole: We don’t have the funds or the power to be able to really have a whole lot of options that are led by our own cultures. But it’s just one of those sacred things, you know?
Kim: But it’s not sacred for other people.
Nicole: It is not.
Kim: It’s not sacred for whiteness.
Nicole: It’s a novelty.
Kim: Exactly. For whiteness it’s the cool new thing, it’s the chile—like I had to tell some chick, “Don’t call me Auntie. I don’t know you. Don’t do that. Don’t fuckin’ do that. That’s some mammy shit. Don’t do that. You don’t understand.” Yes, I get in Indian cultures, they call each other auntie. But in Black cultures, that is some shit that white folx called us when we worked in your homes and nursed your babies and shit. No, don’t call me your auntie. I don’t know you.
Nicole: Yeah, it’s context, man. They don’t get the context. They don’t wanna get it.
Nicole: If you try and explain the history behind some, they get mad at you.
Kim: Yup, uh-huh. “Why you bein’ so defensive?”
Nicole: You’re yuckin’ their yum. [Laughs] I mean, I know we’re yummy, but at the same time, stay out. Like, this ain’t for you.
Kim: Ah! That’s it! Everything ain’t for white folx!
Nicole: Nope. This ain’t for you.
Kim: This ain’t for you. And that’s what I loved about Toni Morrison. She’s like, “I did not write for the white gaze.”
Kim: You know? Even though white people are my audience, I don’t do shit for the white gaze.
Nicole: What would our culture look like, if we did everything for white people?
Kim: Oh sheesh.
Nicole: There would be no culture.
Kim: There you go.
Nicole: There’d be no culture. They would’a yanked everything they liked from this and we’d be left with the shit they don’t like, and then that’s gonna fuel more… I mean, come on! [Laughs]
Kim: Yeah, it would be so unseasoned. [Both laugh] With raisins.
Nicole: Some mayo on that shit.
Kim: With some raisins and shit. Uch. [Nicole laughs] OK, this has been a wonderful conversation. What would you like to say to close out the show?
Nicole: Well, damn. We didn’t get to talk about problem solving, but you know what? I would rather talk about just life, any day.
Kim: This is the shit they need to know. [Laughs]
Nicole: Right. This is the kind of shit that—I haven’t actually had a conversation like this in a minute, so thank you.
Nicole: My soul needed that.
Kim: Thank you! That’s what I think my show is when I bring marginalized people on the show, this is—your work, I can link to your work in the podcast—but your story is what’s more important to me.
Nicole: Yeah. This story is—I’ve been regularly told that that is one of the most powerful components of my existence in this industry.
Kim: Well, it’s not just you, it’s all of us; we don’t get—like you just said—you don’t talk about this. Where in other podcasts do you feel comfortable enough to tell your story, to just let your hair down and smoke your bong and just enjoy yourself? You know what I’m sayin’?
Nicole: I know, and I appreciate because those spaces are very important. And honestly, I think I had forgotten exactly how important they were until I sat down with you today. But that’s… I’m here. I create my courses, and Kim will have some of my links in there for the La Vie en Code site. I do, you know, we didn’t really get to dig into it, but I have an incredible course and I just went through it, I can say that, I just went through myself the other day and was like, “Damn, I’m smart!” [Both laugh] And then on top of that, I’m like, “Damn, I love helping people.” And that comes across. People need those problem solving skills, I teach them. So check out my course Newbie Coder Problem Solving School. It is… it’s the answer.
Kim: And just know, Nicole, when we get there, we will be partnerin’ with you. Because we will be using some of your stuff to get to—because to me, the curriculum is not the important thing. It is teaching people how to solve problems; how to do this thing; how to teach… teachin’ people how to teach themselves.
Nicole: Yes. That is my mission. And it’s gonna—it’s helped so many people already. I am… yeah, I have this board that I’m looking at right now. It’s a composite of all these tweets that I have, that I just put right on my board—or, on my wall—because I don’t wanna forget that the work I’m doing is so important for the people in the communities that we’re discussing today. So let’s set people up for success.
Kim: Yeah, because if we wait for whiteness for validation, we would never get it. We’ve gotta validate ourselves.
Nicole: We have to set ourselves up for success, so that’s what I’m here doing. That’s the important work, that’s why I’m causin’ a scene, girl.
Kim: Thank you, bae. Thank you for bein’ on the show.
Nicole: You have a good one. Thank you for the energy.
Kim: All right! Bye bye.