Kim is taking some much needed time off, so enjoy this keynote presentation from the 2018 Black’s In Technology Conference.
Announcer: We saw her last night. And, when I say she lit the place up, you can tell when someone has a certain spirit, when they born to speak, when they born wit’ a cause. Someone who stand on her beliefs. And I shouldn’t say belief because belief is a form of doubt. When you know something, it’s etched in your DNA, in your soul, in your spirit. But she definitely someone who standin’ strong, firm, based in what she’s believin’ in. Ladies and gentlemen, please give it up for our sista, our friend, Miss Kim Crayton, y’all. [Applause]
Kim Crayton: All right. All right. Come on, now. Hello, oh no, don’t stop clappin’, I’m not up there yet. Come on! What is goin’ on? Hello, hello hello. Good morning. Good morning. All right, so I am a morning person, so we’re gonna get started. After 12 o’clock don’t talk to me ’cause I’m done. [Laughter from audience]
So what I want to talk to you about is… I don’t normally speak in front of Black people. [Laughter from audience] My target audience are white people. My target audience are white people who we need to talk about, who are business leaders, and we need to talk about why inclusion and diversity is not working.
So my name is Kim Crayton. I am—”Hey Twitter!”—live streaming. You can tweet me. I have a movement called #CauseAScene—you can use that hashtag—and I’m just gonna get right into it.
My goal is to help business leaders disrupt, innovate, and gain competitive advantage within the global marketplace while identifin’ and minimizing harm. We cannot continue to create products and services for a global market from one perspective. We’re causing harm and you don’t even know you’re causing harm because you don’t even have the perspective.
So I am a researcher. I have data out the wazoo. So I’m so happy that this fireside chat happened because it totally goes into what I’m talkin’ about. And I wanted to go back… Adam Smith is the father of economics; he wrote the first economics book. And he talked about “all of ourselves and nothing for other people” [which] seems to be what’s happening right now. And that was happening in 1776. And I’m gonna tell you why it was happening in 1776 in a minute.
But I like to give a trigger warning, and again, this is usually in front of white people, because my job is to make white people uncomfortable. I’m just lettin’ you know. And I’m very good at it, so I just want you to know that. And I usually say that because inevitably at some conference I’ve triggered someone and they try to report me for code of conduct [violation]. Just because you can’t manage your emotions has nothing to do with me. So I’m going to be my authentic Black self from the South. This is what this is.
So let’s define terms. I am an educator by trade. So I always like to start with everybody on the same page because I don’t wanna wait 20 minutes in and people like, “oh that’s what she meant.”
Privilege: this is a word that white people get so upset about. Privilege is just about access. Who has access to things? That’s it. Who has access? So if you have seen these pictures of these monkeys on National Geographic, they make it seem like all this is hunky dory. Well actually it isn’t. It’s a matriarchal family could only get in this water and everybody else is on the outside like, “Please we’re freezing. Let us in.” All right?
Underrepresented is about numbers. So in tech, women are underrepresented.
Marginalized is about treatments of groups. So although women are underrepresented, most white women, unless they’re LGBTQ or have a disability, are not marginalized because they benefit from privilege. Which means white women are not about diversity. That’s not how you get your diversity numbers. OK?
Diversity is about variety. Some people can really do good with four crayons. Not me. [Laughter] I need that 64 box. [More laughter] So I can really make some stuff happen. Without that 64 box, you lookin’ at stick figures and ain’t nothin’ nice. But when you have diversity, you can think about what you can create. I can have a team of people who can’t draw with 64. If I [only] have 4, that means somebody gotta be an artist. [Laughter]
Inclusion is about experience, and I’m gonna break this down. Inclusion is about my experience, and I like what you said, because it’s not about the organization tellin’ me I’m included. If I don’t feel inclusive, it’s not included. You cannot tell me I’m included. You cannot tell me you have an inclusive environment. And this also goes to allies. You cannot claim, self identify as an ally. That title is given to you if the groups you’re working on behalf of feel that the work you’re doing is worth something.
All right. Inclusion is not about equality because there is no way, sir, we started at the same line. So I need you to go, sit down, take a nap, don’t move. Let me get a head start. And then when you get up, I need you to crawl real slow. [Laughter] That’s the only way I’m gonna make any gains. It is not about quotas. It is, again, it is about my experience.
OK, so now we’re gonna talk about James Adams [correction: John Adams]. He was at the Continental Congress. This is something… ’cause what I want to do is… some of the problems we’re having is we don’t look at a historical perspective; we see things in silos instead of in systems. And as you know, if you eat something wrong, your system gon’ do something. It’s not just gon’ be that one thing. So a major concern in society—and this is from 1787—is to protect the minority of the minority of the opulent against the majority. This has been baked into our system. This has been baked into our economies. And this is what we’re not dealing with and why we need to.
So “Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram Kendi is an excellent book, and he breaks down the definitive history of racist ideas in America. You really need to read this book. Here’s a… [someone requests something from Kim] Oh yeah, I can do that for you because you’re the CEO, I usually wouldn’t. [Laughter] All right, there you go. All right. [Laughter]
“Hate and ignorance”—so people think that people were racists first, then came the policies, and then came discrimination. That is incorrect. They needed a way to justify slavery. They use different—the Bible—policies to justify slavery. So, the economics came first. And if we don’t deal with the fact that the economics came first, we will not move forward, and this is why we have organizations that keep trying and keep trying to improve on inclusion and diversity, but they’re not dealing with the issue that our whole economy is based in white supremacy, is rooted in white supremacy. Our healthcare system is rooted in white supremacy. Our educational system is rooted in white supremacy. Everything that happens is rooted in white supremacy, and which means it’s anti-Black.
Time and time again racist ideas have been cooked up to justify this stuff. And it’s been brilliant men and women who have done this. And we see it now. And I’m just gonna be honest, I’m loving seeing white people freak out right now.
OK, so after the Trump win, people like, “Wh- wh- what just happened?” And Black people’re sittin’ there like, “Duh.” And then [Brett] Kavanaugh [Imitates a whining, crying child] “Oh oh what?” Duh. For the first time—I say privilege and white supremacy is a parasite—and for the first time, it’s eatin’ on its host. This is the first time in millenia that white people been as uncomfortable—well, you never as uncomfortable as we are; we have to walk around like this all day [laughter]—so you never as uncomfortable as we are. But this is the first time you really having to challenge some of the things that you thought—and particularly white women—when it comes to your proximity to privilege and white supremacy, you’re really having to challenge that. And I get it all the time on Twitter: “You’re bein’ racist. A-nananana.” We’re gonna talk about that in a minute. And I’m like, “White women, go sit down somewhere, please.”
Their own racist ideas did not create this system. Capitalists… they were… they… based on… and I’m loving, and I’m hoping you were honest here, sir, because this gives me hope that there’s a multi-billion dollar company who is willin’ to look at this stuff honestly and say, “Hey, we have a choice. Are we gonna continue down the road where we’re capitalists and we’re harming people? Or we gonna make a different choice?”
And this is why I use a lot of definitions, and I know this is a whole bunch of words, but people keep denigrating capitalism. Capitalism is only a theory. It’s how we put it in application has been the problem. And we on company-by-company level can change how we do capitalism in our own organizations. And because we’re tech and we touch everything, once we figure this out, every other industry is gonna have to change. So we have a potential to change the world and stop harming people. [Applause]
The world! And stop harmin’ people. ‘Cause you talking about Brazil. [Applause] If you only have a perspective from the United States, you do not know anything about what could cause harm to people in Brazil. First of all, the fact that English is the first language of everything; right now you’ve already shut down a whole country of people.
So these are things we need to be talking about. Racist ideas have done a job on us. We don’t even see it. And this is what I’m gonna tell my Black people: we have internalized white supremacy. We do. And I’m givin’ you an example of this.
Think about when you go into a restaurant. What are Black kids doing if they’re with their families at the restaurant? Anybody shout it out. [Crowd murmurs “Sitting down”] Sittin’ down, even if they have a book or a tablet. What are white kids doin’? [Crowd says “Running around!”] Runnin’ around making a mess! And it’s because they’ve been taught that they belong in that space, that every space belongs to them. So that’s what they’re doing.
When you walkin’ down the street and—oh I brace myself now; ’cause I take up space—so we walkin’ down the street and you not payin’ attention and you walkin’ into me? I would normally stop and step aside. No. I’m going “boom!” head into you. Because I deserve to take up space. I’m no longer making excuses. And it goes to civility. Civility is an option for white people. It is the expected behavior of marginalized groups because it makes us manage our own behavior, so they don’t have to.
It’s like a slavery when you had the overseer. I don’t have to worry about it if I get to put this Black person in charge of everybody else. So no, when we’re sitting on a plane and dude wants to open his legs wide open? Sir, your penis is not that big; you might wanna close your legs, ’cause you in my space now. You’re in my space. You want the front or back of this armrest? Because we gonna share this. [Laughter]
And you’re laughing, but think about how you show up. We get on planes, we do this. We close ourselves up. It’s because that’s the expected behavior of us. We have internalized white supremacy. We see it when we look outside at other marginalized groups and treat them poorly. Because we’ve been told that there’s this thing that we need to climb up and we’re better than somebody else.
Let me define racism for you, ’cause that definition that’s in Oxford dictionary does not meet the standard. That dictionary definition was first written by white people, and second, does not take into account the effects of racism. So Black people in this country [the United States] can never be racist because even though we may have race prejudice, we do not benefit from a system of institutional power. So we don’t have that. We can hate white people all we want, but we can never be racist.
And by that definition, all white people are racist. Now, the difference is how you gonna show up. Where on their pendulum, on that continuum are you gonna be? Are you gonna be workin’ hard to be antiracist or are you gonna show racist behaviors? Because that’s how—I mean, the white people in here, think about it. Do you live in communities wi’ people of color? How many? ‘Cause we get the, “Oh I have a friend.” How many of you have multiple friends?
What I find is most white people, the first time they actually engage with Black people is on Twitter. When they really have in-depth conversations with people is on Twitter. And they DM me all the time like, “Kim, I never knew about…” because you don’t know about this. And I’m gonna tell you white people, you’re ignorant of your own history by design.
So, this is another book: “So You Want to Talk about Race” [by Ijeoma Oluo]. Hurry up getcha phone out, sir. [Laughter] Movin’ too slowly. Movin’ too slowly. Come on, you slowin’ me up. I ain’t got but a few minutes here. [Laughter] All right.
Simple way to determine if something is about race: if somebody Black says it’s about race, it’s about race. Don’t argue. [Laughter] It’s about race if it’s disproportionately or differently affects Black people. Hiring, it’s about race. Those—I hope you guys don’t do whiteboard tests because they are a waste of time—those tests are targeted for white men ages 18-34 who ain’t got nothin’ else on they hands but to study for these tests. People with lives don’t have time for that.
And it’s about race if it’s a broader system. How many videos you seen some white woman calling the cops on a Black person? It’s about race. Everything. OK. Everything. [annunciating each syllable]. Everything, when there was colonialism, is about race. So why are we havin’ this conversation? Because as the technical community, we continue to see through the lens and perspective of whiteness, which is white supremacy and anti-Blackness.
Gaining this understanding will help us explain why our current efforts aren’t working. You have intention, and you may even have a strategy—’cause I said last night, “Intention without strategy is chaos”—but because your strategy does not even acknowledge the racism that is inherent in everything we do, it does not work. We must be willing to accept and deal with the truth. That, as you said, the better us we’re trying to create has never existed. Based on the Constitution, I should be a slave. This was never supposed to happen.
And to do better, those with privilege, you must prioritize our needs and our safety. When I come into an organization it is not about assimilation. It is about that culture needs to change so that I can bring something to it. Because we’re no longer living in the industrial age where we’re making widgets. We’re in the information age where we need to create knowledge, so you can be competitive. And I can sit there all day, but if you don’t let me to provide, you have none of my knowledge. And I’m gonna take that with me to the next job. And you cannot use that to innovate.
Another one for our Adam’s [Smith], “consumption is sole [end] and the purpose of [all] production.” But the only time you think about the producer is up until what they need, but it’s the consumer that matters. And this is from 1776. This is what you were talking about with the five points. Yes, you gonna make money, but you can make money doin’ good. And what improves the circumstances—I’m going fast ’cause I’m outta time, but this is what it is. “The greater part can never be regarded as inconvenient to the whole.”
So I can never be regarded as inconvenient to the whole. Because again, we have to stop thinking in silos and [start] thinking in systems. I am a part of the system. And if I’m unhappy—and you know these coworkers—if you got an unhappy coworker, everybody unhappy. [Laughter]
And these are some resources, get out yer phones, take pictures.
“Seeing White” is a series I recommend to everybody, particularly white people because it’s from last season of “Scene on Radio” [the podcast]. And it’s a 14 week series where he breaks down the history of racism in this country. How the laws were changed. How people who were considered the model minority, Indians and Asians, went to court so they could be considered white.
“White Fragility” [book by Robin DiAngelo]. Hmm yes, y’all need to work on that.
“Saving Capitalism” is a great movie by Robert Reich.
“Requiem for the American Dream” [by Noam Chomsky] is another great movie that breaks down all these things about where this stuff comes from. Because although a lot of it happened in the 1700s, where it really happened was in the 70s.
The Powell Memo was when the chamber of commerce… this is when companies took over our government. And it’s totally outlined in this document. And then you have The Trilateral Commission.
So thank you very much. [Applause]