Pete Holiday

Podcast Description

“White people specifically can take rules and policies designed to protect people of color – specifically black people – and use them as weapons. I don’t remember ever being taught that, but it is instinctual.”

Pete Holiday is a software engineering leader with over twenty years of experience in tech. His focus areas are SaaS platforms, public APIs, and developing inclusive hiring practices in high-growth engineering organizations.

Additional Resources

Transcription

00:30 

Kim Crayton: Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene Podcast. My guest today is Pete Holiday. Pete has been hanging around the #CauseAScene community [long pause] damn near since it started. And so [laughs] I’m happy to have him on here. Pete, could you introduce yourself to the audience please?

Pete Holiday: Absolutely. Thanks, Kim. I’m excited to be able to contribute. I’ve been keeping an eye on the #CauseAScene movement for a while now. I’ve been in engineering for over 20 years—let’s just say that—and I think that the ability that we have with social media these days to use it as a force for good, to kind of expose some of the things that have been going on for a long time, is really valuable. And people like you doing this work is helping make tech a better place, so I’m happy to be able to be here and help contribute to that vision.

Kim: All right, we start each episode with the same two questions. Why is it important to cause a scene? And how are you causing a scene?

01:26

Pete: Yeah, I think it’s important—the primary reason I think it’s important is because, for so long a lot of the bad behavior that has existed in the tech world is able to continue existing because it happens sort of behind the scenes, because the people that know that it’s going on don’t talk about it going on. And so I think it’s important that those of us who have the privilege to lend are able to do that, and even though doing it often kind of strikes people as rocking the boat—or, as you say, causing a scene—I think that that’s the only way this stuff gets brought out into the light. 

For me personally, I know that I have a relatively comfortable position in the industry, and so I’m a little bit less at risk if I say some bold or scene-causing things online, so I try to lend my voice where I can, and amplify the voices of others who see this better than I do where I can, in addition to advocating within companies that I worked for, you know, making space for people and meeting them where they are rather than continuing to reinforce the systemic things that have gotten us where we are today.

Kim: OK, So I’m going to tell you how and why Pete stands out for me. ‘Cause you know that a white dude in tech means absolutely nothing to me. [Laughs] I am not impressed one iota by white dudes in tech. [Both chuckle] And yet it takes people like Peter, Pete, Peter, Pete, which one? [Chuckles]

03:07 

Pete: Peter is on my birth certificate, but I go by Pete. [Kim laughs]

Kim: All right, Pete. So it takes people like Pete, who I see continuously stomping the hell out of ignorant people on Twitter. [Chuckles] That I just love. It’s like I—and this is what people don’t understand that, you know, they wanna call me angry, they want to say all these other—I have a strategy, people. I don’t do this for funsies. I don’t do this just because I woke up and wanted to engage with jerks in tech. No. I see something, I decide, “Hey, will this engagement impact, or is a teachable moment for somebody in the community?”

And I can tell you, when I do that, five times out of 10, if Pete’s online, he’s engaging.  He’s like, [laughs] [imitates fast talking], and I just rack ’em up. I just… like baseball. You know when you have that machine? I just *poof* and put ’em out there, just *poof* and put ’em out there, and Pete just goes… he just goes at it. And what I love is, because you have 20 plus years in the space, you have a depth of knowledge across many disciplines in tech, which I’ve seen. You had conversations, we talked about these freakin’ boot camps and this income sharing agreement bullshit.

04:35 

You have responded to when we’re talkin’ about just how to be antiracist and what’s white supremacy. I’ve seen you engaged about code, and so it’s like you have this breadth of information, so you’re one of the people who I look to—and you’re probably just knowin’ this—that I look to and I just see, wait and see, ’cause if you’re online, it’s like, “OK.” There’re a few of you—and that’s a problem, because they’re not enough. There’re over 7000 people followin’ me, and there’re not enough people who are actively engaging in helping transform this community. But I do appreciate the work that you do. 

And again, you know, I do not give white dudes credit for shit, ’cause you ain’t not earned anything. But I can say in this space—I can’t tell you about your work, ’cause I’m sure you got that because your privilege and all that other stuff—but in this space, in #CauseAScene, you step up and you ensure, you’re one of those people who I can say is—remember back in the day I used to use the term “power ally?”—you’re willin’ to make yourself uncomfortable so that I can be comfortable.

And I remember with the income sharing agreement, that dude—I don’t remember his name. See, random white dude. He had blocked me, and other people weren’t speakin’—’cause, you know, this always happens: I’m havin’ a conversation, and people won’t speak to me, but they will speak to you because you’re a white dude.

05:59 

Pete: Uh-huh. Yep.

Kim: And so what they don’t realize is that I’m feeding you questions through the DM. [Both laugh] I’m like, “Hey, I saw this, ask ’em that.” And they think they’re really engaging.  And I’m just like, “You do not realize how foolish you are. If you knew…” Again, this is a strategy. I already recognize that your racist ways do not see me as your equal so it’s easier for you to ignore me. 

And I’ve seen that a lot. I saw that when I was trying to engage with Stack Overflow’s leadership. I saw that with the recent engagement with Jeff Atwood. I see it all the time where white dudes in tech, I am literally putting the information out there and they will speak to someone who’s only echoing what I’ve said. I want you to talk about that. Tell me, what the hell is that about? I mean, I know, but I wanna know from a white dude, ’cause I’m gonna make the assumption that at some point you used to do that, because you weren’t this enlightened all your life. What is this about? Why is it… yeah, what is that shit about?

Pete: I mean, I don’t know, you know? Well, I do know. I think that what’s going on is, we have an idea in our heads of what— I think there are two things. We have an idea in our heads of what an engineer looks like, and, you know, people made fun of that hashtag, what, maybe two years ago? Like. “I look like an engineer” or something, all the women posting their photos like, “this is what engineer looks like.”

07:29 

People made fun of that, but I think that’s actually really impactful because I do think a lot of people have an idea of what an engineer looks like. And often that is white and male and young and has a tech degree background, and so I think that we seem less threatening because to the people who are making this decision, that seems like a peer—like you’re saying they don’t see you as a peer—and so I think that’s there. I think the other thing, they will assume that I have the technical and industry knowledge that I have—and sometimes that I don’t have—they’ll just assume that I have it. Whereas somebody in your position has to prove it.

Kim: Yes.

Pete: And so I think that’s one thing. I think the other thing is that—and this is less, I think this is a smaller part of it—but I think the other side of it is that inherently, even when I’m being angry, even when I’m being very curt with people, even when I’m being downright like, insulting or offensive, my words are seen as less offensive or less angry than yours are, even if objectively, that’s just not the case, right? You could just say something matter of fact, and people assume you’re angry; if I say something matter of fact, nobody accuses me of being angry. And so I think that kind of couples on top of itself to be like, “Oh, well he’s not angry with me, so I’m gonna engage with him because he’s being respectful”, whereas you are not, in their estimation. 

09:11 

So I think both of those things combine, and it’s really easy to do that because it feels safer, and that I think is the problem. But, that’s my perspective from the person I used to be. I mean, I think it’s easy to just make that assumption. I think that the real problem that I see is that it never goes away. If you were raised like that, you have to fight that, always. Like, I don’t know anybody who’s like “Oh, yeah, like I never have any preconceived notions about people anymore.” Like, there’s just something that you have to be aware of and actively fight against in your own head and a lot of people just don’t want to do that work. 

Kim: OK, so thank you for that, and I’m gonna add a third one. It is that white people are racist by design, and so they see me as fundamentally their inferior, whether they want to admit it or not, and it speaks to what you just said about having to continually check yourself because it is just knee-jerk. 

10:19 

I’m a teacher. I just came back from having lunch and I saw—I was at the restaurant—and I saw a young man come in for interview. I’m thinking it was a interview, I’m thinking it’s a follow-up ’cause she told him about the training at the end of the thing. But he had on what I would have considered in the past to be inappropriate attire to go to a new job. And I had to check myself because I had to realize that all of that policing of bodies, particularly Black bodies, is a part of a system of white supremacy. And that’s why I talk a lot about having to face my own and doing my own internalized white supremacy and anti-Blackness.

Because although both of us were raised and taught and continue to be in a system that is rooted in white supremacy, you benefit from it, whereas I don’t. And it really speaks to some of the conversations I’m having now about what do you do when you have various marginalized groups in one community or one space? Because what I’m seeing now is the other part of white supremacy, whereas these individuals are jockeying for closest to whiteness and harming each other, because that is also a strategy of white supremacy; it’s a distraction, because if it keeps us going at each other, we don’t see that we have aligned missions and goals, and together we get there better than we can get there on our own. And so this is something I’m now seeing a lot of—because again, it speaks to that diversity is about recruitment, and inclusion is about retention.

12:05

So there’re people who fail at the recruitment part, the diversity part, they just can’t get that right. And they’re like, “Oh, we tried”. And then there’re people who bring ’em in and like, “They won’t stay” because you didn’t do the inclusion part, which is the retention part. And it is so fundament—and I’m happy to have this conversation with you, because until we’re talking about actively being antiracist, everything else is a distraction, that’s where I am right now, and I’m loving the new podcast that I’m doing, “How to be Antiracist”, and I will continue that with other books, because this is where this work has to go. If we’re not actively being antiracist, we’re not doing the work that’s gonna change anything, and that’s why we’ve been failing before, because we’re still talking about assimilation.

Pete: Yep. You know, I think that this is something that I wish I had come around to a lot longer ago than I did. But I think that that distinction, of there is no non-racist, right? That’s an interesting kind of revelation to have is that you’re either racist or you’re antiracist, and there’s not a middle ground.

Kim: There’s not “I’m not racist”. Yes, exactly.

13:24 

Pete: Right. And so I think that is something that it is really difficult to internalize, because to internalize that you have to acknowledge that the person I was before was racist and the person I am today, probably still racist when I’m not actively doing this work. And so I think that’s the hardest thing to get over the hump with people. Because one of the reasons that it seems like to me is is we have been trained to believe that the worst thing you can be called is a racist. And so the fight becomes like, “I am not this label” without regard for what harm your behavior caused. You want to avoid the harm for yourself. 

That I think is one of the harder things to acknowledge is that hey, if we all come to the agreement that we all perpetuate the system of white supremacy—in various ways at various times to various degrees—and if we can just acknowledge that we all contribute, and you are not going to be able to prevent yourself necessarily from ever doing something that perpetuates white supremacy, but you have to be comfortable saying, “I’m gonna screw this up sometimes and when I do, somebody’s gonna call me to account for it, and I have two options then. I can either take step back and learn from it, or I can go into defense mode”, and if you go into defense mode, you’re right back in that category. I don’t know, people talk a lot about, “Oh, you’re gonna ruin his career,”—I’ve never seen that happen.

15:02 

Kim: OK, oh, my god. White dudes are so afraid of getting their careers ruined and yet have no issue with these blatant— and that’s what I love about, in the book, Dr. Kendi talks about microaggressions in the next chapter, chapter four, because there is no such thing as microaggressions; they’re just abuse—but you have no problem doing those little things. It’s when you think something’s gonna happen to your finances that you care about.

It’s the same thing with white women and their tears. When you don’t care about the fact that someone said something to you, you decide you wanna cry. Now everybody comes to your defense, or you go to HR and now it’s in this person’s record, and this person can’t get a raise, they can’t get a promotion, all these other things that life has turned upside down because you could not manage your emotions. But then it’s all about you.

And that goes to another thing about white supremacy. White supremacy says that white people are individuals, and that’s why you don’t like that title. That’s why white people don’t like to be called white as well. They don’t like it because that’s a group; you have been taught that you’re special and you’re individual, and yet you have absolutely no problem calling me Black. None. You do not hesitate. Even calling me African American puts me in a group. [Pete says mmhm] 

16:28 

And you have no problem with that. But the one time I used an equal term for whiteness, that’s where you get “not all this” and “not all that”, because it’s so used to whiteness never being examined, but it’s using these terms for other people. And this is why I say whiteness is the racist by default, period, I mean by design, period, and can’t be trusted by default. Because if I trust you—this is again, I’m gonna keep railing on this, this compassion and empathy shit that’s out here—if I am giving you the benefit of doubt, which whiteness always expects, if I am assuming that you have positive intent, that puts me as a person who is not considered your equal in your eyes by this system in harm’s way. I don’t care what the hell you think I am not on the same level.

So that’s the same thing as someone—or you’re using the same rules, well this is hard because you do use the same rules, I was about to say that the same rules for adults and children— well, very clearly white people are adults and their children are children. Black children are not children, they’re mini adults. So it’s like I don’t wanna have these conversations with you. I make these things very clear because having these conversations are a distraction.

17:49 

And so that’s why I like individuals like you, who can get in and are willing to have those conversations, ’cause I’m not having them. I’m not doing it. Because, I see people time and time in the space doing this work get burnt out and I’m not going that route. I’m just not doing this. I’m not having these conversations. It’s great classroom management. This is my classroom, this is my timeline. If you choose to engage, you’re gonna engage how I say you’re gonna engage, or I’m not gonna engage with you at all. So they get mad about “Oh, you won’t…” No, I don’t have to talk to you. I don’t, I really—

And that’s another thing. Whiteness is used to getting it demands, and so I’m supposed to reciprocate.  No, I’m not. I’m not gonna reciprocate. I’m supposed to capitulate. I’m supposed to bow and give you what you want. And so I’ve really gotten to the point of, I’m no longer responsible for white people’s feelings. If you get your feelings hurt by—like, someone wrote to me recently saying that we were in a conversation and I intimidated, my persona intimidated her. That’s a fucked up way to talk about me. What if there was an employer that she decided to go talk? You know that kind of thing. When you’ve been intimidated when I’ve done nothing intimidating to you is your issue, not mine.

Pete: Mm-hm. [agreement]

Kim: And that’s how it becomes easier to dehumanize me, dehumanize people like me, because internally—I don’t care if you claim it or not, you have been raised to believe that I am inferior to you. And that’s why you will speak to Pete and not talk to me.

19:25 

And so at Stack Overflow, you [Pete] can say whatever you want to, but this is why these individuals will not engage with me. Because you will engage with a white person saying the exact same thing—hell, saying the exact same words that I’m saying—

Pete: Mm-hm.

Kim: —but you won’t engage with me, and so you’re promoting the fact that you—whether you consciously know it or not—see me as less than you. And when someone with a platform like Stack Overflow or Jeff Atwood or all these people with these thousands of followers, when their followers see that behavior, see that how they act towards me, it perpetuates that I have no value and my voice means nothing.

Pete: Mm-hm. And it doesn’t make sense, either. I mean, there’s no other explanation for it because you have a larger platform than I do. You have likely decades more experience in these issues than I have. And so when I respond to somebody—I’m not verified, I’m nobody special on Twitter—and so when I respond to Jeff Atwood, who has, what, a quarter of a million followers or something like that? And he responds to me, why is he responding to me in the first place? Like, I’m nobody. He’s never heard of me before.

Kim: And he was on my last podcast, so he knows me. That’s my whole point. Like, “Dude, we’ve met at conferences, you know me!”

Pete: Mm-hmm.

Kim: And that’s just a level of disrespect. And that’s where the stuff that we don’t wanna talk intent. We wanna talk about, you know, inclusion and diversity on these really high level surface shit. And we don’t talk about the real issue. It is rooted in racism, period!

21:02 

Pete: Yeah.

Kim: And that’s been coded into the stuff that we’re creating!

Pete: And I think that’s— it’s something that I really have a difficult time with because I appreciate your approach to this, talking about lack of inclusion being a risk management issue, because that really addresses sort of the business side of the racism and how racism hurts all of our businesses.

Kim: Exactly. [chuckling]

Pete: But I think it’s really interesting. I really, I struggle with this myself because I don’t think we should have to go there, right? Like, I don’t think I should have to make a business case for being antiracist, to be antiracist. I think it ought to be good enough to say, “Look, our society has many, many, many groups of people have been shut out of this society for hundreds of years. Why do I need to make a business case to do the right thing?” But I appreciate that there is a business case, and I think that’s good additional fodder.

Kim: I’m gonna tell you why. Imma tell you exactly why I focused on business. Because if I did not have the business background that came with the business resume that I have, you would not know me. You would not know me. I wouldn’t have been heard. I would have been just another angry Black person railing on Twitter. You would not know me.

22:27 

My following grew when I started speaking at conferences about mentoring, which is a business thing. That’s how you know me. And so—again, it’s a strategy—what’s gonna give me more power and influence? What’s gonna get me in the room? And not only in the room at the table, but not only at the table, a voice at the table. And it’s because I, unlike these white dudes in tech who’re building these businesses, I can show every single one of ’em where their businesses are failing and where they put—leaving money on the table.

And so that’s the only way through the capitalist system am I on a even ground. That’s the only way I get consulting. That’s the only way I can say to white people what I say on stage and they like, “OK, yeah, but I don’t like what she said. She pissed me off, but she did make a good point about my business, and I wanna make money”. That is unfortunate but I am a realist, and I understand that, and it’s the strategy, and I’ve used this strategy, and this is why I don’t speak to anybody but leadership in organizations.

Because if I have to put all this effort, I don’t wanna, I’m not speaking to a middle manager ’cause you can’t change anything. This stuff has to come from the top. And so when someone question why my feed was so—first of all, I give enough stuff away, absolutely enough content away. Absolutely enough. I give more content away than anybody else who’s sitting there on Twitter. I’m not bragging. I’m not putting anybody down. But when I look at people who, the amount of content in the various ways they create content outside of Twitter, I don’t see anybody doing what I’m doing.

24:09 

And that’s just me, because I’m a teacher and I think about strategy. So I do enough. And so when someone comes into my DM’s and wants to do some private coaching or whatever and I tell them it’s gonna be $450 an hour beginning, and then someone questions, “Why is it so damn much?” or, “If I’m doing this work, how much of this am I donating?” I’m like, “Fuck you.” I work for myself. Half of that has to go to Uncle Sam. I don’t have health insurance—all these things that people take for granted, and they want to begrudge me of having the same. They want me to do the work, but don’t want me to have the same level of life enjoyment that they have. I’m supposed to be some martyr, I’m supposed to be some person living in the ashram. You out your damn mind. I like a good life. And if I’m going to do this work—and the reason I’m gonna say this here, the reason my starting rate, and I don’t even do per hour ’cause that’s a waste of my time—the reason I set it at $450 an hour is because it weeds out the people who’re not serious about this.

Pete: Mm-hmm, yup.

Kim: And it’s a lot of emotional labor, so you’re gonna have to pay for it.

25:19 

Pete: Mh-hmm. I think, I mean, that’s obviously the business mind coming in. And I think that the other benefit of it is—from my perspective—that sort of high barrier to entry, it allows people to sort of—like you’re saying—kind of out themselves early. If you think that this is cheap if you think that this is something that you shouldn’t have to pay handsomely for somebody’s decades of somebody’s lived experience that has cost them who knows how much money, then you’re kind of already starting from the wrong place. You’re probably not gonna get much out of it to begin with, ’cause you’re probably coming in from the wrong frame—

Kim: Exactly.

Pete: —of mind to learn anything in the first place.

Kim: Yeah, I had someone who had a shit show on Twitter. They got called out, and they came to my DM’s, and then I told ’em what it was going to cost, and they were like, “OK, that’s fine. Can we do summin’ in November?” You just caused a shit last week and you wanna wait till November to get started? I already see problems here. How do you wait months to make amends? How do you wait? What? What? Explain that to me. And that’s the thinking of the people who come into my space. And I’m like, “What do you—huh?! What?!”

26:46 

Pete: I think it’s also interesting because, you know, 25 years ago, 20 years ago, even 15 years ago, there were not—it was not as easy to find the resources that are available today for people—for frankly, let’s just be honest, white dudes in tech—to learn the things that you’re teaching. And there are now books, there are people you can follow on Twitter. For $200 you can—and a bunch of your own time—you can go learn all of the stuff you need to learn, so it should be expensive to have somebody spoon feed that to you.

Kim: And I don’t understand how people have a problem with that, when in this community we drop $100 on sushi in a meal. Everybody’s driving fancy car. You know, the people could afford it.

Pete: Mm-hmm. Thousand dollar desk chairs.

Kim: Yeah, and shit like that. But when I say this, it’s like, “Oh…”, ’cause I talked a white guy and I was telling him about this, and he was like, “That’s crazy,” he’s like, “when we were doing consulting our consulting fee was $900 an hour.”

Pete: Mm-hmm Yep.

Kim: But yet, me asking for that—and he’s coming to me because he knows that I have a skill set that he doesn’t have. And so that’s one reason I do it because it helps me weed out, yeah, this is gonna be a waste of my time and I get to choose. And so then when this individual decided, I called them out, and they come to me before they realized that I called them out. And then they came back to me and said, “I just saw that you called me out. That hurt my feelings, and so I think it’s a conflict of interest. [Pete laughs] So I don’t think we should be working together, but I still—” and this is the part “—I still like really what you’re doing. Where can I donate?” 

28:34 

Pete: Oh, man.

Kim: You know what? You can keep your money, I don’t want your money.

Pete: That sounds like a better deal because you are already up to speed on the situation, so you can probably provide guidance immediately without needing to spend half the time them explaining the situation to you. They’re just looking free consulting in the mouth.

Kim: They’re just looking for easy way out. That’s just it, it was too hard. If you think that you’re a client of mine and you won’t get called out if you do some shitty stuff, you don’t know me very well.  ‘Cause I call myself out, so why would I do anything differently for you? Because we’re all trying to create something that was never meant to exist. And so we’re—like you said—we’re all gonna make mistakes.

Pete: Yeah.

Kim: It’s about trying to minimize harm in the mistakes that we make. And that’s why I’m glad we brought—that’s where I don’t see—people are willing to make mistakes, they’re not willing to minimize the harm. 

Pete: Yep.

Kim: And so they’ll say, “I make mistakes,” like—and I’m gonna say his name, Ben Lash or whatever his name is? Yeah, the reason I went after him the last time because the first time he did that shit, he gets on Twitter and he wants to whine about how hard his life is at this moment and blah, blah, blah, he can’t do what he needs to do. We had a conversation, he said he wasn’t gonna do that again, and dadadada and then months later, he does it again!

29:55 

And it’s like, “Dude. You are causing harm. You have a following and you’re causing harm and you’re whining because you can’t do the things you used to do before? Then don’t do it! Obviously you’re not thinking about minimizing the harm. It’s about you. And then I get these people like, “Well, he has social issues.” Well, he should not be in front of people then! He should not have a platform. ‘Cause I will be held to that standard, if not much less. If I caused harm and I had issues with working with people, people would definitely tell me, would not give me jobs or opportunities to work with people. And yet again, these white people continue to get these opportunities. They’re forever on these platforms, forever getting invited to these conferences, forever doing all these things. When people continue to tell you that they are harming—these individuals, out their mouth, are saying, “This is just too hard for me to do.” Well, if it’s too hard for you to do, you just don’t get this thing.

Pete: Mm-hmm Yep.

Kim: I don’t understand, what’s the problem with that? Look, if you can’t handle this thing, you just don’t get this thing until you learn how to handle this thing. It’s the same thing with the driver’s licenses… I’m like, I don’t get why this is such a big deal in tech.

Pete: Mm-hmm. And we see it all the time with any sort of behavior that harms other people. People go so quickly to what their intentions were, and while I agree that clarifying intentions is sort of an important first step—it’s good to know that the person was not intentionally harming somebody, that’s like step zero of five—and people want to stop there with, “Oh, well, my intentions were good, therefore I should be free and clear,” when you have not even begun to address the actual harm that you’ve caused.  

31:39 

And I think it’s one of the harder things to get across to somebody, and you see this a lot with the defenders that show up. And this is another big problem that I have with this, is that often these people with these big platforms will leave this gap for their followers to show up and say whatever they’re going to say, because that kind of allows them to put the message out there that they want without them being held accountable for it.

Kim: Yes, so they put a little buffer between them.

Pete: Yep. And so you end up with this like, “Well, nobody themselves has said they were hurt. Nobody themselves have said they were harmed by this.” And it’s like, “OK, well, so you want people who were harmed to subject themselves to you?”

Kim: [chuckles]

Pete: Like, in addition to the person that harmed them? Like, we see what his followers are doing. Why would somebody want to put themselves in the middle of that shit storm?

[Interlude]

33:13 

Pete: Why would somebody want to put themselves in the middle of that shit storm? And being unwilling to say like, “Yeah, somebody was probably hurt by that,” and being unwilling to then take the next step of saying like, “OK, I am going to demonstrate that I did not intend for this to happen, and in fact I did not want for it to happen, by doing the work to mitigate the harm now that it has happened,” it seems like a no brainer to me, right, if you—

Kim: What we see most often, though, is that they run. So Ben blocked me, the React people ran off and then they came back, and now they’re quiet, you know? It’s like you get that privilege. It’s like you throw a shit bomb, and then you just leave.

Pete: Mh-hmm. Oh yeah. [both chuckle]

Kim: You disrupt everything, and you just like, “I can’t deal with this anymore. I didn’t realize that this dededededede…” It’s all about them, and so then they deplatform, leaving everybody else walking around and shit that they caused.

Pete: And then wait for the storm to move on and then come on back—

Kim: Yes!

Pete: —with no consequences whatsoever.

Kim: Mh-hmm.

Pete: I think we saw that, too, with the Ladybug Podcast thing.

Kim: Well, that’s what I was talking about. Yeah, that’s what I was talking about who came into my DM’s.

34:29 

Pete: Ah. Yeah.

Kim: [chuckling]

Pete: I mean, it’s really disappointing, ’cause—

Kim: And they just put out a new episode as if nothing happened. And they have these new people, and you’re just using them because you have not learned anything. And I could tell you about how the individual engaged with me. You have not learned a thing.

Pete: Mh-hmm.

Kim:  And it pisses me off. And now you’re bringing in women of color who you’re now—again—you’re putting them in the role of less than you, they’re inferior, so you can use them any way you want to.

Pete: Yeah, I don’t know enough about sort of my attitudes around this. This stuff started changing before I noticed that they did, so I don’t really know how to address, like, how to get people over that hump, necessarily. But it is extremely damaging to the people around them when they cannot recognize that they caused harm and and sit with being uncomfortable.

Kim: No, I think—OK. So it is two camps. Some recognize it, some don’t. But they all fall back into, “I can’t deal with this. This is hard. This is painful to me. So I’m going to abdicate out of this”.

Pete: Mh-hmm.

Kim: And we saw the same thing with Girl Develop It. They have done absolutely nothing to make amends to the Black women that they harmed, and yet they’re moving forward as if nothing ever happened. And I’ve done five damn episodes about this.

Pete: Yup.

Kim: And it happens because white people continue to support them.

36:01 

Pete: Yup.

Kim: Because it didn’t impact their white asses so they’re not upset. Even some of the chapter leaders who were there. I’ve seen conversations with, “Well, it wasn’t that bad. Should we hold them—this is cancel culture. Should they be held accountable? Should we just like throw them away?” Yes! If people do not show that they’re willing to change and stop harming, yes, they need to be thrown away.

And this is the conversation again we’re not having because we’re not talking about what the problem is. It is about anti-Blackness. Because if these were white women, there have been all the uproar about this being a white organization. If this was a man doing this to these Black women, there would have been a whole ‘nother conversation about this. And nothing happens because we as Black women, brown women are not considered equal, so it’s, “OK, oh, we harmed them. We didn’t mean to. Let’s go about our business.”

No making amends, no understanding that with once you cause harm, your trust goes back to zero and it is your job—your job, not the individuals who are harmed, it is the perpetrators job—to go about doing the work, to repair in the trust. And if you can’t do that, I am so over it and I’m just gonna call it out.

It’s just like, this is the stuff that’s bothering me. This is the stuff that’s bothering all of us. There’s too many people. That’s why I don’t like whisper networks. I don’t like whisper networks because these people have the privilege of knowing who’re the people to avoid while everybody else is being harmed by these people ’cause we don’t know who they are.

37:33 

Pete: And I think that we see this, this is not —I mean, you’re not saying that it is—but this is not a tech-specific problem. This is just like—

Kim: Oh god no. We’re just a microcosm of the macrocosm. [laughs]

Pete: I mean, you saw that with Kavanaugh, right? People like, “Oh, we’re gonna destroy his career over an allegation.” It’s like OK, well, first of all, not getting to be on the Supreme Court is not destroying anybody’s career.

Kim: Well, it is if you’re a white guy, and that’s what you’ve been groomed for, and you think that you are entitled to that.

Pete: Your birthright?

Kim: Yes, Exactly. Exactly.

Pete: Yeah, I mean even if you look at the Girl Develop It people, you look at the Ladybug people, you look at the React people; even if they were removed from those positions and not allowed to come back, they’re still making a good living. They’re not getting fired from their jobs over it. They might experience some financial repercussions. They might not get as fast a promotion or—but ultimately, their lives are not ruined. They’re not homeless. They’re not even looking for work, let’s be honest.

Kim: Yes.

Pete: They just didn’t get something they wanted.

Kim: And if this was a person from a marginalized community will be totally the opposite.

Pete: Gone.

Kim: Yes. No questions asked. No inquiry, no nothing. It would just be, “Yep. You don’t fit. Gotta go.” Yeah.

Pete: You know, I saw one of the other people that I follow that I learned a lot from, Marco Rogers, was this—

39:02 

Kim: He’s coming on the show very soon.

Pete: Oh good. Yeah, I can’t wait to hear that one. There are two things that stand out. One of the ones—he had a tweet thread I think this week, maybe even yesterday, about how he gets along with white people because he has to for—

Kim: Yes, yes, I amplify that. We learn at a very early age that—’cause it was about Biden and Obama—yes, we learn at a very early age, if we want to be successful, we have to assimilate, and what that means is getting as close to whiteness is possible. May not be articulated to us in that fashion, but that’s how we know that’s what professional looks like, it’s white.

Pete: Mm-hmm. And that was really insightful thread. I thought the way that he tied it to the current event and kind of tied his own experiences in was really good.

You were mentioning earlier about about letting you—saying your piece and letting other people sit with that. He does a really great job of that, of calling people out on that in his threads, being like, “Look, you’re you’re attaching emotion to this thing that there’s no emotion in. That’s for you to sit with. That’s that’s your problem”

Kim: Yeah, yeah. mm-hmm.

Pete: The first time you see it as white dude, you’re like, “Whoa!” And then you’re like, “Ah, yeah, well, no he’s right. That is my thing to sit with. I don’t like that he said it, but can’t argue with him.”

40:31 

Kim: Mm-hmm!

Pete: So he’s somebody that regularly makes me kind of second guess my own thoughts.

Kim: And the reason—and he and I have talked about this, and he’s talked about it—the reason that he has the platform and that a person like you listens to him because he’s had to assimilate to whiteness.

Pete: Mm-hmm.

Kim: I mean, that’s just it. He’s learned to play the game enough to be successful in whiteness in tech. He’s learned to do that. So you can’t check off, you can’t discount—he’s a programmer, he’s an engineer, he has years of experience, he’s been a manager—so you can’t discount him. And if you do, it’s very obvious at that point that you’re being racist. [laughs]

So you gotta step lightly on that, And that’s why I get—when I’m speaking at conferences, people never say it directly to me, but I’m regularly reported for code of conduct violations, just because—and we’re like what did it…? “Well, that was inappropriate, what she said, it made me uncomfortable.” It’s all about them. It’s never about the content. So they again take it out of—I’m being very objective, and they want to make it very subjective and personal.

Pete: Yeah.

Kim: ‘Cause to them, whiteness is the individual, and I can’t be speaking to whiteness, I have to be speaking to Pete Holiday, the white man.

42:00 

Pete: Mm-hmm. I am horrified and impressed with the alacrity with which white people specifically can take rules and policies designed to protect people of color—and specifically Black people— and use them as weapons.

Kim: Yes. Mm!

Pete: I don’t remember ever being taught that, but it is instinctual.

Kim: Yes! Oh, I’m so happy you said that because that is—this is why I say what I say. It is not that you are sitting around with your thumbs twiddling like Dr Evil. It’s just the shit that you do. I mean, or use those things that were meant for us to benefit you—

Pete: Oh yeah.

Kim: —because now you’re figuring out a way to leverage the things that you—or you have half the story like affirmative action. White people are benefiting from affirmative action way more than Blacks gonna get a bit further, but we don’t want to talk about that.

You know, and then you have the model model minorities. You have the Asian, you have a group of students at Harvard who are suing because they feel that they’ve been left out. But it’s not the Black students, it’s the white students. But it’s not pitched in the media that way, because everybody attaches affirmative action to Blacks.

Pete: Right.

Kim: Just like everybody attaches wearin’ fur to the Blacks and they’re more white people gonna wear fur than there are Black people.

43:23 

Pete: Oh yeah, you know, it’s interesting,there was sort of an eye-opening moment, I don’t even remember where I first read this, but talking about how legacy admissions in the Ivy League are basically affirmative action for white people. And if you just do the math, that just straight up mathematically has to be true, because there was a period of time where they didn’t admit Black people.

Kim: Exactly. [Laughs]

Pete: So you just do the math. It statistically is going to benefit white people an order of magnitude more.

Kim: Mm-hmm.

Pete: Maybe that won’t be the case in 600 years, but it sure as hell the case now.

Kim: OK, were you a part of that conversation when that dude was talking about breeding out racism?

Pete: Oh lord. Probably, I think I saw that. Yeah. Ugh.

Kim: And he kept saying, and his whole thesis—because he responded to the video I did about having the “How to be an Antiracist” podcast episodes—and his answer was something to the effect of, “This won’t work. The only way we could get rid of racism is by breeding it—.” So basically, he said something about if people of color and white people have babies or something. I was like, “Whoa, whoah, whoah!”

44:42 

And then when I called him on it, he kept saying, “I didn’t say that.” [Kim gets very animated] That’s what the fuck he’s—! And that’s what—another thing! I could show you your words, and you will argue about what you meant with those words! These are the words—I screenshot, I did not alter, I did not manipulate, I screenshot exactly what you said, but when I say that you’re talking about breeding, when you say whites need to have sex with people of color and have mixed babies—that’s what he said, mixed babies—that is a breeding philosophy. And then he got his ass handed them ’cause so many biracial people were saying, “This does not solve my damn problem!”

Pete: Well, I think that’s pretty obvious if you just look at sort of the early part of this country, the people that are considered white now have not always been considered white.

Kim: [softly] Exactly.

Pete: The Irish, the Italians, those people were not “white” when they first came to the United States, because white is not a nationality, it’s a societal construct that we used to exclude people to profit from them.

Kim: Mm-hmm.

Pete: And so like obviously breeding is not gonna fix it. It’s not a genetic thing, right?

Kim: And that’s where we have those individuals sitting next to us in cubicles at our jobs. And so I’m gonna say this, because I agree with the Google Manifesto guy. I agree with the Microsoft person. I agree with some other woman who said—I agree with a lot of these people saying that they’re being silenced. You are. You’re absolutely right. Because until now you’ve only been the ones with the microphone.

46:26 

And now you have to be very bold to go into one of these companies and say the things that you’ve been sayin’ in the past and not be challenged. And that’s the issue. That’s what gets me. You’re not even committed enough to your beliefs to take the challenge.

Pete: Yeah.

Kim: ‘Cause if this is something I believe, I don’t give a damn what you say, I’m gonna argue this point, I’m not gonna be scared off. I’m gonna say what I have to say, if that’s what my conviction is. Which tells me it’s your conviction when it profits you. But when it gets too uncomfortable you want to bow out.

Pete: Mm-hmm. Or you wanna call the system in to take care of your problems for you.

Kim: Yeah. Exactly.

Pete: I think that kind of goes hand in hand with the way that we try to soft pedal privilege to white people, in the sense like, “Oh, we’re not trying to take anything away from you.” Of course we are.

Kim: Yes, hell. Yes.

Pete: Like, of course we are.

Kim: Yes!

Pete: This isn’t a zero sum game. If there were infinite privilege to go around, privilege wouldn’t exist. So obviously we’re trying to take opportunities away from white dudes in tech, because there are a finite number of opportunities. And if we want there to be equity, then a smaller share of those has to go to white people. And you know, when it comes down to the tactics in individual companies, you have to hire the best people for the job, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. 

47:50 

But at the end of the day, on a holistic level, thinking about the entire industry, if we wanna change the dynamics, if we wanna change the demographics to match the communities that we’re in, then statistically speaking, it has to be harder for a white dude to get a job than a person of color or a woman of color.

Kim: And it’s so funny because you always get, and you mentioned it, there’s the assumption that to do this then that means you’re getting more inferior workers—again, that inferior thing—no, it’s like only white people can do this job and do it with a level of excellence. And this is another reason why white guys are running, because once we get our affirmative action asses in there, white dudes are realizing how mediocre they really are. You’re not as special as you thought you were.

We come in, you might have one plan, we got five. Because we’ve had to have five just to get to where you are. And this is what I think I love about the “How to be an Antiracist” book and Dr Kendi talks about this—this is this is active, to be antiracist is to actively discriminate against certain things. That’s just it. Certain things have to be discriminated against. And it is what it is. And that’s what I tell people in my talks. I don’t believe in equity. This is not about equity. There’s no way in hell you and I are gonna be equal until something is taken away from you. Because as soon as I get to where you are, even if I finally get to where you are, that the system is set up that you will take another leap forward.

49:21 

Pete: Mm-hmm. I think that there’s—and this has echoes of the centrist, “This is how we got Trump” argument; of like, “Well, we have to make this palatable to white people or it’ll never be accepted.” Talking about specifically the privilege and the things that we’re gonna have to give up in order to get to a place of equality. And I think that it’s a disingenuous argument, because agreeing with the argument does not fix everything. You still have to do the work. And until people are willing to do the work, no amount of convincing them of the larger themes or the larger principles is going to solve anything.  You can have people agree that we’re all racist, and if they aren’t willing to change their own behavior, it doesn’t matter what they believe.

Kim: And you just hit on something that I’ve come to recently. White people—’cause I used to say all the time, that used to be one of my mantras, “You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable”—I realized that whiteness has a very high tolerance for discomfort. At this point, it has to be pain. They have to feel, it has to be a pain. And we’re talking about this president, if he’s re-elected, that’s when white people will feel pain. These centrists—’cause your argument only allows those who are privileged to continue to have a voice and you continue to shut people down. 

50:56 

This is why Trump can say anything he wants to to anybody, even when it causes harm. And I create a video on Periscope that says in the title, “white men in tech ain’t shit”. But what I’m talking about is that because they’re not using their privilege to move anything, and that gets taken down.

Pete: Well, yeah, we see that all the time on social media like the, “men are trash” gets removed while thousands and thousands and thousands of misogynist tweets stay up.

Kim: And damn near advocating rape gets to stay up, you know? Yeah, yeah, it’s all very interesting. So in our last few minutes, what would you like to close with?

Pete: I’m curious to hear your thoughts on ways, if there are some sort of next level ways, you know? So if you’ve got somebody who is comfortable with being uncomfortable, comfort with the pain, understands that you might have to give something up to get where we want to go as a society—what are the next level steps for somebody, like, what’s next?

Kim: OK, well, I’m gonna tell you what’s next for #CauseAScene in 2020 we will be launching, finally launching—’cause I’ve changed it so many times—#CauseAScene Alliance, which is people who want to actively work on being antiracist. That’s what’s next for #CauseAScene. As well as we’re gonna be doing a #CauseAScene jobs board because I get a lot of DM’s, but I don’t know these companies. And so I am gonna be vetting companies and only will be promoting positions from companies and people that I trust to at least minimize harm.

52:46 

Because as we’re all learning, people will make mistakes. And I think by me giving a verified on these positions you would get more people from marginalized communities feeling safe to apply to these jobs to come into these spaces. So those are the two things that are coming next year is the is the Alliance where we will be working—because we can’t do this on Twitter. It’s just too much noise, too many people get to chime in or whatever—I wanna closed environment where we can actually be doing these things and and coming up with strategies for within our own communities, our own organizations, and our events. And that’s with the fundamentally being antiracist and that includes myself, and then the job board.

Pete: That sounds great. I think that this sort of close-knit group willing to do the work—I think the low barrier to entry on Twitter can make things a little challenging.

Kim: Oh, very much so. Because people just—

Pete: Got a lot of noise.

Kim: Yep. There are not enough people like you who are willing to just to take the hit.

Pete: Yeah, well, I’m excited to see what’s next. I think there’s a there’s a lot of, I mean, there’s obviously a lot of work to do—

54:03 

Kim: And I’m going to interrupt you, because are you a #CauseAScene community sponsor?

Pete: Myself personally?

Kim: That’s who I’m talking to.

Pete: Yes, ma’am. I am not as of right now.

Kim: Ok, then by the time this episode airs you need to be a #CauseAScene sponsor. Put your money where your mouth is.

Pete: That’s a great point.

Kim: All right

Pete: I will make it happen.

[Interlude]

56:06 

Pete: I think that the one thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot the last couple of months has been around—I’m sure somebody else’s coined this term, but I’ve been calling sort of performative allyship—so the sort of “ally” label that people get when they do the sort of outward things to support, communities of color or women, and the minute that it costs them anything, or the minute that it becomes uncomfortable for them, they abandon the allyship entirely. 

And I think that there’s sort of two factors to it that I think are interesting. One of them is—to your point earlier—thanking me for my hard work and then saying, “Well, actually, you know, this is just the work you’re supposed to be doing”, which I 100% agree with, the sort of performative allyship of needing to be thanked or needing to get your ally cookies for just the words that you say.

57:17 

And I think that’s a something that we need to take a hard look at, and understand that allies is—this is like, kind of cheesy, but I’ve heard people say like, allies is not a noun it’s a verb—you’re not an ally, you are somebody who performs allyship, you’re somebody who does that work. Which means that we can be allies or not allies, it changes from minute to minute as we go through the world and engage in certain behavior that may be helpful or harmful to these disadvantaged communities, and I think where we see that most egregiously is, I see it a lot on Twitter, with people being called out and their reaction being, “Well, you just lost an ally.” And I don’t think that we give enough credit to how evil that is.

Kim: Talk about that, ’cause that was very interesting, ’cause evil is a strong word. So talk about what do you mean by that.

Pete: I think that if we if we look at it from the from sort of a higher level, if we say, OK, why would somebody—absent the selfish reasons—why would somebody be an ally? Why would somebody be an ally to the Black community, to the community of women? Why would somebody do that? It’s because they believe, ideally, it’s because they believe that the treatment that our society puts upon those communities is wrong. And they believe that it should be different, and they hopefully are willing to do the work to make it different. 

And so if you’re willing to abandon that cause when you become personally—even if you are personally insulted, even if you have every right to be offended by the thing that the person in that community said— you’re essentially saying that I am willing to, in my mind, revoke your humanity if you make me uncomfortable.

59:02 

Kim: Mmm! Mmm.

Pete: You are an equal to me so long as you behave appropriately and the minute you don’t, I’m gonna take it back away. This is something that I’m giving you and you don’t get to have it if you don’t play by the rules

Kim: And how you put that—if people did not pick up on how that sounds like ownership, slavery, how that sounds like, your value comes from when I give you value, and I could take that value away from you when I choose to take that value away from you, when it impacts me negatively. So I don’t have inherent value; that value is derived from whiteness. And when whiteness decides that it no longer wants to extend that value to me, then I’m no longer valuable.

Pete: And this is why I think this is such an evil thing to say. It’s one thing to feel put off by a community and, like slowly stop doing that allyship. I don’t think that’s a good thing, but there’s much different tenor to it when you decide on a public forum to announce that you are no longer an ally to a movement; you’re essentially saying that this one individual’s behavior has caused you to abandon me—and this goes back to what you were saying earlier about how people of color, Black people are a group, and white people are individuals, so I am going to revoke my individual support of your group because one member of that group offended me.

1:00:34 

Kim: And I want to stop you there, because I want to challenge that because who gets to say you’re being offended? And that’s a piece right there, too, because you can say it’s offensive or I’m offending you, where I’m saying, “No, I have boundaries and you’ve crossed them.”

Pete: Oh yeah.

Kim: And that becomes a way for you to throw that in my face. Also, you don’t get to say that you’re an ally. You don’t. You don’t self select that. But I think that, just to hear you say that, it sounds so it feels so disgusting to inside me, the fact that my humanity relies on how you feel and how I make you feel, and again that goes back to my intention of no longer being responsible for the feelings of white people.

Pete: Mm-hmm. And I agree with you. My point was, I was going all the way there because even if you do something that is wrong and offensive and even if it’s not even a boundaries issue, even if you—

Kim: Oh, yeah, even if you’re straight up, asshole, the fact that you can just say, but—ooh! Oh my god, you just hit on it. Because even if I’m a straight up asshole, I have been intentionally an asshole or whatever, the fact that you can throw away a whole group of people based on my behavior is one side of it.

1:02:05 

The flip side is what got me excited is, white people are always given the benefit of doubt and always given the opportunity to make amends and come back and be the hero of the story, and we’re never given that. We make one slight, it could be a unintentional or a straight-out the same shit white people do, “I don’t like you, get away from me, blah, blah,” and we’re cut off at the knees, never to be redeemed. And you see it in the criminal justice system, you see—we’re not redeemable. When whiteness says, “You know what, I’ve done enough. I’m done. Throw them away.”

Pete: Mm-hmm. I mean, you see it in the news, right? Like, I forget the woman’s name, but she was homeless and sent her kids to school, the wrong school, she went to prison for five years. And then this white woman like she went, what, 30 days or something like that?

Kim: No, it was 14 days. And she wanted to do that—yeah. It’s 14 days. Or a white person, I’m just gonna call them a white male, goes and shoots up something, kills multiple people and the media goes and finds the cutest little picture of them as a child. And then immediately the questions start coming out about their mental health.

And yet a Black person walking down the street could be killed, and the question is, “So what did he do? What did he do for this?” And, the picture—if they don’t have a mug shot, they’re gonna find the worst lookin’ picture with people hair standing all on their head that they family took as a joke. Whatever, to put us in the worst light.

1:03:36 

Pete: Ugh, I mean, I think it goes really deep. And the thing that I have recognized recently through thinking about this a little bit more is going back to that, like, how much you are telling on yourself, and telling in your own mentality, that you would revoke your support for a community on the actions of one person? And often those actions are not beyond the pale, like you were saying early. Often those actions are, you caused harm, and I want you to acknowledge it and atone for it, and, you know, “Well, this is how you treat a supporter of your cause, you just lost an ally,” and that really saying something inherent about that person’s character and about the way they approach the communities that they’re supposedly allies with.

Kim: The way they weaponized white supremacy.

Pete: Yeah, absolutely.

Kim: And I use that word intentionally because it is weaponization.  There is no different than having someone having a AK-47 and deciding to use it or not. Because what you’re saying to me is—these issues aren’t, “Are we gonna use paper or plastic?” These issues are literally people’s humanity.

1:05:00 

‘Cause I can recall fuckin’ up with the trans community online, and I knew I was going to do it because I couldn’t figure out a way to broach this conversation that I needed to have. So I knew I was gonna do it. And when they told me, I didn’t realize it was gonna be that bad, and when they explained that to me, I deleted the tweet, I apologized, I created a podcast episode about it so people could understand what I was learning, what I was trying. And I didn’t focus on, yes there was an intention I had behind it, but it did not matter because it harmed people, and I started back at square zero and I had to build trust again.

Pete: Yep.

Kim: And when someone told me that after they saw that, they had trusted me and they wouldn’t trust me again, my gut feeling was, “How the fuck is that gonna happen when I’ve been doin’ all this work over, and this one thing is how you’re gonna—,” and then I stopped, you know, I pulled back and I said, “OK. I get it. And I don’t fault you. I just hope that I can prove to you that I can be trusted again.” And that was just it. It wasn’t about my intention at that point, it wasn’t about what I meant to do, wasn’t about anything. It was, “I’m sorry”— no not “I’m sorry”, I don’t use the word “I’m sorry,” because people like to use that [sassy], “Yeah, I know you sorry” shit, and I don’t do that—but I apologized. And I hope that the work I’ve done hits, has been in support of trans individuals. And that’s all I could do. And we don’t know we’re fucking up unless someone tells us.

1:06:36

Pete: Yup. And I—

Kim: I’m gonna stop you there because people don’t realize how far it has to go for somebody in these communities, vulnerable people to actually say, “Hey, stop! Goddamn! We’re being hurt.” [chuckles]

Pete: Mm-hmm. Yep. And I was going to say I think that we don’t give enough attention to that. The two things that come to mind with you saying that, one of them is by the time you’re getting called out, this is probably not your first offense anyway, like to begin with. And second of all, when you are getting called out, somebody has made a calculated decision that taking this risk right now is going to be more beneficial than just writing you off and never speaking to you again. And that is a gift.

Kim: Mm-hmm

1:07:24 

Pete: I know I don’t, I haven’t in the past and I’m sure will make this mistake in the future as well—it is so hard in that moment when you feel attacked because you have this birthright of always being correct and never being judged in all of these things. It’s very difficult to say, “You know what? This sucks for me because I am being called out. I’m being put in the center of this conversation. I’ve done all these good things. But this person is giving me a gift right now because they are doing this emotional labor to help me learn.” And that I think is something that we need to—we as a white male community—need to take a little bit more thought about. Because these people are actually giving us gifts and we are being defensive about it.

Kim: Well, I’m gonna challenge, it’s not just white males. It’s whiteness, period, ’cause white women do it a lot. They’re big beneficiaries of this.

One of things I was gonna say is, I would rather people just call themselves supporters. Because you can say, “I support”; what you can’t say is, “I’m a ally”. Because that takes my agency away. You’re saying that I have no choice in who gets to help me, and that’s another reason that I created that damn video and I say it to people all the time; you’re not my ally. I get to choose who I ally with, and that’s another assumption of whiteness. It decides—and that’s what really pushes people’s buttons was when I say “I didn’t ask you. What you’re doing, I didn’t ask for. It’s not benefiting me in any way and stop it because it’s causing harm.” 

1:09:02 

And so if you can’t stop to think about a larger picture, what you’re communicating is—and you don’t wanna own it, but I need you to sit back and think, “Where in this exchange, or wherever, what is triggering me? Because at my gut, I believe you’re inferior.” That’s just what that is.

Pete: Mm-hmm. We talked in the last segment about that sort of instinct to weaponize anything, literally anything, against Black communities. And I think this, what seems to be a very simple thing of “you just lost an ally”, I think is just that distilled down to its purest form. There’s nothing else to it.

Kim: Yes.

Pete: I am going to punish you, for calling me out for anything. I’m going to punish not just you, but—

Kim: Mm-hmm

Pete: —I’m gonna punish your entire community, because of this thing that you did. It’s one of those things where even if you [Kim] broke into my house and beat me with a baseball bat, if I say, “Well, you just lost an ally,” Why? Because this one person did something that they shouldn’t have done, it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s that instinct…

1:10:29 

Kim: I’m gonna stop you there because it does make sense, because that’s the system. The system is that one individual becomes a representative of all of us—and this is something that Black people had to deal with forever—we are always seen as a representative of our whole race.  

And it’s like, we don’t want to do that, they can’t do this. You go out in public and—I did a tweet about that yesterday—I am never more comfortable than when I’m back at home because I live in a city that has Black people. Anywhere else—when I’m traveling the world, I love travel—I never let my guard down. I can never be 100% just like relaxed. I’m always vigilant, I always have to keep looking around because at any moment, a white person in my space could decide I don’t belong there. I’ve done something to offend. And then that becomes my responsibility.

No one’s gonna ask them. “So what do you mean, she did something to you? Explain to me,” and put it on them. It’s always gonna be, “What did you do to that person? What did you do to whiteness?” But me as a Black person, as a collective Black person did to this one individual who’s a white person, who does not even wanna be called white. But wants the benefits of whiteness.

Pete: Mm-hmm. That’s sort of the general topic that I think I’ve been thinking about the most recently is just how allyship, and one of the more dangerous sort of elements in our community are, and you see this, “You just lost an ally from the white liberal community,” right?

1:11:59 

Kim: Yes! Oh! Oh, oh oh, oh my god!

Pete: You don’t hear that of conservatives.

Kim: Oh my god, did you not s—oh, oh, the Martin Luther King speech? 11 months—yeah. People who always wanna quote him always go back to the early sixties. They don’t talk about how he evolved closer to his death, when he says that white liberals are the most dangerous. And I say that all the time. They’ve done—in their eyes—just enough work to get—they demand to be recognized for it. So they get this badge that says “ally” and anything negative they do, the badge is supposed to cover up all that. It just washes that out.

Pete: Oh yeah, I mean it’s telling that these are realizations that I’m having in 2019, and that obviously, leaders in the Black community and others have had—

Kim: All of our lives.

Pete: —all of your lives..

Kim: You don’t even have to be a leader, you don’t have to be—just living. And it’s not just us, it’s particularly Black and brown people in the LGBTQ community, ’cause again, when whiteness is in that space, whiteness is center and those individuals are harmed. I’ve heard several times about how white trans women are harming Black and brown trans women in their demand to be centered in those spaces.

1:13:22 

And the turmoil that’s within—mm, I dunno what to call it—well, to me it is turmoil as a person outside looking in—these are so many intersections within that community, and people want to be able to identify as themselves without having to get other people’s permission who are some kind of way the de facto arbiters of how it’s appropriate to be in the LGBT community? 

It reminds me a lot of, just in the Black community—I talk about this often—with the light-skinned Blacks having way more privilege than darker-skinned Blacks because it’s the closest proximity to whiteness, and then you see the model minorities, the Asians, and even Africans who come to this country, many of them believe that they are better than Black. Anything is better than being a Black person from US. Anything.

Pete: Mm. I think as whiteness becomes farther and farther from the majority, statistically speaking, it has used—you know, you’re talking about the model minority—it sort of allows a little bit of privilege to leak out, so that those then around the periphery, gatekeep for them.

Kim: Oh, yeah, exactly. It’s a distraction. It keeps us from realizing the bigger picture. But I love how you just said the majority, because this is how—and people don’t understand—this is how Italians and Irish and whatever became white because they needed their numbers to become majority.

1:15:06 

Pete: Mm. Yep.

Kim: If you broke those down into the ethnicities and extrapolated out whiteness, there are no Aryan, that’s not the majority that’s here. [laughs]

Pete: Yeah. I think it’ll be interesting to see over the coming decades, as the Hispanic population in the United States increases if they become white eventually.

Kim: Yes. Mm-hmm.

Pete: Right? As the white majority needs the Hispanic population to maintain their majority, does—

Kim: Mm-hmm. Do they bring them into—yeah. Yeah, ’cause everything is everything except Black. [laugh] It’s like everything except Black.

Pete: Yeah, that’s something that I wanna be start being a stronger call-out on is that, “You just lost an ally”. I don’t think that’s—like, it is a trope, but I think it is extremely, extremely revealing of the person’s mindset, and you know, it’s easy to say, “Oh, well, they were never an ally if they say that.”  But I think it’s even deeper than that. I think that there’s a—

Kim: Yeah. That because what what it is, is—and I’ve experienced this—it is when these individuals are in our communities showing up, we let our guards down and we trust; to do that, it’s worse than never being a ally. I know what I’m getting from a Nazi, from a KKK person. It hurts much more deeply, and it’s much more traumatic when it’s someone who stood value on the front lines.

1:16:43 

Pete: Yep, and frankly, I think that people who use that terminology, they know that. They know that they have something that they can take away and the fact that they’re willing to do it over a disagreement on Twitter, that tells you who they are.

Kim: Yeah, that happened very publicly with me on Twitter, and it took me a while to come back from that, and I’ve been very guarded about who I let into my inner circle since then.

Wow, well, thank you for taking the time to hash that out. This is my show so I could do it any damn way I want to. [Both laugh]

I’m glad you brought this up ’cause this is the part of a conversation we needed to have.

Pete: I agree. And hopefully this will spur more discussion around this topic and help people understand that—like you said—allyship is not a thing you self-select for. It’s a set of behaviors and we can hopefully get some people on that page too.

Kim: All right. Thank you.

Pete: Thanks Kim.

Pete Holiday

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