Whiteness In Marginalized Spaces When Coalition Building Harms

Podcast Description

Kim is taking some much needed time off, so enjoy this presentation from the 2019 Write/Speak/Code Conference

Additional Resources

Transcription

00:30

Moderator: Please welcome to the stage our next keynote speaker, Kim Crayton! [Applause]

Kim Crayton: White people, you’re gonna have a hard time with this today. My job is to make you very uncomfortable. Today we’ll be talking about whiteness in marginalized spaces: when coalition building harms. I am Kim Crayton. My pronouns are she and her. Please live tweet. You’ll find me at #CauseAScene.

Who am I? I am not an inclusion and diversity specialist. I am a business strategist. But we can’t seem to get behind or around or through, over, under “inclusion and diversity” so that’s what I’ve been spending my freakin’ time on. Because no one is doin’ it!

#CauseAScene is a strategic disruption of strategic disruption of the status quo in technical organizations, communities, and events. It’s strategic because you burn out if it’s not. I have #CauseAScene Podcast and I have #CauseAScene conference.

02:04

So we’re just gonna get right into it. Let’s define terms. I am an educator by training. I have a Master’s degree in Training and Development. I was a high school teacher. And I’m certified Special Needs. So I understand that people get there at different paces and different times, but we all gotta get to somewhere.

So I’m gonna take us slowly through this because I don’t like when I’m in my talk 15 minutes and people’re looking strange because they don’t understand the terms I’ve used. I also do this for my own emotional well-being, my own emotional labor. If I assigned terms, I’m not gonna argue back and forth with you about what those words mean. You either engage me based on my definitions or we don’t engage. So that’s how I keep my sanity.

So let’s talk about privilege. People have a hard time with this word “privilege.” It is simply about access. That’s it. Access. And the individuals who get to use the access. When you have access to privilege, you get a choice whether you want to use that access or not.

03:09

So I use this picture. Raise your hand if you’ve seen these pictures on National Geographic. The snow monkeys. They look really innocent but that’s not the real story.  The access here is that this is a matriarchal family, and only this family gets to get in the warm springs. All the other families are sitting around freezing their butts off, like, “Please, please let me in, it’s cold out here.”

So this gets to Tatiana’s talk yesterday, that talks about that we are not aware of our own privilege. The babies aren’t aware of their own privilege. They don’t understand that I’m in this water, staying warm and these other monkeys are not. All right? Simple. It’s about access.

“Underrepresented” is just simply about numbers. I have three apples. I have twelve bananas. The apples are underrepresented. That’s it. Nothing to be all upset about.

Marginalization is about treatment of groups of people. Not individuals. It manifests in individuals, but it starts as [inaudible] in groups of people.

04:16

So white, hetero, cis, able-bodied women may be underrepresented, but they are not marginalized, and these women are not “diversity.” So if you hired a bunch of able-bodied white cis women, that does not make you diverse, because y’all white.

Variety. Diversity is just about variety. So I use this example. We’re all in the United States. If my mom had given me a Crayola box with just four crayons, I’m not that artistic that I could really create something wi’ just four colors. It would just be a mess. She gave me a box of crayons with 64, whew! It woulda been a colorful mess! I woulda been able to combine colors, make colors up. That’s what diversity is.

Diversity, when I’m talking about business, is about how you recruit. Inclusion is about my experience. And inclusion is about retention.

I know a lot of people use similar analogies: “diversity is about being invited to the party; inclusion is about being asked to dance.” It’s not just “asked to dance.” It’s about retention. Do I wanna stay after I dance?

05:42

So when people are like “Oh we can’t hire these people – they keep leaving.” Because your culture sucks! And just because you brought them in, you didn’t do anything to ensure that they’re having an inclusive experience. And, caveat: you don’t get to tell me when I’ve been included. This is my experience.

When people don’t feel safe enough to tell you that they don’t feel included, you assume everybody’s included. But they’re worried about, “If I open my mouth, there’re repercussions. So I’m just gonna sit over in this corner and I’m not gonna say anything.” But then why did you hire me? This is a knowledge economy; we’re not making widgets anymore. So if you hired me and I’m not providing my knowledge, you’re wasting your money.

Our business, our communities, need to stop thinking about assimilation—which is white culture by default—and need to focus on accommodation. When you bring in new people, you should expect the culture to change.

06:50

Inclusion is not about equality. There’s no way in hell I’m gonna ever be equal to a white, cis, hetero, able-bodied woman. We don’t start at the same place. I can do the same things and will never have the same results.

I need this person to go into a medically-induced coma for a few years. When he gets up, he crawls. Because as soon as he gets up, his buddy is gonna be like “Oh you’ve been in a medically-induced coma, let me catch you up on all the things you’ve missed.” So no matter how much time and work I’ve done, it doesn’t matter.

Inclusion is definitely not about quotas. I have two black people. I have a transgender woman who is on the autism spectrum… it’s not tryin’ to get all these things in one basket. It’s not about quotas. It is only about my experience.

07:51

So let’s talk about racism. ‘Cause this is where I get pushback from white people. I don’t use the dictionary definition of racism because that is a white supremacist definition that does not include people’s lived experience. It assumes that we’re all having the same experience. And I can tell you if you are awake at any point in the news cycle or anything, you can see that my black butt is not having the same experience as you are. So to have that assumption is based in white supremacy.

So racism is: racial prejudice plus social and institutional power.  It has to have “plus,” it has to be both. You can’t just be prejudiced; you have to benefit from the system. Racism is the system that advantages based on race. Racism is a system of oppression based on race.

So I’m breakin’ this down for you. Because what I don’t want is some white person—I’m gonna be honest with you—to come up to me after the talk and want to extract more emotional labor because you’re gonna get your feelings hurt.

09:11

My definition is all white people are racist by design because that’s what white supremacy is allowed to be. You’re ignorant in your history and you can’t be trusted by default. If you want me to trust you, you need to tell me on a spectrum of racism, are you actively white supremacist or actively antiracist? If you’re not actively antiracist, there’s nothing I can do for you, because at some point you will harm me, intentionally or otherwise.

Racism equals a white supremacy system. So, racism is different from racial prejudice, hatred, or discrimination. Yes, Black people can hate white people. I don’t. But that does not make them racist. There’s no such thing as reverse racism.

Racism involves one [inaudible] power to carry out systematic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of a society. And by shaping the cultural beliefs and values that support those racist policies and institutions.

So because white people think we’re all havin’ the same experience, if I have what you think are the same resources, and I don’t get as far or as successful as you are, you put it on me. “Oh, it’s a failing of you.”

10:33

We had the crack babies, the “welfare moms.” You put it out there but you don’t talk about the system that created that. All you white people who are all upset all the sudden about abortion rights? This is to make sure you don’t have abortions because if they cared about Black and brown babies, our mothers wouldn’t be dying during childbirth. They want to monitor and man your womb. They don’t care about mine.

So when you say stuff like, “Oh, [inaudible]. Why are we…” ‘Cause that’s not my issue. I want to come home everyday. That’s [inaudible] for me.

White supremacy is an ideology. Racism is a strategy that promotes the ideology of white supremacy. Racists are those individuals who benefit from the ideology of white supremacy regardless of active or willingly or passive or unwilling participation. You don’t have a say. You benefit from it whether you want it or not. So you can scream “ally,” you can do whatever you want to, you still benefit from it, and we’re not on the same page.

11:45

So when whiteness is centered, it causes unimaginable emotional labor. I really wish some of you would understand how much energy it takes for a Black woman to write, construct, an email to y’all. [Laughter from audience] Because y’all too damn sensitive for me. So we write the email and then we go back and we start lookin’ at each word. We can’t just send an email because if we send an email, we gonna be reported to HR. Somebody gonna start cryin’. All this nonsense. And if I haven’t hit you, why you cryin’? [Laughter] I don’t get it, you’re an adult, manage your emotions. Get counselin’, do whatever you need to do, that ain’t my business.

But we spend an inordinate amount of time in that emotional labor, doin’ the work that you—people say, “Google is your friend.” Come at me on Twitter for a question I already asked? You will get your feelings hurt. And don’t go into my DMs from a public conversation, ’cause now you’re trying to extract more emotional labor from me. I don’t owe you a thing. If we started this conversation out in public, we ’bout to finish this conversation out in public. I don’t care if you look like an ass or not. I’m not here to make you comfortable.

13:06

When whiteness is centered, it demands to be engaged as an individual and are owed. That’s why you get “All Lives Matter,” that’s why you get all kinds of stuff. And this is where the difference—remember when I said marginalization is about groups of people? You all lump all Native Americans, all Blacks, all Latinx together. But white people, because whiteness is the default, you’re an individual. We can’t talk about whiteness. If we say something about whiteness, you’re all like [imitates whining]. But you can talk about Blackness all doggone day.

And let me say this right here. If there’s a whiteness, the counter to that is anti-Blackness, which has permeated the entire world. The closer you look to whiteness, the more benefits you have.

When whiteness is centered, god, it just does just enough. And this is gaslighting. Because somethin’ will happen and we’ll get, “Well, I’m your side.” No, you don’t get to say that you’re on my side. What you just did demonstrates to me that you’re not on my side. I don’t believe in words, I believe in demonstrated behavior, and if you want to prove to me that you’re working to be antiracist, I need consistent demonstrated behavior.

I have five—there are five white people that I trust. That’s it, I’ma tell you. Five white people that I trust. And they still have done things that harm me. Because they do not have the perspective to know when they’re harming me.

14:50

I did a tweet when I came from Berlin that said “I need you to understand that for white people to learn a lesson, we have to be harmed because you don’t get it until you see us in pain.” You don’t believe our lived experience. We have to be in pain for you to say, “Oh snap, this is real.” That’s pretty shitty.

When whiteness is centered, it stays in the shallow end. Lord have mercy. Yeah, it goes up to that line, startin’ to do double-Dutch. You start and you’re like, “Nah, I’m good.”

You have a choice, I don’t have a choice. I don’t do this work for funsies. I do this work for me, first of all, because I want a career that pays well, like everybody else. But I recognize that I am a symbol. I don’t speak for Black women, but I speak on behalf of Black women because if they said what I say, you gonna fire them. You wouldn’t allow them in your crappy groups.

When whiteness is centered, it… oh lord, if I hear one more white tech guy with a huge following pat themselves on the back because they passed on a speaking engagement to somebody of color or a woman, I’m gonna to Twitter and slap them. [Exasperated sound]. What did you lose? What did you risk? Nothing. If you’re not willing to risk anything, you’re not doing the work.

16:35

I recognize that I have privilege over trans Black women. I am consciously thinking about ways that I can protect trans Black women who are being slaughtered currently. We all have privilege.

When whiteness is centered, it’s always talkin’ about, “Oh, I’m an ally.” You don’t get to—I don’t know why y’all think that word means somethin’. It means absolutely nothin’. That’s the height of whiteness. ‘Cause you get to define, you’ve been able to define, you get to tell my story incorrectly for eons.

And so when I now have, when technology has allowed me to have a platform, and equipment, and say “Oh hold up that’s not right.” [In whining voice] “But I’m your ally, me me me”. [Laughter]

And white women, you’re the worst. White women’s tears are like knives. I need you to understand that. The next time you have an encounter with a women of color—particularly a Black woman—and you think about cryin’, I need you to suck it up. Because what you do is put yourself in the victim role, and now whatever the issue is, it becomes the Black woman’s fault. We are adults. Learn to deal with your emotions, they’re not my issue.

18:04

When whiteness is centered, it is in the way. Period. And we’re gonna talk about that right now.

The guiding principles of #CauseAScene are: Lack of inclusion is a risk management issue. Period. And we’re seeing it. Years of “move fast, break things” is comin’ back to haunt us. Facebook can say that that is no longer their approach, but it’s been so adopted into this culture that it’s a problem.

We have to learn how to prioritize the most vulnerable in our communities because when the most vulnerable are protected, everybody else is. So I’m not gonna focus on whiteness, I’m gonna find the most vulnerable person in my community, and focus all my attention on them, to ensure that they feel safe, included, protected. Because if they do, then everybody is.

Intention without strategy is chaos. I see this all the time. It goes to why so many people don’t understand impact over intention. If you care less about your intention—because usually you don’t have a strategy, which causes a harmful impact.

Tech is not neutral. We need to stop promoting that. Tech has also never been apolitical.

Interlude

20:05

Tech is not neutral. We need to stop promoting that. Tech has also never been apolitical.

So lack of inclusion is a risk management issue. So this was a great idea [I had] while I was in Berlin. I went to Berlin to speak at—no, not to speak at—jsConf EU; I did my conference at jsConf EU. But i had been thinkin’ about not doing conferences anymore because they take up too much emotional labor. Because my conferences are very small. Only people who get to speak on my stage are people from marginalized groups. There will never be a cis hetero white man on my stage, ’cause I’ve heard your story. There’s nothing y’all can tell me that I wanna hear.

And out of the six or seven conferences I’ve done, I can say 70% of my speakers have been non-binary trans individuals. That says something about being able to create a safe space. And I’ve done them all over the world.

20:58

So I was not gonna—I was like, “This is gonna be my last one.”—but something happened in Berlin. Which made me realize, “Crap! I was not intending to spend this emotional energy, but I’m the only person in this space who has the ability to do that.”

And what it was was that jsConf EU—one of the largest most and successful JS conferences—did a BIPOC space, or a space specifically for Black, Indigenous, People of Color in the tech space. I knew it would be hell. I didn’t know it would be that bad. I did not know there were gonna be white people standin’ outside the space, demanding to be in. One space that was not even the size of this stage, of a whole warehouse, the fact that whiteness could not get into this space was a problem.

So this individual responded to me, and I was like, “Yeah, you need to think about it. Because you guys always wanna go do something without our help, without our input.” Because again, whiteness thinks it knows everything.

And this is what I said, it was important and critical to understand: creating safe spaces for marginalized individuals requires more than intention. It requires making sure to have processes available for helping those individuals process the inevitable trauma. Because even in that space, with all those Black and brown beautiful people, we were for the first time able to breathe and have these conversations we can’t have anywhere else. But that was a problem.

22:50

So white trans women—I’m having a lot of issue with white trans women comin’ into brown and Black spaces—when you prioritize your whiteness, your transness is ignored. You cannot come into a space of women who do have wombs and tell them that they cannot talk about that. You can’t do that. Particularly brown and Black spaces who they created themselves because they didn’t have a safe space, and they welcomed you in? I’ve had several incidents of this.

I just talked about BIPOC space. Girl Develop It. OK, if any of you are members of Girl Develop It, you’re complicit in the harm of Black women. I’ve had five or six episodes about this on my podcast. If you don’t get it by now, then you’re complicit.

White-passing Jews: I’m gonna tell you as a Black woman, you’re just white. I’m not gonna go to you and ask you what’s your ethnicity or nationality or what all that stuff is; you’re white. And you’re causing harm to Black and brown Jews.

When someone in an oppressed group talks about Israel’s policies against the Palestinians, we are not anti-Semitic. Also, lemme make sure I say this, we are not TERFs if Black and brown women refuse to be told that they can’t talk about their wombs. We have to stop using the most harmful terms against other marginalized individuals.

24:14

Whisper networks: I’m so sick of them, because the only people who benefit are the people in the whisper networks and everybody else is getting harmed. And private Slack groups; same thing. If you don’t have a whisper network and a network, cannot talk about a person—and I can do it on a podcast—what good is your network?

We must prioritize the most vulnerable. So I came up with what I call “rules of engagement.” Particularly after an incident that I knew was gonna be bad, because I couldn’t figure out how to get it started. It was about trans women and Black and brown lesbian women. So after that happened, I made amends, I apologized, but I was like, “I need to figure out a strategy to move forward.”

We do not question humanity or right to exist. That’s a non-starter. Period. That’s community-wide.

“Warning” is: we can talk about lived experience, as long as I don’t have to—you not tryin’ to make me prove anything to you.

This is where the learning starts. And ideology—we can debate that all day. But that’s on the individual level. And we have to understand that dialogue is focused on amplifying and understanding and challenging white supremacy and discrimination.

25:38

Intention without strategy is chaos.

Strategy basically… [inaudible] I still don’t get why some people fight back on a code of conduct. “Why do I need that? We can be nice.” Who defines “nice”? Who defines “fair”? People in power get to define those terms. And those people who’re causin’ the harm, so no, we’re not gonna make that the default.

When something happens, have a way to execute your code of conduct and a way to enforce your code of conduct. And inevitably, something’s gonna happen. Let me tell you people, we’re all gonna make mistakes. We’re trying to create an experience that was never meant to exist in the United States. If the Constitution had its way, I would be a slave. We are trying to create something that never existed. We will make mistakes. Apologize and make amends. Just say, “I am sorry. What can I do to… I won’t do this again. What can I…” No one wants to hear why you did it. I don’t care. Because now you’re centering yourself.

26:43

Tech is not neutral. So this is where I talk about words that you should not use to describe WOC, particularly Black women. We are not aggressive; we are assertive. We’ve had to be. We would be destroyed if we weren’t as assertive as we are. And this is why I say Black people are the moral compass of this country. If you think things are bad now, think about if we had been voting and marching and things we’ve done in the past.

We’re not intimidating; we’re sure and confident. We’re not being defensive; we’re committed. We’re not emotional; we’re passionate. And if you call me angry, be prepared to get cussed out. Because I am determined. Why do I have to be angry when I’m determined?

And I’m not overreacting. People on Twitter think—it’s so funny—they think, “Oh she’s so mad.” I am soakin’ in the tub when I’m going after these people. Chillin’. I’ve thought out my strategy, like, “OK, is this something that 6,000 people who follow me could learn something from?” If not, then I’m not gonna engage with white supremacists and Nazis. But if it’s somebody in tech who says something stupid, oh, you ’bout to do this.

And I rarely respond to them. What I normally do is quote… comment retweet. That pisses ’em off, ’cause I won’t respond to them at all. And of course white [sarcastically] people deserve a response right? And as someone with enough pressure and enough time, [low voice] the rage just comes right on out. And I’m like, “Thank you, I’m done.” And I don’t talk ’em anymore. I don’t block them, I don’t mute them, but they’re like [screeching noise]. And I’m just like, “I don’t wanna talk about this no more, I’m good.” So I’m justified.

28:44

So how am I doing this? Because I’m an educator. I believe in modeling behavior. I am the board chair of We Pivot. It is an organization where we are focusing on the marginalized individuals. Every organization, every chapter, we are doing needs assessments right now, because every chapter is gonna have a different need. We don’t believe that everybody—’cause I know in Atlanta, we don’t need anymore classes, we need support. So this is an organization we’re building—will we make mistakes? Yes we will. But this is a direct response to the GDI kerfuffle they have.

What else can we do to help? You can become a community sponsor of #CauseAScene. Because you know what? I don’t do this for free. Many of you who follow me but never engage with me, never give anything back. You tell me how great the podcast is, how great the community is. Stop living on the backs of Black women. I’m not your mammy. When you have a problem, you wanna come to us to help you. I need to be paid, just like you need to be paid.

And I also started #ReportAScene. Because I’m tired of people being harmed and no one’s able to talk about it. I still haven’t figured out this model—I need people to help me figure out this model—’cause I need attorneys, I need employment experts, I need people to be able to come out and say, “This organization, this person, this thing did something that has caused me harm.” Because until we can clean that up, tech is in trouble. Because we’re coding these things into our products and services. Thank you.

[Applause]

30:55

Moderator: OK, so we’re gonna take some questions from the audience, so if you have a question, go ahead and raise your hand.

Audience Member 1: Hi Kim. I’m Joey. I’m Latinx, I’m trans. I’m an attorney as well, and I just got out of bootcamp, and I saw your last “end the whisper network.” Thank you. Sorry… I just have a lot of emotions.

Kim: You welcome.

[Laughter]

Audience Member 1: I just have a lot of emotions. Why do you need attorneys, and how can I use my network of attorneys to help your cause?

Kim: Go to Report a Scene and you’ll see the email and everything there. I just need to build this network. Because I’m having people come to me constantly. And I don’t like being able to say “I have nothing, I don’t know what to do.” I’ve reached out to the tech union and they won’t respond to me. Everyone else—no one responds to me, so my network is obviously not doing it. I need some white folx to do this stuff. That’s what I need. Employment, discrimination, sexual harassment. Something that we can… because what these companies are doing is tellin’ people, “I won’t give your final check until you sign this thing.” That’s happening way to often. I’m seein’ it in bootcamps. I’m seein’ it in all kinds of things. And until we protect the most vulnerable, the most privileged will continue to harm us. So again, they bring us in, and harm us, and we leave.

33:09

Audience Member 2: I wanted to share a story. The story is [inaudible]… a Google employee raped me about five years ago and I did not report it. The reason I did not publicly report it was because I was afraid that he was gonna come after me. I was afraid he was gonna turn the tables on me and sue me. That is a huge risk involved with publicly speaking out. There’s a risk of being sued, there’s a risk of having your own career torn apart because people think of you as a victim rather than someone who’s doing work. And I think furthermore that it was clear that Google was not going to do anything for me. They were going to back him because he was the co-inventor of  Project [inaudible]. And I think that’s kind of a force that works against us being able to, as trans women of colour, disclose when things are happening to us. One thing I could use assistance with, I’m working to start a strike assistance fund for Google workers and contractors who are retaliating against [inaudible] who are afraid of taking action. So that’s saying we all need to create these networks in order to succeed [inaudible].

Kim: And that’s the issue. The power structure is a system. So it’s not she was raped by an individual; he benefits from a system that allows him to get away with it. We are numbers. We outnumber them. We’re smarter than they are! C’mon! We have more moves. We have… [frustrated] mmm.

This is my thing when they talk about Trump being reelected. Black people have always had problems. It’s going all down hill anyway. If he’s reelected, I will not be upset because I know that white people would be in more pain. [Laughter] It has not impacted your lives. Many of you didn’t even know there was a race problem until he won in 2016. I have a problem with that. So, if he gets reelected it’s because you are still asking, “So what’s going on?”

35:39

OK, lemme explain something to you: Black people don’t do well in horror pictures, because when one Negro runs, everybody runs. We don’t stop to ask what’s going on, we stop at the end. Y’all wanna ask, “Why are we running? [Fake cheery voice] Oh, he has a knife? Well we can talk to him. This is free speech. Come on, let’s kumbaya.”

No. When people are harmed, people need to leave to protect themselves. [Inaudible] So what I’m asking this group of beautiful women to do is help me create a system that fights against that. We don’t need any more women being raped. We don’t need any more women losing their jobs because they spoke up. And if I can’t get help from a room of women, then I’m being honest, what good are you?

I’ve been doin’ this on my own. So I get people all the time talkin’ about, “Oh dear, I love you, I love you!” What have you done to support me? My mortgage needs to be paid. My emotional labor… I don’t work on Fridays anymore because I need more time to recoup after the week.

Have you went and gone into my DMs to say, “Hey Kim, I’ve noticed this thing and maybe I’m gonna help you.” Have you done… I mean, I want you to honestly to reflect on your life to tell me, how many of you follow me that have done anything for me?

[Long silent pause]

37:23

Audience Member 3: I just wanted to make a quick note that our community comes from all marginalized genders. So women, non-binary, transgender…

Kim: I apologise for that.

Audience Member 3: Yup, just wanna make that note. Thanks.

Kim: Yup, I apologize for that.

Audience Member 3: Thanks. Thank you for…

Kim: Hold on, wait a minute. I want to apologize for that right here. I want to apologize for those who’re watching on Twitter that I just referred to this group as women only. It is women, non-binary, and transgender individuals. That’s how you do it.

[Applause]

38:07

Audience Member 4: Thank you for doing this presentation. Oh course I’m sittin’ here goin’, “Um-hm, yeah, that’s it, I understand.” I moved to [inaudible], been about 17 months, and I’ve met with my ERG; Black Employees [inaudible]. And one of the things that we started in February, we have—I call them “tough talks”—we kinda softened it and called them “table talks.” I said “tough talks,” but…

Kim: I wanna stop you right there ’cause I want you to understand what she said.

Audience Member 4: We code switch, so I was gonna ask you…

Kim: Exactly.

Audience Member 4: …can you tell them—because a lot of ’em don’t understand what code switching is—can you explain code switching and why we have to do it?

Kim: So I just did a video called—I go live often, but if you follow my Twitter or my Periscope, you’ll see I did a video called “The White Gaze is the Swamp.” And what it is, is—and it reminded me because I just saw Toni Morrison’s documentary—and she said she did not write for the white gaze. She wrote for Black readers. If you didn’t understand that story, you either need to Google it or figure it out. So when most Black writers write for a “wider audience,” they do a whole buncha explainin’ stuff up front, ’cause they don’t wanna leave y’all out. She didn’t care about leaving y’all out and neither do I.

39:28

So the white gaze is the same thing as code switching. It is when we redo that email; it’s when we’re—I had an incident yesterday, I’m just gonna be honest—there were Black women at table, a white woman was there and she’s making it uncomfortable. She didn’t mean to harm but we were in our Blackness, and you gotta… and I know I’m gonna say whatever I wanna say, but I wanna be mindful of the other Black people there because I don’t wanna put them in a situation where they have to go back to… ’cause Kim gonna do Kim. [Laughter] That’s a lot of energy.

Code switching is when we come to white spaces, the default is whiteness. So when you talk about our hair, talk about what we wear, talk about how we talk, all that is in a white space so that it’s all designed to make white people comfortable. I no longer care about your comfort. Actually, I want you to be as uncomfortable as possible. And I’m going to do very strategic things to make you as uncomfortable as possible. Because until you’re uncomfortable and because you have the privilege, nothing changes.

This is where I wanna talk directly to my Twitter people, particularly the white men in tech. I’ve had several white men in tech tell me, “Oh I did this thing and I thought I’d get my hand slapped and nothing happened.” YOU COULD BE DOIN’ MORE. They could be doin’ a whole lot more. Every time they think they gonna lose it… I have not heard one white guy who’s doing this work; they are surprised—people, this is what makes them, again, when I say we have to be harmed for you guys to get it—they literally will do something, or say something, or take up with somebody and get no blowback. And like, “Well damn!”

41:29

So I don’t care about you passin’ out your doggone unwanted speaking engagements. Do something that makes you—what are you risking?! Nothing, usually! Do more!

It is exhausting to be in yo’ business for eight hours, code switchin’. Do you understand how much work, how much productivity, how innovative I could be—or they could be—if they didn’t have to worry about white people gettin’ they feelin’s hurt all the time?

You hired me because of my experience. My lived experience. But I can’t tell you my lived experience because when I do, you get… you start crying. Your feelings get hurt. [mimics whiny voice] “She was so aggressive.”

It’s a huge problem. I don’t want to act like white people. That does me absolutely no good. I’m only creative—you would not know who I was if I didn’t decide that I was gonna tell tech my value, when I decided I didn’t wanna be a developer. We need more space for people to decide themselves what their value is and tell you.

[Applause]

Whiteness In Marginalized Spaces When Coalition Building Harms

Become a #causeascene Podcast sponsor because disruption and innovation are products of individuals who take bold steps in order to shift the collective and challenge the status quo.

Learn more >

All music for the #causeascene podcast is composed and produced by Chaos, Chao Pack, and Listen on SoundCloud.

Listen to more great #causeascene podcasts