Black Lives Matter

This is a copy of 🔒 the internal post titled Black Lives Matter that Tom shared with the company on 2nd June 2020. 

I’ve been watching what’s happening in America in the aftermath of the murder by police of George Floyd. Another in a long list of brutal reminders of the injustice black people face just trying to live their lives. 

It reminds us again of how far we have to go, as a society, in the tech industry, as a WordPress community, at Human Made, and as individuals in facing our own privilege, biases, and racism, and just how far we fall short when it comes to true diversity and inclusion.

I don’t really know how to even start talking about this, but I do know that my silence, and our silence collectively, only further contributes to the problem. I will never truly know what it feels like to be dealing with this happening and to still have to come to work and be surrounded by people who appear mostly unaffected or even unaware.

To our black colleagues, I want you to know that your voices are welcome and valued here, but also say that it is not expected that you just keep working as if nothing has happened. If you need to take some time off, or  work flexibly in order to process what is happening that is ok too. There is also counselling and other support that you may access as needed.

I’m sure a lot of us want to do something, to help, and to contribute but don’t know where to start, and I’ve been reflecting on what that could be, focusing on the following 3 areas.

What can we do individually?

I’m addressing this mostly to the white people at Human Made as that is my personal context. My focus has been on:

  1. Listen to more black voices and points of view. One small way I’ve been trying to do this is to follow more black people, especially black women, on Twitter. Read what they are saying and try to understand and reflect on it and try and empathise with what you hear. It will, and should, make you uncomfortable. Part of facing these issues is facing that discomfort. Whilst listening, be aware that it’s not the job of black people to educate you, it’s up to us all to educate ourselves.  
  2. Talk about racism, white privilege, and what’s going on with your white friends and family, challenge yourself and each other. 
  3. Look for ways to support, encourage, and clear a path for black people to enter the tech industry, the WordPress community, and Human Made.
  4. If you want to give money I’ve seen people sharing this list of organisations to support. If you find others please share them.
  5. This post on “75 things white people can do for racial justice” has been shared a lot this past week, it’s quite US centric but has lots of things that are more broadly applicable, familiarise yourself with it, and identify areas in which you can act.

I know we all want to help, and a lot of us probably see ourselves as allies in the cause for racial justice. That’s good, but we must also recognise that even if we see ourselves as allies of this cause that doesn’t mean we aren’t still part of the problem. We must hold ourselves and each other to account, and we must recognise that part of the fight is with ourselves.

What can we do internally

We are outraged at what is going on in the wider world, but we must do better internally too. Human Made is not as diverse as it should be, particularly at the leadership level, and we can see clearly from 🔒 the diversity and inclusion survey that women and everyone who did not identify as White or South Asian reported consistently lower scores on a range of factors compared with the company average. We must continue to work to change this and as we come out of the crisis planning around COVID-19 I want to make sure we pick that work back up as there is concrete action we can take.

Paid time off to protest (and vote)

One immediate thing we can do. If anyone wants to take time off to protest, then you can do that without having to use your vacation allowance. We’ll work to add a separate category to Bob, but in the meantime, just plan the day off like you normally would by talking to your managers and project teams.

It’s less immediately relevant, but we should obviously have time off to allow people to vote too and this situation reminded me to make sure that happens.

Mental Health days & flexible working

If you need to take some time off, or work more flexibly then that is ok, talk to your manager and/or your project team. Even if you don’t feel you need this yourself, we all need to be aware that this is something that is happening, and adjust our expectations of each other to account for the decreased productivity, stress, and anxiety that this situation might cause.

What can we do externally?

We have been discussing if and how we can say something publicly and I’ve been thinking about what we could do or say that would actually contribute to justice. Beyond putting out a statement I’d like to find a way to more concretely do something.

Some ideas we’ve been discussing so far:

  1. Could we use our position of influence within the WordPress community to run a donation matching drive for the organisations related to the Black Lives Matter movement?
  2. Could we create a donation pot and then split the donations based on voting internally?
  3. Could we do matching donations with employees?
  4. How about we put aside a % of our profits every quarter and then donate them to causes that people at HM have voted on?

Please feel free to share your own ideas, or things you’ve seen or been involved in too.

If you’d like to continue discussing these and related issues then you can comment on this post, or head over to the #inclusivity-empower channel in Slack, I’m of course always available to talk 1:1 too, and this is something that you can discuss with your manager.

This is an overwhelming time globally, and we’re all dealing with so much. I know for one that in times like these I’m so grateful to have colleagues from all over the world, to be able to learn from each other, and to be able navigate this together with compassion and empathy. Thank you for everything you are doing, for your resilience, and your humanity.

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