Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Viewpoint: 'I feel like I was accidentally hired' (bbc.co.uk)
179 points by zeristor 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 267 comments

All of these comments and I’m left wondering if I’m the only black person commenting in this thread.

I’ve been passed up for promotions, fired, and hired based solely on my color. I keep moving on but y’all it’s been 20 years of this. And it just started getting a little better in the past 3 years but is a total gamble based on where you work.

In my current Fortune 500 job, I was hired for my expertise then was moved to a new team where my expertise didn’t even matter. Every issue that came up that I had qualifications for I was passed over for a lesser skilled White man. I’m used to this but this was my shot at moving up with a big company name behind me and it was ruined for what I can only wonder if it was an unconscious bias. Now I don’t care and I’m doing just enough and it seems as though I’m not going to get fired because it will look bad on paper. Yes I’m projecting, one could say don’t give up and you could have another chance.. and that exact situation presented itself but really..... I don’t care anymore. I’ve made my 20 years of industry money why am I still fighting against a system that is obviously unfair to me. I’ll let the next generation try and when they fail I will welcome them into my business with open arms.

So here is my advice to all minorities, poc, women, etc disenfranchised groups: focus on yourself, stay with a good team/company when you do find one, stay connected to the community, and above all help help help your fellow struggling humans. We are all in this together and one day you will be helming your own company (this is hacker news right?) that matters with the people you met and mentored along the way.

Edit: Just in case it’s not obvious I’m a millennial and I had a wonderful early childhood start to my career that other black men and women don’t get the luxury to have. So it’s not like I’m an old man in my 50s, I’m the same age as a lot of folks here and have worked on the same systems that a lot of older folks have built... but my resume is probably littered with lower roles than those that you’ve held. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to burn this throwaway to continue hiding my skin color on the internet

I’m Black. I’m 46 years old. I won’t discount your experience, but let me tell you mine.

I started programming in assembly in middle school in the mid 80s. I graduated from an unknown state school - an HBCU with a degree in CS in the mid 90s.

I muddled my way between two jobs until 2008 when I started taking my career seriously.

Over the last 12 years, I’ve had plenty of interviews and I am on my 6th job since 2008. I have had very few rejections. I think maybe three. I always use local recruiters so my resume has never disappeared down a black hole.

I have had the Dev lead position at $1 Billion revenue (non software) company, then a back end “cloud architect”, and now I work as a consultant at AWS. I have never once gone into a job interview with a doubt that I was qualified or that I would get the job.

I don’t hide my color on the Internet. In the appropriate threads, I always say that I am Black.

I haven't read the comments but...

I'm black and a developer (not just a dev, I'm a full stack, audiovisual generalist, animation, motion graphics, ui/ux, illustrator), started in the end 90s and professionally since 2008?!

Got no idea if I ever been put aside because of my skin colour, but my photo and stuff is public for anybody prior to any interview and stuff - so if that happened, great, fuck them, I don't want to have to deal with them.

I also don't wear suits and stuff like that, and for a lot of years I used to take my skateboard to interviews and always spoke my mind.

My afro is also huge, I also wear whatever I want, but managed to work in a fintech where people wear suits and stuff.

I do know that may pay is usually lower then other people but don't think that's related to my skin colour but because I don't do any ass licking! Or maybe because I'm shit :)

My biggest problem nowadays is that there are a lot of people in the scene for money and this obsession for long recruitment processes, literally putting people in risk of being homeless. I also find that this same people expect you to behave in a certain way and have a "certain culture" - there are countless youtube videos of people offering what seems to be tutorials on what to say in interviews, etc - I find that absolutely ridiculous and inhuman! Sick and sad people!

So that's who I relate with, good people, people who work hard and still struggle even though! But yes, of course I'd like to see other people like me once in awhile too.

Friend, I truly appreciate your candor.

About the whole "culture" thing, it's b.s. you find anywhere from a small time stret gang to the board room of a multinational. It's easier if you b.s. and act fake like everyone else,but also if you don't and you are original and strategically "real" enough,it can play to your advantage. Worker bees that don't behave like other worker bees either don't get the big picture or get the big picture better than everyone else.

> I’ve been passed up for promotions, fired, and hired based solely on my color.

But... But how do you know that's the color thing? It could be nepotism, management incompetence or any other reason.

Many of the things you mention to have experienced, I too have experienced. Only I am white, working in a largely caucasian environment.

Thanks for your comment. I'm not blakc, but I agree that reading some of these comments is quite depressing and proves that we have a long way to go on race issues in tech.


It might simply be that "comments promoting allyship" are off-putting. They very easily become preachy, and if it feels like a third party inserting themselves and telling me what to think, I get irritated. The comments by the black programmers in this thread are a million times more interesting. Sometimes I feel like all the loudest voices in this debate are white and that just has to be wrong.

I don't mean this to make an argument, I just heard you about feeling frustrated and wanted to offer a possible explanation.

Accusations of virtue signalling (becoming preachy) are a pretty common way to dismiss people arguing that systemic racism is a problem. What's further frustrating is that last I checked, the debates are raging far more in threads like this one, while the black programmers telling their experiences were comparatively empty of comments.

It's a manifestation of cognitive dissonance. High intelligence leads to the ability to rationalize almost anything. Ideas posited in this thread threaten some people's conception of themselves and the world ("I am not racist, I treat everyone fairly, the world is a just place"). When people's identity and worldview is threatened, they try to annihilate that threat (usually not violently, but that occurs also e.g. violence against trans people). That's what is happening in the comments here - arguments about semantics without addressing the whole point of the testimony.

Did you always work in large corporates or have you experienced the same biases in smaller companies too?

> I’ve been passed up for promotions, fired, and hired based solely on my color

"solely". It's easy to pin point a problem on others.

This might come in handy - https://twitter.com/shreyas/status/1276956836856393728?s=20

I would like to respond to you directly. Another comment that was downvoted said something very similar.

I do not blame race on everything. Numerous jobs I have been hired solely because of my skills. I have been fired because I slacked off too hard. I have missed promotions because I could only see my positives and not my negatives. I have the experience I do from working at many different IT shops.

Part of what happened recently has to do with the fact that the company makes diversity a key deciding factor. My previous roles show a clear footpath in the direction they desired. To have someone of lesser skill promoted in front of me and then not spend any time to groom me to move up as well is a huge slap to my face. I gave up my revenue generating business to take this opportunity, so please forgive me if I’m a bit jaded at this point.

I know what I can do, and I never look a gift horse in the mouth. I am blessed to be employed right now.. but bet your ass as soon as this virus passes I’m out and will be back to schmoozing investors. Probably with better results than my last 3 years combined (EDIT: and very likely because of company XYZ being on my resume. But change needs to start from the top and I’m not gonna hang around forever to wait. I’m rambling now so it’s probably time to get off the internet)

It's also easy to be dismissive on the internet. Please don't do that here.


Disclaimer - english is not my first language

Hey dang,

I am curious. what could I have done better?

if OP said he is suffering "solely" because of his colour and I think, its borderline impossible to pin point a result of large complex system on any one thing?

P.S. - do people flag my comments or did you just see it on your own.

People in the GP's situation often encounter responses like "it's easy to pin point a problem on others" or other logical-sounding objections that come across as dismissive of the specific experiences that they're reporting. If you do that in the way you did it, complete with a Twitter link about how to become a 'high-agency' person, other people will interpret you as saying 'that's not happening' and 'you should just try harder', i.e. as telling them that they're wrong in the description of their own experience and ultimately as denying that race has been a factor in it. Do you see how that could come across as dismissive?

It's possible that you were misled by the word 'solely', since your objection seemed to be sort of a technical one based on the literal meaning of that word. Since you say you're a non-native English speaker, I can see how that could happen. It's clear from the GP's reply to you that they didn't mean that word literally. When it comes to an issue as complex and as emotional as this, it's usually best not to react to just one word, but rather to suss out the comment as a whole. That goes for native speakers too.

One thing that might have been better is to ask clarifying questions rather than making objections. If you ask an open-ended question in a heartfelt way, it might invite the other person to expand on his or her experience more, in a way that both helps you understand and makes them feel like someone is listening. It's tricky, though. This topic is so fraught that it's easy for a question to sound like a counterargument, and the discourse has unfortunately been polluted by a lot of questions which are not questions at all, but attempts to undermine. So if you do ask such a question, make it clear (as best you can) that you mean it sincerely.

It makes me wonder if we could build tools to help craft the conversation differently, but that's another topic.

(No one flagged your comment above; I just happened to see it in the thread.)

Hey Dang, that was really helpful! Thanks!

> It's possible that you were misled by the word 'solely'

Yeah, I don't think I fully understand the premise.

> Do you see how that could come across as dismissive?

I can see that but it's really hard to convey something contrary to popular belief.

Let's say I want to say something like "it's easy to be a victim rather than to take action and make change" I truly believe that and I really think it will help people to take actions rather than just being stagnant. I don't want to be dismissive. How can I say it?

> better is to ask clarifying questions rather than making objections

I somewhat agree. But, it's hard to discuss without counter arguments.

dang: you are insufferable--and don't misconstrue what I mean by that. https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

> In my current Fortune 500 job, I was hired for my expertise then was moved to a new team where my expertise didn’t even matter. Every issue that came up that I had qualifications for I was passed over for a lesser skilled White man

How many times do you think this happens to white people? It’s incredibly common.

I keep a “to poach” list of developers who aren’t being given the respect, challenge, title, pay etc that they deserve and at this point it’s close to 20% of the developers Ive worked with.

Ok, but what's your point in bringing that up here? Both statements can easily be true.

> Ok, but what's your point in bringing that up here?

To foster solidarity amongst the working class.

Here's Google's latest diversity report: https://kstatic.googleusercontent.com/files/25badfc6b6d1b33f...

Whites are underrepresented at similar rates as blacks. Asians are overrepresented by 900%.

It would be helpful to understand what numbers you're using to make these claims.

For e.g., White non-hispanics make up ~62% of the US population. At Google they make up 65.9% of leadership representation.

Black non-hispanics make up ~12% of US population and only 2.6% of Google leadership representation.

To clarify, this is hires (as per the thread "Viewpoint: 'I feel like I was accidentally hired'").

Hey everyone, author here. It seems like this post have been flagged, but I'd like to add a little comment here so it may clarify things.

First, a little over a week ago we were having a similar discussion here [1] and I promised I'd post my article about it. This is the article.

Second, I want people to understand that this is a complex issue and the solution might/should be as complex. It's not a case of, OK let's hire 20 more black people and it's over. The reality is that, well first you have to find them, and then you have to see if they qualify for a job you are actually hiring for.

But one thing that anyone one here can do is get up from their chair and look around the office, you immediately notice that black people aren't there. This is what this article is doing. It's asking why?

Every anecdote I brought up about treatment is something that happened to me on multiple occasions. Now I'm getting hundreds of emails with people saying "you pulled the words out of my mouth." And some examples sound innocent enough and could be interpreted in many ways. But like Joel Spolsky once said, "it's the tiny little frustration that add up"[2] and at some point you are angry and don't even know why.

This is a call to be more understanding and for all of us to be aware of the challenges black people face. I don't have a solution to end racism, and I don't pretend I do. But when we all understand each other a little better, racism tend to start fading away.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23544856 [2]: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2000/04/10/controlling-your-e...

Edit: typo and my mistake, this post is not flagged as of writing.

Thank you for writing this. If there's at least one thing I hope everyone can agree is a positive, it's people sharing their perspectives like this.

> look around the office, you immediately notice that black people aren't there.

You're right, there aren't. One in ten people in my city is black, but I would estimate* fewer than one in forty developers at my work are. But there were just as few in my college classes, in my tech clubs, advanced mathematics classes, and any other place that would lead a person to software development. I think we need to address the problems with diversity in those place at the same time as we deal with the workplace problems.

* All the obvious caveats apply. I'm not going to project an identity onto someone else.

I teach at a university in STEM. Our classes are increasingly filled with international students precisely because domestic students are not interested in majoring in STEM. Schools actually hire agencies to try and increase their number of domestic applications, but they continually get worse anyway. It's a less-than-zero-sum game as the pool shrinks. In public schools there's even an explicit preference in state law for domestic students. And they put in rules like high verbal test score requirements that increase the domestic advantage yet more. Nonetheless we get more African students literally from Africa than we get African American applicants.

People are putting STEM on a pedestal (very) recently, then decrying why people weren't allowed into the FAANG/A.I./data science holy land that most in the field probably aren't profiting from anyway. But historically, jobs in STEM are not the highly-coveted prize people think it is. More of a lower-middle-class stepping stone that ranks below the more prestigious professions like medicine/law/etc. Harder work and harder classes for lower pay.

It's not exclusionary.

I have almost no say at what happens at my local University. Do you? I can at most pay taxes, write my representatives, and maybe a couple other ancillary things.

What I can control to a huge degree is who my company hires and how I treat my colleagues.

Seeking out how to help POC programmers in the workforce doesn't mean we can't also work to improve the American education gap. We have a lot of time in the day, after all.

In what part of my writing did I suggest that it was exclusionary?

> It's not a case of, OK let's hire 20 more black people and it's over. The reality is that, well first you have to find them, and then you have to see if they qualify for a job you are actually hiring for.

I was addressing this statement from the author, suggesting that if my perception of the education system is accurate then it could be difficult to find those developers if barriers at school aren't also broken. Maybe my perception is wrong, but that's why we have discussions.

> I have almost no say at what happens at my local University. Do you?

I do. I am an alumni and can contribute to scholarships that fund students in underrepresented categories. As a student, I published articles supporting my (what I would consider progressive) political positions that opened up discussions but also received significant criticism.

> Seeking out how to help POC programmers in the workforce doesn't mean we can't also work to improve the American education gap. We have a lot of time in the day, after all.

Hopefully. I'm not American, so I can't say much. Best I can do is listen and think about what I do and say.

Off topic, but I'm really impressed that "I promised I'd post my article about it" ends up as a BBC article. You talk about it like it's a Medium post! Cool stuff :-)

How did you pull that off? Did you just send it in, or are you somehow connected to the BBC already?

Back on topic, I can totally see those tiny little frustrations add up. Love that you're using it for good.

> How did you pull that off?

I had written the article to post on my blog. But a couple years ago I've had many journalist contact me about my previous story linked in the article. So I called in those favors and BBC was first to respond :)

Thanks for speaking up. I don't know how to fix any of this, but I do know that we need to value each other's experiences, and that can't happen without us sharing them for what they are.

Hard as it is for you, and easy as it is to say for me, I do believe your uncomfortable experiences are changing things for the better. Every VC that hurries out of a room may not have invested in your company, but you just pushed a commit to their mental blockchain that will stick with them forever. Another promising young black entrepreneur is going to get his (or her) shot _because_ you didn't get yours.

Do you want equal opportunities or equal outcomes? One does not beget the other.

I don't believe either is possible. Life is way too complicated to guarantee anything. But I think everyone agrees we should strive to correct significant levels of unfairness in either opportunity or outcome. We just may disagree on what constitutes significance.

We generally want equal opportunities, but alas that sometimes produces unacceptable outcomes.

>you immediately notice that black people aren't there

Black people in the US disproportionately live in the south-east. And they have IT jobs there. You can work where a whole department has one white guy if that.

I'm not patronizing you by saying you should go do that, or that you would find it tolerable there; just that it's easy to get carried away making universal statements about how things are.

I don't think it was flagged, except maybe as a dupe. I ran into it on the BBC site the other day and tried to post it, but someone else already had (it didn't make the front page): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23659251

Yes, that happened. We turned off the flags.

Really curious what your accent is like.

Also, I think it depends on which megacorp but I seen a multi-billion revenue corp with a rough majority black IT staff. Also goes the other way I guess. All I can say is I hope your bank account looks great,at the end of the day that's what a job is for.

> Really curious what your accent is like.

Why do you say that?

Cultural curiosity I suppose

Again, for context, I’m Black and I’ve been in the industry for 25 years. I have never experienced what the author experienced.

Maybe it’s because I’ve worked in Atlanta all of my career where companies are use to seeing Black professionals?

It could be that I’ve spent all of my career in the staid enterprise development space instead of Big Tech? Whatever it is, I can’t ignore statistics because of the anecdotal experience of myself and my friends in tech.

However, I have a 0% success rate with video interviews.

My only video interviews were the ones I had with AWS. It was a success. Again, I’m not going to discount his truth.

>Again, for context, I’m Black and I’ve been in the industry for 25 years. I have never experienced what the author experienced.

>Maybe it’s because I’ve worked in Atlanta all of my career where companies are use to seeing Black professionals?

It's not just you. I'm not black but, am from Atlanta, and maybe that's the common link but this just seems like it's from a different planet. It's just hard for me to grok things like this:

>I've been to job interviews where the receptionist will take me to a whiteboard room. When the interviewer comes in, he'd say: "I'm sorry, you must be in the wrong room."

>But the day I come to the office in person, they are taken aback. I often get: "I couldn't tell where you are from on the phone."

Who are these people that are surprised that a guy named Ibrahim is black?

My guess is the accent was throwing people to the point it seemed like a "bait and switch".

I can certainly imagine that this sort of thing can vary wildly by region, by city, and certainly by country.

The other story about this fellow where his contract was accidentally terminated or not renewed (linked to from this article) is just about as Kafkaesque as you can get:


This seems like such a hard problem to really solve, since so much of what we consider racism, or at least borderline racism, has a significant basis in fundamental human thinking. I really feel for the guy, but it's hard to know where to start.

I try really hard to ignore color, but I'm not immune to at least noticing. Then I try hard not to double-take. It's completely expected to meet Indians at the workplace, but black people are so rare that it always feels like a surprise. Maybe there's a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem in play.

I recall that when I was in the military, I got so used to the racial make-up, which has a lot more representation from black people than my hometown, that it wouldn't register at all. Just another guy. When it really hit home was after I'd been back in Oregon for a few months after I left the service, when I was walking across the college campus and noticed a small group of black students walking towards me. I noticed them, and then I realized that I had just noticed them, as if they were noteworthy. That was the moment I realized how white Oregon [mostly] is. I didn't feel negativity towards them, but I felt uncomfortable that it was something that even came to mind.

In any case, we have two black guys on our team. Both really nice, but very different people. One of them acts like he was raised locally in a wealthy family, he's very laid back and doesn't seem to feel out of place. The other guy is a little older, and if you didn't know better you'd think he was a little hostile. No, he's wary. He acts like he's faced judgement his entire life and he's always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Easy to be comfortable around the first guy, much harder around the second guy. I want to act like it's not even anything to be aware of, but that in itself seems pretty dishonest. People are different, and that's totally okay. Good in fact, since they bring their own unique perspective to the daily problems we are asked to solve.

Thank you . That was a very honest reply . As someone who is brown and worked for over a decade in Oregon - I used to be similar to the first guy in my 20s . I was laidback , felt in touch with the local culture and was easy to work with. All of that was great until I gained experience and did not get promotions and saw my white co-workers keep getting promoted to lead and managerial positions . This was despite me being more qualified and having excellent performance reviews. When I brought it up with my manager and I was shortly laid off.

Now I am more like your second guy - I am older and a little wary. I know I am being judged especially if management and coworkers are overwhelmingly white - which is very common in Oregon . I am more careful , wary and precise about how I am at work - which makes others and someone like you less comfortable. It’s anecdotal but this is where the rest of us come from .

This is useful to see, thanks for sharing. It mirrors my own experience. I came into this profession with a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and an open heart. Then I had a couple of experiences that triggered "The Great Noticing" in me. I haven't really been the same since, though I've tried to keep an open heart/mind and lean against the wariness that's come with experience. But mostly I try to stay away from SF, the PNW, and their geographically dispersed cultural outposts.

What is "The Great Noticing"?

For the longest time I felt like I didn't notice race: yeah, if I looked it was there, and the town I grew up in and live in is pretty multicultural, so it wasn't a novel thing to see people of different colours. Sadly, as I've become more aware of the bitter division of race present in some people, I feel that I've not only become acutely aware of the races around me as if its something strange and unexpected, but I actually feel like I've become somewhat more prejudiced because of it.

As a real life example from the pandemic, everyone is "social distancing" or whatever your local term is. So, went out shopping, needed to get something off a shelf that someone was stood by, asked them to move and they barely scoot back at all. If this was a white guy I'd say "its two metres, not two inches, please move back more" but because this guy was a different shade of brown to me my mind goes "I can't challenge that person because if I do they'll erupt in a cloud of 'that's racist' and I don't want to make a scene" so I just have to bend around them to get the thing off of the shelf and put us both at risk of catching an indiscriminate virus off of each other all because I'm going against everything I thought was right and treating another person differently because of the colour of their skin.

It feels bad because as someone that wants to treat everyone nicely, I feel like I'm walking on eggshells so as to not accidentally oppress someone. Why can't I just ask someone to observe social distancing and it not be a racist thing? Am I going crazy or does anyone else feel this way? Am I alone in this feeling? Am I becoming racist purely because I try so damn hard to not be racist?

The social discomfort is par for the course for American POC. Did that white lady cross the street cause she's afraid of me, or my dog? All day, every day. Now you and I get to experience some of this discomfort and through our experience we can work to make the world a bit better and more equitable.

Specifically for your social distancing example, I've found it's far too confrontational to ask people to step away from me. In lines, if someone is up my asshole, I simply offer them to go in front of me, then give 6ft of space. Or in a grocery store, I walk away and come back to get what I need later.

You're just dealing with a social problem that you haven't as much experience with. As you grow to better understand the interpersonal dynamics between you and other people w.r.t. race it'll be the same as learning how best to communicate with old, or disabled, or femme, or masculine people without offending them.

It's not hard, just new. You're not crazy, just inexperienced. All we should do is keep trying to get better at it.

It's also unclear that private companies are capable of solving this. I'm not sure when we collectively decided that FAANG companies and private universities should take on a problem that was created by government policy. Government broke it, and government should fix it. Equitable funding for primary school STEM programs and subsidized childcare could be a good start. I get the sense that so many Americans have given up on government to the point that we would rather ask Twitter and Harvard to fix social issues.

It's a systemic problem, meaning that there isn't one specific cause. Government policy created the conditions, individuals perpetuate them, and the companies in question have the candidate pool that they have because of where they hire from and the expressed preferences of their individual workers. Because it is a systemic problem, there isn't a side of right and a side of wrong except for the few true malicious actors. And because it is a systemic problem we are all of us responsible for addressing it. We can't fob it off on the government or on private enterprise or on specific individuals. We must each individually make different choices if we want to change things.

Agreed. There seems to be this sort of broad recognition of past racial injustice among many very smart people. Yet they seem to have decided that at some point, the populace that created that racial injustice just stopped being racist.

I am of the opinion that past racial injustice is the larger factor in today's racial inequality. But that doesn't mean that current racial bias isn't responsible for a significant portion. We have to fight this battle on all fronts, public and private.

I heard an anecdote once about young parents who were mortified that their young child referred to the two Little Orphan Annie movies they had as "red Annie" and "black Annie."

Judging by "image search", it is possible the child had been innocently referring to hair colour, and the mortification was due to what "even came to mind" for the parents.

> I try really hard to ignore color

One thing I was taught in anti-bias trainings at big tech companies was that trying to "ignore" color helps perpetuate biases. It is important that if an under represented co-worker speaks up, you pay extra attention, explicitly ensure their idea is credited to them, be vocal when you agree even if you otherwise would not, help others to understand their contributions, etc. Biases will never go away, we all have negative thoughts pop into our head, you cannot "ignore race", but we can all take steps to improve things.

Isn't that horribly patronizing?

I'd feel offended if someone treated me with kid gloves based on my skin color.

Answering for myself / at the level of the individual: yes.

I don't want to work with white colleagues who are biased against non-white people. I have been in this situation at a very small startup. I wasn't the only person to notice or complain about it, so I know it wasn't "in my head". So I left.

But I also don't want to work someplace where white colleagues are overcorrecting for deep-seated cultural biases. Ideally they don't have to correct at all. I've been in that situation as well, at a large company with a extremely woke / "D&I" culture. So I left.

Exit isn't a systemic solution — only an individual one, and only for market participants with options.

It's also not cheap, but the psychological and emotional cost of being judged by group membership -- for me, at least, is greater.

I think it's worth keeping in mind that the kind of pan-social "affirmative action" advocated by diversity consultants is a double-edged sword, and not without its own risks and costs. At best it's a stopgap measure of sorts. (The diversity consultant operates under perverse incentives, and doesn't have anything like a Hippocratic Oath constraining his/her advocacy.)

I've been lucky and have found a few places where that pervasive sense of cultural bias wasn't present. It would be easier to find such places if startups, and engineering teams in particular, would try to hew to traditional standards of professionalism on the job.

> I don't want to work with white colleagues who are biased against non-white people.

I don't want to work with people who are biased against white people. I support equality and I genuinely want to see people treated fairly but I can't help but take offense to the notion that because I'm white I am less or should feel guilty.

Allyship for POC doesn't imply bias against white people. Acknowledging and fighting against systemic racism doesn't imply that all white people should feel universal guilt for their very real privilege.

Raising others up doesn't require pushing anyone down. Well, anyone that isn't in a white hood, anyway.

> Allyship for POC doesn't imply bias against white people.

Sure, in theory. In practice, bias against whites exists, some of it catalyzed by woke ideology. (By woke logic) White-presenting people are really the only ones with standing to speak to such bias in their own lives.

> Well, anyone that isn't in a white hood, anyway.

Ah yes, the IRL downvote: call someone a racist / Nazi / fascist / Klansman.

> "Ah yes, the IRL downvote: call someone a racist / Nazi / fascist / Klansman."

But it does need to be called out when it happens. Otherwise we allow it to continue. Protecting the status quo is not neutral or unbiased when the status quo is marginalising certain groups. And no, white people are really not remotely marginalised in any meaningful way in western countries.

Where did I call anyone a klansman? I'm saying you can bring up the oppressed minority populations without putting anyone else down, with the explicit exception of people who are punished by society for their hateful ideology.

> bias against whites exists

Not in any meaningful way, especially when compared to the experience of POC in America.

> some of it catalyzed by woke ideology.

Sometimes racists lose their jobs. That's not racism against white people.

> White-presenting people are really the only ones with standing to speak to such bias in their own lives.

I'm white. We don't experience meaningful bias. Trying to claim so is just attempting to appropriate victimhood from actual victims, and detracts from anti-racist movements.

Another paragraph before someone angrily hits reply and says "BUT WHITE PEOPLE IN TRAILER PARKS! BUT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION!" I said meaningful bias. I've experienced racial discomfort. Doesn't change the fact that no matter what angle you take, my life would've been harder if I'd been born black.

You really should try to travel and visit places out of your comfort zone to see how other people live, before dismissing their hardships.

You really should engage in good faith instead of combing through nearly all of my comments in this thread and shitting out drive by rhetorically fallacious comments.

I'm not the one shitting on people whose life is a struggle but are the wrong skin color to get empathy from you.

I'm the real racist because I say Black Lives Matter rather than All Lives Matter, right?

No, only patronizing to black people and dismissive of white people less fortunate than you.


Couldn’t find the whole thing, but I agree it seems constantly talking about race leads to more racism and not less. Seems so opposed to the civil right movement stance against segregation.

"constantly talking about race leads to more racism not less" Isn't an effective argument against diversity and inclusion efforts.

Racism is real and POC Americans (to scope the discussion) are experiencing it. Maybe Morgan Freeman has the perspective that pretending it's not real will make it go away, but that doesn't change the fact that black programmers are underrepresented, or that police forces are staffed with avowed racists, or that... Etc.

It's only patronizing if it results in preferential treatment. But I think the experts who work on these programs have found that it is necessary to "over-correct" in order to override unconscious bias.

Obviously, if it is coming across as patronizing, then you are doing it wrong. The point is to try to get to a happy medium. Like shooting for the stars in hopes of getting to the moon.

Exactly. Inevitably some of my co-workers brought up the "points" in this thread too, that it feels patronizing & unfair.

I'm not suggesting anyone be patronizing. I'm simply saying you should be aware of the fact a co-worker might be feeling a certain way, and then notice & speak up if you see, for example, their idea(s) being misattributed to others.

The idea that being an ally would be patronizing is comparable to people responding to "black lives matter" with "all lives matter". Yes, all lives should matter, but all lives don't matter until black lives matter. If you work somewhere where white people are being systemically held back, you should speak up there as well, but I doubt that is the case.

> Isn't that horribly patronizing?

Not a racist but am torn between ignoring race - wr’re all people stance - and the behaviour described as patronizing. My conclusion is that nobody has a clue how to deal with this mess. We need to have some sort of clear guidelines on what is best tto do in these cases without offending nor patronizing. Im an Eastern European immigrant to the US and in my US education it has been drilled into me that there is no such thing as race, we’re all related and so on while emphasizing on different cultures. I took African American studies and did learn a great deal of injustice at the expense of blacks in America. But it seems I didn’t learn how to behave properly. What am I doing wrong? Should we set clear guidelines or leave them ambiguous?

I think the idea is that you should ignore the race, but doing that requires effort and awareness.

Seems like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. If the options are getting ignored, including for promotions; or getting extra attention because you're from an underrepresented group, I think option B is better in the long run, because at least it helps to address the underrepresentation.

Once representation is more equal, I think the "ignore colour" option becomes more feasible. But we're not there yet.

Try asking some POC friends or colleagues! Get their perspective.

Another user mentioned that it feels like kneeling on the ground and using "baby talk." That's not what's being said here. It's simply taking a moment to observe yourself and other colleagues potentially engaging in unconscious (or even conscious - you may have an avowed racist hiding it very well on the team!) bias.

This is being an ally. It's not patronizing. The reality is that systemic racism against POC in America is real. Ignoring that only aids the status quo.

Every POC I know thinks that these kinds of efforts are often, although not always, patronizing. (In some cases even beyond patronizing; I've heard a few people say it's actively hurting their career, because they spend so much time being voluntold into diversity discussions that it cuts into their bandwidth for their real job.)

If it's patronizing, it's a shitty diversity and inclusion program.

Your conversations are the opposite of the ones I've had.

I agree, and I’m absolutely in favor of good diversity programs. It just seems to me that the attitude of “don’t strive to be race blind, always keep yourself aware” consistently leads to bad programs. By far the most bigoted thing I’ve heard at work was in a diversity seminar, where the instructor (a white man) told me (a Hispanic man) that we must make sure to call on Latinas in meetings because they’re not comfortable speaking up for themselves.

That does sound frustrating. That does sound like a shitty D&I program. That is something worth speaking against, I believe.

Isn't there some way to act as an ally to a minority population that doesn't involve patronizing?

Absolutely. I don't tremendously like the framing of "allyship", but there are lots of good diversity-promoting measures that companies should take - one example, we're working on pushing my current company to do an AfroTech sponsorship.

Then look at it as opportunity.


It’s not like “white” people aren’t colored

This came up to my feed elsewhere so I’ll leave it here. I don’t care if particular skin colors are similar or dis-similar from one another, but I naturally don’t value actively agreeing with supremacists.

> East Asians were almost always called white, particularly during the period of first modern contact in the 16th century. And on a number of occasions, even more revealingly, the people were termed “as white as we are”.


> But by the 17th century, the Chinese and Japanese were “darkening” in published texts, gradually losing their erstwhile whiteness when it became clear they would remain unwilling to participate in European systems of trade, religion, and international relations.

> Calling them white, in other words, was not based on simple perception either and had less to do with pigmentation than their presumed levels of civilisation, culture, literacy, and obedience (particularly if they should become Christianised).

[0]: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2184754/chine...

POC means people of color means non white.

You taking the anthropologic perspective isn't scientifically incorrect - race doesn't actually exist, after all, in any meaningful way. However it is sociologically incorrect to call white people "colored."

BLM has been creeping towards Asia where I am, and some of those activists are absurdly trying to redefine some Asian views of aesthetics as White admirations that the noble White must responsibly educate to eliminate.

To me these ungrounded imaginations are clearly stemming from the idea that some people are objectively not colored and others are colored. I’ve never come across this “POC” term but if it’s not racist I don’t know what racism means by dictionary.

You're right to point out the absurdity of dividing the universe of people into two groups: white and non-white or white and "POC." But humans have evolved to be suspicious of those who aren't in their tribe, who are different. We are naturally xenophobic. We reflexively divide the world into "Them" and "Us." There are cultural cleavages like sexual orientation and religion that divide us, but in the US, skin color continues to be one of the stickiest and most powerful dividing lines. "White" and "POC" are words we use to discuss this powerful force in our culture. White people would still, often subconsciously, divide the world into "Them" and "Us," "whites" and "POC" if we did not acknowledge that it's happening. To understand and respond to the phenomenon, we need words like "POC" to describe it.

Of course, "POC" was first used in a Western cultural context, and it may not translate in a straightforward way to an Asian context. I am sure racism also exists in Asia--xenophobia is a universal human weakness--but it may require different language to accurately conceptualize and the dynamics might be very different. It also might not be nearly as pressing of an issue as it is in the US. I don't know.

But if you've never heard the term "POC" before, you're clearly not familiar with the racial dynamics in the US. I would encourage you to learn more before dismissing a term as racist or judging the BLM movement in the US. I can't speak to the activists in Asia you mention, but I assure you BLM is a very much needed movement in the US.

I admire your way of engaging on this topic - it's much more civil and (imo) convincing than my way!

Thanks! I love how enthusiastically you engaged the wrong-headed comments on this article. I'm often tempted to roll my eyes and get on with my day, but I really do think it's important that these statements aren't allowed to go unchallenged as if they express conventional wisdom.

It's relatively new. If it's any consolation, it probably won't last.

Lol. The classic "no YOU'RE racist for pointing out race exists!"

Deny that black Americans are terrorized by cops. Pretend that people of color is a non concept all you want. It won't change reality.

You are aiding a racist status quo when you fight against ally causes like BLM.

The situation we are living in at the moment is not a dichotomy.

it seems to me a rather dangerous precedent to argue that one must ally with blm. after all if you are not a social conservative you are perpetuating an immoral status quo.

of course one might work to end qualified immunity for example or to equalize the education and economic gaps without being a Marxist.

let's not confuse ends and means.

Denying the existence of POC and their oppressed status in America is more than just "not supporting BLM," it's a denial of the foundation of their reason for existing.

> Denying the existence of POC and their oppressed status in America is more than just "not supporting BLM," it's a denial of the foundation of their reason for existing.

Acknowledging the personhood of people of color is not synonymous with supporting BLM. One might broadly support the ends of BLM while being uncomfortable with the means.

> One might broadly support the ends of BLM while being uncomfortable with the means.

I sense a conflation of the statement "Black Lives Matter" with the movement "Black Lives Matter" with a third, completely unrelated concept, that being lootings and property destruction. Are you insinuating that the people who want the world to know that black lives matter are the same that are looting target? Despite extensive arrests showing these people to be agent provocateurs and white supremacists?

Furthermore, it's not really accurate to even say "the Black Lives Matters," as if it's an organization. If anything, it's unfortunately extremely disorganized, with extremely disparate groups and goals (i.e. defund vs abolish vs reform police arguments), almost complete lack of a central, trustworthy 501(c) to donate to, and lack of leadership. The politics of the movement are also extremely disparate - communists, anarchists, libertarians, pro-gun anti-gun, Muslim, Christian, non-religious. It's all over the place.

The only unifying thing behind people who say "Black Lives Matter" is the belief that Black Lives Matter. That's why to say "uncomfortable with the means" doesn't mean you're uncomfortable with, say, someone burning down a police station, it's more precarious, or you end up like the White Moderate that MLK warned against as the greatest threat to civil rights.

> The only unifying thing behind people who say "Black Lives Matter" is the belief that Black Lives Matter.

Okay, I'll stipulate for sake of argument.

As the apostle famously said, faith without works is dead. If one believes that black lives matter, then one works to that end. Yet what should one do? Is there (to abuse the analogy) a set of ten commandments to follow? If there is no organization, then isn't one free to pursue justice for people of color as she sees fit?

It is easily seen that two people may assert "Black Lives Matter" and work towards conflicting ends.

One might, for example, work to prohibit abortion, seeing it as means by which the state sanctions genocide by murdering people of color (who have higher per-capita abortion rates than whites).

Someone else could advocate for unrestricted free-as-in-beer abortion, believing that economic inequality among women of color is driven in no small part by the disproportionate burdens placed on them by childbearing and the destruction of the nuclear family, to say nothing of reproductive rights of women.

I suppose having no organization allows for a big tent--a sort of catholicity, if you will--to unite such disparate groups of people, but it seems ineffective to me. After all, a house divided against itself cannot stand, as someone else famously said.

One way to help solve that problem is to have clearly stated policy goals (e.g., end qualified immunity) with targets to meet (e.g., here is a political contest we have a chance of swaying to get another vote against qualified immunity). A suitable organization can put people in touch (e.g. lawyers, grassroots campaigners, et c.) to get things moving. Maybe it's already been done, but in general this seems to be missing from blacklivesmatter.com.

I don't disagree with what you're saying regarding cross purposes, however there's a viewpoint missing: that of the person who doesn't believe black lives matter, either on purpose or on accident.

Liberals eating eachother alive and liberal movements being terribly disorganized is certainly an issue, but what I'm arguing against on here is people denying that BLM has ground to stand on. blacklivesmatter.com not having been updated in like, 3 years, is separate from that issue.

That is a big lie that BLM is not organized and just some loose coalition of all kind of political groups. There is an interview with one of the founders of BLM on youtube. That person says that she is a trained marxist and a trained organizer. BLM is also very well funded thanks to many corporate sponsors. There is nothing spontaneous about it.

Your statement is like claiming there is no scientific basis for family. Two people of the same race are more genetically related than half-siblings born to the same father and mothers of different races. The categories we call "race" are genetic clusters of populations who developed in different regions/environments. It's the level of taxonomy below species and above one's family. Overlap between these clusters does not invalidate them any more than the existence of purple invalidates our ability to describe something as "red" or "blue".

The exact point is that what is called “race” is a sociological sense isn’t based on meaningful generic clusters — saying someone’s (genetic cluster) race has a 1:1 mapping to skin colour is like saying their (genetic cluster) race has a 1:1 mapping to their hair colour.

Race isn't skin color, though [1].

Self-identified race maps to distinct genetic clusters with >99.8% accuracy [2].

1: https://i.imgur.com/0uyOA.jpg

2: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15625622

From my eyes you guys differentiate on skin colors on offensive and use diversity card on defensive to further and further ingrain the notion that “others” has weirdly colored skins.

If all of western world would cut the BS and use something like “white asian non-christian” which is what “yellow” stands for in actuality, I can tolerate those racial elitism a bit better.

One might be tempted to say it’s not about skin tones, but people taught in white/black/yellow system tries to fit surface albedo of actual human beings to those visual wavelength responses out of cognitive dissonance, through pigmenting, cinematographic techniques or other technological means, or by verbally abusing creators, artists, races, cultures so I strongly believe accurate visual representations in the context of pure racism matters if it’s not going to completely entirely permanently disappear by tomorrow morning.

You guys hate it when we don’t look #FFFF00, like for real. That happens and that’s insulting.

It sounds like you’re angrily agreeing with me, but I’m not sure.

Side point: I’m not American, and what you wrote reads like “you guys” means “white Americans” (I’m not sure which political block, if any, is implied); this impression is in part because in my experience only Americans say “in actuality”.

Making sure everybody gets a fair chance and get heard, isn't really about color or gender. It's necessary in every human organization, no matter how fancy policies and human rights they claim to subscribe to.

The behavior you prescribe is itself a bias.

Can we please treat individuals as individuals instead of narrowly viewing others through whatever lenses we carry?

This sounds kind of like "all workers matter", which ignores the current and historical challenges gender/race minorities have experienced in certain fields of work. If you are the majority it can be very easy to be blind to the plight of the minority. "I see a black man or a woman got hired, so things must be fine."

I don't think there is harm in making extra effort to ensure inclusion of minorities within the group, at least for the time being while we try to find better balance, and we see fewer reports of minorities being overlooked, outcasts or underpayed.

It's very important to ensure inclusion, and there's no harm in it when it's done well. But if you find yourself keeping mental notes of everyone's skin color to figure out how you should interact with them, that's not really inclusion.

Just know that whether you are consciously making mental notes on skin color or not, your unconscious mind definitely is taking notes and affecting your behaviour accordingly.

And this goes both ways. Racial bias exists in all human beings. It's just that when you are a member of the group that is overwhelmingly represented in all corners of power, that racial bias tends to help you while harming others.

It's more thinking, "did I forget to add {{somebody}} to the engineering help desk email group because they're black" than it is "lemme use my baby voice when talking to the black engineer."

It's about working to catch your own unconscious bias in the act, and then fighting to correct any mistakes you made as a result. And then, you start making yourself aware of how your colleagues and company culture is treating POC, and working to correct mistakes there.

If it sounds like exhaustive policing, I'd simply ask if code review is exhaustive policing. Is it rude to insist on code reviews? Of course not, because we're humans and make mistakes. The whole point of a team and company is to combine strenghts and look out for eachother.

I agree that this is implausible within our lifetimes, but I hope one day it will be possible. There are all sorts of other physical characteristics we mostly ignore by default, and with enough time I'm hopeful we can one day live in a world where the mental biases associated with race will disappear too.

So, it’s important to treat them...the way you should treat everyone. True statement. I think you’ll need to elaborate further on what the philosophical and semantic difference is between ignoring and noticing, because the outcome is the same in your example.

You assume that the unconscious biases are less powerful than the conscious ones, which may not be true (I don't believe it is).

A personal example - I "treated everyone equally" for a long time, and then I was brought to be aware of the "don't ignore color" perspective. I started paying active attention and realized I was talking over women in meetings regularly. Crazy regularly. I had no idea. And then I noticed that almost all the men on my team were doing it.

By acting as an ally to people in that situation you can turn the tide. If even one person in the meeting is aware of this tendency, they can lend strength to someone who's "given up" trying to get their voice heard, with a simple "hold on, I think {{name}} had something to add."

"Ignoring color" means you assume everyone has the motivation and power to play on a level field with a bully, conscious or otherwise. It means you assume there's no such thing as unconscious bias, which is wrong.

I think your intent is great. But I do think it would be better to keep the outward response as neutral as possible, so you don't unintentially single someone out in your attempt to be inclusive.

For example, make a conscious decision to say "hold on, I think {so-and-so} had something to add" when you see that situation with anyone, even if they happen to be a white man (because just being a white male doesn't mean they aren't an introvert who can never get a word in a discussion with more assertive pears).

Sure. But what we're talking about here is how "not seeing color" hurts more than it "helps."

I’m not assuming anything. I’m merely pointing out that both scenarios described had the same desired outcome.

In reality I disagree. If I "never saw color," I'd never have the uncomfortable conversations that led to me recognizing and changing unconscious behavior.

The point is, one scenario doesn't actually reflect reality, it reflects an ideal that doesn't exist because humans are sloppy.

Intending to overcompensate is an effective method to actually treat them the way you should treat everyone.

Eh, that only works if you have trouble treating people equally otherwise which is quite the character trait. That advice goes back to this idea that white people are born with the original sin of racism.

I find it incredibly patronizing to actively pursue "okay, black guy is talking, let me me play everything up a little bit!" Yikes. Reminds me of kneeling to talk to a child in a baby voice when they're crying that borders on a weird manipulation.

If you have such a hard time giving people of other races equal footing and need a roleplay minigame like this to do it, please speak for yourself and not everyone else.

A good leadership + empathy trait is to recognize people who aren't able to get their word in, in general, and use some of your leverage to help them. This may be the one male substitute teacher on a team of professional women teachers, or the whitest kid in a Mexican school (my experience), or a woman in a male-dominated workplace, or a black guy on a team of east asians.

I'd rather be teaching that. That's the actual moral bedrock that you're trying to get at here but in the wrong way.

And once you realize this, you'll realize there are plenty of other people in meetings that don't have equal footing for all sorts of reasons, like the soft-spoken guy with low self-confidence, probably the most common in our field.

I can’t stop thinking that ideas like GP is explaining is just a modernized racial segregation

This alt-right trope that diversity and inclusion is modern racial segregation should have been DOA but I keep seeing it crop up even here. Frustrating.

The ask is to become aware of and fight against your own unconscious biases, nothing more.

I think part of the philosophical disagreement here is whether fighting against one’s bias is a necessary precursor to treating people equally. As a practical matter I think that’s probably true for most people, but I’m not sure it’s universally true either in theory or in practice. I respect this line of thinking but it also assumes or implies that anyone who just treats people equally because it’s the right thing to do has either necessarily failed to confront their biases or done so without knowing it. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I doubt we’ll ever find out because it doesn’t appear to be a falsifiable assertion.

Oh the ctrl-left trope we are only fighting unconscious biases. Is fighting the unconscious biases like Don Quixote fighting the wind mills or more like repentance for the original sin your born with?

Do you disagree that society should be equitable regardless of race?

Yes I do. People should be treated equal regardless of race. All people should be individually judged and not infantilized or demonized because of their skin color. Everything else is deeply anti-humanist and leads to more suffering in pain down the road.

> All people should be individually judged

This isn't in opposition to what I'm saying.

> not infantilized or demonized because of their skin color.

Good, we don't disagree.

So, unless you're operating off some kind of strawman of what a good diversity and inclusion initiative does, I think we're on the same page.

> white people are born with the original sin of racism.

No, it doesn't, but this is generally speaking a perfect encapsulation of the "all lives matter" perspective, which is morally incorrect, usually not because of raw KKK level hatred or racism but instead simple ignorance of what unconscious bias and racism is really like for POC in America.

> I find it incredibly patronizing to actively pursue "okay, black guy is talking, let me me play everything up a little bit!"

This is also a common trope I've encountered time and time again. Some call it "racism of low expectations." The important distinction to make is that being an ally isn't patronizing, it's an active recognition of the reality of racism and unconscious bias that POC face in the workplace. The fact that you jump all the way to comparing it to speaking to a child in a baby voice says more about your own lack of empathy than an effective rhetorical attack on the position that "seeing color" as an ally is good and helpful.

I don't know you but your position is identical to a lot of people who think they aren't racist but I have observed act in a biased way, unconsciously.

The playing field isn't level. Doing nothing aids the status quo, and the status quo is systemic racism against POC.

I feel like, to unmask me as unempathic, you ignored the rest of my post that starts with "a leadership + empathy trait..." where I attempt to generalize the goal here instead of this myopic "POC" narrow-vision. My empathy doesn't need Sparknotes for who to help, just the built-in human radar we have where we can parcel out the social hierarchy of a group.

When you have the empathy I described, you don't need a custom rule engine for black people or women or indians. You realize that people don't have equal footing even among people you would think are equal peers. Nor a group of ten white twenty-year-old guys from the same suburb. Some of the individuals in that group may be enduring the full brunt of the suffering you're talking about. And there are groups where black men have the social power and have the power to cut others off, they don't need your white-guilt superhero help.

Most of us reading this aren't even the well-spoken social apex of the groups we're in and could be assisted by others with the empathy that I describe.

In another comment, you admit that you found yourself unintentionally talking over women at the workplace. Which can't be an easy thing to introspectively discover nor admit on a public forum.

Yet your reply re-focuses on POC, racism, KKK when my viewpoint generalizes over women, people of all races, people in your peer group, and groups of any composition.

I don't intend to "unmask" you as unempathetic. I apologise for writing that way. My intent is to challenge whether you truly understand what a minority population of your team goes through.

Everything I'm saying here I've learned through conversations with POC and women coworkers. I want to comment in a way that convinces others to have those conversations. If we "ignore color," we never have those conversations.

Your writing reads as if you think of yourself as a person free of all unconscious bias and so self-aware of your actions that you would instantly spot any internal bias and immediately correct. It seems unlikely that is the case.

This is great and all, but as someone who's been patronised in this way for being the autistic kid, I'd rather you just treat me like a human being. I've learned my coping strategies, I don't need you to cope for me.

I'm sorry you were patronized. Nobody likes being patronized.

You may have learned to cope but not all coping is equal and not everyone can. Again, the argument isn't for baby talk. It's for adult strategies for adult issues. Be it ensuring that a woman can have her voice heard in a meeting or an autistic employee can have a desk in a non-busy part of the office. Non-patronizing, reasonable, and aware methods to improve inclusivity and be an ally.

An ally doesn't take over the fighting entirely, they simply aid.

This is kind of what I'm getting at, though. You've just made the assumption I'm hypersensive to noise, and while that does sometimes bother me, the thing that causes me sensory overload is heat. I can solve this fairly easily because I have a reasonably quiet desk fan that doesn't take a lot of space and can be powered off of USB if needed. Please don't fight for me over things I can solve myself.

What I do struggle with is being able to get a word in edgeways during group conversation, and that can be solved quite easily with a good team leader inviting quiet voices to speak. This is where I need the most help because real life isn't a neatly nested series of conversation threads where replies accurately link back to the quoted text, life is life and life is a mess.

That's good then. If I pretended you were homogeneous with me (ignored color, the root of this thread), I'd not have had this conversation and learned that sensory overload can be caused by heat. This is exactly the sort of thing I want to happen throughout offices across America.

Life is a mess hence why I don't think we should pretend otherwise. You don't want help, cool! Some do. I've been told this explicitly. If I act on a general rule of thumb of keeping the dialogue open, that would mean people like you can say "no thanks, I don't need help," and that's that.

Re "borderline racism", I think xenophobia is the term you're looking for.

I have frequently heard stories like these but find them odd. Perhaps these are scenarios that occur more frequently at smaller companies. Most of my professional corporate experience has been at large companies. As an example people of Indian and Middle East decent make up less than 1% of the US population but if I had to guess the percentage of my developer coworkers from Indian or Middle East decent it would be at least 40%.

At larger companies like I have been at there are all kinds of foreign accents and nobody makes a thing of it. Nobody tries to guess where people are from. I only discovered one of my coworkers is of Kuwaiti decent after disclosing that I am temporarily relocating to Kuwait (I thought was Greek but was not curious enough to bring it up).

Honestly I don’t think I would want to work at place that allowed such exclusive habits about my coworkers which make these stories all the more strange to me.

>Black people make up 13% of the US population, we are naturally in the minority. But in the tech workforce, we are missing. Among the top eight largest tech companies in the land, black people account for only 3.1% of the workforce

Just raw extrapolation, this would indicate that (13-3.1)/13 or 76% of black folks in technology are either unemployed or not working in tech. Is that the case?

If it is, then laying this problem at the feet of employers and the systems involved with hiring and retention seems fair.

If not, then there might be more work to be done to develop interest in the industry in the young and displaced folks that are looking for a career path IN ADDITION to continuing to ensure that the hiring and retention results in industry are reasonable given the pool of folks that are interested in the work.

Not sure where the author got his numbers from but if you read the full article, the author notes that the numbers/percentages themselves can be misleading, because that 3.1% could include the security guard who swipes your badge or some other peripheral role at a technology company.

It is also true that Blacks do in fact quit the industry at high rates due to bias treatment; based on the number of computer science and technology degrees granted to blacks, their representation should be higher if there was higher retention.

It is also the case that blacks in technology often end in up in specific sectors of the industry, for instance you'll find much higher black representation in the public sector, specifically in the federal government...unfortunately that is not likely to be the source of the next great tech innovator.

> specifically in the federal government...unfortunately that is not likely to be the source of the next great tech innovator

The federal government helps build and fund innovative research projects and private businesses. Notable examples include the Manhattan project, GPS, SpaceX, and the Internet. I’d bet the US government will continue to be a source, and assist other sources, of innovation.

Edit: The following happens to be on the front page at the time of this edit - “Why does DARPA work?” https://benjaminreinhardt.com/wddw

My comment wasn't meant to disparage federally driven innovation in general. I am referring more specifically to the software and information technology industry.

Just personal observation but financial and healthcare orgs seem to also have a pretty strong presence of black folks in development/ops/security roles relative to other industries I've worked in.

> for instance you'll find much higher black representation in the public sector, specifically in the federal government

Do you know why that is? Maybe government work is more inclusive, like the military

Accessible job stability and good benefits. The overall pay is lower than the private sector, but if you're looking for stable income first and foremost, working for the government is an excellent option. This stability will be particularly appealing for people who grew up in poverty.

Source: My father worked for the government, and my grandfather was a working-class immigrant who started with nothing, so money was tight.

Can confirm, I'm black, and growing up I would often hear my parents and aunts often say that the government jobs were the best because it was stable

Good point- I have seen that thrown around as a reason to enlist in the military (family benefits) or defense contractors (job security for 20 years!)

I'd guess it's due to more process, procedure, and regulatory structure.

It's very common for private companies to have little to no formal criteria for evaluating candidates. Intuition is more subject to bias than a formal process.

This is a bit of an aside, but...

What I think is getting obscured in all of the overheated rhetoric about race is the fact that all humans want a tribe. We want to feel like we belong to something greater than ourselves.

I'm Canadian, but I can imagine if I were to move to France to learn French it would be similar. Many people would be welcoming, but some might be impatient with my shitty French and say/do rude things. I'd probably end up affiliating with other Anglophones because we'd all be going through the same journey.

Expecting people to completely suppress this tendency towards in-group affiliation seems, frankly, unscientific. Most of the popular proposals aimed at "eliminating racism" seem likely to fail, or even backfire, because they treat racism like it's something evil people do rather than a byproduct of our tendency to connect more easily to people like us.

I feel like we were doing fairly well moving towards a single 'human tribe' for the first part of my life, and that 'Racist' was such a powerful label because it was tantamount to putting the human tribe secondary to some sub-group.

I'm not sure how or why, but it feels as though a large swathe of the intellectual class betrayed the project by changing the definition of racism from something an individual did, and could thereby be considered a traitor to the 'human' tribe, to something one could be guilty of merely by benefiting from when someone else betrayed the human tribe. If one person is a racist, everyone he favours is also guilty of racism under the new definition. No tribe could hold together under such conditions.

Well-said. That's why I believe it will lead to a backlash if left unchecked. History suggests that forcing people to suddenly view themselves in stark racial terms is a recipe for disaster.

> to something one could be guilty of merely by benefiting from when someone else betrayed the human tribe.

You may not be aware but this is a common alt-right strawman argument opposed to Black Lives Matter. The idea that all white people are vulnerable of being accused of racism simply because of their privilege. It's incorrect, and a strawman of the actual position, which is that silence aids the status quo.

"There comes a time when silence is betrayal."

""First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;"

> You may not be aware but this is a common alt-right strawman argument opposed to Black Lives Matter.

Just argue the point. This kind of insidious smear-by-association is what I despise so much about the current state of public discourse.

I also despise the current state of public discourse for the very reason that stating that at the beginning of their post is necessary.

It's impossible for us to know if the poster of the original point is posting in good faith or not (such is the nature of the internet). By noting that it is a common alt-right strawman, and engaging with it anyway, it can help readers understand the meta of discourse that leads many other people to decide _NOT_ to engage with the argument.

The core problem with the discourse that is frustrating us is that people leverage these viewpoints not to generate discussion and mutual learning, but to try and terminate discussion in order to win people over to their side.

The way that the original point terminates discussion is tricky. Feeling "guilty by association" is a perfectly valid feeling. But the implication is, "things that make me feel guilty are not correct", and that can easily terminate a discussion because we have to untangle that first.

Continuing to post in support of the thing that makes someone feel bad is seen as callous, which is why I believe the replier speaking up for BLM is being downvoted. They are ignoring the OPs feelings, which _may_ be valid and real, but it can just as easily be an attempt to redirect the discussion.

Ultimately, feelings of guilt is not something that can really be processed over posts on social media, which is why I wish that the greater HN community would engage less in upvoting "peoples tactics made me feel bad" and more in productive discussion of how to do better than the status quo when it came to racial justice and other social topics.

I really didn't mean for my feelings to be germane in the point I raised. The point I was trying to make - which I feel is being deliberately ignored - is that seeing my fellow humans as 'negros' weakens the project of making a 'human' tribe which doesn't care about race.

I'm not surprised the alt-right raises the same point, but I'd guess it's only raised to point out the hypocrisy. The alt-right is perfectly fine with the 'human' tribe fracturing along racial lines. So, as far as I can tell, is the radical left, the only disagreement I see between the two is how the racial tribes should settle their differences.

So I don't see how it should matter that alt-right people, who are perfectly happy to see more racial division, would make the same criticism I would. Either you have a ready answer or you don't. Suppose 51% of people who make the same argument as me hide a desire for more racial division behind accusations that insisting on 'racial awareness' deepens racial divisions. What does it matter whether I'm one of the 49% who are making that argument in good faith? Do you want more racial division or do you want more human unity? And if you want more human unity, how could my keeping your race constantly in mind do anything but delay your getting what you want?

> Do you want more racial division or do you want more human unity? And if you want more human unity, how could my keeping your race constantly in mind do anything but delay your getting what you want?

Why not both? Human unity doesn't have to mean homogeneity.

The ask isn't to "keep race constantly in mind" but rather "keep the mind actively hunting for its own unconscious biases."

> What does it matter whether I'm one of the 49% who are making that argument in good faith?

Because my time and energy is scarce, and so are other peoples. Why should I oblige someone who is arguing in bad faith the time and energy to deconstruct their argument and build it back up to the level of discourse required to talk about these issues, when they will just continually drain me of whatever reserves I have. That's the point of a bad faith argument; to mask as a legit one in order to drain the opposition.

> Do you want more racial division or do you want more human unity?

I don't think that's even the topic of question. Racial division or unity is not at stake; it's justice and equality. Framing it to be about "unity" is an approach that experience has shown people who have paid attention to racial equality & justice over the last 30 years as _not_ working.

> how could my keeping your race constantly in mind do anything but delay your getting what you want?

Keeping in mind a person's experience as you interact with them is paramount for empathy. For a large portion of people in America, their race is inexorably tied to their experience. You're not being asked to think, "Oh this person is Black, I need to act like X & Y & not Z because the SJW police told me to." You're being asked to think, "Oh this person is Black, I need to understand their experience so I know how to act around them so that they feel safe."

Some people find it helpful to boil these down to rules of thumb, but these are simply tools to help people who are new to empathizing with the experiences of POC to not fuck up as much. Take them at your leisure based on your perceived level of understanding.

Lastly, I'll leave you with a few questions to ponder & research if you feel like it's valuable:

How does a society repair the subtle mechanisms within it that perpetuate racial injustice and inequality?

How does a society acknowledge and celebrate cultures that are different from the majority (as in, without erasing them or forcing them to adopt white culture)?

How does a society enact justice for the communities who have been terrorized and brutalized due to racism perpetrated through people, policy, and the power structure in all areas of the country?

To me, "ignoring race" does not come close to getting to the root of these questions. It is extremely palatable because it requires no work on my part, but experience shows it does not actually bear fruit.

I try to be as generous and good faith as I can, but I'm not the best at it. I tend to point out talking points when I see them because I waste a lot of time arguing on the internet, and so I time and time again will watch a talking head say some red herring or strawman, watch it propagate through Twitter and Reddit, and eventually end up here almost completely unchanged.

It seems important to point these things out when I see them. I want to challenge why someone believes what they believe or is saying what they say. Is "black lives matter means white lives don't matter" what you really believe, or is it something you heard and sounded true to you and thus became embedded in your worldview before you had a chance to really consider the implications there?

Sometimes it feels like public figures, verified Twitter accounts, and massively upvoted comments on Reddit are putting weapons onto a rack in the colliseum of "internet debate," and half the time I'm just finding myself face to face with the exact same sword fifty other people have swung at me... So I just jab back with the exact same spear I've used fifty times before. At that point it doesn't even matter who's wielding the weapon, just that the weapons are endlessly crossing eachother.

Disengagement is a right, just as is engagement. Silence does not necessarily imply disagreement, but can serve to damp overshooting reactions.

Order is not orthogonal to justice.

Disagreement with methods should be fine, so long as a useful alternate path to the goal is offered.

Here is an interesting observation. If we take a look at how different nations are distributed across big cities, we can see that many neighborhoods are race specific. A lot of cities have chinese, jewish, russian, mexican, etc. neighborhoods, meaning that people _naturally_ want to live with _similar_ people. What's more important, it happens organically. It's not like some organization or government forces people to move there. There are no incentives, no financial benefits. Nothing. People are free to live anywhere they want, but they still create those communities and prefer to live among their own kind. From this specific observation, it seems like racism is more like a biological thing, the product of evolution.

This couldn't be further from the truth and disregards the history of how these areas started. For example, San Francisco's Chinatown:

"This, combined with a number of racist and restrictive laws limiting where Chinese were allowed to live within the city, led to the growth of Chinatown, which today comprises 24 square blocks." https://timeline.com/in-pictures-the-making-of-san-francisco...

This video talks about how African-Americans were driven to certain communities by realtors and discriminated against from living in other, more desirable areas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RHppw20Zm8

> _naturally_ want to live with _similar_ people

You are forgetting that those kinds of neighborhoods have developed in part because other people have taken mild-to-extreme steps to prevent "those" people from living with them.

Known steps in the US include at the very least: - rules preventing "those" people from living in some places - mild-to-extreme actions against "those" people when they move in - people leaving when too many of "those" people move in

I.e., "People are free to live anywhere they want" is completely wrong, even in living memory.

So all of these groups choose to live in separate neighborhoods, because they all are racist to each other?

Not because they want to be around people that are similar to themselves?

And the fact that the same pattern shows up basically everywhere. In Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and to some extent South America, does not change your perception?

> So all of these groups choose to live in separate neighborhoods, because they all are racist to each other?

No, because the empowered class artificially created ghettos, and either forced racial separation directly or indirectly by removing access to societal resources, forcing communities to form to compensate. Of course Cuban refugees will form Spanish speaking communities in a hostile Florida - everything is in English (which they're still learning), many local whites don't want them there and sometimes make that very apparent, and the community is already filled with people with the same background that "made it work," so can offer useful advice and resources.

This doesn't change anything about diversity bringing power, when one can overcome societal biases and racism.

Pray, tell. Why would these repressed Cubans not live together with hispanics, in hispanic ghettos. Speaking the same language and all.

After all, that would make them a stronger force, and definitely give them more diversity.

They... Do...? That's why an empowerment movement might focus on Latinx in general, and as you go more local you might find some of the same people at the state Latinx rally as you do at a city's Cuban American resource exchange group or whatever.

The point is that self-sorting doesn't by definition mean that humans are inherently racist or that it's natural/ethical to oppress minority populations, which I take as one of the many bad taste implications from this thread.

I don't see anybody except you conflate natural and ethical.

So the cubans now live side by side with mexicans? And both they and mexicans/south americans self-identify as hispanics/latinx and not cubans, mexicans or something else?

And having a Cuban American cultural exchange is just an oddity of history? And is now more the latinx american cultural exchange?

The thread is being lost - what exactly is the point you're trying to make?

That self-selection for living and organizing with kindred is something that also happens in the absence of extreme power disparity.

You've failed to provide evidence. All the examples we're discussing involve extreme power disparity.

That also doesn't necessarily mean that diversity = bad. It's easier to stay at home and watch Netflix than it is to travel to a foreign country and experience their culture, yet every time I do the latter, no matter how uncomfortable the trip can make me at times, I always come back grateful I did the trip, and imo a far better person.

Is there something about European or Asian or American history that would make it reasonable to assume that racism was not factor shaping societies?

Europe had pogroms before it had WWII. United States were racially legally segregated long after WWII. The Asian history does not lack racism either.

Why did you not mention African history?

In this respect, it's certainly not less "racist" than any other continent's history.

If you by racism means tribal or national sentiment to live together with others from the same tribe or nation. Then yes, what you call "racism" shaped it everywhere. I would hesitate to call it racism however, as it seems to be a universal human trait.

No, by racism I meant specifically racial issues, not just etnical ones and not just national ones.

In United States, it would be cleansing of land from natives and rhetoric around it. It would be rhetoric of slavery and later Jim crow and so on. In Europe it would be very eacial ideology of Nazi and previously pogroms and relationships against Jews. In Africa, I am pretty sure colonial history applies. In Asia, check out Rwanda for genocide or Japan for general racism.

I missed Africa, because I never really read much about any part of their history, unlike Europe, United States and Rwanda. Not sure why that would be issue.

> People are free to live anywhere they want, but they still create those communities and prefer to live among their own kind

I disagree

In some some cities in California, a former mexican territory, there were property deeds that explicitly forbade selling to mexicans

Where do you think mexicans ended up living?

Then someone can come along and point and say look every race prefers to live among their own kind

Quite a few of Jewish neighborhoods developed because they were not allowed to live elsewhere.

With regards to Eastern European people living close to each other was when mutual help due to shared struggle was needed. It however spreads out as people get integrated, in the second generation latest.

The black/white racial segregation did not happened by random either. At minimum, there was economic motivation to keep street whites only. (Keeping it black only was not as economically advantageous, there is asymmetry there.)

I think making this clustering about race is too simplistic. Its about language, religion, food, values, culture.

People like to be in familiar environments. Especially after moving to another country. Because of that its natural to end up with clusters of people sharing something in common even when there was no outside pressure.

I’m now lived in three countries for a longer period of time and its interesting to feel this connection with people from back home even though you never met them before.

I genuinely enjoy travelling and working in other countries and meeting new people. I also fully understand that sometimes it's just plain nice to be able to have a full conversation in English, not have to continuously explain cultural context, and enjoy my lunchtime cheeseburger while talking with another American. There's room for both experiences.

You are right. Some of the sibling replies argue the contrary by using a sleight of hand; stating the desire to associate from only one of the two parties.

Take for example the relationship between a man and woman.

If both want to live with each other, everything is fine.

What if the man wants to associate with the woman, but she doesn't? Do we force her to accept the man? Does he have a right to access her?

Obviously that's silly. We all know that the relationship is only valid if BOTH parties consent.

And yet in regards to neighborhoods the sibling replies act as if only the man's opinion mattered. "That Jew wanted to come in but was refused! People were not free to associate!" They ignore that refusing someone is also part of the freedom of association.

The desire to prevent a Jewish person from being your neighbor is unethical and Bad. Such a "freedom" should not be encoded into law (as what happened in San Francisco with Chinese populations), or allowed to encode implicitly into societal norms.

People shouldn't be imprisoned or killed for being racist - but they should be scorned, shamed, and cause disgust when their viewpoints are aired.

> They ignore that refusing someone is also part of the freedom of association.

And this is undesirable with no restrictions which is why societies constrain the freedom of association, in particular, in the US, via various "Civil Rights" acts.

I don't see these two ideas as mutually exclusive. While putting aside our tribal nature seems unlikely, it seems realistic to think we could do something that would let most people stop considering race when deciding which "tribe" someone may belong to. You see this difference as well, which is why you based your example of reasonable tribal behavior on someone's actions/experiences rather than their skin color. It make sense to have tribal affiliations with other people that speak the same language as you do, it doesn't make sense to exclude someone from your tribe just because their skin is a different color.

So, off the top of my head two other kinds of in-group identity that have worked in the past are nationalism and religion.

It seems those ideas aren’t so in favor right now, so how do we construct a sense of belonging that is truly positive?

I think something that takes a global effort, like space exploration or switching over to renewable energy, would get everyone working towards a common goal.

Humanism sounds pretty good to me...

In the United States, there were periods of time where Irish and Italian people were discriminated against. Yet today, the idea that an Irish people is part of the out-group and wouldn't fit in a workplace is completely out-dated.

The Rwandan genocide was Hutus killing Tutsis, yet the distinction between the two was very arbitrary and in a lot of cases boiled down to "the Belgians liked your ancestors more so declared you to be Tutsis".

Nazi Germany was allied with Japan despite all their racial purity rhetoric and some Jews were designated as "honorary Aryans". White supremacists today will gladly talk about the portion of white people who are "race traitors" and deserve to die.

Humans might have a natural tendency to favor those in their "own group", but exactly what that means is completely arbitrary.

Emacs or vi?


> The novel further describes an intra-Lilliputian quarrel over the practice of breaking eggs. Traditionally, Lilliputians broke boiled eggs on the larger end; a few generations ago, an Emperor of Lilliput, the Present Emperor's great-grandfather, had decreed that all eggs be broken on the smaller end after his son cut himself breaking the egg on the larger end. The differences between Big-Endians (those who broke their eggs at the larger end) and Little-Endians had given rise to "six rebellions ... wherein one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown".

TIL that's where the word for byte ordering came from.

Ironic that the great unifying software is called 'evil.'


So let's work towards squashing racism every time it crops up. We had a Catholic president, remember when that was a huge deal? Now nobody would bat an eye. Let's continue this for women, POC, LGBT, and so on.

It's an ongoing battle.

I don't know if this is an ungenerous reading of what you are saying or not but that sounded vaguely like racism is a fact of life and we should just deal with it.

Am I misreading you on that? If not, what kind of approaches do you think would be more appropriate?

I think he's saying that discrimination in many forms is often - but not always - a side effect of evolutionary tribal tendencies and that if we don't take that into account when trying to reduce discrimination our efforts won't be successful.

To me that sounds like realistic, if also extremely depressing, point. I'm optimistic though. We've been successfully living in larger and larger cultures throughout history and have overcome this difficulty many times.

I want to be clear, I wasn't debating there was some truth to the idea that racism is that thing that you can tie to an evolutionary biological level around a fear of outsiders.

But I guess it is the second part that you touched on here as well. When you say take that into account.. how specifically?

Like when someone performs a racist act, how should we respond in a modern society?

It's a tough question and I don't know the answer. I think the current trend of aggressively calling out micro-agressions is counter productive. In cases where there was no negative intent, it's easy to alienate the person who made the faux pas by implying or outright telling them they are racist. That makes them less likely to change behaviour in future. We need to take intent into account and response with education over policing when possible.

"Taking that into account" IMHO means acknowledging that concept of tribalism when making long-term policy, when looking at what specific problems you want to solve with what means.

One part of anti-racism is establishing principles that allow "tribes" to coexist and treat members of other tribe fairly. That's all the anti-discrimination rules, requiring commerce and employment to happen on fair principles for outsiders as well; that's all the control of violence, hate speech, threats of violence.

The other part (or is it a different direction?) is to try to form a single tribe - unification, assimilation, rallying together against an external threat, general acceptance etc. "Building a nation" if you will, reducing differences and establishing national unity, though often at the cost of some international tribalism.

If we look at the specific situations described in the original article, it seems to me that there in most of them there are no "racist acts" (violations of the first part) involved, this story (unlike many others) does not involve the "other tribe" acting horribly against the members of "his tribe" - the article focuses mainly on the fact that mr. Diallo is not treated as a "member of this tribe", and provides many illustrative examples of natural emotional pain and alienation caused by being treated as an outsider, even if outsiders are treated fairly.

And that's conceptually very different. It's reasonable to mandate fair treatment for everyone. But it's not reasonable to mandate every tribe or subtribe to accept someone (especially because usually "the tribe" is not organized enough, it's effectively a sum of individual decisions) - freedom of association is a quite fundamental thing, it's completely reasonable for someone to (for example) treat only their extended family as "their tribe"; or for someone to treat only members of their particular religion as "their tribe", shunning those familymembers who are not. It's a free individual choice. It's worth noting that if you look at any list of prohibited discrimination types, then there's a "tribe" in almost all cases. People can and will treat someone else as "not my tribe" for all kinds of reasons - political beliefs, sports team preferences, having not seen (or not liking) a particular TV show, etc, and that is their right. You can't mandate being friends with someone; it's permissible to treat Bob as an outsider just because Bob is kind of an asshole, and it's permissible to treat Bob as an outsider just because you are kind of an asshole and hate him for no good reason.

You can implement various policies to try and slowly erode factional/"tribal" differences. But you can't eliminate the tribes or determine their membership. If (for example) Montagues and Capulets hate each other, you can't mandate them to stop that hate. If someone from the Montague "tribe" wants to marry a Capulet, then you can (and should) have policies so that they can marry despite the wishes of the tribe (if they're adults, unlike Romeo&Juliet), however, if the "tribe" wants to expel them because of that and treat them forever as outsiders, that's their right which can not (and should not) be prevented.

> Like when someone performs a racist act, how should we respond in a modern society?

You'd first have to define what a racist act is and who gets to decide that it is so.

We have a working system for these matters - legislative and judicial branches of government.

I feel like you're trying to look at this from a very abstract place where it is impossible to come to some all encompassing grand unifying theory and it feels like without that we shouldn't act until we have an answer to that question.

I'm asking a question that says in spite of not having a perfect answer when you are in a situation and you watch a friend do a racist act, what response if any do you think is appropriate? What if it's not a single act that might be considered racist but a whole string of them?

Do you think there is any kind of moral or social obligation to do anything or is ignoring it ok?

I personally haven't witnessed a single racist act in the 20+ years that I've lived in Toronto, a very diverse, multi-cultural city.

Which leads me to believe that my definition of a racist act, is different from yours.

Please provide your definition.

So you are saying something that has existed throughout all periods of time, in every society isn't a fact of life?

Also, speaking about racism particularly is something that makes very little sense historically. Racism has largely not been a problem because most societies weren't (and still aren't) multi-racial. The biggest issue has been religion and, more recently, class.

Both of these distinctions are arbitrary and should highlight that discrimination, not racism, is the problem and that is a fact of life. You will get discriminated against if you are disabled, if you have a Southern accent, if you are too short, if you are too tall, if you are too fat, if you aren't fat enough, etc. On and on forever. This is constant, it is human nature.

Btw, it is also worth saying that we largely have approaches that are effective. The only thing that history is really clear about is that constantly going over the past, seeking revenge/retribution, etc. doesn't work (many countries have gone down this route with power-sharing agreements due to religious/tribal conflict, it doesn't work). Equality means equality for all. Everyone is different. We all have to live with that. When you start from the basis that some people have an advantage/disadvantage because of their identity, the only way that ends is segregation and power-sharing agreements (usually after some period of terrorism/internal civil conflict). Everyone benefits from fairness, it isn't a race/religious/class issue.

I think you have a point, but I think your point is about out-group exclusion more than in-group affiliation. Otherwise we'd just affiliate with "humankind."

Your feeling of obligation to learn French, I think, is about not wanting to be seen as an outsider, not wanting to be judged for your poor command of the language, etc., more than the positive aspect of fitting in. They're two sides of the same coin, yes, but it determines a bit where you end. You don't have to be immersed in French culture to avoid funny looks at stores, but you do have to be able to order food without people noticing anything strange. And you're not affiliating with the expats because you inherently want to define yourself as one, but because they won't judge you.

And so I think responding to the truth of human desire for affiliation by saying "Everyone needs an out-group" is bound to end poorly. Historically, the expansion of certain in-groups (e.g., "white" in the US encompassing the Irish, Italians, and for the most part light-skinned Jews, Arabs, etc.) has been tied to more firmly defining an out-group or responding to the presence of a new out-group.

I think we need to figure out how to make people comfortable with not having an out-group.

(And, to the article itself, we very much need people to make a conscious effort to get over their desires for in-groups or distaste for out-groups when making hiring or investment decisions.)

In Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle a karass describes the sort of tribe people are looking for. Unfortunately melanin content is not a karass, but instead a granfalloon.

"La francophonie" is another granfalloon. But you have hit upon an easy way to distinguish immigrants from expats: immigrants hang out with people who have similar interests, while expats hang out with each other.


Or in current parlance, 'community'. An assigned identity based on shared property across the set.

I feel the same way. I had a coworker who believed that racism was a personal choice, like stealing, and that you could eliminate it by creating harsher laws to punish people who did or said anything racist.

Can you explain how racism isn't a personal choice?

People are tribal about anything they identify with, whether it's their race, local sports team, country of birth, etc. It's not okay to be racist, but it's also not something you can legislate away. You may as well try to outlaw getting angry at people, it'll be just as effective.

This doesn't make any sense to me considering an uncontrolled outburst of anger is the exact kind of thing that gets people punished by law.

Anger isn't what's being punished, choosing to act on it is. I've met people who think that racism is an act that people choose, instead of a natural feeling that you shouldn't act on. Tribalism, whatever it's about, isn't going to go away any time soon, so I think trying to make people feel like they're part of the same tribe is a better solution than trying to legislate away millennia of human nature.

I don't think anti-racist legislation (what even is that? Do you mean maybe civil rights acts type things?) Is trying to legislate away human nature. Near perfect empathy is also in human nature. After all, why are we capable of desiring to end racism? It's about choosing the ethical and good parts of our nature, promoting that, and making Hate the less desirable choice.

Anger is a choice, at least to a limited extent. Managing ones emotions is a skill that can be honed with practice, if you're willing to make the effort.

I don't say this to nitpick your point. I just think it's worth saying since some people may not realize they have a choice.

It's not a choice at all. You don't choose to feel angry, but you can choose how you respond to it (often with great difficulty).

Similarly, I have never seen evidence to suggest that the strong desire to associate with people like you (on one of many dimensions) can be eliminated. You do, however, get to decide how to act on that desire - likely to perpetually imperfect results as is the case with anger. I've let anger get the best of me before, and I'm sure I've judged people based on stereotypes despite my best intentions not to.

Do the things that angered you when you were five years old still anger you now? Hopefully not. It’s not just because you’ve grown up. It’s because you think differently than you did when you were five. You’ve also learned that in many contexts anger isn’t worth it. So you’ve stopped being angry about it.

People like to imagine it’s the stimulus that makes us angry. “Of course I’m angry! That guy cut me off! He made me angry!” That guy has no access to your internal state except the access you give him. He performed an action. It’s obviously not the action that made someone angry or we’d all get angry when that happens. Yet we don’t. For those who get angry it’s their thoughts about the action that “made them angry.” We make these choices frequently over time (often on autopilot or subconsciously) and seldom attempt to choose otherwise. So it feels innate, like something out of our control that just happens. That might be true of a child and there are certainly some innate biases from evolution, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of our hands.

None of this is to say it’s easy to change those thoughts nor that it can be done on a whim. It’s also not to say that anger isn’t understandable in many contexts or to unempathetically wash our hands of others feelings. It’s also not to excuse unacceptable behaviors in others.

It is to say that, yes, how we feel is very much our choice.

Calling out normal people for terrible choices they make is just bragging your own ethics seen from your own standpoint

It was not my intention to call out anybody (I don't think the person I responded to was angry, so there was no call-out here.) Anger is something I used to have a lot of trouble with. At one point, somebody took me aside and explained that anger is something I can control, if I have the will to do so. That's a favor I try to pay forward.

Managing one's emotions is a choice, experiencing them in the first place is not.

To a point. Eventually your own management gets to the point where a certain emotion doesn't get experienced at all.

Personal experience. I used to fly into a red hot rage on the road. Now someone cuts me off and I feel absolutely nothing at all about it. My management made my anger a choice.

Managed vs unmanaged anger can be the difference between a rationality clouding typhoon vs the faint smell of rain on the horizon. The deleterious effects of anger are avoidable, usually anyway, with some effort.

The proposal would punish racist actions, not racist thoughts. You're free to like the Yankees more than the Mets, but you can't start giving out promotions to all your Yankee loving co-workers and none of your Mets loving coworkers for that reason.

There may not be laws[1] about getting angry, but there are laws about assault, let alone battery.

[1] here referring to legal code, not social code.

This is totally irrelevant to the article.

The article is about assumptions people make about a black programmer because he's a programmer and because he's black, and about how disappointingly rare black programmers are.

Why are we not having a discussion about THAT?

Sorry that's ridiculous, if your in group affiliation excludes others its a huge problem with your group. Equating it to a language is also awful being exclusive on the grounds of sexuality, race and gender is a deliberate choice that people make. If your culture is lacking in diversity seek it out you'll never know what problems you can solve by adding to your view point.

Now that I think about it: I’ve met more female programmers than black ones.

And I might have met maybe 2 female programmers, and 0 black programmers.


Now imagine being a 50 year old black female programmer and getting hired.

Anyway I’d welcome colleagues of any color and gender.

“Now imagine being a 50 year old black female programmer and getting hired.“

If one showed up, you know very well she’d be hired. At least, that’s my impression of what would happen at a large company.

“Anyway I’d welcome colleagues of any color and gender.”


In America, females make up 50% of the population and black people make up 14%. You should expect to see more female programmers than black programmers.

Something which does break the mold is my FAANG remote office has more trans women(4 that have explicitly came out, or whatever the right term is) than black people(2 by visual inspection) as software engineers.

The vast majority of female programmers I've met were Indian. White female programmers are surprisingly rare in Netherland.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this observation. Is Netherland more sexist than India? It's hard to deny based on this observation, but Dutch society is usually pretty egalitarian. A lot of women work. Just not in software. But it's not that women in general aren't interested in it, because Indian women clearly are.

I feel like we are all ignoring the fact that literally any perceived disrespect can be blamed on racism, especially if you've been conditioned to look for it, and it's often impractical or impossible to prove otherwise, particularly once the mob has mobilized.

Being told you're a victim all your life can make you feel like a victim, even when you aren't. And now that victimhood is currency, all I see as a foreigner looking in is a growing unilateral justification for the oppression and deliberate marginalization of whites. Young white boys are already being left behind in school.

You don't solve oppression with oppression.

Yeah, we're in a weird world where there is still some residual racism (which is not evenly distributed -- some areas being worse than others), but so does all of this weird overcompensation for the fact that racism exists in the world.

I've seen some minorities (especially of medium brown skin tone) talk about being asked what their ethnicity is, and being offended by that. I've also had that happen, being a strange looking mix of asian/hispanic/white, but didn't ever know that I should be offended by a question like that. So I just answered their question without even thinking twice about it -- sometimes returning the question and starting a broader conversation about family history. If I had been told that kind of question was inappropriate earlier in my life though, then I might have gone around being offended... and honestly I'm glad I didn't have that idea put in my head.

Identity politics.

> Black people make up 13% of the US population, we are naturally in the minority. But in the tech workforce, we are missing. Among the top eight largest tech companies in the land, black people account for only 3.1% of the workforce.

I think the right metric to look at is the "percentage of black people who have the necessary degrees or equivalent qualifications". You can't blame companies for the problem if the disproportionality is introduced in the education funnel. In that case, the question that needs to be asked is "why are black people less likely to go into STEM"?

Do you know what school graduates more black cs graduates than any other. Georgia tech.

How many major tech companies have serious hubs in Atlanta? Some of them, but certainly not all.

People don’t like to move. A nontrivial amount of the pipeline problem can be addressed by opening offices in the southeast.

If the best talent or opportunity isn't in the southeast, then companies won't go there, so I think it's not as simple as "just open your office in the southeast". Companies are distributed closer to their relevant hubs. Like you said, people don't want to move, especially if it means taking loss in efficacy.

Then people need to give up on this "its a pipeline problem" argument, like tech companies have no capability of acquiring different pipelines.

It's not about the capability, it's about the switching cost. A business's cash flow is like their blood flow; they do things that bankrupt them, they die. You can't expect businesses to go bankrupt to perform a contrived move. There is an energy cost for every change.

I am really curious about brown people.

How come Indians succeed in tech? Why do we have so many Indians in tech?

if it's just the skin colour. Why do Indians in tech rise to the top.

P.S. - Before you try to cancel me - I am not trying to start a flame war. I am curious about your explanation.

In the socratic fashion, I would ask you: why are Chinese or Japanese people treated differently when they have very light skin, similar to white people?

The answer is that it's not just your skin color but many other features that lead people to assume many other things about you: culture, heritage, upbringing, physical and mental acumen, etc.

Historically, black people from Africa in America have been routinely oppressed and forced into the lower class, whereas Indian people have a much different history (that I cannot speak to, I don't know much about it). Therefore, they are treated much differently by our society.

Split Indians into two categories or maybe three based on - family background (wealth), h1b1 visa and immigrant generation.

I think you might have your answer.

> How come Indians succeed in tech? Why do we have so many Indians in tech?

Because of IIT, mostly, it's been a hugely successful program in the last 60 years, that coupled with a culture that considers tech work 'valuable'. Then some of those IIT grads go abroad and bring the 'tech work is good work' ethos with them and raise 'second generation' kids with similar principles in their (now non-indian) educational system.

> Black people make up 13% of the US population, we are naturally in the minority. But in the tech workforce, we are missing. Among the top eight largest tech companies in the land, black people account for only 3.1% of the workforce.

I don't think it's fair to compare the ratio of black people in tech/at large tech companies to the population as a whole.

There are a lot of things keeping black people from being able to even consider a career in tech, particularly educational attainment. Sure, you can get a job in tech without a college degree, but black people are still much less likely to have access to a computer or a high speed internet connection, or have the free time to be able to tech themselves the necessary skills.

Let's also not forget that, horrifically, 1 in 3 black men in America have spent time in prison (many unjustly).

So I think before we go around and say X company is racist because at least 13% of their workforce isn't black, we need to contend with how awful outcomes for black people are in America and try instead to do what we can to ensure they have a truly equal opportunity to thrive.

> I am a Guinean citizen, who went to French school in Saudi Arabia, and now lives in California.

So he is not even African-American. I can’t understand why it is important to him how much people share skin color with him, he should feel as good as any other immigrant. Do even middle class Americans segregate themselves by race at work?

It is important to him because it’s important to the other non-PoC people that keep thinking he should not be in the room

Re-read the interview anecdote: the interviewer, probably not having many black coworkers, thought that a black man would not be interviewing in tech

Nothing to do with job qualification for the job

> Re-read the interview anecdote: the interviewer, probably not having many black coworkers, thought that a black man would not be interviewing in tech

How are we able to put words in the (non participating) interviewer's mouth?

If you're using the words 'probably' and 'thought' in one sentence, maybe your point isn't really valid. That's a lot of pre-supposing.

I've always wondered whether it has anything to do with the number of applicants whom are black. It's the same argument with why there are fewer women developers, there could simply be that there are more men in the industry.

Let's assume that 9 out of 10 applicants for a developer role are men, then the odds of that role being filled by anyone that isn't a man is 10% (not factoring other considerations such as skill, experience etc).

Is this not a similar challenge with black developers? According to the stack overflow survey, the ethinicity of the respondants whom are Black or African descent is only at 4.5%.

I'd be interested to see data on the demographics of, not only the employed staff at a company but all applicants that have applied including those whom were rejected or turned down the roles.

The author hits on something really important. Many people who entered the field 10+ years ago are people who had computers as children. If you’re 30+ right now, that means your family had some means, because computers were very expensive up until pretty recently.

Hopefully we’ll see the pipe really getting wide now, and many more people from many different backgrounds entering this excellent field.


My parents were refugees and arrived in this country with just the clothes on their backs. They worked factory jobs their entire life and never made much more than minimum wage.

I scraped and saved to buy my first computer and teach myself about the internet. We were never given anything from anyone.

While I don't necessarily agree with parent comment, I don't think this is a refutation. I can tell you right now that the majority of poor families in the US provide less STEM encouragement compared to well-off families. While your anecdote is warming, I don't think it is very representative.

You sound exceptional in more than a few ways.

Nope. I bought all my own computers with my paper route & Dunkin Donuts job money. I don't remember how much it cost, but I don't recall it being a big deal financially.

I remember when the vic-20 price was cut to $99, and the commodore 64 wasn't much more.

My personal take is that there is still a massive global problem with racism and more generally prejudice that reinforces social inequality. I actually think it is not just a problem for black people (although this is a primary example, and I do not mean to say that all prejudicial treatment is equivalent) but for many different groups. For example, my fairly poorly informed understanding is that in some large segments of Chinese population racism against all other groups is very popular. And also for example Han versus non-Han, although that may be more of an ethnic distinction, which to me is a flavor of the same.

Or for example there seems to be a very strong stereotype for Americans as being lazy, unintelligent, and gun-toting. So I guess these are not all the same concept, but different types of prejudice.

It feels like a fairly monumental task to reduce prejudice and the inequalities that it reinforces.

In all my years of interviewing people I have only interviewed a black person twice. I hired one of them and the other turned me down. I’m sure I’ve screened out some in the phone conversation stage but it’s impossible to know for sure.

I sometimes wonder about this. I don’t think I’ve ever discounted someone based on their name or how they spoke, but it would also be difficult for me to determine that. I also don’t recall but a few black students in CS or SE during undergrad. Are black people extremely underrepresented in CS fields, in general?

It’s also impossible to not guess when you see a name or hear someone talk. If I saw a peculiar name or heard a peculiar accent I would be curious to hear their story. I can try to ignore that impulse but the fact of the matter is if I saw the name “Steven White” I would be surprised if a black man or woman walked in the room. It would be hard for me to hide that surprise from my face.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact