The uncomfortable state of being Asian in tech
Tracy Chou

Hi Tracy,

I really enjoy reading your posts and appreciate your conscientious approach to this issue. As the white spouse of an Asian woman with three multi-ethnic kids of my own, (including 2 girls), I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can help to make the world a better place for them and others like them — I take your contributions in that spirit as well.

That said, I think you might generate more lasting results by up-leveling your argument a bit to focus on diversity in the very broadest sense, not exclusively on the racial aspect. As someone who has spent much of my career in unusual places where I was often in the racial minority, surrounded by coworkers from Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and other far corners of the world, I’ve been surprised by how homogeneous our thinking has been as technologists, rather than along ethnic or cultural bounds. I can find people from India to Ireland who are remarkably un-diverse in how they think about their work and their place in the world, and I believe therein lies a more pernicious problem for our industry and our greater human culture.

While I have seen first hand the horrors that can be inflicted by racism, and by no means wish to forgive that as a serious social ill, I’m not convinced it’s our biggest problem in tech. I think we sometimes mistakenly use race as a means of classifying other, more deeply human imperfections, such as the tribalism that can arise from groups of people who share a particular worldview or vocation, as opposed to merely a skin color.

Thus, if you work to broaden society’s definition of success beyond being a “quiet, hardworking, well educated, middle-class consumer”, then the racial disparities you’ve noted should begin to resolve themselves. So long as this remains our society’s highest aspiration, then the other dichotomies you call attention to will continue to persist. You’ll know you’ve made progress when artists, school teachers, landscape gardeners, public servants, and other less socially glamorous vocations are given the same respect, admiration, and earning opportunities as software developers.

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