Am I Woke?

The other day, reading this article about The Anatomy of Privilege, I had a shivering thought that I think is worth saying out loud.

Am I Woke?

Well, probably not.

It’s probably the best way to see this thing for what it really is, and that is to realize that thinking I know enough about what it is like to be either a non-white male or a woman in US society — especially tech — is probably the worst way to start, and the exact reason why I just simply can’t assume that.

I would have to say that, not only am I not woke. I am sure I really have no idea the vast extent of the bubble of privilege that I walk in daily.

Today, Martin Luther King, jr. Day in the US, I talked to my girls tonight a little bit about privilege.

  • We talked about how lucky they are to have smartphones with data plans that are always on.
  • And high speed Internet.
  • And Netflix.

And then my oldest daughter talked about a girl she knows who had to drop out of school this year (senior year) to work for her family. She was probably going to be valedictorian. But, if anything else, she probably will need a GED and a lot of luck to get into an average college (if ever) and the blunt reality is, she may never get very far away from poverty unless she’s given a break — not because she needs a handout, but she deserves a hand up.

So then,

  • We talked about how lucky they are to be able to go to school tomorrow.
High school students are struck by a high-pressure water jet from a fire hose during a peaceful walk in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. As photographed by Charles Moore, images like this one, printed in Life, inspired international support for the demonstrators. #

And how lucky they are they dont need to fight for the right to learn.

They get to go to school tomorrow without fear of being shot. Not shot because they live in a dangerous neighborhood, but because they are girls.

Above all of it, my daughter shared a video with all of us, the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Kid President.. After watching, I have just two things to say: 1. This Kid President kid is amazing. 2. I am glad that my kids seem to not just be aware, but seem to be passionate about trying to do their part in the world to ensure they dont go around in their bubble of privilege.

Labor Dispute

In 1998, I emerged from the T in Boston practically in the middle of a labor strike between Bell Atlantic workers (411 operators) and their bosses. That experience rocked my world and solidified some of the core beliefs I try to employ in my work at helping companies hire smarter by eliminating bias and using Evidence Based Hiring practices.

So, Am I Woke?

I don’t know. Probably not. But I care a lot about people and I see a lot of places where there are disadvantages in the marketplace. While I can’t say that I have ever tilted the scales so much in favor of someone that they have been hired or given an opportunity because of a perceived disadvantaged background, I can say confidently that I have tried for 20 years running to at least balance the scales wherever I can.

I am trying to wake up.

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