I've been thinking a lot about the black live matters movement recently, particularly as I am a champion of empathy, and I write about this a lot to you all in the context of designing human-centered data products. I also failed with one of my podcast diversity goals, and the data supports that claim.
Why am I telling you this?
One of the people I admire in the independent consulting community recently wrote to his own list about how and whether the social media followings and audiences of independent consultants should be used for social causes like #BLM. TLDR: yes, it should. People with audiences, even in business, are given a sort of "soft power" as Philip describes it, and with that comes some responsibility to use it. I go back and forth on this, on politics, and how much this conversation belongs in the work I do with you and my clients. In general, I try to focus on writing and publishing evergreen insights for you; things that will help you for the long haul. But, there are times to address current events—and this is one of them.
We all have to decide what is right for each of us, but there are 4 things here I hope you'll think about:
- I recently had my first child, and given the state of Covid-19 and the fact I feel the data suggests reopening in my area is premature, my family doesn't feel comfortable with any of us attending protests with large groups. However, that is not an excuse not to participate. The best advice I saw about this was this: if you're a white person of privilege and you can't stand up to injustice through peaceful protest, then you can protest with your wallet. Make a contribution to an organization that is fighting against systemic racism, particularly against blacks. My wife and I know chose to help out the Equal Justice Initiative as we have a dear friend who works there. Whatever you choose, I hope you'll consider helping with either your wallet or your voice, if you can.
- My parents are big volunteers, and feed the homeless at food shelters regularly, but they never go on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why? That's when there are always tons of volunteers and donations; the help is not needed quite as much then. Beware the attention drop-off! While this current fight has a lot of support, at some point, the media will likely move on to the next big thing, and it will wane. This problem is decades old and it won't be solved in June 2020. I will be thinking about what I can do in 6 months, when perhaps, the story is back to another surge in Covid-19 (which itself is highly related to BLM).
- And now, let's talk about my too-white podcast. I took a hard look at my past podcast guests, and, suffice to say, while I made deliberate decision to have a woman be my first guest on Experiencing Data and have tried to bring a diverse set of opinions to your ears, I have not done a great job. %-wise, my guests look about like this: 🧑🦲🧑🦲🧑🦲🧑🦲🧑🦲🧑🦲🧑🦲🧑🦲👩🦰👨🏾. And, here's the evidence—a quick analysis of my past guests' perceived gender and skin color—staring me in the face:
I have things to work on too, clearly.I am sure this grid aligns closely with the white-in-tech numbers (see Wired article on trends) overall, and suffice to say, I feel pretty bad today. However, what I do going forward with my programming is what's more important than how I feel about it. So, that will be something I focus on more.
- On a positive diversity note, a tip: consider playing soccer once it's safe again. It's the most diverse, international activity I've ever engaged in, and if there's one thing I miss more than the sport (thanks Covid-19) it's the community that plays it. (Pro tip: might want to find free/inexpensive community/independent leagues vs. club soccer).
Here's to making intentional changes for the better, going forward. Got feedback? Just email it to me. I am also open to suggestions for podcast guests who will help me bring a more diverse perspective to my show—and improve this visualization above!