I am uncomfortable talking about polarizing topics, even when I agree with the majority. I steer away from political discussions because they make me feel uncomnfortable. I avoid confrontation because I'm not assertive. In short, I am a bystander. I sit back and passively watch events unfold around me, but never take action because I'm afraid of standing out. Specifically, I am talking about institutional racism in America.
I try to convince myself that it's OK to be silent becuase I know that others will speak for me. I tell myself that my voice doesn't matter, and that I'll never make a difference at an institutional level. I tell myself that only leaders and activists can have an effect on a particular issue. However, I'm only now coming to the realization that this is not an effective or responsible way of thinking. I've realized that remaining silent and hoping other's actions will fix everything is not a solution. In fact it's irresponsible.
As a developer I have a unique advantage on the web because I own my platform. That means I can control my message. As developers, we need to take advantage of this.
My challenge to other developers is this: get out of your comfort zone and use your platform to voice your opinion. Right now for me that means speaking out against institutional racism in America.
If you're like me, then you probably feel stuck. You see an injustice, but don't know what to do make it go away. To be honest, I'm still struggling with this, but I've found the following action items helpful.
- Donate to an accredited organization that supports your cause.
- Get out of your echo chamber and try to understand your "opponent's" point of view. Admittedly, this is challenging. However, this is a key step in being able to instill change. How can you expect to change someone's mind if you don't understand why they think in a particular way in the first place.
- You don't have to physically protest to voice your opinions. Put your thoughts into writting and share them. Don't let someone else speak on your behalf. Use your platform.
- Don't avoid difficult conversations. If someone says something you don't agree with, take that opportunity to help educate them, but to also undertone their point of view.
I'll end this with a quote from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Communication is the most important skill in life. You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being? Probably none, right?