Black Lives Matter. It is more than a hashtag and it should go without saying/writing. However, in the United States, it is grossly apparent that many people do not value Black lives, including police who are taking Black lives, and all those who can (but do not) use their power and courage to stop police brutality against Black people.
Tackling institutional racism is another matter. Racism persists in all institutions, even the nation’s churches. As individuals we have a choice to support racism, ignore racism, or combat racism.
The use of media and language in America can be harmful to Black people. Calling Black men “thugs” and referring to protesters as “terrorists” in the news distorts the view an audience, especially those who only receive news from a single source.
Media both reflects and shapes our culture and often the images and stories being told are detrimental to people of color. The fact that networks are canceling police speaks to their acknowledgment that entertainment is also contributing to racists beliefs and the problems they have caused in this country.
In the IT world, “black” is used to replace the synonyms malevolent, criminal, deleterious in its uses:
- Blacklist (vs. Whitelist) User
- Black Hat (vs. Whitehat) Hacker
In my places of work, I have challenged the practice by using words such as “greenlist” and “redlist.” Black professionals hear what others are not hearing. There are so few Black people in the world of IT. I wondered, in a “protest” letter to a global IT company, whether the exclusion that exists due to societal racism is also reinforced by the language and that white IT managers are blackballing (there’s that word again) Black professionals. But I really needn’t wonder.
An excerpt from my message which has been sent to two IT companies so far.
If the world of IT understands Black=mean bad, how about just using the word BadList? Or RedList, RejectList, FailList, or DeadList? If White=good, use GoodList? Or, Greenlist, AcceptList, or PassList, or LiveList? Ask Black IT employees how the language of IT has literally been problematic in making them feel less than, or as if they do not belong. If they feel that they are allowed to be honest, they will tell you that the words are belittling. Then, ask your nonBlack IT employees the same question.
If you are reading this and you work in IT management, can you be purposeful about affecting change within your own organization? What are you doing to identify and address sources of inequality in your personal and professional life? Let’s share ideas!