This month I had intended to write about my experience working for a Private Equity backed turnaround that filed bankruptcy. I had expected to write about this last month but felt addressing my experience changing jobs during the Pandemic was more timely. Once again, I find myself with a strong desire to address a current event, the senseless killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officers on a public street, surrounded by a crowd who was filming the incident. I will tie two critical thoughts together, my feelings about race and how I have perpetuated stereotypes even though I consider myself one who loves and supports all people. Second, as a leader, as a technologist, what can I do both professionally and personally.
Am I racist
As a white person who had the luck of growing up with two loving parents who could provide a home, a public education, help pay for college, and allow me to live in the suburbs, I had a leg up over so many others. While I am white, I am also a Jew. While no means is being Jewish remotely similar to being a person of color, I always felt I was more in tune with prejudice than not. I am only one generation removed from my family members who could flee Nazi Germany and most of them died at the hands of the Nazi’s in World War II. At every school and job, I have had to explain my Jewishness, by either asking for time off to celebrate a holiday or to educate my class on what Chanukah or Rosh Hashanah is. I used to get frustrated by this. After watching the week’s events unfold, I realized that I can hide my Jewishness behind my whiteness. Our friends of color do not have this luxury.
As I reflected on this statement: Am I a racist, I have come to the following conclusions:
- I have inherent biases that I’ve learned through my teachers, policeman, Hollywood, our Media, and our literature that I must address.
- I struggle to talk about race with my friends and colleagues, let alone people of color. Frankly, I even struggle to find opportunities to engage with our black and brown communities due to my day to day environment is predominantly surrounded by white people.
- I cringe at any racist event that I have read about or witnessed, but I have not necessarily taken direct action or spoken up.