Have You Ever Wanted to Change the World?

Be anti-racist.

Black Lives Matter activists on Capitol Hill. | AP Photo. Source: Politico.

Halfway through 2020, the world, while still dealing with a pandemic, witness the Black Lives Matter movement rumble around the world; online and offline, after the killing of George Floyd. Late May 2020, Twitter started to flag Trump’s tweets. Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout on Monday in protest against Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to continue opposing fact-checking. In DC, the mayor emblazoned “Black Lives Matter” on a road near the White House. Alexis Ohanian Sr., the co-founder of Reddit and the husband’s of Serena Williams, resigned from the board and urged the company to fill his seat with a Black board member.

In the last week, the online community became the amplifier for the Black community— sharing videos, spreading information, calling for donations. More people are speaking up than ever. Cases are being re-opened; meaning whatever happening right now, it’s working. The public, in America and around the world, started to pay attention — although some quieter than others.

Before going into too deep about what’s going on right now, I’d like to provide some, actually, a lot of contexts, of why I’m writing this; why I’m angry, upset, exhausted. I’m writing this because I can’t do anything else but getting upset at murderous people who abuse their power, kill in board daylight, and still continue walking free. There hasn’t been any real change, not really.

Growing up queer in a poor, socialist Eastern country, and then migrating to a rich capitalistic Western country, is strange — to say the least. I only came to this conclusion in the last few days, BTW. The week before #BlackLivesMatter was trending, it was just… my life; a part of my own awakening being a non-Black person.

I’m not, in any way, a Bla(c)k person, I know it’s not technically my place to speak. But I know Bla(c)k people. I talked to them. I made insensitive comments because of my ignorance about their pain. I read their books, watched their films, listened to their music. I live and work on Blak people’s land. I benefit from Bla(c)k people every day. Moreover,

  • I’m a queer person. The first Pride was a riot started by a Trans Black Woman. Her name was Marsha P. Johnson. As companies began to roll out their Pride flag template for their logos this June, has anyone thought about reading up on the history of Pride? How much Bla(c)k people are suffering?

  • I’m Asian. Asian people constantly appropriate Bla(c)k culture. Some Vietnamese are openly racist (including members of my family). One of the cops that stood by while George Floyd was getting killed was a Southeast-Asian-American man. Like Hasan Minhaj said, we need to step up to fight anti-Black racism. Did you also know Black people write K-pop songs? Black producers are working in K-pop because they’re being discriminated in the American music industry. K-pop fans have become also one of the most political fandoms on the internet in recent years.

  • I was born a Vietnamese person. My country, my family, my history was built on fighting against oppression. Furthermore, Bla(c)k people protested against the Vietnam War, a war the American government escalated and prolonged, a war that cost Bla(c)k lives for a white cause.

  • I live in Australia, where the Aboriginal communities are being discriminated on their own land, everyday of the week. Where the government lies on live televisions and everyone seems to be okay with it. At the pubs, in the office, on Slack channels.

This is not about me. But I need you to understand the particular intersectional corner where I stand, so you can understand yours better. This piece is not for Black people, they already know their pain. Non-Black people don’t understand it, we’re only starting to. As a queer immigrant of colour, I have a lot to say about injustices. But all of my struggles combined, it is still not the same as what Bla(c)k people are suffering right now. Because I’m also educated, lighter-skin, skinny. I work in an in-demand field, even during a pandemic. I made 6-figure last year. My partner is white. My family members have capitals and power in my home country. In other words, I’m an oppressed privileged person.

In America, black men receive longer sentences for the same crimes. An unarmed black person is 3.5x more likely to be shot by the police than an unarmed white person. Using a resume with a white name instead of a black name increases the chances of an interview by 2.5x.

— AngelList Newsletter, June 6, 2020

Black people protests against the Vietnam War

I started my freelance business when the pandemic began to affect everyday life. It was the scariest thing I’ve done in my life, leaving “the system”, the system that gives people security, or so they said. But, again, I was privileged to be able to leave in the first place. There were many reasons why I “made the move”. It’s not just because of any company or a particular person — it’s the environment. It’s the unseen culture and systematic “taboos” no one wants to talk about. The things we “don’t have time and money for”.

The thing is this system, and I’m talking about capitalism and its colonialism roots specifically, doesn’t actually work well for most people. But somehow, it started in the West, spread to the East, moved online, spread worldwide. Because money makes our lives better (does it?), because our lives are better this way (for whom?), because it works (when?).

A free society is a productive society. — Jeffrey Benoit

“The system” doesn’t work. It did not work for me, for disabled people, for queer people, for trans people, for mentally-ill and neurodivergent people, for homeless people, for Muslims, for women. Despite having started my business during a pandemic, I was happy, working from home, working for myself. I count my blessings. Do you know what Bla(c)k people are doing right now instead of working safely in their PJs? Dying. Getting killed. They’re dying while running, listening to music in the car, peacefully protestingsleeping in their own homes. They served their country for 10 years to have police beat their people up.

Let’s go down under. In Australia, it’s completely legal to blow up a 46,000-year-old sacred site while the NSW government tried to block protest at Sydney Town Hall. Historically, the White Australia Policy wasn’t officially dismantled until 1973. Since 1991 and as of this writing, there have been 437 Indigenous Australians “have died in state custody or at the hands of law enforcement”. Just last week, a 16-year-old boy got slammed to the ground by the police in Sydney. Recently, David Dungay died for eating biscuits. His last words was also: “I can’t breathe”.

No race, no people, no nation can exist freely and be respected at home and abroad without political freedom. Once this freedom is gained, a greater task comes into view. All dependent territories are backward in education, in science in agriculture and in industry. The economic independence that should follow and maintain political independence demands every effort from the people, a total mobilization of brain and manpower resources.

— Kwame Nkrumah, First Prime Minister and President of Ghana

Due to COVID-19, have you got stood down? Or are you out of work? Are you being forced to come back to work? The work against injustice is for you, too. White Supremacy Culture teaches tricks, not real principles; it promotes shortcuts and hacks; it teaches internalised oppression; it teaches Pride, greed, and lies. “The system” keeps you in a loop, on a schedule, promote compartmentalisation. You’re too busy and stressed to care. Do you know what your government is doing with your tax money? Have you asked who is gonna benefit from your government’s policies?

It’s a privilege to learn about racism instead of experiencing it your whole life.

— Ahmed Ali, PhD Candidate

Even more reasons for you to support Black people:

  • If you support the environment, speak up against anti-Black racism.

  • If you’re a woman, speak up against anti-Black racism.

  • If you’re genderqueer, speak up against anti-Black racism.

  • If you’ve benefited from cannabis, speak up against anti-Black racism.

  • If you’re a designer, speak up against anti-Black racism.

  • If you’re a human, speak up against anti-Black racism.

Image by Mel D. Cole — NYC, June 2020

During my awakening, I realised Black people do not need more awareness. They need more impactful work, systematic work. They need access and their voices to be heard.

Admittedly, I’m an information addict. I got taught very early on that knowledge is the way out of poverty, anything, everything. So when I’m stressed, I read. In the least few days, the more I read, the more I realised how ignorant I’ve been about anti-Black racism, how deep it goes. How much more work non-Black folks like me need to do. I learned that not-being-a-racist is not enough, we all need to be anti-racist. Performative allyship doesn’t work any more. In fact, it has never worked.

Every hour you spend on your own reading resources about allyship, practising those skills, teaching them to your kids/family/friends, donating etc. is an hour Black folks can be resting, mourning, healing without praising you or educating you.

— Catherine Hernandez, author and screenwriter

If White Supremacy Culture is good at anything, it’s oppression. They excel at it. In my experience, there are two primary forms it manifested in: violence and propaganda (more well-known as gaslighting). When they can’t suppress the pushbacks, they get defensive, they double-down on whatever they got left. When that doesn’t work, they choose violence, further the Ratchet Effect.

The thing about propaganda is this, it’s a slow burn, but when used correctly, it’s incredibly effective. You don’t see it at first & then suddenly you find yourself living with it, under it, beneath it. Most can’t see “it” — things are just “fine” — “great” even.

The only way to resist propaganda is to match their forces, persistently. When we were busy building a better world, they were busy seeding fear, doubts, and inequality while continuing their social exploitation. They understand there’s always been power in truth and numbers.

If I have to explain oppression to someone who has never experienced it, it’s best to described as a constant state of duress”. At first, you try to fight it. Then you’d get frustrated and exhausted. So you’d get angry. But the catch is you can’t get angry, not really, because that makes you more unsafe — fight-or-flight on steroids.

Furthermore, anger takes work, which effort could’ve been for a more productive cause. At the end of the fight, there’s only anger. Black people are oppressed, and they are angry. They have every right to be.

Congratulations for making it this far! Are you feeling uncomfortable? Good. Now sit with it. Don’t defend it. Just, sit with it, sleep with it, think about it. It’s okay. I’ve been there.

Now think about what you can do better for the world. Then tomorrow, and this is the key thing, you have to do that thing. It’s okay to change your mind when you have new information.

A non-exhaustive list of things non-Black people can help, according to Black people. Find your lane and stick with it!

Types of Protesting based on Video Game Classes

Types of Protesting based on Video Game Classes

  • Donate: (#BlackLivesMatterAU).

  • Pay Bla(c)k people well.

  • Cite their work.

  • Seek their expertise.

  • Offer your skills for their causes.

  • Give them space to speak and to be human. Black people make mistakes, and so do you.

  • Vote for and promote anti-racist people in organisations.

  • Call out injustices occurring in your everyday life.

  • Advocate for Bla(c)k people.

  • Funding/Hiring Bla(c)k people.

  • Talk to an Anthropologist.

  • Defund the police in your areas.

Lastly, and most importantly, continue the fight to the day after tomorrow. Colonialism started in 1402, it’ll take a lot of work for all of us to dismantle the aftermath it left behind 600 years later. At this point, if you continue to refuse to do harm-reduction work, it is not enough. You’re directly contributing to a system that kills and benefits from Bla(c)k people.

Commit to doing the work, so we don’t have to be here again. And commit to doing it long term, even once the headlines have moved on. Remember the privilege in the choice to learn about racism, rather than live it. I will still be Black after it stops trending — and my life should still matter then.

— Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Few Words for fellow Designers and Tech Workers.

I am where I am because of design; how generous tech was to me, the life my profession has given me. I became a designer because I once, too, wanted to “change the world with a poster”. And if I’ve learned anything from my design career since then, it’s this: Failing forward is the way. Failures and the improvements made on our failures are the cornerstones of design principles. As a designer, we get taught to accept the uncertainty of the creative process and to practice empathy.

In the last few days, I’m disappointed with the responses from the industry, worldwide, regarding Black Lives Matter (unless anonymity is secured). In recent days, I’ve started to see more awareness. But I believe we can do even better. So I urge you, fellow designers, to do more, to speak up against wrongdoings, to continue educating ourselves, to become anti-racist. As creative workers in tech in this moment of history, we’re in a unique position to shape how tech can affect people in a truly meaningful way.

If you were like me, having become a designer because you wanted to change the world with a poster. Here’s your chance, don’t miss it.

Except, this time, it’s not a poster. It’s your voice.

Further Readings: