Santa Cruz Tech Beat


What Can We Do: The Tech Company’s Guide to Advocating for Racial Equity

Racially diverse people on a video conference

By Christian Idiodi
Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG) Partner 

June 4, 2020 — San Francisco, CA

Elon Musk is trying to colonize Mars. So what is it about the problems of racism and racial injustice that are so daunting?

The past few weeks have been tough for me as a black man in America. In the morning, I take calls and respond to emails as I work with and coach tech companies. At lunch, I help my teenage son respond to questions and comments from his white friends. After dinner, I spend time helping my youngest children understand why the police killed a black man, why people are protesting, and how people can feel angry, afraid, and helpless at the same time. Yet this all pales in comparison to the pain and hurt facing the black community. 

All my life, I have looked to technology to solve meaningful problems. In many cases, I am amazed at seeing how fearless many of the tech giants have been in approaching some of the hardest problems in the world. Google is trying to stop aging and death. Elon Musk is trying to colonize Mars. So what is it about the problems of racism and racial injustice that are so daunting? Are these not problems worth solving? Do tech companies not feel an obligation to participate in solving them? Or like many organizations, have tech companies become complacent in a system that unintentionally enables racial injustice and systemic oppression? 

My ten-year-old son loves technology. He wants to be an engineer and invent the first flying car. But my son now believes it is more likely for him to become President than to build technology that changes the world. He has seen a black President but has not seen leaders who look like him in technology. There is not a black Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk, he says. It’s hard for him to fathom how people who don’t look like him could talk about, care about, empathize with, and more importantly, really try to solve these problems. As the ever optimist, I told him I truly believe there is so much the tech community can do to support the black community. 

So what can tech companies do to support the black community and advocate for racial equity?

  1.  Don’t look for permission to solve the problem. Problems worth solving are simply that — worth solving. You have never let a lack of congruence, expertise, or experience stop you from taking on some of the hardest problems in the world. Hire the smartest people, bring together the best thought leaders, and facilitate the right collaborative environment to tackle some of these issues. 

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