Category Archives: race in the workplace

Voices: On Adria Richards

Former SendGrid “developer evangelist” Adria Richards. Image via butyoureagirl.com

Let’s begin with Adria Richards’ own words.

Have you ever had a group of men sitting right behind you making joke that caused you to feel uncomfortable? Well, that just happened this week but instead of shrinking down in my seat, I did something about it an here’s my story …

Yesterday, I publicly called out a group of guys at the PyCon conference who were not being respectful to the community.

For those of you visiting from Hacker News from the tweet and from this post, thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the context.

Richards tweeted a picture of two men near her who joked about “dongles” and “forking repos” during the conference. She informed conference staff, she said, after seeing a picture of a girl who took part in a coding workshop during the event made her worry about the environment created by the “forking” jokes.

The situation degenerated when one of the two men–neither of whom she identified–was fired by his company. As TechCrunch reported, the unnamed employee apologized for the original joke on Hacker News, but also noted Richards’ platform:

Adria has an audience and is a successful person of the media. Just check out her web page linked in her Twitter account, her hard work and social activism speaks for itself. With that great power and reach comes responsibility. As a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job today. Which sucks because I have 3 kids and I really liked that job.

Shortly thereafter, Richards was the target of a string of personal and professional attacks, including the posting of her personal information online, death threats, slurs, accusations of “misandry”, and even attacks against her employer, Sendgrid.

Later, Sendgrid CEO Jim Franklin announced that the company had terminated Richards, saying, “her actions have strongly divided the same community she was supposed to unite.” The original incident was glossed over, and the attacks against both the company and its own employee were not addressed at all. Franklin closed comments on his post on Monday.

The conference also altered its code of conduct to forbid public shaming, requiring future disputes to be reported to PyCon staff. There is no mention, however, of what happens if there are conflicting accounts of an incident or if convention staff disagrees with a person’s assessment of something as offensive or triggering. Is what happens at PyCon supposed to stay at PyCon from now on?

Over at Shakesville, Melissa McEwan also contributed to the conversation on Twitter, starting the #IAskedPolitely tag, where several people shared their stories of being told they were “too sensitive,”  to get over it. To deal. Stories of being silenced.

Meanwhile, Colorlines reported that Richards’ firing might not hold up in the legal arena, as the argument can be made that she was basically sacked for acting as a whistleblower. But those accounts and this fact are both seemingly lost on the increasingly outraged wave of tech enthusiasts who have seemingly seized the moment to “defend their territory.” Below we’ll hear from some people on the other side of the debate.

TRIGGER WARNING for some of the entries under the cut.

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As Christopher Dorner Saga Continues, The Truth Is Still Out There

By Arturo R. García

The search for former Los Angeles Police officer Christopher Dorner may be over…but hopefully, the questions he has raised are not. Which makes Davey D’s interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman all the more relevant.
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Suit Or Sari? On Professionalism And ‘Ethnic’ Dressing

By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta, cross-posted from Stories Are Good Medicine

I had the pleasure to attend a women’s leadership conference this past weekend. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet innovative and dynamic women from seven different decades, and I was so inspired by much that I saw and heard.

But it was a lecture by a popular professor–an expert in public speaking and issues of gender and communication–that left me unexpectedly troubled. And it’s taken me a couple days to figure out why.

I last saw this professor lecture more than 20 years ago–and she’s still the same funny, sharp-witted, and insightful speaker I remember from back in my college days. She urged us conference participants to be assertive, not aggressive, in our speech, to think about standing and sitting with confidence, to avoid lilting upward at the end of our sentences, to resist being cut off by others while we’re speaking.

All of this made a lot of sense to me. I know that women are often taught to defer to others in conversation (“no, no, you go ahead”), that we may unconsciously adopt physical postures of passivity or childishness (the cocked head, the crossed leg stance while standing), that we may sound as if we’re apologizing, for even our names (“my name is Sayantani??”).

And yet, when the lecture got to the issue of dressing for presentation success, I began to feel distinctly uncomfortable.
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Excerpt: What’s Going On At Marvel Entertainment?

Terence Howard (L) and Don Cheadle. Courtesy: Entertainment Weekly.

Former DCP head of fashion and home products Pam Lifford, former chief financial officer Anne Gates, and former DCP HR exec Susan Cole Hill were all represented by the same attorney with  the Pasadena law firm Hadsell, Stormer, Keeny, Richardson and Rennick which has sued Disney in other employee rights cases. According to my sources, the three women, who are all African Americans, referred to themselves as “The Help” – a reference to last summer’s hit DreamWorks movie distributed by Disney and set during the civil rights movement about black maids in Mississippi.The reorganization took place in September 2011 but the negotiations for the exit settlements dragged on. Some insiders claim the law firm didn’t return Disney’s calls because it first wanted a story damaging to Perlmutter to appear in the media. An article appeared on Thursday, and Disney and Marvel and Perlmutter now are in damage control mode. Financial Times LA-based correspondent Matthew Garrahan broke the news about these three African-American female execs, their respective job status after their boss Andy Mooney was replaced as the head of DCP, and their hiring an attorney. At the time he wrote that only one of the three women had settled with Disney.

But the FT story also reported that, when African-American actor Terrence Howard was replaced by African-American actor Don Cheadle in the role of  Colonel Jim Rhodes for “Iron Man 2″, ”Perlmutter apparently told Mr. Mooney the change cut costs. He allegedly added words to the effect that no one would notice because black people ‘look the same’,”  Garrahan wrote. A Marvel spokesperson told the FT in a statement: “Mr. Perlmutter and all  of Marvel have a long record of diversity in the workplace and on movie sets around the world as evidenced by both Mr. Perlmutter’s own history and Marvel’s management team.”

- From “Disney And Marvel Do Damage Control After Media Scrutiny Of Big Boss Ike Perlmutter,” at Deadline.com

Video: PBS Newshour Profiles Family Behind Our Black Year

By Arturo R. García

Watch One Family’s Effort to Buy Black for a Year on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, this report from PBS Newshour is well worth your time, as it retraces the “social experiment” conducted by Maggie and John Anderson while buying exclusively from black-owned businesses for a year, a process Maggie Anderson chronicled in written form in the book Our Black Year.

The project, she told Newshour’s Paul Solman, was borne out of guilt.

“We thought we should be doing more, and we thought we should be doing stuff with the money that we made,” she said. “Make sure that whatever we do, it was with a black company, a black family company, buy a product made from a black company, use black professionals, shop in black communities.”

According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer the Andersons’ search for some basic needs took them far, far out of their comfort zones:

With high hopes of moving the needle, the Andersons transferred their money to a black bank, switched cell phone companies, and fed way more McDonald’s Happy Meals to their girls than optimal–because these black-owned businesses were plentiful.

But fewer own stores selling necessities like diapers, aspirin and fresh food. Maggie often drove for miles, stepping over trash and around winos to enter stores that looked like “post-apocalyptic mini-marts.”

“Are y’all lost?” wisecracks one loiterer.

Exasperated, Maggie overdoes the details of her forays scouring Chicagoland’s food desert. Her rage builds. “Everyone–I mean everyone–we saw on the street and in the stores was black, but not the store owners.”

The video is safe for work, and a transcript of the story can be found here.

Race Against The Machine: Jeremy Lin And The NBA’s Savior Myth

By Arturo R. García

In his own graceless way, Floyd Mayweather and his tasteless remarks about Jeremy Lin brought something new to light: maybe the best comparison point for the young New York Knicks guard isn’t Tim Tebow. Maybe it’s Larry Bird. With the link, however unpalatable, coming from tensions the NBA has tiptoed around for decades.

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Race + Tech: Michael Arrington Can’t Ctrl-Alt-Delete His Foot From His Mouth

By Arturo R. García

There’s been something ugly brewing in Silicon Valley, and now it’s starting to seep to the surface, following preview screenings for Soledad O’Brien’s latest CNN special.

The clip up top is an excerpt from her interview with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington. The interview was taped in July, and is slated to air during the Nov. 13 episode of her Black In America documentary series focusing on the eight black entrepreneurs taking part in the NewMe Accelerator program.

In a commercial for the show, Arrington describes Silicon Valley as “a white and Asian world,” and in the interview, he goes so far as to tell O’Brien that he doesn’t know any black entrepreneurs.

Except that he really did. And Arrington’s been digging himself – and seemingly the tech industry around him – into a deeper hole ever since.
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On the Trail of the “Paper Tiger” [Updated]

by Latoya Peterson

Asian Like Me NY Mag Cover

ETA: Please note, we got an email from NYMag saying they want us to take down this post. I pushed back asking them about their definition of fair use, and we are working it out. So if you access this post over the weekend, and it has changed, that’s what happened. I’m going to go through and prune it down a bit – good faith and all that – but we are still going to run the other pieces on Monday, regardless of what actually ends up in this space. – LDP

Earlier this week, readers Elton and Tomi alerted us to this front page New York Magazine piece called “Paper Tigers,” by Wesley Yang. It is remarkable in that it’s one of the broadest examinations of Asian American identity to be prominently placed in a mainstream outlet. The article made a huge impact – on Facebook alone, it was liked by 31,000 people. However, reading the piece left a lot of questions to be answered, and for every “hell yeah!” there was an equal *head desk*.

We’re putting together a reaction post from our friends and contributors, but in the meantime, please set aside the time to read all of Yang’s article.

To start you off, here are some points that jumped out at me.

The Good

  • Yang’s discussion of Asian American invisibility in face of stereotype: “A conspicuous person standing apart from the crowd and yet devoid of any individuality.”
  • The frank discussion of Thomas Epenshade’s work, which calculated how Asians generally must score higher on the SAT than white applicants to have the same chance at admission.
  • The disparity between Asian American representation in higher education and under-representation in the board room. (We’ve covered this before, under the title of the bamboo ceiling.)

The Interesting, but Questionable

  • Yang looks at the bamboo ceiling, but attributes it mostly to unconscious bias, not actual racism.
  • The absolute absence of Asian American female perspectives, despite the higher rates of suicide for Asian American women.

The WTF

  • Yang appears to have a love/hate relationship with being Asian-American; using the term “banana or twinkie to self identify and saying he’s “devoid of Asian characteristics.”
  • The piece challenges some stereotypes, but reinforces others, perhaps because of the divided feel of the narrative.
  • Yang quotes JT Tran, the Asian American pick up artist, who essentially says Asian American (heterosexual men) should pick up white women in order to…well, it’s not exactly clear how Tran thinks that is going to fix the school/boardroom gap.

Stay tuned for more perspectives from our APIA contributors.