Dan Abramov @dan_abramov Started in Visual Basic and still chasing that high • he/him Oct. 29, 2019 3 min read

I'm going to answer this question since it comes up quite a bit. Why should we celebrate work of people from minoritized groups and create spaces to showcase their achievements?

When you just enter the industry, it's important to have role models. People you look up and can relate to. "I wanna be like X". I've had my share of role models who showed what was possible and who I could become.

Role models only really work when you share something with them. For example, if ALL famous programmers I heard about were women, early on I would probably have a chipping doubt about being out of place. And that's what folks who are minoritized in tech go through all the time!

Sadly, history has a way of forgetting people who don't match the dominant stereotype. If your "street cred" is based on how much you fit the "nerdy guy in a basement", you don't get the same chances as that guy would get. And you don't see yourself represented as a valid path.

The only reason I'm here at all is because multiple people throughout my career took chances on me while I was still full of shit. Someone who doesn't look like a dominant media stereotype (e.g. a Black woman) wouldn't get all of those chances. This is a self-perpetuating cycle.

Therefore, we must pay back by highlighting and celebrating the work of those who, despite uneven chances, made an impact in our community. They are an inspiration to us and to the next generation. Thanks to them, there are more role models and paths to follow and dream about.

The balance is off. Pay attention to replies when a man writes a tech opinion, or a woman writes it. A white man is usually assumed to be competent *by default*, for no particular reason. For women, there are entire cesspools of people trying to prove "uh she's not technical".

So if anything, openly celebrating the work of people who don't look like the dominant stereotype is necessary at the very least to counter the bias they encounter in promoting their work. It's the right thing to do by itself, even before we consider role models.

It gets even sadder when it's intersectional. It's weird enough being one of few Black people in the room, but imagine being the only Black woman at an event, or in a company. The more you deviate from a stereotype, the more people assume you're incompetent by default.

If all of this is news to you, you might be following a too closed circle of people. So these perspectives simply don't reach you. Nobody owes you teaching. I've learned a lot from @TatianaTMac's feed; her "following" list also has many people worth hearing from. Check them out.

The "nobody owes you teaching" bit is important. When someone who looks like me is confronted with reality, their first response is often "prove it to me". Imagine how exhausting it is to explain the same things over and over when the other side doesn't *really* wanna hear it.

It's like a "Java vs C#" technical argument where everyone already made their minds and is just debating for the sake of it. Except the debate is about whether you belong in the field and whether you're being delusional about all the times people treated you like shit.

You may be uncomfortable with how an activist is phrasing things. Get used to being uncomfortable! It's what many people feel like every day. Get used to your "debate request" being ignored. If it freaks you out, you have some introspection to do about others' online experiences.

PS: this zine about women in @reactjs community was awesome, and huge thanks to @rachelnabors and all contributors for making it happen.

PPS: When I write a thread like this, I get tons of validation, encouragement, and praise. Pay attention to what happens when a thread like this is posted by someone who doesn’t look like me. It’s vile.


You can follow @dan_abramov.



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