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Amplifying voices

Whenever there’s an International ${traditionally excluded or marginalized group} Day, visible people in that group get flooded with token mentions.

This International Women’s Day, I want to give a shoutout to {WELL-KNOWN WOMAN IN TECH}, who’s had a big impact on my career.

It’s great to give the people you respect or who have helped you in a positive way kudos.

But holidays recognizing traditionally excluded or marginalized groups are not supposed to be “shout-out that famous person you know in that group” day.

They’re supposed to be a reminder that people in that group exist, and have been (and typically still are) excluded because of system oppression and social structures. It’s an opportunity for the people not in that group to reflect on themselves and the ways they enable or fight against that oppression.

To be fair, I’ve been guilty of “shoutout famous person” myself for various recognition days as well.

It’s often well intentioned, but I think one of the things a lot of my fellow “not in a marginalized group” folks need help connecting the dots on is that the long game matters more than the day.

How do you engage in micro-aggressions (and how do you become more aware of it, in both yourself and others)? Do you notice policies and practices at your company that encourage system oppression or power imbalances? Do you speak up when you see them?

Whose voices are you amplifying when it’s not a holiday?

About five years ago, I realized that most of the folks I followed (and shared stuff from) in my social circles were white dudes. I made a very deliberate and active habit of seeking out not-white people whose perspectives I respected (even if I didn’t always agree with them). I purposely started shared more content from people who didn’t look like me.

I grew up as a white dude in a mostly white town, working at companies and on teams with mostly white people.

You really don’t know what you don’t know. Listening to people whose backgrounds and lived experiences are different than yours is eye-opening.

If you have social power as a person in a majority group, one of the most impactful things you can do is stop talking and amplify the voices of those who have traditionally been or are often ignored.

Not just on International Holidays™, but every day.

Final thought: I hesitated to hit send on this. I worry that it might read as white-savior complex. But I also think it’s important for white people to talk about race, and power dynamics, and our role in systemic oppression. If we don’t, things will never get better.