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Using privilege for good

Last week, attorney and writer Erika Stallings tweeted

Wondering how much the angry BW (editor’s note: Black Woman) stereotype in the office is due to the fact that BW are often the only ones willing to speak up and state the plain truth

In response, editor, producer, and actor Franchesca Ramsey commented

the amount of times i’ve had to stick up for myself or co-workers bc no one else would, meanwhile after hours co-workers hit me up like “so glad you said something” 😑

Less than an hour later, Laurie Barth shared some comments she got about a coding live-stream she ran. The commenter, a man, was giving her a hard time for “not knowing” and explaining some basic concepts while also holding the title “Senior Software Engineer.”

I made a typo and the code didn’t work. I knew why, but I’m talking to my readers so that they understand why.

However, that doesn’t matter! There are plenty “simple” things I don’t know!

This nonsense is so bad for the industry.

In response to her thread, another guy on Twitter chimed in to say (I’m not linking to it because I don’t want to give this dude more airtime)…

I think for a senior dev position at a major company & being publicly open about mistakes, one would see some criticism. I remember you mentioning not knowing how to use switch-case statements sometime back which IMO was strange given how tough the tech interviews are at Netflix.

So first of all, I can never remember how to write switch-case statements either because I prefer if...else statements, so fuck you too, buddy.

But second, and more importantly, if you’re a member of a privileged group, speak up when you see shit like this. It should not always be on members of excluded and marginalized groups to say something when people are being dumb or shitty.

What’s a privileged group?

In the US, where I live, it’s people who are white or male presenting. If you’re a member of both of those groups, even more so. In other parts of the world, the power-dynamics and social structures may privilege different groups of people instead.

Regardless, if you’re a member of a privileged group, you have the ability to call out bullshit with far fewer professional and social consequences. Use that power.

Privilege isn’t a dirty word. It’s a reality of living in a society with social power imbalances. If you have privilege, use it for good.