The Art of Caring for Others

Part One - May 28, 2020

Since we are constantly forced to think where we fit in the world of activism, I would like to pose a different question (for any race).

What are you personally doing to contribute to the racial inequalities that exist in our world? As individuals, we can't influence much, but we do have a place in this. You have skills, ideas, talents, resources, etc.

For me, my love and passion for the world is technology. I went this path because it's one space (or at least supposed to be) where ideas only limit me. As a young black man, that was very powerful for me.

There was no money, police, racial slur, between me and my laptop. Just an open green field of wonder and creativity that makes me feel like I can do anything. Most importantly, it created a living for my family.

Every day and I mean every day. I choose to contribute by trying my damness to give that power to other black men. This is where my locus of control is to help drive actionable change. I find so much peace because I know I'm doing the best I can do.

If you're angry, complaining, frustrated, and can't answer the question above, I urge you to sit on it as it's the only thing so far that brought me comfort.

Movements are only powerful when there is unified action (and discussion). Pick your action, impact the change you can, and get to work; we have a lot to do.

Part Two - May 29, 2020

When I’m upset, I learn. I hope to continue to share my learnings.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s last book was called “Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community” This title hit different over the last couple of days.

Why? This title is not optimistic. It’s scary. It’s fearful. This title is suggesting the real possibilities of how racial inequalities will go down.

Chaos or Community?

I want you to shift your thinking from living in today’s world and think about today as a moment in history 100 years from now.

Throughout all of the triumphs in history, many great societies have perished. Black Culture is a great society. It has influenced today’s world in more ways than you can imagine.

So, guess what? Where do we go from here? Chaos or community? That’s the question, right? Do we bond together and create the society we remember in 100 years that made remarkable progress toward social inequalities?

Or this moment in time wasn’t for the people who look like me, and I will live in Chaos. And, I’m okay with that too (took a bit for it to set in). But I don’t have to accept it. King said: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

The community I see starts with open ears and building towards a common goal.

But that’s my view of what community means. You should pick the future you want and build it. To everyone my age: we are used to instant feedback. Unfortunately, we won’t see the results of our actions, as King did not see most of his.

But, one day, I want a baby boy, and I’m not sure I want him seeing the same visuals I see today in our time. And I got a lot of energy to push for a future where he sees Community, not Chaos.

Part Three - May 30, 2020

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been asked one question, “What should I be doing?” (not only from others but of myself as well).

The thing is, I don’t have an answer for you. The answer requires work. The answer requires you to stop and think. Let me explain.

“Education is what, when, and why to do things. Training is how to do things.” — Richard Hamming

My previous messages were to educate. Today, I aim to train. The best way for me to train you is to take you along my journey of how I answer the question of “What should I be doing?”. Not only should this story serve as an example for you, use it to guide your self-discovery process.

I’ve recently hired my first two people. For the sake of this conversation, their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. are irrelevant. During this process, it was super critical for me to consider any biases in my hiring process. And, even questioning if I did like a candidate only because they were part of an underrepresented group. After hiring, I felt great about the people. I considered bias along the way and hired the best people for the job.

However, (and this is where the work comes in) once I was done. I took a step back and reevaluated the process again to consider bias in the process. Then, I took the following actions:

  • A little research on diversity and inclusion hiring best practices.
  • Evaluated each step of the process and our expectations of the candidates at that phase.

These actions led me to discover and identify a couple of excellent improvements we can make to the process to remove further bias in future hiring.

Though I genuinely believed I hired the best people and tried my best to consider bias, I still went back and reevaluated what more could have been done.

The actions that came from this:

  • I discussed why I was doing reevaluating with my inline manager.
  • I plan to talk to other engineering managers and bring these improvements to their attention.
  • I plan to discuss with my team on why I’m even considering these improvements.
  • I plan to test the changes to see if we get results.

Most importantly, along the way, I plan to talk about why I'm reevaluating these decisions. The answer to “What should I be doing?” requires you to stop and think. I plan to continue to stop and think.

I can’t tell you what specific actions you should reevaluate. If you need guidance, start with them all.

Part Four - May 31, 2020

Yesterday, NASA astronauts made it to the space station. Just imagine, sitting in the cockpit of a spaceship, thinking about all of the different ways you could blow up? NASA astronauts go through extensive training to be able to operate effectively under that kind of pressure. But how do they do it? Most importantly, for me, I'm questioning how do they stay sane?

Unfortunately, I can relate. However, in my case, instead of a cockpit, it's my car, and instead of the space station, it's home. When I get pulled over, I'm thinking about all of the different ways I could blow up, and last time I checked, this ain't rocket science.

How do they stay sane? This question is essential for me because we tend to care about social justice in bursts, mostly because it's DRAINING to keep going.

I'm trying to answer this question in public. I hope that this serves as an example or guide for your self-discovery process.

It has to be the excitement, the end goal, the vision, the dream. That's how the astronauts persist. But what do I need to do to maintain that? There is not much excitement over here, and quite honestly a pretty disjointed vision. But I think the core difference is that astronauts have magic. They believe in it themselves, and we, as a community, fuel the magic.

The more and more we advance technology, the more and more magical it seems. Today, we can literally talk to a box (Alexa, Google Home, etc.), and it as an inanimate object talks back, literally, things we see in fairy tales.

I know with 100% certainty that no magic exists in technology. Alexa is magical because we can't peak covers. But, no part of me wants to prove that to you and take the magic away. While knowledge is power, ignorance is still bliss.

We say kids are the future. Is it because kids don't know how the world works; to a child, everything is magical. Kids have a lot of energy. I think we can make a case that magic is a key component of sustained energy.

As an adult, as I read the news, I can see my magic fading away. But, to make it home, to the space station, or to a world where we actually care about others, I have to maintain my energy. I have to keep my magic.

Here are some of the ways I hope to maintain my magic:

  • Talk to my spouse about "What does the perfect world look like in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years?". We won't figure out the answer, but we can hope.
  • Journaling the question: "What do I think we do well in today's world, and what do I think we should continue in the future?". The world is terrible. I just think it's important to acknowledge and measure what we are doing right. Mostly, so we can keep doing it.
  • Frequently try to do something entirely out of my comfort zone. Not only is it a mental break, but a new perspective that leads to better overall decision making.
  • What does a friendly internet look like in 2100?

I hope these questions guide my decisions today and in the future. I really don't want to stop thinking about social justice tomorrow, so it's probably wise to put a system in place that enables me to maintain my magic. I'm working toward a sustainable effort toward my goal. I want to get to the space station too.

Part Five - June 7, 2020

Over the last week, I've been hyper-focused on having honest conversations with my peers about Black lives, social justice, and what we all can do better.

When I began writing this series of essays, I had no idea where I was going. I think I do now. I'm still learning. Writing is helping me take a step back and be open to it.

But, like all my other messages, I'm trying to answer these questions in public. I hope that this serves as an example or guide for your self-discovery process.

Everyone's perspective is different, and if you don't actively seek to learn and understand, you're leaving your self blind.

My sister has a rare genetic condition. Over the last couple of months, she's been telling me how she has been trying to learn more and find her community. To help, I asked my wife to send me any information about the condition she knew.

This past week, my wife sends me a video, and I sent it to my sister. But, this time, since I've been telling white people all week to educate themselves, I told her I'd also watch it to learn and educate myself.

Oh wow, That video was a wake-up call.

Most people struggle to live healthy, normal lives. People with her condition struggle even more to live healthy lives. However, my sister has lived her life and achieved a career as a Medical Assistant. She risked her life during this pandemic for others. I don't think my sister knows any other way to live.

It's tough to see how a person can end up with such a good heart after evaluating my actions, my family's actions, and her entire community's lack of understanding and verbal abuse.

She FaceTimes me every week (not kidding) to say, "Hey, Brotha. How you doing?"

It crushed my heart when I realized it took a situation as clear as the killing of George Floyd for the world to see the perspective of the Black community. It made me sick to think that it took seeing a video of an apparent experience of this rare condition to understand the perspective of my own sister. And I’m “woke”.

I remember the first time I saw another person with freckles. It was so cool! But, now, I can't even imagine how hard it must be to have never met someone you can relate too? I couldn't even imagine not ever meeting someone Black. Due to its rarity, she has never met anyone with her condition.

I'll save you the "I feel like a shit of a brother" story. I used to call her my “little, big sister”, as if my accomplishments outweigh hers. Nah, this was an incredibly long lesson from my big sister. For now, I found new inspiration in my big sister. She’s a soldier. I've been brainstorming ways to be a better brother.

My plan of action:

  • Talk with her about her condition, and being open to hear and believe her experience with no hesitation.
  • Consume all the information I can to learn more about her experience.
  • Become an activist for her condition.
  • Donate and attend events with her about her condition.

I am just trying to be better every day. We all have ways we can be better, you just have to be open to it. As you can see, we need to support others even if we can’t experience their perspective.