Culture

Antiracist Economist Kim Crayton on How to Beat the Systemic Racism of IT

8 Mar 2021 1:11pm, by

“Black women are the moral compass of this country,” business strategist, cultural coach and “Antiracist Economist,” Kim Crayton said, referring to the United States in this episode of The New Stack Makers podcast. But it’s exhausting work. And repetitive, to continue to offer the same basics to white people of what’s wrong with a country, an economy, and a tech industry that’s systemically built on anti-Blackness.

A photo of Kim, a Black woman with red lipstick and a purple blouse laughing with her whole heart“Tech always thinks in binaries, which gets on my nerves. People of color, people from marginalized communities, we survive living in the gray. There is no right, wrong, good, bad because it changes situationally. So you have people who want to flip the tables. And then folks act like the only alternative is to prepare marginalized communities to go into spaces and work in places where they’re going to be harmed,” Crayton said.

She is looking for an option that suits the gray of this existing condition of Black and other marginalized communities.

Crayton explained that “This understanding among marginalized individuals [and] groups, that, if we are allowed in spaces we can change, we see time and time again, the tools of the oppressor, in the hands of the oppressed can only do as designed and that is to oppress. I want something different.”

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Crayton taught Antiracism 101. Now, this coach of tech leaders is focused on building out an ecosystem based on acknowledging and revolutionizing around four guiding principles:

  1. Tech is not neutral. Nor is it apolitical.
  2. Intention without strategy is chaos.
  3. Lack of inclusion is a risk and crisis management issue.
  4. Prioritize the most vulnerable.

This gray area is clearly not out of focus. It’s quite the opposite. Crayton is taking the systemic approach that can only come with working on a doctoral dissertation in business administration on technology entrepreneurship while having lived the experience of being a Black woman. She resides outside what she calls the matrix — the systems, policies and institutions that are built, by default, on anti-Blackness and white supremacy. But she has the tools and strategies to engage with, challenge and redesign this matrix.

“All white people are racist by design. That is how the systems are designed. So you cannot be trusted, by default. White people should not be leading this. They should be getting their information and how to leverage their system, their networks, their money, and their resources, based on the advice of marginalized people. Because we have the lived experiences of the harm, of the blind spots that whiteness just does not see.” — Kim Crayton

Crayton says, if you want to make a change within this inherently racist system, in inherently white-dominated tech companies, for example, those of us coming from a place of white privilege and power need to start by looking to the most vulnerable within any community. And we need to be willing to “take the hit” and go out of our way to help colleagues in a way that not only makes them feel welcome but that they have a support system and future within that company.

Crayton advises “Find one person, a Black person, a marginalized person, and ask them: What is your career goal here? In a year, what would you like to be doing? What do you need me to do to ensure that you get there?”

And since privilege is inherently situational, Crayton is using her own to reach out to those more vulnerable than she. To learn from them and to build new communities — like a publicly funded research lab and a new business school dedicated to democratizing business school education — that work outside that matrix, but allow these most vulnerable to compete with it.

Listen to this full episode as we talk about the need for equity over the myth of equality, the ups and many downs of tech boot camps, and how to redesign spaces to be psychologically safe by default. And for fellow white people listening to and reading this, please consider doing your own homework and taking Crayton’s Being Antiracist: The Basics online course, and encouraging your white teammates to do the same.

Photo courtesy of #CauseAScene

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