One thing I’ve noticed as I try to learn how to become more aware of the diversity issues in my world is that it’s really hard for someone to “get it” if they don’t “live it”. I think this occurs at all levels.
For my position in society, I don’t get how it feels to be a black man with the constant assumption that “I’m up to no good“. Similarly, I lack that fundamental understanding for other groups of people with fewer advantages than I have.
Walking-the-walk is the only way to become intimately immersed in something and fully understand it. I love listening to music and I know a lot about how it is created, but I’m not a musician.
This is why those who support people who are subject to discrimination and prejudice are called allies. I like this term as it fundamentally understands the difference between someone who lives the situation daily and someone who wants the world to change so that she doesn’t have to.
I call myself a feminist and think that I’m an ally. Becoming an ally is a journey. It starts with noticing the discrimination. Common steps along the path are to learn about it, and then change your behaviour. Over time I’ve learnt to listen to what women tell me without trying to justify to myself or tell them about why they are misunderstanding. I’ve learnt to shut-up. I’ve been trying to change my language to be less patronising; I don’t joke about the kitchen. At a conference, I start with the assumption that every woman I meet there is a developer and I don’t ask if they have children because I assume that we can talk about dev subjects.
I make mistakes often.
Changing habits is hard and this is a journey. I’m moving in the right direction; I would like you to come along with me.