There was a time in my life when I used to wait with nervous anticipation for conference proposal letters to appear in my inbox. I cried the first time that I was accepted by ISTE because I could not believe that I would finally be able to attend and that people would actually come to my session to hear what I had to say.
These days are different though. I no longer wait and to be honest, I don’t even know when proposals are due anymore. I rarely submit my own sessions and if I do, it is a panel with a diversity of speakers.
Today our panel on diversity and equity in making was accepted by TCEA which was great until I learned that many of my peers were not. These are peers of color who share edtech content on national stages through the lens of pedagogy, which is one of the many rare necessities that we desperately need.
Sporadically from voxer group to voxer group, I heard more denials than acceptances and it was frustrating…beyond frustrating.
Then, I saw the hashtag #FBNoExcuses full of voices of color highlighting the inequities of the hiring at Facebook and really the tech world, because for some reason Facebook believes that it can’t hire diverse talent since schools lack CS programs so paying code.org $15 million was their huge announced fix.
There was something empowering in the hours of seeing people share story after story of invisibility in tech with some sharing how they hire diverse talent…because you should, you know. There were also stories of people disputing Facebook’s hiring theories by sharing their stories of job denial and exclusion.
I was most touched though this blog post, where Kaya Thomas said…
“You are making us seem invisible by ignoring our brilliance.”
And that statement took me back to the recurring system of selective whiteness that describes edtech.
I went back to my POCedtech peers on our social backchannel and heard statements that were quite blistering…
“How are we supposed to change a system when no one is listening?”
“I’ve always learned that I needed to pay my dues first. Maybe I need to work more so that they know me”
“I didn’t get picked but I’m still going to go and try to represent…be the diversity, I would hate not to at least be there. We have to be there.”
Dear fellow POCedtech friends,
We didn’t create this system but we certainly can change it through amplifying our voices and experiences. Please stop feeling like you somehow have to “pay dues”. That’s the lie that society taught us. Reject it. They don’t need to know you. They need to create an intentionally diverse system of evaluation where there is balance of perspective. In 1,000 speakers….there should not exist a realm where less than 10 are of color. That’s not “intent of fairness”. That, my friends is intent of exclusion because intent of inclusion wasn’t a part of the process. That’s how diversity works. You can’t “be the diversity”. They must create it. And truthfully, perhaps we too should be in on the process.
Today, I would like to call an #EdtechBlackout. Let’s just intentionally show who we are and what we are about. Share your worth. Share your work and refuse to be silent. Let’s take these conversations from our silent backchannels and into the public space. What can places like ISTE, TCEA, METC, FETC, ICE and others do to make sure that your voice is present?
I get that our job roles require a certain level of mass edtech conference participation but we don’t have to simply fit into the molds created for us when they refuse to accept us.
And oh by the way, #EdtechBlackout is also a rejection of you not being enough because you are so we don’t have to go to their events. We can create our own.
Tonight, a group of us that also intersect with Educolor Tech started conversations around hosting our own POCEdtech Summit. It’s not to start some segregated closed door conference but to create a space where we can build, share, learn and develop who we are as underrepresented minorities who teach or lead technology efforts in schools while also building a body of work online.
We have no idea yet how we are going to pull this off but we know that we want to gather 100 minds from around the country into one space at no cost to the attendees themselves. That is the goal.
Thoughts on Being Black in Edtech
As someone who is now in a position where the stress of systemic racism in the workplace is no longer an issue, I feel the pain of my peers because I have been there. When you are a person of color in edtech, there is often an expectation of racial silence especially on teams where you are one of a few POC. You can’t really talk about blackness because when you do, you’re told not to do it. You are being told that you cannot speak about ideas that are your own and to make matters worse…are often forced to sit in silence while the person next to you utters the same idea that you just said while the room accepts it without even a second thought.
You get to watch inequitable distribution of learning resources happen in your own school district. You must stay silent because talking can be detrimental to your career. This is often our reality.
What people don’t realize is how so many of us work so hard to achieve “micro-titles” with words like Innovator, Expert and Distinguished. Many of us have multiple versions of these “micro-certifications” and it’s not because we are necessarily in love with tech tools but because we too often believe that the more “micro-titles” that we get, the more voice that we have…the better career opportunities to follow. What’s funny is that as much as these “micro-titles” rarely matter in the big scheme of things, they too are often used to exclude us…especially when “good old boy” systems are used to choose those too.
The same ones that choose who gets to speak at conferences…
What’s funny is that this is something that should be submitted and discussed in a room of the same professionals that create stringent rules irresponsible of culture….but it wouldn’t be accepted anyway.