To celebrate the legacy of Alan Turing, experts at a recent Booth event explored how building inclusive technology—and technology teams—can benefit business and society.Driving Technological Innovation through Diverse Perspectives
From Bystander to Change Maker
Activist and author Nova Reid talked with Booth’s Felicia Joy about examining racist behaviors and supporting Black employees and business owners.
- November 07, 2022
Reid chose the term ally for her book title to speak to those who want to see an end to systemic racism. But if people think about allyship only as something they do part of the time, rather than as a journey of evolving and growing as human beings, they can fall short of making meaningful change, she said.
Instead, she challenged individuals who have benefited from whiteness to look inward and “have the courage to look at parts of our behavior that we pretend aren’t there, or deny, or perhaps don’t even quite know.”
Reid calls this process unlearning, one of the four stages of anti-racism—listening, unlearning, relearning, and taking action—that she outlines. She describes unlearning as not only examining patterns of behavior, but also gaining a wider understanding of history and how past events still manifest today.
It can be tempting to skip unlearning, she said, because it often stirs up emotions of shame and grief. It’s easier to think of racism as an external force, rather than a system that an individual bears responsibility for perpetuating.
“The very foundation of racism is built on so much dehumanization,” Reid explained. “Human beings aren’t designed to commit such atrocities to one another. We’re actually designed to be in connection with one another. And in reconciling that, big feelings of shame come up.” But by processing these emotions and learning new behaviors, she explained, collective healing is possible.
“There are so many studies that show that people who are able to engage in civil behavior and experience psychological safety are more able to innovate, more able to create.”
Investing in Change
In her anti-racism course, Reid advises students to think about how they can participate in reparations to counteract long-standing practices of racial discrimination. This could look like donating time to a Black-led business to provide expertise around strategy or fundraising, offering mentorship, or contributing a skill such as social media marketing.
For those with the financial means, this also could be investing in Black-owned businesses. In the United Kingdom, where Reid is based, a study on venture-capital funding by Extend Ventures, a nonprofit working to diversify access to finance, found that Black entrepreneurs received only 0.24 percent of the total sum invested from 2009 to 2019. A tiny 0.02 percent went to businesses with Black female founders.
“Be strategic with the societal advantage or privilege that you have,” Reid said. “Ask yourself: ‘Where is my influence? Who are the people that I know that I can connect somebody with? What can I personally do to add value?’”
Explore More from the D&I Dialogues Series
Booth’s D&I Dialogues is a program series for Booth alumni to connect with the broader business community and examine aspects of diversity in work and in life. Led by Booth faculty, alumni, and industry experts, the series is an important component of Booth’s 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. Previous discussions have covered leading with inclusion, building Black wealth, and driving technological innovation.
In recognition of the Tulsa Race Massacre’s centennial anniversary, Black business and cultural leaders came together to discuss the complexities behind building up Black communities at Booth’s D&I Dialogues series.Building Black Wealth in Chicago and Beyond
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