Kindness City Blog
17 Aug 2021

Reading: Race, Gender, Tech.

Some things I read about recently…

Not being an attrition statistic

I really enjoyed reading Julie Pagano's 2016 guide to not being an attrition statistic if you're in a marginalised or under-represented group.

Lots of great harm-reduction stuff in here. Well worth a read if you're in a marginalised or under-represented group, since it might help. Definitely worth a read if you're in the majority group, since it'll help you empathise-with and help others.

Going back to the office

We spent some time on our team today talking about this NYT In Her Words article.

I thought it was striking that Julie Pagano suggested considering remote work as a harm-reduction strategy in 2016, and now we have large numbers of non-white women with a preference for staying remote.

The Battle of Bamber Bridge

A colleage shared a link to this wikipedia page. I hadn't heard about this event before, and it's one of those things that almost defies belief:

The Battle of Bamber Bridge was an outbreak of racial violence between Black and White American servicemen stationed in the British village of Bamber Bridge, Lancashire in June 1943. The incident, which occurred a few days after the 1943 Detroit race riot, was started when white Military Police (MPs) attempted to arrest several African American soldiers from the racially segregated 1511th Quartermaster Truck Regiment at the Ye Olde Hob Inn public house in Bamber Bridge.

After the arrival of more military police armed with machine guns, Black soldiers armed themselves with rifles from their base armoury. Both sides exchanged fire through the night. One Black soldier was killed and several MPs and soldiers injured. Although a court martial convicted 32 African American soldiers of mutiny and related crimes, poor leadership and racist attitudes among the MPs was blamed as the cause.

The whole page is well worth reading.

For me (a white brit), I felt like I saw two different examples of locals trying to be allies to the Black US soldiers. I think one example worked well, and the other caused great unintended harm.


The people of Bamber Bridge supported the Black troops, and when US commanders demanded a colour bar in the town, all three pubs in the town reportedly posted "Black Troops Only" signs.

Later in the article, we see that the locals and the black soldiers drank together in the pubs – so this seems to have worked.

However, once the initial violence with the MPs had kicked off:

Staff Sergeant William Byrd, who was Black, defused the situation but, as the MPs left, a beer was thrown at their jeep.

The article doesn't say whether that beer was thrown by a local or a soldier. But I find myself imagining myself into the body of one of the locals, and being tempted to throw that beer. I imagine feeling like I'm sticking up for the Black soldiers. But the ultimate outcome of the act may have been to re-trigger a confrontation that cost a lot of lives.

I think there are two key differences between these two moments:

  1. Gamble with your own chips
  2. Follow the lead of the person you're allying with

Gamble with your own chips

In the first example (putting up the "Black Troops Only" signs) is gambling only with the livelihoods of the white local publicans who put up the signs. The second one (anonymously throwing a beer at armed MPs) is drawing a line between "you", the MPs, and "us", the locals and black soldiers. In doing so, it gambles with the lives of the soldiers.

I could imagine being a local anonymous beer thrower saying to my mates "What are they going to do? Shoot us?" But the problem is that the MPs didn't see a unified "us" that consists of the locals and the black soldiers. They saw two distinct "them" groups, one of which they were absolutely allowed to shoot.

Follow the lead

This time with some of my own emphasis, wikipedia says:

Staff Sergeant William Byrd, who was Black, defused the situation but, as the MPs left, a beer was thrown at their jeep.

If I was a white local, and chose to throw that beer "in support" of my new Black Soldier friends, then I've missed an important signal. It was a Black Soldier who defused the situation – de-escalating it. I just changed tack, and started escalating again. I should have been paying attention to how my new friends were handling the situation, and following their lead.

Tags: kindness DEI race gender tech-industry

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