Reading Time: 5 minutes
Note: I was really pissed off when I wrote this, and it reads that way at times. I decided not to “tone it down”, because I don’t need to. It’s not the responsibility of oppressed people to make witnessing the results of their being oppressed more palatable to other people. If this is uncomfortable for you to read, imagine how it must feel to live it.
Minority, underrepresented and / or marginalised friends. Do you know who you can trust? Who will support you when called upon? Who has a history of harmful and / or discriminatory behaviour? Who is on the front lines, pushing for more diversity, equity and inclusion, regardless of what anyone else is doing or saying? Who tries to silence you, instead of support you?
As marginalised – disadvantaged – people, we need to know. I call these people “persons of interest” (PoI).
Persons of Interest: A Tool
Whether you’ve given these people a name yourself, have a physical list of these people, or unorganised notes in your head, many of us have a list. It’s a list that we do not want to have to keep, much like we do not want to have to deal with the daily bullshit that comes with being a minority, underrepresented and / or marginalised person in today’s world of tech bros, trans-exclusionary radical “feminists”, and people who have absolutely no interest in understanding – or even admitting – their own privilege and the effects it has in the real world.
My list is too fucking long, and I am too fucking burdoned by this bullshit to keep lists in my head. So I made a tool. And I’m sharing it with you, because I know that many of you out there need it too.
Persons of Interest is simply an Excel (or Excel-like) tool that helps you document, categorise, and analyse persons of interest. It’s built for the context for use at work, but you are free to adapt it as needed, apply it to communities you’re in, extended social networks, and so on.
If you’re someone who needs / wants this tool, I’m confident that I don’t need to explain any further. I hope it helps you.
You can find and download the Persons of Interest tool in different formats towards the end of this post. Please share it with others to help them too.
Report Harmful Behaviour
A quick note: please, please report harmful behaviour – especially harassment – to all responsible companies, communities, and organisers.
More than once, I’ve found out that people who harassed me also harassed several other women. That’s not any of our faults; it’s always the fault of the harasser. When responsible bodies have no real reporting structures or consequences for harmful behaviour, that’s their fault too. When people gaslight us, blame us, silence us, that’s their fault. Report it anyway, even if anonymously via an ally.
If you feel uncomfortable, that is more than enough reason to report. Don’t wait for it to get worse.
Read about how a conference organiser sexually harassed me.
A Bad Idea?
Do you think this tool is a bad idea because it encourages people to make lists and categorise people? Then you are naive, and you are wrong. We already have lists; I’m just taking away some of the burden involved in keeping, organising and using those lists. Because we have enough bullshit to deal with that you very probably don’t. This is not up for debate, and I’m not going to explain to you why we even have / need those lists in the first place. Don’t @ me.
Are you worried about ending up on someone’s list? Then you probably already know that you’re at the very least not supporting minority, underrepresented and / or marginalised people, and at the very worst, you’re actively working against us. Educate yourself. Do better. Be happy about the idea of being on a list like this, because you know you’ll be listed as an ally.
And just to be absolutely clear, belonging to a minority and / or underrepresented group, or being otherwise marginalised yourself, absolutely does not automatically mean that you have any understanding of this shit, or that you’re an ally. You too are subject to the systemic conditioning of an inequitable society, and you too are vulnerable to internalising and passing on that harmful conditioning. If you only care about your own groups / interests / experiences and say, “fuck you,” to everyone else, you’re still doing harm. It’s one thing to focus on just a couple of things at a time, for your own mental capacity and well-being; it’s another to disrespect and devalue everyone and everything else that doesn’t benefit / apply to you.
Your experiences are yours, and our experiences are ours. Don’t use your own lens to try to invalidate or belittle other people and what they go through.
So for all of you out there who don’t “get it”: I’m addressing you, but this post – this resource – is not for you. I am not here to serve you.
Do Your Own Fucking Research
Educate yourself. Put in the work. Stop expecting intersectional minorities like me to do the work for you. To put in the emotional labour, unpaid labour, unfair labour to help you, when you almost certainly enjoy more privilege, advantages, and benefits.
When we do things to help you, that is a gift, not a responsibility.
Look outside your own space to understand and support people who have less privilege in some area than you. Yes, everyone has some privilege, in some area. Sylvia Duckworth created an excellent illustration (below) to show some examples of this.
Having privilege doesn’t make you a bad person; it’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s what you do with it that counts.
Lisi Hocke is an excellent example of someone who strives to do better, despite being underrepresented herself as a woman in tech. Read Lisi’s story of starting to understand and explore race, by doing her own fucking research, and putting in her own fucking work.
You don’t need to do “everything”. You just need to start doing something.
Download the Persons of Interest Tool
Here, you can find the PoI tool in a few formats. This is only a template. You are free to use and change this template / tool however you wish, in the pursuit of good and justice. I am not responsible for any changes you make, or content you add.
Do not abuse this tool, or anyone who uses / needs it.
If I make any changes to the template, I will upload new versions here.
Finally, I’ll leave you with the strong recommendation to watch the following two ThoughtWorks sessions. I found them extremely eye-opening, thought-provoking, and validating.
The invention of race (scroll down to session)
Making Germany home. What will it take for Black Professionals? (scroll down to session)
Do you have any useful tools for minority, underrepresented and / or marginalised people that you’d like to share? Add them in the comments, or send them to me directly to remain anonymous. Please keep it to tools, rather than advice.
Do you have a story to share? Consider contributing to Identity Stories.