ISAAC APPIAH

LOS ANGELES, USA

Whitewalls 6 | A lingering thought…

Whitewalls_Isaac-Appiah_fwwd

As a designer, I used a personal project I’ve been working on with a developer (seen in the graphic) to express something that’s bothered me for years. Whenever I join the team of a tech company or work with a client in the tech space I’m the only black person, and often, person of color in the room.

It’s an awkward experience because I often have to cater to a majority white, male audience while designing products that affect the lives of millions of people who don’t fall into that category. It can be an incredibly uncomfortable situation to feel like you have to make the people you work with comfortable with your presence and your ideas, which often don’t mirror theirs.

Black people make up roughly 12.7% of the population. That’s over 37 million Americans who only represent 2% of the working tech crowd. Likely less now considering recent/current events. Hispanic and Latino Americans make up 17.8% of the population. That’s nearly 60 million Americans. Tech can and needs to do better with representation. We overwhelmingly use your products and should have more say in how they’re made. I often feel like I’m designing the same things for the same people over and over and over again.

Here are some things you can do. They’re not going to be easy, but the things worth doing rarely are:

  • Bring on more black co-founders and executives: We have great ideas and are often culturally diverse enough to understand and speak to a wide audience.
  • Hire more black developers, designers, marketers, HR managers, etc: We often seek to do things a little differently which is something the industry needs right now.
  • Find ways to search for talent outside of your usual circles: Most of my white and Asian colleagues and friends don’t know any black people aside from me and they tend to hire through connections.
  • Invest in black ideas. Give us the opportunity to fail upwards too: Black women and men are usually closer to the problems that affect everyday people but are under-resourced and underfunded when it comes to making those ideas a reality. Black ideas don’t only serve the black market. You have almost the entire entertainment industry as proof of that.
  • Make an effort. Walk it like you talk it: Don’t just make inspirational posts on social media or donate to charities and organizations. Solutions can’t be outsourced. They’re not over there. They’re right here in your own back yard. Actively try to make your life a more diverse experience. We can only eliminate racism and prejudice through exposure to one another.

I thoroughly enjoy what I do. But, the people I do it with rarely resemble the people I do it for. The people I work with don’t look like the people I hang out with. I can and will continue to make efforts toward changing that.

I, and a good friend, throw a yearly party for the crypto community in LA where we try to cram as many different groups of people as we can into a room (while keeping in mind all occupancy and fire code regulations). Once it’s safe to gather again we plan on increasing the frequency of this event so that we can keep addressing this problem, while listening to some damn good music.

Personally, it’s been a struggle. We suspect, but never actually know why we’re not good enough which forms a lingering sense of paranoia that sticks. I’ve always had hope and will continue to, even when I don’t.

✌🏾

**FYI, the numbers I used up top might be a little old so don’t burn me for technical inaccuracies and miss the point. I have a hunch that things aren’t any more favorable today. If anyone has more up to date metrics, please share. I don’t mind being wrong, it happens. I’m always open to talk more about these things if anyone’s interested.**


JUNE 2020