More Than Words: A Juneteenth Tech Community Challenge

Morgan Blackett - Marketing Strategist

18 Jun 2021

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On June 19th, 1865, General Order No. 3 by Union Army General Gordon Granger mandated the proclamation of the end of slavery in Texas. This day, commonly known as Juneteenth, is widely acknowledged as the true Emancipation Day for African Americans, many of whom were still being enslaved in parts of the South, specifically Texas, despite the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862 more than two years earlier. For most of U.S. history, Juneteenth has mostly been celebrated within African American communities, but in recent years, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, it has risen in prominence and national recognition. On June 17th, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Saturday, June 19th, 2021, will be the first official national celebration of Juneteenth and the end of slavery in the United States, nearly 245 years after these words appeared in the U.S. Declaration of Independence:  

Sadly, for hundreds of years, and for millions of Americans, the liberty, unalienable rights and equality promised by the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Juneteenth proclamation, and the civil rights movement have been far too slow in coming.   

This year, as our friends to the South (I’m Canadian, eh!) prepare to celebrate Juneteenth I want to use this occasion to challenge all of us in the customer experience technology space to learn from history: proclamations, policies, and promises are not enough. Words are not enough.  

Technology, like the Emancipation Proclamation, was supposed to be the great equalizer, and for some that has been true. Technology has been great to many of us, allowing us to work from anywhere in the world, connect with colleagues across different continents, create advertisements without a million-dollar budget, and it has opened the door for me, a fourth-year university student, a chance to do challenging and rewarding work with an amazing company. But as great as technology has been, it has not been the great equalizer that many may have hoped. Much of the social injustice and prejudice that permeates our society has also found a home in the technology industry.  

Black led tech start-ups often struggle to get funding from venture capitalist and banks at a disproportionate rate to their counterparts. This limits the ability of the Black experience, difference in culture and perspective to be considered and to contribute to the technology industry. Therefore, making the industry inherently bias and not representative of the voice of an entire group of people. Black employees in tech often are a minority and their voices often go unheard. They have to produce at a high level while dealing with the stresses of living in a society that is built on systematic racism. This cannot be overstated. Even at the height of the Coivd-19 pandemic, Black people worldwide had to witness the murder of George Floyd and the death of Breonna Taylor. Dealing with the mental pressure of a pandemic, social injustice, and the pressure of performing at your job. Black employees typically have no way to turn for help during times like this.   

How can we make a difference? We can do so by capturing the very essence of Juneteenth. We can celebrate Juneteenth by ensuring that technology truly is the great equalizer by ensuring everyone is liberated in this industry. We can do that by giving opportunity to Black led tech start-ups, creating safe spaces for Black employees to flourish and by amplifying the voices of those who often go unheard and needs often go unmet. Juneteenth, to me, represents an Emancipation Day that does not exclude anyone, that ensures everyone hears the good news and liberates the disenfranchised. We should celebrate Juneteenth by being a light in dark rooms and uplifting the voices of others.   

The Challenge: Enjoy Juneteenth this Saturday with these thoughts in mind, remember the proclamations and promises that your organization has made, and come to work on Monday acknowledging that words are not enough. Let’s get to work at making the promises a reality!

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Morgan Blackett

I love aligning my passion for community building with my desire to add value to any work I am involved in. Presently I am involved in engaging and dynamic work in Marketing and Technology around Content Management Systems and Digital Solutions.

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