Committment to Self Esteem and Integrity and Updates!
bell hooks, in Rock Your Soul, quotes a psychologist's definition of self-esteem as personal integrity, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertion, living consciously and living purposefully. These points have been added to the inner cover of my journal as I head into my own recalibration of life after turning 30. It's been barely a month, but I've felt the need to salt the (digital) earth a bit in a demand of action for more integrity in the calls for safer and equitable spaces online and the need to center people over profits (and celebrity worship, branding - anything leaking out of the dark marriage of capitalism and aestheticism).
Before I continue, I want to highlight some things first. Ethan's book, You Deserve a Tech Union, is coming out next week. For the price of one month of Netflix without ads, you can learn how to form a tech union at your place of work (even if it's not a tech shop) and join the rising wave of workers fighting for rights that shouldn't have been taken in the first place. They wrote more about this on their site. Full disclosure, Ethan's interviewed me for this book, and I'm eager to share with y'all the experiences I've had in tech labor organizing and how it's continuing to grow as a space. Also, Labor Notes is holding a (the first?) conference for tech labor organizing in New York City this October. You can learn more at their website, I'll be there myself, one of the many people representing the 80+ unionized workers at Code for America.
Okay, back to the tough part. I am not a friend to many. I hold my values quite tightly because they have come from my lived experiences and that of those close to me. And as I've gotten older, I've seen that they're not unique to me, but a repeating of the systems that we live under. I'll stop there on that because you've heard me (and many others) bang that drum.
What does this have to do with self-esteem? Going back to Rock Your Soul, I kept hitting on points that reminded me of the things I felt while working in tech but could not put into words. I experienced this even at my time working as a tour guide at the Brooklyn Museum many moons ago. Notably, hooks writes, "Any black person who clings to the misguided notion that white people represent the embodiment of all that is evil and black people all that is good remains wedded to the very logic of Western metaphysical dualism that is the heart of racist binary thinking. Such thinking is not liberatory. Like the racist educational ideology it mirrors and imitates, it invites a closing of the mind". This is what rings loudly in the tech industry as many people of color (but I'm thinking of Black people in particular right now, obviously) are forced into submission to accept in order to "succeed" in this space. There's no education or demonstration of alternatives - instead, the goals are to transfer your intellectual capacity into intellectual property for these micro-governments (as described by Elizabeth Anderson in her book on the topic), that "workers are subject to dictatorship" through the guise of "politically neutral, technical, economic reasons [as to] why most production is undertaken by hierarchical organizations, with workers subordinate to bosses, rather than by autonomous individual workers". This reinforces "the sweeping scope of authority that employers have over workers". This is to say that when we join these places, we delete many forms of our identity in order to comply to rules that also control our ability to feed ourselves, take care of our bodies and families and even continue our own self-development. Unsurprisingly, this is not how our communities lived before, and it's silently destroying the self-esteem of BIPOC to actually see a world in which permits us to live authentically; history constantly shows this corporate-centric systems to do more harm than good (look at Fordism, for example).
This is going to take more time to unpack, but I do suggest checking out those two books as a start. Next week, I hope to expand on why the tech industry have successfully worked as a new plantation of intellectual labor from both its consumers and workers and after that, convince folks on routes out that can be restorative for everyone involved.