The past week has been frightening, upsetting, overwhelmingly exhausting, and surprisingly insightful. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were four nights of listening to helicopters and tear gas. We walked along Broadway Saturday morning and saw the aftermath from Friday night. Our nearby grocery stores remain open, but boarded up. Sunday featured more protesting, an inexplicable motorcade of 50+ squad cars along Grand Avenue, and comforting a scared, pregnant wife.
Monday was tough. It was the first day back at work, and to say I was distracted would be an understatement. At some point in the morning, I sat at my desk and sobbed. Stripe held a session later in the day for Black Stripes to share their experiences. I shared mine, but broke down again when someone else recalled how her brother didn’t tell their father about an encounter with the police because the brother didn’t want to upset the father when he realized he could not protect his son. This hit me. Hard. I couldn’t stop crying in front of 450 coworkers. All I could think was: I don’t know how to protect my unborn son. I am a rich, educated Black man. Adrian will be the same. No amount of education or wealth can protect him—or me—from the horrors of police brutality or racism.
I have been naïve for far too long. I lived in a safe bubble in Cambridge for 13+ years. My time in Oakland has also been in a relatively safe bubble. I was angry with the rioters and looters over the weekend. I wondered what they hoped to accomplish by sullying a peaceful protest with the destruction of my neighborhood. I recognize the peaceful protesters are not the rioters. The truth is: I’m grateful for that experience. I used to joke to myself that moving to Oakland would radicalize me, like N’Jobu—Killmonger’s dad—in Black Panther. I’m not yet to the point of leading a global revolution, but I am at the point where I cannot sit by any longer.
I’ve felt a bit anxious over the past few months. I’ve had this feeling like I should be doing more for the world. “Did I really go to MIT just to do web development?” This week has been a catalyst to dive into that feeling and take action.
I purchased the domain june20.org on June 21—my birthday—last year. If Juneteenth is the day we celebrate freedom, June 20 is the day we take action toward equity and justice. The domain sat unused until a few days ago when I started linking to causes organizations I am supporting. If there are others that should be represented, please create an issue or pull request at https://github.com/blackburn-foundation/june20.
I am going to wrap this up with an FAQ of questions I have been asked by others, and pondering on my own.
Meh. Some days I want to take over the world and fix everything. Other days I just want to curl up on the bed and cry. I spend way too much time on Facebook and Twitter. Ironically, my reddit usage has dropped!
I worry about Adrian. I worry about my five nieces. How quickly can I, we, fix the world for them? Is all of this excitement for action going to die down in another week?
Go to a protest if you can.
Donate to the organizations linked at june20.org. Visit https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/ and learn more there. Donations to The Blackburn Foundation are appreciated, but the other organizations have a far greater need right now.
Start conversations about “tough” topics! It bothers me that so many people refuse to discuss money, religion, or politics. These are all factors in systemic racism, and we should be discussing them in our personal lives.
Start conversations at work. Are your hiring practices fair to Blacks and other minorities? Are you even trying to hire us?
Go vote! Vote out every single Republican! That party is completely irredeemable.
We have had a week of reflection and storytelling to better educate our peers on the issues we face on a near-constant basis.
Patrick (co-founder and CEO) published a blog post outlining some steps Stripe is taking: https://stripe.com/blog/opposing-racism.
Stripe is matching employee donations to a few different causes, up to $200K. Stripe is also waiving fees—up to $1M—for non-profits focusing on ending racism. Contact me if you know of such organizations so that we can update their fee plans.
We have formed working groups to tackle issues with recruiting, promotions, and supporting Black-owned businesses. I am especially interested in working with established Black-owned businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. If you need help, or have questions about starting/running a business, let me know.
I don’t have enough information, but I am leaning toward a reimagining of what police do in our society compared to other organizations. David Menschel has a nice thread that explains it well: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1269452780764229633.html. I’m still digesting this. In the meantime I am getting involved with Campaign Zero and their efforts on policing reform. I see this as a stepping stone toward the reimagining, not an alternative.
Alright. I’m done rambling. Let’s get to work!