Tech and the Have Nots

I was born and raised Jewish. Every High Holiday season (Passover, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana) my family would spend time reflecting on how lucky we were to have what we had. We'd pray for others who weren't as fortunate and think of things we could have done to be better people that year. We trained ourselves to reflect on the misfortune of others every time our lives got easier. It was a way to keep ourselves in check. To stay human.

I read another article today about a Black person being physically abused by the police for no reason. This time it was a one legged man on crutches outside the Twitter building in San Francisco. You can read the article here. While all of these videos and articles are horrible in their own way, this one compelled me to write because this instance and this author struck a certain chord with me. Here we have an incredibly rich, White city with rich White companies and rich White people. I am included in this population. Then we have a Black, one legged man whose living on the street. He's abused and humiliated in public by the police as they stomp on his leg, hit him on the head, and hold him to the ground for 30 minutes with his bare behind exposed. No one does anything. Not a peep from Twitter about the treatment of human beings in their neighborhood.

I understand that Twitter can't save the world. I understand that this is a complex issue because of the violent, racist nature of police culture. I understand that racism against Black people is deeply ingrained in our country's history. What I don't understand as a Jew and a human being, is why the Haves (i.e. wealthy tech companies) are not using their money and power more to advocate for the Have Nots-especially in the case of police brutality against Black people. I had an argument with a developer from Apple about something similar. I told him how awesome it would be if Apple took their smart people and designed solutions that would help everyone-not just those who can afford Apple watches. He claimed it was "not Apple's problem to solve." Personally, I think that's bullshit. I also think he's misaligned with his CEO who "plans to give away all his wealth, after providing for the college education of his 10-year-old nephew" and explains that changing the world always has been higher on Apple’s agenda than making money.

Here is an example of tech using money and influence to advocate for human rights. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, threatened to remove all Salesforce business from Indiana when Governor Mike Pence signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that allowed employers turn qualified employees away because of their religion, sexual orientation, gender, or race. Benioff spread the word on Twitter and a week later, offered relocation packages to Salesforce employees living in Indiana in case they wanted to transfer out of Indiana. Apple and NASCAR followed his lead and soon Benioff had a group of executives teaming up to put economic pressure on Indiana. Angie's List, an Indianapolis based tech company, froze their $40 million dollar expansion plan in the state. Mike Pence revised the legislation after coming under national scrutiny for his ridiculous legislation. Unfortunately it's still discriminatory. But at least he's under pressure, he revised it, and big tech companies are highlighting the issue and forcing further revisions because of Benioff's initiative.

Tech has the huge potential to do good. When I see and read about police brutality against Black people, I see a ripe opportunity for tech to leverage its money and power to push for justice and reform.