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Diversity + Inclusion at Split, Meet Kevin Li

We know that actions speak louder than words, so as part of our ongoing efforts to be actively anti-racist we’ve formed a diversity, equity, and inclusion task force. As we begin the work we should have begun long ago, we’d like to introduce you to the Splitters who will be leading that taskforce, beginning with Product Manager Kevin Li, who will co-chair.

These past few weeks have left me heartbroken, enraged, and exhausted. The murder of George Floyd has only further emphasized for me how much Black lives don’t matter in our current economic, social, and political system. As an Asian American cis man, I’ve also found myself sitting with the fact that one of the cops involved in George Floyd’s murder is an Asian man. Seeing myself so directly reflected in an Asian man standing by and letting a Black man die has been a necessary and jolting wake up call. It has led me to consider how I have also been complicit in a police system that works to uniquely oppress and disenfranchise Black and brown bodies. To that point, I’ve found myself examining how I can better talk about Anti-Blackness to my family and the Chinese-American community in general. I’ve found the words written by Letters for Black Lives to be extremely helpful and would encourage any other folks with non-English speakers in their lives to check it out!

Through this period of self-reflection, I’ve also found myself grounding (and sometimes drowning) in trying to bring intersectionality into all the learning and work that I do as the murders of Tony McDade, Riah Milton, and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells have been sitting heavily with me. I’ve found myself having to start over with a beginner’s mind as I’ve learned about the Black Trans Lives Matter movement and how I’ve also been complicit as a cis-gendered man in perpetuating systems of oppression towards trans folks. All this to say that I’m still doing a lot of unlearning and relearning and am newly resolved to practice bringing my whole self to the work of fighting systems of oppression.

As a part of bringing my whole self to this work, I’ve signed up to co-chair Split’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force. The tech industry as a whole prides itself on being on the cutting edge, but when it comes to representation of non-white and Asian cis men, we’ve got a ton of catching up to do, let alone be at the cutting edge. I still remember reading this article for the first time a few years ago about how diversity has been an issue in tech for decades and how less than 3% of tech jobs were held by Black folks then. I remember thinking we were hopefully at a turning point, but I find myself revisiting it now in writing this post and am disheartened by the lack of progress that the industry has been able to make.

Given the massive amount of wealth generated in our industry, it goes without saying (but we probably still need to say it) that unless we can find ways to bring more Black folks, and folks from other marginalized communities, to to share in that, the tech industry will stay complicit in upholding the systems of oppression that we must fight to dismantle.

Although Split is a young company with a small team, we’re definitely nowhere near the exception to these numbers, and we’re going to start to practice this work from the ground up. (We don’t even have numbers today on the breakdown of our team by race, gender identity, or any other dimensions. You can bet that this is where our task force will begin.) While I’ve deeply enjoyed the learning opportunities and incredibly smart teammates that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, in the tech industry and at Split to date, I also find myself at a point where, in order to stay in this industry, I need to make sure the company I work for models being part of a society that doesn’t disenfranchise or marginalize any community or group.

I’m both scared and excited about this work and how it will make Split a better company. Joy, my co-chair, and I have a laundry list of items that we want to tackle, and we’ll follow up with another post as we build out a “roadmap” of the changes we want to make in our company. I’ve written this blog post in part to put a public stake in the ground on where we’re starting from and am cautiously hopeful that in the somewhat near future I can look back on how much progress we’ve made.

As part of me practicing uplifting the voices of Black organizers, one of the main organizations that I’ve been looking to for leadership and education has been the Movement for Black Lives. They’re doing some amazing work building local coalitions of Black leaders with a shared strategy for change. Check them out!

We are committed to continuing to speak out as allies and activists and to make Split a more diverse and equitable place to work. Look for more from our task force as they move to more deeply engage in this work.

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