In the past years I keep hearing at almost any conference I attend or online talk that the blame for everything is the "white rich middle-aged developer" and we need more inclusion and that we have racist software and products on the market. We need to change things IMMEDIATLEY is the call of all of these events. Being myself of Caucasian persuasion I started to feel that I am somehow the blame of all evil and somehow at the same time being discriminated. Thus started my long journey in finding that racist software producer but it seems more hard to find in real life than in a TED talk or at a conference.
First of all, we all have seen the video with the "racist soap dispenser" but as a former programmer I can say that it is just the perfect example of a wrong implementation of sensors and bad practices in product testing. Usually these products should be tested in a variety of environments and with a variety of users (by variety I do not mean only skin color) but the companies are not willing to spend the money, thus the "elusive white rich middle-aged developer" is to blame. Do we know that the software was really written by a white rich middle-aged developer?
Usually the middle-aged developers, regardless of the skin color are quite good at their work and do not make such huge mistakes, on the other hand big companies tend to have early retirement programs for the middle-aged personnel just to cut costs and replace them with fresh noobs who do not know too much, are just eager to prove themselves to get to the fat payment but they usually are very cheap in the noob phase.
Also the people blaming the lack of inclusion should be aware that most of the corporations have hordes of developers in parts of the world where the caucasian persuasion is not so popular and present. Can be also a possibility that some programmer thought "oh, this is for whites"?
Returning to our elusive white rich middle-aged developer who does not think about anything else than to create racist and non-inclusive software, wherever I have worked in the development teams there where all skin tones and genders and lack of genders, so it was very hard for me to find this special species of developer. If we think at Facebook, Tesla and Twitter CEO's as well as any of the other big players in the market I can agree that I see the rich white already over a certain age, I can agree that a CEO gives some directions for the lines of business BUT at the same time I am more than sure that under those CEO's the people who are actually being the ones who work on the products are as diverse as the planet Earth itself.
At the same time there are groups, special events and meetings only for some certain parts of the human spectrum, like female only events, gay events, transgenders at work and so on but I have never seen a "caucasian only middle-aged developers meeting", and I do not talk about sectarian groups and KKK meetings, but purely work related events. Even at the events where these "white rich middle-aged developers" are blamed for everything I still do not see them but I tend to see some white rich middle-aged designers talking bad about the guys who implement their ideas from paper to the real product. Also at these kind of talks the audience is very young and I always asked myself after that with which bias will they enter in the working environment.
If we think again only designer vs developer, I have been in countless meetings where it was said in a form or another that "we need to educate the developers" and then eventually followed by the "white rich middle-aged developer" slogan. Designers should not be also "educated" by the developers?
Going back to our racist soap dispenser, I presume it was also a product designer involved in the process and she/he should have been also responsible for the outcome and for testing the product. In the end just our elusive white rich middle-aged developer is to be blamed for the result. Is this fair? I would say no, but being of caucasian persuasion and former developer I may be biased.
I think is very easy for us to follow a trend and just blame a group of people without thinking, and what I find more disturbing is that not people from other ethnicity are usually throwing with stones but white middle-aged designers are usually the ones who transform any error in a story about racism.
There are many faulty products in this world, I have had soap dispensers and dryers who also did not respond as expected and I had to get creative to get a response from their sensors, but I never ever thought that that product was created by a black rich middle-aged developer with some racist agenda. It was just a bad example of product engineering. Nothing more, nothing less! At the same time we just create artificial problems just by bringing a "racist" claim in the picture.
What we should focus on, is not the white rich middle-aged developer but to create meaningful products, usable products and less time spent on creating artificial issues, because I can find for sure ten thousand "discrimination" cases only if I look around my desk - discrimination against tall people, fat people, short people, people with long hair, people with short hair, long fingers, short fingers and so on. And we have also to accept that one size fits all solution is not working always in 100% of the cases but we can solve the problems and produce better products.