When Racial Equity Efforts Are Under Attack, Community Is Our Guiding Star

6 min readAug 24, 2023


Being a racial equity advocate has always been hard work. As of late, it has felt even harder. I’m Selene, Director of Programs at Code2040. For the last 4 years, I have been supporting companies to center racial equity through shifting and changing their systems while building structures that recruit and support Black and Latinx students pursuing Tech Careers. This work is important to me because I know creating structures that nourish and uplift the leadership of Black and Latinx students and early career professionals creates space to support everyone pursuing a tech career. This work is also personal, not only because I’m an Afro-Latina doing work in tech, but also because I encourage others who are trying to do this work grounded in values of relationship building, inclusion, and advocacy. I know first hand the difficulty of this journey.

After increased interest and money towards inclusion efforts in tech in 2019 and 2020, we started seeing the opposite; a decline in investment. We started hearing from people in the industry that companies were cutting their internship programs, firing and laying off their Tech Force, and reducing their budget for DEIB efforts. This further solidifies what we already know: Black and Latinx students do not have the same access to high paying tech jobs. DEIB goals are consistently attached to the bottomline. This is why there have not been significant shifts to racial inequity in tech. Racial equity work needs to center the actual wellness and humanity of people. Structural change means centering the humanity and power of Black and Brown people.

Recession and a climate of economic uncertainty spurred the current disinvestment in (paid) internships and racial equity work. However, these cuts expose the way racial equity is viewed as a business trend: something lauded when it’s expedient to do so, but rarely with real commitment to the arduous work that racial equity requires. We know real change happens through consistency and slowly. Racial equity should be understood as foundational, a cornerstone in all the work a company does, and a commitment to long-term investment in the overall health of the organization. Instead, we continue to see racial equity investments ebb and flow, invested in only during times of security or as a PR move to benefit business. This cycle of investment and disinvestment is part of how systemic racism works: it structures our workplaces, ways of relating to and seeing business, and it reproduces itself by claiming that measures to ensure racial equity are frivolous or harmful. In a country founded in racial violence, systemic racism is a normalized part of everyday life. It is reflected not only in workplaces, but also our legal system, including the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decision to effectively eliminate affirmative action in higher education is in keeping with a broader cultural landscape that refuses to address racial inequity beyond lipservice. Affirmative action was put in place as a racial equity effort to support students of color in accessing higher education. Race conscious admissions policies attempted to address the ways structural racism maintains a system of advantage based on whiteness.

At first, watching the highest court in the US gut a racial equity measure, knowing the implications will be far-reaching and harmful for communities I advocate for, I felt a sense of hopelessness and defeat. I remember having conversations with other racial equity advocates doing this work and normalizing this decision by saying “I’m not surprised. This is just the way it is.” A close friend of mine reminded me of the quote by abolitionist organizer Mariame Kaba “Hope is a discipline,” and this work is one rooted in hope. And while I’ve held grief and sadness this year, moments like the one I had with my friend remind me that these are moments where we need to lean on each other, on the communities we have built, and on the visions of racial equity we work towards.

Because the truth is: White supremacy wants to isolate us, make us feel alone and defeated, and therefore continue the status quo. But, there’s another way. I want to encourage other racial equity advocates to do what we are doing at Code2040, to meet this moment as an opportunity to build relationships, lean into collective power, and sharpen our racial equity tools even more.

In response to the current shifts and disproportionate impacts on Black and Latinx workers, Code2040’s Programs Team has been asking questions about how we support the people doing equity and inclusion work right now. We know we need people who care deeply about change in the tech industry, so how do we support Black and Latinx students with commitments to racial equity to access tech jobs? And, even more importantly, how do we support people impacted by the current landscape to feel connected and empowered rather than alone and defeated in this moment? How do we offer connection, community care, and resourcing to build our collective capacity for change? How do we trust and leverage the power of community, regardless of what the current moment is, to ensure we are pushing forward?

I know racial equity work is a long-term commitment that will be made stronger through community building. In moments where I feel alone or like this work is just too hard, I try to remember that isolation and individualism are tenets of white supremacy. I’m reminded that this work is about community; it’s about the power we have as a collective of advocates.

Even in moments when the tech landscape is telling us there is no budget, interest, or business strategy for racial equity work, we can and we are doing the work. Racial equity work includes your rest and working in ways that are sustainable, practicing vulnerability in your relationships, building connections, and making interventions within your workplace toward alignment with a vision for racial equity. If you, like me, have been feeling like there is no space to do structural change, I invite you to recognize and lean into all the racial equity work you’re already doing. It can look like the following:

Start with the relationship to yourself:

Ensure that you rest and focus on your sustainability. Racial equity work is about creating space for us all to thrive, and that means there must be space for rest. Resting is your right. Remember, we need you long term and the only way to get there is by taking breaks and honoring your rest.

Spend some time imagining and visioning what an equitable workplace and world look like. Visioning is a practice that sustains the discipline of hope. Imagination and hope is absolutely necessary in the work towards racial equity.

Relationships with others:

Share your stories and be in camaraderie with your loved ones and/or coworkers. Change is often catalyzed through storytelling, empathy and mutual understanding.

Lean into building relationships and normalize conversations about race. Talking about race includes sharing about the different experiences we all have living in this country.

At work:

Leverage your power: assess your risk and resources to make interventions when appropriate. This can mean advocating for racial equity goals in meetings that would otherwise focus on meeting narrow metrics of recruitment and hiring. Leveraging your power can look like creating more supportive spaces for your team to name and share feedback. It means sharing power and being transparent about how power in the organization is allocated and operates. Finally, leveraging power can mean standing in your voice by discussing the struggles of the current moment with the people in your organization.

If you’re in a position of leadership, honor the knowledge that racial equity isn’t a trend. There is a world (it is here, now!) in which businesses can execute plans while also being accountable to their racial equity goals and their Black and Latinx employees.

Most importantly, Code2040 and I invite you to imagine with us what a strong community of racial advocates can do.

Let’s imagine what collective power can change. We can hold our vision of a racially equitable future as we refuse to accept the current conditions as permanent. Racial equity work is committing to nourishing our imaginations, our relationships, and building our community of racial equity advocates. We are in this long term work together. The power of racial equity work has always lived in community, and we are here for you!




Activating, connecting, and mobilizing the largest racial equity community in tech.