The Algorithms of Oppression
I know it might be a little cliche for a self-identifying woman within the LGBTQ family talking about the presence of LGBTQ people in the Dev community — or lack thereof. Cliche or not, I think these topics need to be discussed. I believe in order to move forward we must acknowledge the lack of transparency and hold ourselves accountable to be better. I know I’m diving headfirst into some heavy material but hopefully, the stories of these two individuals will inspire you as they’ve inspired me.
It’s been over 10 weeks that I have been in at Flatiron School, and every day I pass by this classroom called “Turing” not realizing the history behind that name. Driven by curiosity, I decided to enter those lovely 6letters into the infinite hole of information that is the search bar. To my surprise, Alan Turing made quite the name for himself in technology. He was groundbreaking, a visionary, and a pioneer.
Alan Turing was a man with many hats. To sum it up he played a role as an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. During World War II, he developed a machine that helped break the German Enigma code. He also laid the groundwork for modern computing and theorized about artificial intelligence.
An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Alan Turing was arrested and came to trial on 31 March 1952, after the police learned of his sexual relationship with a young Manchester man. He made no serious denial or defense; he saw no wrong with his actions. He was particularly concerned to be open about his sexuality in the hard and unsympathetic atmosphere of Manchester engineering. Rather than go to prison he accepted, for the period of a year, injections of estrogen intended to neutralize his libido.
It is widely said that Turing had been haunted by the story of the poisoned apple in the fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and had resorted to the same desperate measure to end the persecution he was suffering as a result of his homosexuality. Alan Turing died from suicide in 1954 after taking a bite from a poisoned apple before bedtime.
Turing is what happens when systems of oppression are allowed to target minorities, and violently reject their existence.
Sophie Alpert graduated from Khan Academy, managed the React core team at Facebook for 4 years, and is currently working at Humu. Sophie played a major key role in the growth of React.
Sophie Alpert is a transgendered female.
Alpert quit Facebook that she’d been harassed by her colleagues after criticizing the lack of diversity at the company. Among other things, she said she’d been attacked on Blind, an anonymous workplace app.
Often referred to as “a thing in a dress”
“Facebook is good for many people, but it’s not the right place for me right now,” Alpert wrote. “I want to spend my time at a place willing to push further on diversity and inclusion. One where it’s not OK to write on Workplace that white privilege doesn’t exist. One where if I call out that our board has too many white men, I don’t get harassed by other employees on Blind with transphobic messages saying I should be fired.”
Everyone is Fighting Their Own Battles.
Often we hear something along the lines of, “Strive to make the tech industry more inclusive and accepting of everyone.” This is the goal. Tech literally touches everything, thus we are all affected by it. It’s only right that all of us have a part in the ‘how’ of technology. When you have an inclusive mindset and the output to match, you will happen along like-minded individuals, and great things are bound to happen.
Tech is very collaborative; Coding is a team effort. All of your favorite applications were built by a team. I can confidently say my progress here at Flatiron school is from being able to rely on, learn and grow from my classmates. I hope as we all move forward we can remember the stories of Turing and Alpert and use their stories to drive us to be better as a whole. I hope you take their stories with you and have immense kindness for those that walk a different path than you.