Addressing racial justice in UX | Part I
Think about: What are the biggest challenges faced by UX when it comes to racial justice, and how can we overcome them?
“We can’t always control it, but we can help shape responsible equitable practices that move our companies forward.”
Question: How can UX research and design be more inclusive to better represent our society and the rapidly changing demographics?
Challenge: In designing products that meet the needs of most users, we may find ourselves not meeting the specific needs of our BIPOC community.
When we don’t proactively consider the experiences of people who have been underserved historically, how will our products feel relevant to those communities?
Current Practices: UX plays an important role in identifying and understanding the needs, emotions, and experiences of people as they interact with technology, systems, and products. However, all research is embedded within structures that shape the kinds of knowledge that are produced and perceived as valuable. These structures are historically rooted in Eurocentric, westernized, and white privilege ideology that has shaped foundational understandings and often overlooking contributions from BIPOC scholars outside those ideologies.
What can we do? In order to address racial injustice and better ensure that our products are culturally sensitive, culturally relevant, and disruptive to structural racism, This focus will help create a safer, more supportive environment and allow deeper cultural expression.
- Understand the context of the BIPOC experience. At the very least understand their history, traditions & culture. Do not over question your BIPOC friends or colleagues, they’re already experience enough stress and anxiety. It has to be your job to learn and work on consciously changing your stereotypes.
- Don’t assume your experiences with discrimination are of the same context as a Black or Brown person’s fight against systematic racism especially if you are not of the same race or ethnicity. When a researcher is well-versed in the culture, code, and references of what is being said, safer open spaces are created for more relevant stories to emerge. If you don’t know, hiring someone with ethnic as well as cultural understanding could help you sharpen insights and business outcomes.
- Engage in skilled nonjudgemental listening. For example, various accents can incite bias. The United States is a melting pot! I’ve heard and witness when people complain about someone’s appearance or the way they speak. They struggle to understand what a Black, Latino, Asian, or even a low-income white respondent is saying and automatically dismiss what’s being said.
Being more open to new stories, and not overlaying them with the lens of the old ones, raises awareness and empathy.
- Be able to explain and describe how system bias affects all of us.
Be vigilant in ensuring that those who have power share that power with BIPOC, particularly those whose voices have been marginalized and those who experience multiple barriers due to biases that affect them intersectionally on many levels.
Here is a pyramid of ‘unintended’ discrimination. These covert ways that the beast moves are just as violent as the overt ways. Take a look at the pyramid below. Read through all of the ways that white supremacy moves, and especially take stock of the covert ways. I want you to read through every single one of the phrases on the covert part of the pyramid. I implore you to unpack them, digest them, take ownership of ones that you have said, believed, continue to believe, or have assured others that they are ok to say and believe. This will give you a starting point of where to do your own work.
Even though technology has afforded us new ways to connect, we — UX professionals — must do a better job of reacquainting ourselves with BIPOC consumers in order to increase and elevate dialogue with them. Educating ourselves and employing unbiased, cultural, and contextual listening to move business forward is crucial.
There are many ways to further educate yourself about racism and learn more about how you can foster inclusivity and support antiracism.
Try it: Google these phrases:
- “Racial wealth gap”
- “Educational attainment rates by race”
- “Housing disparities by race”
- “Life expectancy rate by race”
- “Maternal and infant mortality rates by race”
- How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander