Dear Austin Forum on Technology & Society Community,
At the Austin Forum on Technology & Society, we stand as an organization and community against racism.
The killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 was tragic--as were the recent deaths of Mike Ramos, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other Black Americans who have been wrongfully killed in actions demonstrating racial injustice. Systemic and institutionalized racism remains a serious problem in our society--some people die because of it, and many are abused, held back, and otherwise discriminated against.
As horrifying as these events are, there appears to finally be a wide awareness and acceptance that systemic racism exists and that we must do more to eliminate it. The work has begun. Civic protests around the nation and world are demanding reform and demonstrating support for equality and justice. New policies are being enacted to prevent brutal use of force by police. Companies are reducing or eliminating development of technologies like facial recognition that have been used for discrimination. Symbols of institutional racism including Confederate flags and statues are being banned/removed. People of all races are showing their support. Black Lives Matter.
However, there is much more work to be done. Systemic racism, racial inequality, injustice, and violence remain in the U.S. and are sustained in some of our institutions. While the U.S. has made achievements that have saved and advanced many lives and it has often provided a beacon and support for the rest of the world, we have not yet fulfilled the ideals of our own country: that all people are equal, and that everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities free from discrimination and abuse.
The Austin Forum on Technology & Society has always been technology for society--and by that, we mean for all people. We believe that everyone should have opportunities to learn about technology, access to technology that improves their lives, and opportunities to get involved in technology development. This is why our monthly events are always free--with enormous thanks to our annual partners, companies large and small, tech-focused and otherwise, who share these beliefs--and is why we have December events that focus very directly on tech for social good/impact. This is why we provide more free content via blog posts and podcasts, available to anyone with Internet access, and is why we support the Austin Pathways effort to collect and repurpose devices for families that lack the means for sufficient connections to the Internet. Are we a leader in societal policy change? No, that is not our mission. However, we are a leader in building a community in Austin that shares beliefs in the importance of technology benefiting society--all of society, everyone. We have not done enough in addressing this issue of racism, so we are now developing plans that will leverage our platform and community to address racial injustice and inequality through our programming, participation, and more. You will see new information in our media channels and new advisory board members in June, more content about the importance of diversity and equality in tech in July, and a diversity-focused event in August. It will not stop there; we will be a part of the solution.
We encourage you to share your suggestions as to how we can improve our efforts going forward. The staff and the advisory board of the Austin Forum are listening--and working. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can participate in our Slack workspace in our new channel, #diversity. Together we will work to improve the impact of the Austin Forum on racial equality and opportunity.
Leadership of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society:
Michael Ward, Jr.