October 6, 2021
Racism is a systemic bias that oppresses people of color and causes hazards for them to navigate in every level of institution in the United States. When disasters happen, Black, Indegenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) often feel the impacts more severely and do not get equitable access to response and recovery resources, exasperating the harm and delaying recovery.
As a platform that is in between public and emergency authorities, it is critical that we do the research and examination needed to understand the biases that have shaped our safety systems and ourselves as technology creators. Our goal is to be transparent, actively accountable, and intentional about erasing institutional bias in their spheres of influence.
HazAdapt is making the public commitment to be an antiracist company. We want to invite you to read how we are currently weaving racial equity into our internal structures and external impacts to create a safer, more equitable world for people of the global majority. HazAdapt's Antiracist Company Manifesto is a live document, and you are welcome to comment directly on it. Use the link below to view the manifesto.
Opting for simple transparency, I am choosing to make three separate addresses into one and as an open letter. That way there is no discrepancy between my internal message to my teammates and my external messages to emergency and safety professionals, and the People of the Global Majority.
It's 2021. Racism is real and is arguably the most deadly and prolific hazard humanity will face in this lifetime. It’s an inescapable daily social hazard of institutional bias that creates inequity, unsafe living environments, and recovery barriers for People of the Global Majority. When disaster strikes, systemic racism causes Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to be more likely to be exposed to the hazard, have fewer resources to help them cope with the hazard, and often are neglected or harmed further through the bias of our US response systems. We saw this in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. We see COVID-19 blame misplaced and rocketing rates of violent hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. We see Latinx immigrants working in wildfire smoke without PPE to put food on America’s tables. We see the continued harm caused by neglect post-genocide and forceful ejection of the Native people of Turtle Island. Even on a disaster-free day, BIPOC in the US face deadly danger from people and public safety systems around them like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, and so many others.
Our generation inherited these systems and the privileged few continue to benefit from them.
Now, it’s our generational curse to break.
We are a startup building the next evolution of engagement technology for the public, emergency management, and other areas of public safety engagement. It’s important we recognize the gravity of our product and the responsibility that comes with creating technology for a common good like emergency management and public safety.
Our commitment to antiracism will be physically evident because we know our biases directly impact our products, and in turn, directly impacts people’s lives. We have a duty to the people we serve (and to each other!) to build to a higher standard and be transparent in our intentions.
There is no better time to do this than now, as we are setting the foundations of our startup and products. You’ll see the specific ways we are weaving antiracism into our culture and Humanity-Friendly tech products in the full HazAdapt Antiracist Commitment document.
I want to be clear- technology should not be created to “make change” in others. We can only supply the tools that help people facilitate changes they are already seeking to create. But- when we change the way we design, we change the way a tool functions, changing how an individual performs, and thus bringing change to the outcomes of a system.
Each of us joined HazAdapt because we aligned in the mission of creating technology for a more equitable future. This means we have a duty to each other and the people we serve. We do not shy away from the reality of power our products will have and recognize the privilege that comes with significant responsibility. We cannot take this lightly or let our efforts only be words. In order to serve people and response agencies to our highest and best potential, our antiracist commitment must be actionable and implemented on every level.
As individuals, we each have a duty to do a deep reflection on how racism has shaped the systems that shaped the way each of us were taught to think. This is a personal, lifelong journey of unlearning racism that you are responsible to take ownership of. Your shadow work should be the first step. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and do not let fear of messing up hold you back from taking these steps. We have the capacity to be fluidly racist in one moment and antiracist in another. Walk in compassionate learning with yourself and others and be better next time.
As a white, cis, able-bodied woman, my privileges are many. I grew up in the Bible Belt of Texas; outright and less obvious forms of systemic bias were a part of my education, the systems that gave me advantages, and the people I was surrounded by. These biases directly impacted how I would think and cope with an emergency. I never feared for my life interacting with a police officer or first responder. I never questioned if I could call 9-1-1 safely or if the emergency response could be relied on. If I ever needed help, I never doubted that if I asked most strangers to lend aid in my emergency, they would. This safety and reassurance is not the same experience for many People of Color in the US.
My goal is to not center myself in this but I write to normalize the transparency in process that I wish I saw from other tech CEOs and leaders. I’ve learned it’s going to require so much more than just considering yourself “not racist” or an ally- especially as a leader of a team and technology creation. It’s going to require intentional actions working to erase institutional bias with yourself and how the company is run. I know as CEO, it starts with me. I’m going to continue that deep reckoning for the rest of my life and welcome accountability and the opportunity to learn. I will always welcome conversations and inquiries about the specific antiracism actions I am taking and how I can continue to grow into a strong antiracist leader.
I hear and see many of you trying to make an equitable change in your sphere of influence. I know many of you feel as if you are doing your best in a system resistant to change and without the resources you need. I want you to know we are here to support your mission of inclusion, equity, and resilience for everyone in your community.
Your safety and resilience matters. Your physical, mental, and community safety and resilience is important to us. HazAdapt is committed to your thriving by offering safe products and a safe work environment. I wouldn’t blame you if you hesitated in trusting my words alone. I understand that earning your trust will take time and tangible proof of actions. We are committing to earning your trust and being guided by your voices. We want you as leaders and teammates here and value your intersectional perspectives. I invite your feedback on our live antiracism company commitment document or on any of our channels.
Ginny Katz, MPH
Founder, CEO, and Research PI