Show Notes

In this episode, Samah and Michelle discuss how underrepresentation isn’t always something that can be seen. Neurodivergence, disability, mental health, LGBTQ+ status, and even ethnicity can never be assumed, and, in fact, should never be assumed. 

Episode Transcript

[00:00:10] Speaker B: Hello, Samah. How are you?


[00:00:12] Speaker A: Hello, Michelle. I’m good. How are you?


[00:00:14] Speaker B: I’m good, thank you. It’s hard to believe it’s already been a week since we talked last. This last week went really quickly for me. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it did go quickly.


And I know you’ve been struggling a little bit, but you’re feeling better now.


[00:00:31] Speaker A: I’m feeling better, and I’m really happy that the evil Smurf voice is gone. And it’s nice to be healthier, a little bit healthier. Yeah, I think it’s also the season. It’s changing a lot. In the Netherlands today, the temperature is 26 degrees, so it’s really summerish, but on the weekend, it will be raining like Winter. So I don’t cope well with that.


[00:00:56] Speaker B: So, yeah, I had my furnace on last night, but I turned it off this morning because I woke up, I was like, oh, it’s a little bit warm today.


Maybe it’s finally spring and summer is on its way.


Well, I wanted to talk today about the fact, and I think Allie and I did an episode about this maybe two years ago, but it’s good to talk about things again sometimes and to keep bringing them forward to the front of our community so people remember the things that we discuss. I wanted to talk about the fact that underrepresentation means so many different things, and we’ve talked about that. You and I have talked about that before, too. It’s not just about ethnicity. It’s not just about socioeconomic status, but it’s also about neurodivergence. It’s about being part of the LGBTQ community. It’s about age and age discrimination, and it’s about disability. There are so many things that can classify somebody as disabled or as underrepresented. Sorry, the wrong word first, as underrepresented.


And I think about the fact that sometimes people look and only take in what they see visually and make a determination on whether or not that person is allowed to be considered underrepresented. And so I wanted to talk about that today and see what your take on that is because who’s, first of all, whose responsibility, I guess, is it to determine if somebody is underrepresented? Like, what makes somebody be underrepresented? Do we believe what they say? Do we have a classification system that somebody has to prove themselves?


You know, all of these things kind of come to mind for me. And for example, I use a mobility device almost all the time now, except in my home.


But there was a time when I would only use maybe a wheelchair at the airport.


And then somebody sees me or even with my scooter, they see me take my scooter to the edge of the plane, but then I get up and I walk onto the plane. And I wonder sometimes if people think, she’s not disabled, she could walk onto the plane, but they don’t know my body, they don’t know that I can’t walk through an entire airport. I don’t have the stamina and I don’t have the physical strength to be able to do that, but I can walk onto an airplane. When I went to Wordcap Asia 2023, I was 77 rows back in the airplane and it was almost impossible to get there. So once I got there, I was sweating in the tears and it was just terrible.


But my point is that people don’t always know. You can’t always tell by looking whether or not somebody meets your criteria of whether or not they should be considered underrepresented. Over to you.


[00:03:53] Speaker A: Yeah. I have a funny phrase. I call it diversity for the naked eye because sometimes people look at you.


[00:04:02] Speaker B: I’m writing that down as our title.


[00:04:06] Speaker A: They want to see diversity in their eyes. They want to see black or white, they want to see men and women. Nobody understands diversity can be with race, gender, culture, religion, abilities, background.


There are a million definitions. And I understand when you say that people say if they have disabilities or they’re from an underrepresented group. But I believe people are good and honest until they prove the opposite. So, it’s a very sensitive subject because you don’t want to ask what your diversity is or what group you are from.


I had at the beginning, difficulties in the Yoast Diversity fund, because when someone applies, we need to ask them under what group they are, because then we can have more definition or if they can take the Yoast Diversity fund. And for me, I’m really happy because I ask this question all the time. People answer me, and sometimes you get educated from it, like age. It was there in my mind, but I recently got an application from someone saying, their age is above 70 for the Yoast Diversity fund. And that’s like adding diversity to the WordPress community. I’m talking about the WordPress community because I know the best in it, a lot in it, not the best, a lot. And then, yeah, that’s it. Diversity can have many shapes, but still, people, when they look at you, immediately, want to think if they can add you to the diversity line or not. You are like the rest. And I’m sorry about your flight, but yeah, you have those people. Oh, because you don’t know. And it’s okay to ask, and sometimes just don’t ask. Like, for me, if I know the person, I will ask questions. If, like some strangers, they just, I believe that what they’re doing is absolutely true and honest, so why question it? But yeah, diversity, that is the issue. People look at it and they want to see it with their eyes and not understand what it means. Because two people can have the same color and the same gender, they can grow up in different cultures, they can grow different religions, they can have different backgrounds, they can have maybe disabilities like ADHD, can be dyslexic. There are millions of things. You cannot see it with your naked eye. And that sometimes people need to understand, that not every diversity can be seen with your eyes.


[00:06:53] Speaker B: Yeah, I was telling you the story before we started recording, and I honestly, I would give this person credit for the story if I could recall who it was. But it was the story that I saw somewhat sometime last year. I can’t remember where it was, probably TikTok, but it was a story. I may have read it, but I don’t recall. But anyway, it was a woman who was younger, I think she said she was in her twenties, and she had just pulled into an accessible parking spot at whatever establishment she was at. And so you don’t have the wheelchair sign in front of it.


And of course, you don’t have to be in a wheelchair to use accessible spots. You just have to meet your local government’s requirements to be approved for those spots. Okay. So she pulled in and parked, and she took a couple of minutes to gather her belongings, check her phone, and answer some messages before she got out of the car to go to wherever she was going. And a woman who was clearly older than her came up and knocked on her window. And so she rolled the window down, and the woman said, you’re not supposed to park here. And she said I have a right to park here. You’re young. You have no right to park here. And she said, ma’am, I do have a right to park here. As you can see I have the placard that hangs. Well, that’s probably your grandmother’s. It’s probably not even yours. And she said, ma’am, no, it is mine. It is mine. I have a right to park here. Why do you have a right to park here? And so she opened the door, and she said, I don’t have to show you this, but I’m going to show you this. And she pulled her pant leg up to reveal a prosthetic leg.


So she had, of course, every right to park there. And the woman still said to her, but you’re younger, and you should still give the spot to somebody like me.


[00:08:39] Speaker A: oooh.


[00:08:41] Speaker B: And so this was this horrible experience that this poor person had. I don’t know. I don’t remember the story of how she lost her leg. I don’t remember if she was a veteran or if she was born with limb differences. I don’t know what. I don’t remember what the story was. Regardless, it wasn’t up to that older woman to tell her that she needed to give up her spot because she, number one, didn’t look disabled. Number two, didn’t believe her. And number three, even when she proved that she was a disabled person and had every right to park there, was still told that she was too young and she had too much energy and still should give up the spot to somebody older. And I remember thinking about that. It’s like when I park somewhere and I get out with my cane and I can walk a short distance, do people look at me and say, she should give up that spot to somebody who is more disabled than her? And so, like, I mean, I don’t care, right? I know what I’m entitled to, and I. And I take advantage of the things that I should be taking advantage of given my situation in life. But I often wonder what the.


What are the optics for somebody watching me maneuver in the world when I hear such stories from other people?


There was a meme, gosh, maybe 20 years ago, of a woman in a liquor store, and she was, um, in a wheelchair. Like, the first two panels. In the first panel, she’s sitting in a wheelchair. In the second panel, she’s standing up to reach something off of a shelf. And the bottom said, it’s a miracle. Like, she shouldn’t really, like, she isn’t really disabled. But just because somebody can stand in a situation to grab something off a shelf doesn’t mean they have the ability to ambulate themselves around an entire store. And so I just think about that sometimes, and I reserve judgment. I try. I mean, we all. We are humans. We evaluate situations. And sometimes that, you know, kind of crosses over into judgment territory when I see somebody screaming at somebody else immediately have a judgment on them. Try sometimes to remind myself that people have bad days, and even though she’s mistreating somebody else, or that person’s mistreating somebody else, perhaps they can be given a little bit of grace, whatever the situation is. You don’t know what somebody else’s situation is. But. But I do try not to judge because I know that I have been judged in the past as well.


[00:11:05] Speaker A: I’m really sorry. Like, how can I say it for you first, it’s so difficult to try to explain yourself. And it’s not competition in the end who has more disabilities and who has the right in the spot if you follow the rules.


And I know in the States and Europe there’s a requirement. I don’t want to say requirements sound so bad, but I mean, like, there are health conditions, there are tests, and then you are giving that spot. And for the old lady, I’m pretty sure that the young lady, she wants to be having her leg, she wants to be healthy, but. But she didn’t choose it. She didn’t go like, oh, I don’t want to have leg anymore. But yeah, I can understand. And also you don’t judge me. I’m the queen of judgment.


Will I am not. Sometimes, it gets me in trouble, like in a situation when you see a stranger, so I have to hold myself for one minute, but then, no, I can’t. I have to be this defending others. 

Yeah, but also, how can I say it? It’s also for. I don’t want to say they don’t know because they don’t understand what is the other person going through, what they don’t understand the other person’s condition or health condition. And also some people, sometimes I find it noisy because you said you don’t want to go through it. Also, I don’t want to ask the person, what’s that? Why you’re here, why you’re on disabled parking spot. Show me why. I find it very weird, but it’s also those people I believe at the same, they believe diversity is just only black and white, or men and women. And I know that sounds very judgmental, which I am joking, but I don’t know how to extend it for people. Sometimes it’s let it go and sometimes this is the right question, but what are the right questions, like, to ask someone, um, what is your diversity or what is your disabilities or. Or why do you need this? I found a very thin line between you can ask that question and not okay not to ask it. There was a fun video about TikTok, and let’s go back to TikTok. It was really funny. There’s this interview. Um, she has a darker skin. She’s British. She’s doing an interview. The guy asking her, were you born? And she said, like, uh, I’m born in Cambridge. And then he was asking a lot of questions, like, he wanted to ask her why you’re not white. And then he asked her, you’re not British because you’re brown. And she looked at him, and she said, like, what? Excuse me. 


And then. And then the end, they write it. Like, you cannot ask people this question. And then they write the right question. What is your ethnic background? And this is like, okay, this is much better. Asking questions, why you’re British and colord, or why you’re from Norway and colord. But it was a funny video because he asked her, where are you from? I’m British. Where are you? I’m from Cambridge. Where? From Cambridge. And he was asking, where’s your parents from, where they were born? Like, it’s really hilarious.


[00:14:25] Speaker B: He wanted to know, where is your heritage from? Are you from the African continent? Are you from Jamaica? Where is your heritage? It’s nobody’s business. It’s nobody’s business. You know, I think about those kinds of things all the time. I think about the questions. Like I said, my daughter gets asked all the time, like, are you Hispanic? Are you? You know? And she’s like, I’m. You know, she considers herself African American or black, a black woman. And so. And she has done her DNA testing and things. She would not identify as African American until she knew that the blackness in her was from the African continent and not from someplace else, because it’s. I don’t know what the right way to say it is, but, like, there are other ways, other places in the world where you can have darker skin without having come from the African continent. And so she. But she. She identifies as black. And. And it’s funny, because I think sometimes, well, you’re just as white as you are black. But that is what people see, first of all, is they see somebody who’s got much darker skin than me. But also, she owns her heritage in that. And I am so proud of the woman that she is because she doesn’t say, I’m half black half white. She’s like, no, what you see is what you get. I’m very proud of who I am. I’m very proud of how I carry myself in the world. If you don’t like it, too bad, because this is who I am and I’m here. And so, yes, I’m very proud of my daughter.


[00:15:57] Speaker A: I met her once last year. WordCamp Europe.


[00:15:59] Speaker B: Yes.


[00:16:00] Speaker A: She’s amazing. You’re so lucky. And she’s lucky to have you as a mother, too. 


When he said, it’s not about color, I also. People, they don’t get it. It’s not also about color, it’s about culture. Because being African American or being African or being Arab or being Asian, like, Korean or Japanese, there’s the culture behind it, their understanding of the culture and differences.


I know it’s different in the States. In Europe, if you ask someone, where are you from? Let’s say, dark skinned person, or me, I always say, like, I’m Palestinian, Dutch, or some, some people say, like, Dutch. They don’t say, we don’t have that concept that people have in the States. They say, like, I’m African American or Asian American. How can I say it? Of course, I believe there’s racism in Europe, and in the State, it’s kind of the same. But here, it’s. It’s going to be different. How can I say it? It has a different vibe, and more different direction. While in the States, it’s in your face. Here, they try to sugarcoat it, or it’s, let’s say, hidden racism, like, under the table. Like they give you the small comment, but. But while in the States, it’s so in your face.


[00:17:27] Speaker B: It’s so interesting in the States because somebody will identify, even though they were born and raised here for generations, like four, five, six generations, they will still tell you where their heritage is from. So there are people that are so proud that they’re Irish. They’ve never been to Ireland. In five generations, nobody in their family has ever been to Ireland, but they’re so proud that they’re Irish. The Italian heritage here is so big. And I dated a man after my divorce, I dated a man for a few months who was from Italy. Like, he had an Italian accent. He’d been here about ten years, so he was true Italian. And he would laugh because, like, all of, like, the Sopranos and those kinds of television programs and everything, when they’re like, oh, we’re Italians. And he’s like, I’m Italian, that’s American.


So it depends on where you’re from and how you view those things. But in the United States, I think that because of the way that immigrants came into the United States and because of how they were processed through Ellis Island and other places like that, you were labeled very early on, and it became a classist thing. And so you were proud of your heritage because you wanted to bring that with you from wherever you had come from. But also you wanted to make sure that if you were this class of people who were maybe British, right? So from England, they saw themselves as better than Irish people or whatever. So you took that with you to maintain your classism while you were here and so on. And make sure that you were still elevated over others.


It’s not necessarily a good thing. But I think that’s where a lot of that kind of telling people, you know, people say, well, what are you? And I used to say, oh, I’m German and Swedish on my mother’s side, and I’m French Canadian on my dad’s side.


I’m a white American. That’s what I really am, you know.


Anyway, but you can’t see any of it, right? Like, you can hear my last name sounds French. That’s great, you know? Yes. But through Canada, right? So, like, from many, many generations in Canada.


[00:19:37] Speaker A: So anyway, I think it’s also maybe they missing home. I think the grandparents or grand grandparents, missed home. And they all the time talk about it and they take it as tradition to talk about home and be proud of it. To be proud of your inheritance. Yes. It’s funny, after five generations, never been there, never saw it. And he said, like, I am from there. But I think that also added a little bit to say to the recipe that people, immigrants still talk about home. And when they go home, they don’t like it. They want to go back to their new home. It’s, uh. Yeah, I have. I always, like here in the Netherlands, complain when I go visit my sisters, I start complaining there, oh, people are so rude. Oh, why this is not clean? Oh, why people are skipping me in line, and I complain about it? It’s funny. And when I go to the Netherlands, I start complaining about the Netherlands.


[00:20:35] Speaker B: It’s all good. It’s a. It’s a function of where you’re sitting today.


[00:20:40] Speaker A: It’s a coping self-mechanism, you know, because always you mentally, like, you need to miss something. So that’s it. So everybody knows that about me, that today I complain and I’m judgmental.


[00:20:51] Speaker B: Not really, in reality, you are quiet. I don’t know about the complaining. I’ve never heard you complain, but I know that you are not judgmental.


[00:20:58] Speaker A: So no, we say that out of fun. Not at all.


[00:21:02] Speaker B: Absolutely. So all of this to say, please believe people when somebody says to you that they have a need or that they classify themselves as underrepresented for any number of reasons, it’s your job to believe them, not to doubt them, and not to require proof from them. There are certain situations when proof is required by a government or perhaps by a business that is to supply you some service or goods that they need a prescription for or they, you know, there are things in the world where you do have to prove a status specifically medically right or for certain scholarships and things like that to try to make a more even playing field for people. And so there are times, and there are certain circumstances when there is a burden of proof on the person. But in general, in tech, in the world that we work in, believe people when they tell you who they are.


[00:22:13] Speaker A: Absolutely. I totally agree with you and I could not say it better. If someone has a question before you ask it, just like think about it and ask people if you want to know information, if you want to know what to ask, but also believe people. You don’t have to question everyone.


And. Yeah, and what you say is 100% true. I cannot make it better.


[00:22:39] Speaker B: You said perfectly, perfectly awesome. Well, we do. I always say we never know what we’re going to talk about next week. We do know what we’re going to talk about next week, definitely. I’m not going to say who’s going to join us just in case her schedule changes, but next week we are going to talk about multilingualism and how it helps promote community within the WordPress community.


You are multilingual. I am attempting to be multilingual. I am learning. I have almost 1260 days straight on Duolingo Espanol.


I can’t listen quickly if that makes sense. When people speak rapidly, I’m like I’m lost, but I am trying and I am having small conversations with people. But the guest that we have coming next week is really doing a lot more than that. And so I’m excited to hear her talk about that and hear your experiences as well. I will be the fly on the wall.


[00:23:42] Speaker A: Not at all. She’s amazing, and I love her. I want to say that. I consider her a friend, and she’s awesome with languages.


[00:23:53] Speaker B: Looking forward to that. And we have, actually. And if you’re still listening. Thank you. We’ve updated the form on our website. So now you can go to our contact form. You can recommend a guest or a topic to us. You can recommend yourself to be a guest on the show. There are a couple of other options in there if you’re interested in looking at other ways to be involved. And of course, you can always join our database if you are an underrepresented person. We don’t require proof.


[00:24:21] Speaker A: That’s the best thing. I like this one.


[00:24:23] Speaker B: Exactly. All right. Well, thank you, everybody, for listening. We will see you next week at Underrepresented in Tech. Thanks so much.


[00:24:30] Speaker A: Thank you, Michelle. Bye. 

Michelle Frechette

Michelle Frechette


Samah Nasr

Samah Nasr