What Remote Work and Anti-Racism Have In Common

If you support remote work, you already have the mindset to start engaging in anti-racism

Hi,

Welcome to Remotely Inclined, a newsletter about remote work and remote entrepreneurship. If you’d like to sign up, you can do so here. Or just read on…

When I started Remotely Inclined, I did it with two things in mind:

  1. Intelligently discuss remote work in a current, global context.

  2. Promote freedom for people to work in the way that works best for them. 

A big part of that mission involves the internet. Remote workers around the world turn to the internet to connect. For better or worse, we run our businesses, have conversations, and build relationships online. That’s not to say we don’t do things in-person, but it’s online as a starter and IRL as a choice. 

The internet is usually filled with a combination of cesspool commentary, viral takes, and lighthearted memes. Lately, things have been more serious. While some countries are re-opening economies from COVID, by and large the world is watching the internet and seeing riots, protests, demonstrations, arrests, violence… you name it, all online. 

And the protests and demonstrations are asking for one clear thing: anti-racist action in response to race-based violence.

If you're like me, then the word ‘anti-racism’ is fairly new. I'd heard it before but it was not necessarily in my mainstream conversation. I'd grown up thinking there were two kinds of people where racism was concerned: racist and not racist. I knew there was a gradient of some sort, but I always thought the scale stopped at “not racist.” 

But learning more about anti-racism made me see double. I'd actually seen the principles before: in learning about remote work. 

According to the Alberta Civil Liberties Union, anti-racism is: “the active process of identifying  and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably.” 

That statement sounds a lot like the push for remote work: Changing working systems to empower people to work in ways that are best for them while giving them more control over their lives and no longer holding them to the expensive and performative nature of office work.

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By way of example, here’s what I mean when I say that I recognized foundational similarities (because I am absolutely not equating the push for remote work and the fight to eradicate racism, but instead showing that remote work supporters already have the basic framework to begin learning about anti-racism).

A common refrain is that remote work is just for the privileged few. It was a perk, not a feature of office life. People the world over were looking for more freedom in how they work but many were held back. 

It often took someone else already working remote for you to build a business case to get a shot at it yourself. And those that were working remotely before became the beacons that made it easier for everyone else. But the thing is that remote work also became easier for people already remote when more people fought for it, because their way of work became normalized. 

And it took a massive event - COVID - for people to finally pay attention to remote work in earnest. That’s not to say coronavirus was a good thing for remote work. But it got people paying attention so advocates would finally be heard.

Simply put: Your life gets better when you advocate for others to gain the same freedom you either want or already have. Same for anti-racist work. If you're not being discriminated against for your skin color then anti-racist work is, at the most selfish level, working to make sure you're never discriminated against. But it's also working to help others be more free, which gives you more opportunities in return.

On a structural level, if you support remote work then you already have the foundation to build an anti-racist toolkit. You value freedom and want it for others. You are ready to learn and willing to educate people to see your side. You are capable of envisioning building the world as you want it to be, not as it currently is. 

This is not to say that every remote work advocate is anti-racist. When you detach in-person elements from people’s lives it can open up other problems, and remote work as a concept has some privilege issues wrapped around it. That said, it also brings significant opportunity in terms of increasing access to jobs in rural areas, which furthers common ground theory (the theory that people are less hateful and polarized when talking to different kinds of people, popularized by First Lady Michelle Obama when she said “it’s harder to hate up close”).

In terms of the mission of Remotely Inclined, I’m leaning into part two with this edition. No one can be free to work in a way that works best for them if they face discrimination for who they are. The struggle and challenge and anti-racist work is significantly more difficult and important than advocating for remote work, and there’s a lot to learn, but if you already support and understand remote work then you aren’t starting on this path from scratch. 

The next step is further education and listening, but luckily there are a ton of resources. I’ve copied a few below. ⬇️⬇️⬇️

Learn more about anti-racism

Learn more about the philosophy of remote work