Sylvester Mobley: 'Every organization has a responsibility' to talk about racial inequity - Technical.ly Philly

Professional Development

Jun. 1, 2020 2:56 pm

Sylvester Mobley: ‘Every organization has a responsibility’ to talk about racial inequity

Coded by Kids' founder and CEO on the importance of discussing the country's long history of oppression.
Mayor Nutter visits Coded by Kids at Marian Anderson Rec Center, May 2015.

Mayor Nutter visits Coded by Kids at Marian Anderson Rec Center, May 2015.

(Photo by Kait Privitera for the City of Philadelphia)

This is a guest post by Coded by Kids founder and CEO Sylvester Mobley.

Editor’s note: This guest post is adapted from an email Coded by Kids founder and CEO Sylvester Mobley sent to Technical.ly responding to a request for comment. It is reprinted here with permission and appears as part of a series of short guest posts from local leaders on how they are addressing the issue of systemic racism with their organizations.


Unlike many organizations, our work centers around equity so we have to talk about it. We are going to have an honest conversation about the results of unaddressed racial inequity and oppression. We are going to talk about how this connects to our work and why what we do is so important.

I also believe that every organization, company, etc. should be talking about it. I believe that every organization has a responsibility to have an honest dialogue about it. A large part of the reason racial inequity and oppression hasn’t been addressed is because as a nation we’ve been largely unwilling to address it. Every company in the startup space has a role to play in addressing it and those that don’t believe they do are complicit.

In terms of advice, if you are going to talk about it have someone who actually understands to historical context race and oppression in the U.S. lead the conversation, instead of defaulting to the black employee or CEO. If a company doesn’t have or know anyone that does have this understanding, I’m more than happy to help.

I’m going to leave you with something that I posted on Facebook earlier:

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’

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Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

— Letter from Birmingham Jail (ext) by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 April 1963

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