Wassup party people, was happenin’? To the tick, tock, ya don’t stop and all that good shit.
So with this being the thanksgiving weekend and me being in a reflective type of mood, I decided to take the time and write about some shit that I’m thankful for. And in so doing, I solemnly swear to keep it all the way 100 up in dis beeeyaaaatch!
Along the way I hope to answer the question: Who’s Gonna Hire a Muhfukka Like Me?
Back in my day (I grew up in the 60s and 70s), the line between the haves and the have-nots was very visible and very well defined. All of the White people were the haves and all of the Black people were the have-nots. If you were Black and wanted to also have some shit of your own, it often required associating with those who already had some shit. In other words, you had to interact with the White people in some form or another.
Another thing that was was clearly visible and well defined was just how different Black people and White people dealt with problems. Well, that’s not quite right. What I mean to say is that the types of problems that each had were very different from one another.
Black-people-problems mostly dealt with poverty and not having shit and how much of your dignity you had to sacrifice just to survive day-to-day.
White-people-problems were mostly mental or emotional. They didn’t have struggles with finances or survival. Instead, they had all sorts of problems based on their insecurities and shit. Even though they had every advantage known to mankind, these muhfukkas still found ways to be unstable and fukk their lives up.
We were often confused as to how they could have all of this money and success and still wanna fukkin commit suicide and shit. From what we could see, they just never seemed to be happy. I’d always hear famous White people saying shit like “money can’t buy you love” and “money can’t buy you happiness”. Back then, I just couldn’t understand that notion.
So… one of the things that Black parents warned about was losing yourself when you start interacting more and more with “them White folk.” This was mainly an admonition to remain true to yourself and where you came from. The idea was not to trade in your beliefs and value systems for those of the White man.
You see, for most of us, White people were considered to be low-down, dirty, untrustworthy thieves that would do anything for a dollar. But it went a bit deeper than that. It was really that White people were selfish and cared more about the advancement of self than the advancement of community and/or family. This usually played itself out in the pursuit of dollars and riches and shit.
The goal for Black families during the 60s and 70s was for everyone to share in success together. We rise and we fall as one. If one of us made it, then we all made it. Every success was a shared success and it represented advancement for the entire group, not just yourself.
Now of course it’s not true that all White people are selfish, money-chasin’ muhfukkas, but that’s certainly what we saw all around us and that’s what I started out believing, just like everybody else.
So off I went to find my way in the world with the following warning: Don’t get out there and start acting the way them White folks act.
What did this mean? It basically meant these four things:
Translation := Don’t start thinking only of yourself and what’s good for you. Think about advancing the group. Give back to the group. Remember that you still belong to the group.
Translation := Don’t start being so bothered by simple shit that you can’t enjoy your success.
Translation := Don’t start behaving all bougie and shit tryna be all sophisticated and elegant when you’re not. Most importantly do not be ashamed of your family, friends, and those you “left behind”.
Translation := Keep your belief in God and a love for the simple things in life. Remember what’s important and that’s most certainly not material posessions.
I’ve already written at length about when I was hanging around with them thugz (part one & part two). Long story short, I was young and dumb just like everyone else around me. The end result, though, is that a significant portion of who I am came from that era of my life. A lot of the shit that makes me, me is aligned with these streets.
My communication style, fashion sense, and worldview (just to name a few) are all hood adjacent.
Speaking of communication styles, one of the things that non-hood people do that really pisses me off and reveals their inner sense of superiority is that these muhfukkas are quick to judge us by the shit that we say without first understanding the way we talk. I won’t go into that shit right now though, cuz this post is about what I’’m thankful for.
I quickly realized that the thug life was not sustainable for a real ninja like me. I was heavily drawn to most aspects of the lifestyle, but I simply could not maintain the level of unprovoked cruelty required there.
So I started working hard (extremely hard actually) to separate myself from that life. It was time for me to apply the gifts that God had given me to things other than street enterprises.
I learned how to code because it was fun and it made me feel powerful. That’s not quite right… it didn’t just make me “feel” powerful, I was powerful. It put true power at my fingertips. I could create whatever I wanted. Of course, this was just for fun initially. I had no idea at that time that software would explode like it has and become such a vital part of our civilization.
A software ninja like me just wanted to make a muhfukkin’ game and most of my efforts went to accomplishing that goal. That shit is fukkin hard fam, let me tell you. And… it’s always changing. First it was sprites, then 3D sprites, then 3D engines (back then). Now it’s AR and VR and on and on and on.
Anyway, I was making solid progress until the 3D shit came along. My math was solid, but I did not retain enough calculus or linear algebra to be at the forefront of 3D rendering engines. I thought my choices were to either go back to school and brush back up on my higher mathematics or abandon coding as a career.
I honestly did not know that there were viable uses for software other than games.
So I took a job with the intention of working there only while I went back to school to get my math-game tite again. Now, almost 30 years later, I’ve never worked for a game company and I’m still coding for a living.
Wanna know a secret that I’ve never told anyone up until now? I know people love secrets and shit and I am gonna share one, but it’s not gonna be that juicy once you hear it: Back then, I didn’t think that anyone would hire me on the strength of my coding prowess.
Why do I think that’s a secret worth sharing? Well… because anyone that knows me knows the one thing that I am not lacking in, is confidence. I’m pretty sure that there are those who will be surprised to learn that even with all of the bravado coming from a muhfukka today, I had zero confidence back then that I would be hired.
To be absolutely clear, I knew I could code. That’s never been up for dispute. Not in my mind anyway. And… I knew I was humble.
I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m objectively one of the best in the entire world at programming and I continue to stand on that, with both feet. I’ll go up against any muhfukka out there. This is nothing to a real software ninja like me. To the uninitiated, the fact that I also consider myself humble seems to contradict with the conviction that I’m one of the best in the world.
If you visit my twitter profile (@terenecmcghee), you’ll see an interpretation of an Edsger Dijkstra quote about being humble pinned to the top of it. So how can one possess so much bluster and still claim to be humble?
It’s quite simple really. In order to be one of the best developers, you have to realize that you ain’t shit to begin with. Software development is just too complex. The sooner you accept that you ain’t shit, the sooner you’ll start to learn techniques and disciplines to compensate for the extremely limited size of your own brain. The sooner you accept that you ain’t shit, the sooner you’ll realize that you need to work with others to ultimately be successful.
As soon as you realize you ain’t shit:
In other words, you can’t be a truly excellent developer until you accept just how much shit you ain’t. This is the first step towards excellence.
So like I was saying before the tangent, I knew I could code. That’s never been up for dispute. Not in my mind anyway. And… I knew I was humble.
But I also knew something else. I knew that I didn’t match the world that I wanted to enter. I was nothing like these muhfukkas that I wanted to start kickin’ it with.
I mean… just look at me.
That’s three strikes against me right there. No one wants to be bothered with niggers in the workplace. This alone is enough to make a muhfukka wanna tap out.
Oh shit. Not only are we dealing with a nigger, but it’s a male nigger. This means he’s probably full of anger and extreme aggression. Even if I could get past the first obstacle (being Black) there’s no way a muhfukka can overcome being Black and being male.
I didn’t weight 300+ pounds back then, but I was still bigger (more muscular back then) than all of the other engineers and shit. This didn’t bode well for a nigga. When you combine my size, with my sex, and my skin color… what’s the use in even trying? You see my size was a huge negative because it was already assumed that I’d be aggressive. Once you factored in my size, I could do some serious damage to someone should I decide to get violent.
One thing these White muhfukkas don’t want is some big angry aggressive nigger all up in they mix. I might as well just keep my big Black ass at home and look into selling drugs or some shit.
So not only am I Black, but I’m not Black like Carleton (from the Fresh Prince), but I’m Black like Will. I’m visibly Black and I don’t have a fukkin dime to my name. I don’t got no fukkin trust fund or any of that kinda shit. I’m one of those grimy niggas.
Clearly, there’s no place for a muhfukka like me in software.
I knew that they’ed expect me to make certain changes. I also knew all of the warnings that had been instilled in me. What I didn’t know was how much change they’d want from a muhfukka. So it was never really clear to me just how much of myself that I’d have to give up in order to succeed. I was pretty sure that I’d have to cut my hair. I was really torn up about this, because I really liked my hair being in long cornrows.
However, I wasn’t stupid enough to let something that petty separate me from my income. So… I cut them bitches. There was various other shit that I did too in order to make myself more presentable to prospective employers.
But all of that shit was irrelevant because I knew the first three traits that I described above couldn’t be changed. No matter how much of myself I was willing to give to these muhfukkas, the three main parts of myself were unalterable (unless you’re Michael Jackson or some shit).
So what’s a muhfukka to do? Well, my plan was to make my own dope ass video game, by myself. With this in hand, I’d planned to interview wherever I could with ironclad proof of my dedication and ability.
So what happened?
Like I said, I never made it to one of the big gaming companies. I got into applications software and haven’t left. Again, I didn’t even know that this was a thing back then. I now have decades of experience which means that I’ve been able to survive… no… not just survive, but actually thrive in software development even though I originally thought being in this space as a stepping stone on my way to game development.
I’m pretty sure I made the right choice because they keep throwing them dolla signs at a muhfukka.
So what am I thankful for? I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that I am extremely thankful that someone took a chance on a big Black muhfukka like me. I’m thankful to everyone (this was often a multiple-person decision) with hiring power that took the chance to bring a big Black muhfukka into their organizations back then.
No disrespect to firms that hire niggas today, but in all honesty, it’s kinda trendy right now to get urself some Negroes (this goes under the label of “diversity”, a term that I accept but don’t think I like). Again, I’m not knocking, disrespecting, or belittling this trend. I think it’s vitally important.
However, it was much more difficult for the people that hired my big Black ass back in the 80’s and early 90’s. They didn’t get any special awards back then. They didn’t get any extra credit or special accolades for possessing keen vision and awareness. They didn’t get shit.
Well… they did actually get a dope programming muhfukka like ya boi and we did make good money together, but they didn’t get any recognition from their peers or society at large for it. These muhfukkas was diverse before diversity was cool.
So here are some of the things that I’m thankful for on this awesome weekend.
First and foremost, I’m thankful to God for giving me certain gifts.
I’m thankful to my parents and grandparents for instilling a work ethic in a muhfukka.
I’m thankful for video games.
I’m thankful for all of the White people who were willing to learn how to work with a muhfukka like me.
I’m thankful that I learned how to be myself while still contributing to an organization as a professional.
And I’m especially thankful for all of the White people with hiring power that took a chance on hiring my big Black ass.
And I’m thankful to all of the rest of you out there who have and will in the future hire other muhfukkas like me.
I know it’s cliche, but we really are stronger together than apart. Real talk fam.
If you’re working to position yourself for a career in software development and you don’t look like everyone else, don’t let that shit stop you. There are a lot of employers out there today who realize the value of diversity (I’m pretty sure I don’t like that term, but whatever). If you work and learn yo shit, your gifts will make room for you.
Oh… I didn’t mention this earlier, but I really did have an employer tell me that Black women were much more desirable in the workplace than Black men because she gave them two “ticks” in the affirmative action categories. They would get a tick for hiring a woman and they would get a tick for hiring a Black person. Whereas ya boi, being a male, was only “worth” one tick. True story. I bullshit you not.
Also, when someone did actually hire me, not only was there genuine surprise, but there was also this constant high-pressure tightrope act between being able to be myself or being who “they” wanted me to be. Dare I say, who they needed me to be.
Getting the job is only the beginning though. Keeping the job and being productive within the organization is the hard part. I write all about my experiences in learning to work with the White folk in my series titled On Working With White People. You can check that shit out over there.
To all my real software ninjas, keep working hard and keep growing them skills. Stop arguing about advanced techniques that you don’t understand yet or that you don’t see the value in. Step yo game up fool and keep it movin’.
To all you employers, keep expanding your horizons and looking for the best talent, regardless of what that talent looks like.