Taking the Christian out of YWCA

Philip Greenspun's Weblog 2018-05-25

As part of my software expert witness slavery I was visiting a big law firm’s office here in Boston. In the cafeteria/break room they had a sign up from “YW Boston” urging employees to “Stand Against Racism.” The tagline for YW Boston is “Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women.” What was this organization? It turns out that it is the old “YWCA“, but without the now-discredited “Christian” stuff.

I don’t want to show the photos that I snapped because they contain full employee names. But the “Stand Against Racism” poster urged people to say “I will learn about the concept of anti-blackness and challenge it when it shows up.” (nothing says “pro-blackness” like moving to the whitest region of the U.S.) Also “I will apply a racial equity lens to all aspects of my company” and “I will donate to organizations that promote racial equity”.

Life at the firm is obviously more interesting when the topic is not software. One woman wrote “I will speak up when I hear racist remarks!” (don’t think hatred of Java counts). One formerly timid soul pledged “I will be color brave by discussion racism in the hiring committee” (I didn’t see a single black employee during my two days at this office, though they did offer black coffee).

A person with a traditionally female first name wrote “No matter our differences, visible or not, I treat everyone with respect.” I wonder if she would respect a co-worker in a MAGA hat and NRA T-shirt?

Lawyers take a more flexible view of illegal immigration than did Congressman Sonny Bono (“when something is illegal, it’s illegal”): “I will support orgs that advocate for immigrants and DACA.”

When you’re billing $900 per hour, talk is neither cheap nor unwelcome: “I will remain open and actively engage in conversations on racism.”

The next generation is going to be awesome: “I will educate my children about acceptance.” Next to this was “This!” and a bold arrow. (We cannot reliably educate American children regarding arithmetic and grammar, but we are confident in our ability to teach them the more complex topic of acceptance?)

Circling back to the headline topic… does changing “YWCA” to “YW” make the organization more likely to succeed in the long term? If so, can we make big money as brand/image consultants who go around advising organizations that describe themselves as “Christian” to get with the times and drop the word?