‘POC Inbox’ and ‘Response Template’

Two poems about the ways I'm tokenized and asked to respond as a technical POC in the industry.

by Yanyi on October 19th, 2016

POC Inbox 

Your Policy Board Application, 1 message

Hello Yanyi,

Thank you for your application to the policy board. We had a large number of exceptional candidates and made careful considerations based on current commitments, performance, and diversity of viewpoints. Because of this, we regret to say that we cannot offer you a place on the board at this time. However, I did want to catch up with you anyway and get your opinions of how things are going on diversity in our organization. I have scheduled some time on your calendar.

Very best,
Michael Brian Adams

POC Mentor – Suggestions?, 1 message

Dear Yanyi,

We at Queer Scholarship Organization recently launched a diversity initiative and have no POC women mentors readily involved in the project. We then remembered you from your participation at our diversity panel in the fall. Do you know anyone or are you interested in helping out? It’s been hard to find a queer POC woman in the tech industry and you are a rare bird! I know you are busy but let me know and I’ll connect you.

Morgan Marvin, Community Outreach

Engineering Quality Discussion, 2 messages

Adding Yangi because it seems she wasn’t added to the original thread. Yangi, can you send your notes from the meeting?

Feminists With Computers New York, 5 messages

Congratulations, your talk has been selected for our second annual Feminists With Computers conference on April 1. Please respond to confirm your participation in the conference. If you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, now’s the time to do so!

Elizabeth Jane, CEO Feminists With Computers

Hello Elizabeth,

Thank you for writing and for accepting my proposal. Unfortunately, it is not feasible for me to write and deliver a talk within the span of a week, as much as I’d like to do the presentation. Thanks so much for the opportunity and for the work you do to make it happen.


Hey Yanyu,

Would really for you to do a talk. You may not believe you can do it but it’s really possible to put together a talk in that time.

Sent from my iPhone 


Thank you but I am sure that that is not enough time for me to produce high-quality, thoughtful presentation I would like to create. I appreciate your reaching out and for the opportunity.


It would be really valuable for women of color at the conference if you give a presentation. Think about it and get back to me. You still have time.

Sent from my iPhone

Response Template

Dear ____,

Thank you for your response. I appreciate the thoughtfulness you [and the committee] put into [labor you did in this instance that I do frequently without recognition]. I am disappointed that I was not chosen for [a legitimate position of power that, had I received it, would have had its legitimacy questioned because of my race / gender / gender identity / sexuality / immigration status / socioeconomic class / ability], but I am [appropriately comforting you while avoiding confrontation about my own suspicions of bias] for the chance you gave me [with the help of a vast socioeconomic web of opportunity that your coincidental proximity to the centers of whiteness, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and ableism has afforded you].

I also appreciate your reaching out personally to continue [labor I repeatedly and historically gave to you to improve the conditions of the communities I come from because I have no real power beyond “advising” you, a generic person in power who is complicit in repeating and creating those conditions in the first place].

if (I am too exhausted from this additional labor which also exists in so many
       spheres outside of this one, that I can no longer respond to you in a way that
      reflects and defends my true convictions and simply need this to go away)

      [Not at my] Best,

else if (I accept my indeterminate position at the margins)
&&         (I accept these extra hours I spend talking to you and providing you
             with fodder for talking points that do not hold you accountable to me
             or any of my communities)
&&         (I ignore your demonstrated lack of action or work in providing me or
             my communities with the basic allyship we need to be respected and
             heard instead of advising when summoned and convenient)

         I appreciate your taking the time to chat more with me. Looking
         forward to seeing our next meeting!


else if (I have the energy to respond to your guilt, your excuses about intention,
           and/or your disappointment)
&&      (I have the energy to educate you on why I feel the way I do because you
            rarely have done emotional labor for another person)
&&      (I feel an obligation to defend my dignity and preserve my energy)
&&      (I accept the possibility that refusing your good intentions may end my
            influence or blacklist me from helping others through you)

It makes me uncomfortable [because discomfort is more palatable than anger] that you would ask me to continue this work when you have already decided to exclude me from the official decision-making process as [a position that fits neatly within your idea of empowering diversity]. It also makes me uncomfortable [because discomfort is more palatable than anger] that you already [acted on an assumption that I acquiesce to doing this labor], which assumed that I’d continue providing feedback without organizational recognition for that work. For me to continue in this capacity, it is important to me that the committee reconsiders the decision. Thanks.