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Is There an Institutional Bias Against Black Tech Entrepreneurs? 645

Posted by Soulskill
from the world-white-web dept.
An anonymous reader writes sends this excerpt from CNN: "The vast majority of top executives at the leading Silicon Valley tech firms are white men. Women and Asians have made some inroads, but African-American and Latino tech leaders remain a rarity. About 1% of entrepreneurs who received venture capital in the first half of last year are black, according to a study by research firm CB Insights. ... 'The tech industry is pretty clubby,' said Hank Williams, an African-American entrepreneur in the NewMe program who had success in the Internet boom of the 1990s. 'There are really no people of color in Silicon Valley.' Others say the issue could be rooted deep within the black community. The NewMe co-founders said African-American families don't typically encourage business leaders or programmers to pursue interests in tech."
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Is There an Institutional Bias Against Black Tech Entrepreneurs?

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  • by wmeyer (17620) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:24PM (#38037534)

    Observing an apparent deficiency in demographics is not proof of bias, it is merely an observation of what is.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:31PM (#38037588)

      Yeah, but you're a racist so what do you know?

    • by raehl (609729) <raehl311 AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:35PM (#38037606) Homepage

      There are almost no black tech entrepreneurs for the same reason there are almost no black hockey players - black children and teens don't do either, and in any activity, the very top people in that activity are almost always the people who got involved in it before they were early teens.

      A black person who goes to college for computers is not going to compete with a white kid who has been plastered to his computer monitor since he was 11, anymore than a black kid who starts playing hockey when he turns 18 is going to make an NHL team (or any kid who starts playing/doing/learning anything is going to make the Pro level of it if there are other people who have already been doing it 10 years - that counts musical instruments, sports, etc.)

      The problem is twofold: Lack of access to computers for black children/teens, and a culture that doesn't support "wasting time" messing with technology. (Not that white culture was greatly supportive of my nerdy endeavors but at least my parents didn't stop me beyond demanding I go outside more.)

      • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:50PM (#38038074) Journal

        This has not been my experience so far. True, there are few black engineers, programmers, and people starting businesses in Silicon Valley. However, those I have met have generally been outstanding at their work, and gained plenty of respect as well as responsibility. I believe engineering in Silicon Valley is as close to a meritocracy as the world has ever seen. There are all races, religions, and frankly no one cares so long as you are good at what you do.

        Now just some rough estimates... about 1 in 10 Americans are black roughly. American born engineers make up maybe 1 in 2 in Silicon Valley. The vast majority of these people did well at well respected universities. I'm going to guess that reduces the potential population of black men to hire by a factor of four, just because the black community is so much poorer and parents are typically not college educated. Multiply all that and I'd guess we come up with a pretty good estimate of why blacks are under represented in Silicon Valley. For one thing, white men are also under represented. Americans in general have for some reason decided to avoid real science, math, and engineering.

        "Cluby"? Give me a break. You can be a black Jewish lesbian and get a great job if you have engineering talent in Silicon Valley.

        • by znerk (1162519) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @10:33AM (#38040868)

          Supporting evidence: It is extremely difficult to determine the skin color of a well-spoken, educated person by staring at the monitor the subject is on the other side of an internet connection from...

          It is also difficult to determine that someone's race, religious preference, or sexual preference via a phone interview.

          Meritocracy, indeed.

          Allow me to add some anecdotal evidence: I met my wife on IRC, and for 2 years after I met her, I thought she was a guy. She had a gender-ambiguous nick, was an "oper" in a large channel, and was an intelligent person with a keen wit. My experience up to that point had indicated to me that the only females on IRC were lonely housewives looking to cyber, so I never suspected that someone with a vocabulary including words larger than two syllables was anything other than "just another geeky dude". Like female gamers, female geeks used to be rare.

      • by Grishnakh (216268) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @09:07PM (#38038202)

        Exactly. Also, it's not that the culture "doesn't support 'wasting time'" with (technology|hockey|etc.), it's that the culture has different priorities from causasian and asian cultures. Black kids spend all kinds of time playing basketball when they're young, because that's what they have access to, and it's popular in their culture. They don't play hockey, because it costs a lot of money to buy hockey equipment, and you have to have access to a frozen-over lake, or pay a lot of money for membership with an ice-hockey rink. Being frequently poor and living in the inner city, the northern blacks don't have much access to frozen lakes and equipment. Southern blacks have it even worse, because the idea of a frozen-over lake is like something out of a fairy tale for anyone living in the South. There's a reason all the best hockey players aren't even American, they're all from Canada or Russia or eastern Europe, and the few that do come from the USA come from places like rural Michigan.

        These people complaining about a lack of black and hispanic technology entrepreneurs are idiots. I can tell you exactly why there's so few: because there's so few people from those groups who are engineers! It should be pretty obvious that tech entrepreneurs, largely being ex-engineers, are going to have a demographic makeup similar to the demographics of tech engineers (electrical and software mainly) in general, since they're really a subset of that group. As someone who's been an electrical and software engineer for 13 years, I can tell you that the number of hispanic and black engineers I've met throughout my college years and career I can probably count on one hand. In fact, I think I've met maybe 2 hispanic engineers total, and a handful of black ones (I had one who was my boss for a little while); blacks are definitely much more represented in my experience, though that's not saying much. However Indians, east/southeast Asians, Europeans of all types, and of course caucasian Americans are all very well represented, and there's even some middle-eastern Muslims and of course Israelis in this industry (I mean working in the USA).

        If you want to do something about the lack of black and hispanic tech entrepreneurs, don't: do something first about the lack of blacks and hispanics in engineering. Only after you do something about that problem will you see a change with entrepreneurs. Otherwise you're putting the cart before the horse.

      • by Darinbob (1142669) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @10:03PM (#38038496)

        Knowing about computers doesn't make you a tech exec. Being a back stabbing SOB is what makes you an executive!

      • Oh really? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by k8to (9046) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @11:14PM (#38038814) Homepage

        I reject that this is entirely up to exposure.

        My circles of friends growing up were nerds. We swapped commodore 64 pirated games. We played dungeons and dragons. At least until 13-14 or so we all fit the mould. The computer dorkery lasted a lot longer, through high school.

        Of my 30 or so aquaintences, nearly all the anglos and asians have found themselves doing something technology related. A few are pretty hardcore doing EE or embedded programming. Many are more IT or programmer types like me. Some had other focuses and created web sites or "social networking" whatever (retch). Some went into videogames, or makeing art or music for them. Not one of the 5 african american kids ended up in anything tech related. One's a counselor, one's a piano teacher and church organizer, one dropped off the face of the earth, and one's an accountant.

        There's a *huge* skew here. These kids were given computers as very young people. We played videogames together as teenagers. On the c64 sometimes you had to fix the basic that would screw up due to a bad crack. I shared my exp tracking program I wrote in BASIC, and someone added features to it (it was bad). But all the african american kids dropped it, and they dropped it after the age of 16-17, when I no longer was following their lives so closely.

        This can't be soley from a lack of exposure and opportunity. There's more to it.

      • by Lord Kano (13027) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @11:23PM (#38038852) Homepage Journal

        A black person who goes to college for computers is not going to compete with a white kid who has been plastered to his computer monitor since he was 11, anymore than a black kid who starts playing hockey when he turns 18 is going to make an NHL team (or any kid who starts playing/doing/learning anything is going to make the Pro level of it if there are other people who have already been doing it 10 years - that counts musical instruments, sports, etc.)

        The problem is twofold: Lack of access to computers for black children/teens, and a culture that doesn't support "wasting time" messing with technology. (Not that white culture was greatly supportive of my nerdy endeavors but at least my parents didn't stop me beyond demanding I go outside more.)

        This is what Michael Gerson calls "the soft bigotry of low expectations." Oh, those poor negroes never really had a chance. The ghetto is such a terrible place... s Shenanigans! It's possible for anyone with the drive, determination and ability to achieve success. Racism may be an obstacle, but it's not insurmountable.

        I've had a computer in front of me, nearly continuously since I was 8. I finish my Master's Degree in C.I.S. in five weeks. It's absolute bullshit that there are serious external impediments to black success. If people can find a way to buy $400 sneakers, they can buy a computer.

        It's an open secret in the black community that there is a serious anti-intellectual influence. Black kids who strive and achieve academically are ostracized by other black kids and resented by the white kids for making them look bad. It takes a strong will and a strong support system for a kid to deal with that. My parents brooked no excuses for not living up to my potential. I will do the same for my children. I can't explain it, and I can't excuse it, but it's real and thank God that it's not universal. Just like in the society as a whole, you're seeing a bifurcation of the African American community. You have black achievers who are going to college and having successful careers and you have people who don't achieve. People who think that the drug game is their only ticket out of poverty. This is why you have 30% of black men being incarcerated at one point in their lives. It took generations to create the problem, and will likely take generations to fix it, however I don't know what the answer is. All I can do it be the best father I can and raise my children to achieve in life.

        LK

        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @03:33AM (#38039732)

          There is this expectation that they should go and do some sort of civil rights work, or something like that which helps the "black community". Neil DeGrasse Tyson gives a great talk on that at the HHMI: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0I5Fl1Qn-Do [youtube.com].

          In it (at around 32 minutes) he talks about an experience on college where another smart, motivated, black student found out he was working to be an Astrophysicist and said to him "Astrophysics? The black community cannot afford the luxury of someone with your intellect to spend it on that subject."

          So there is this pressure for smart black kids that you need to go do something that directly helps the black community. Be a leader in some respect. That of course negates doing engineering or anything like that.

          Now if you continue to watch the video, Dr. Tyson points out how his path has done ever so much, despite not working for "the black community." The man is the director of the Hayden Planetarium, a minor celebrity, a living, breathing, example that it doesn't matter if you skin has more melanin in it, you can still be brilliant and excel in your chosen field.

          But there's that pressure there. Once you've got out of the anti-intellectual community, which as you point out is EXTREMELY strong for black kids, you then face this pressure from the intellectual community that you should be doing some specific things. Doesn't matter what you are interested in, you "owe" your community to use your smarts in some way.

          Hopefully, time and people like Dr. Tyson will change that. People will see him, and more people like him, and say "It is ok to be smart, no matter my skin colour, and it is ok to use my smarts on the field I like."

      • by MacDaffy (28231) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @11:59PM (#38038982)

        I grew up in Silicon Valley. I will be 59 at the end of this month. I'm an African-American male who has worked his way up in the tech industry from a computer operator to the owner/operator of his own tech consulting firm and "beyond"...

        The industry here is the closest thing to a meritocracy I've ever experienced. If you're an entrepreneur worth exploiting here, you will be exploited. Anyone with a good idea can get a hearing as long as they know how to present it to the right people in the right way. I can honestly say that the stakes here are too high for racism to interfere.

        My experience was that I was competing against kids whose parents were among the pioneers in the industry. Most black kids were excluded from college by economic circumstance as well as bias when I was growing up. Kids whose parents worked for nascent enterprises like Intel and HP and Fairchild and Apple had--and still have--a leg up on everyone else. The children of BSEE's have more of a chance to become BSEE's than the children of carpenters or dock workers. That's just the way of the world. But I had a knack for the industry, and I got in on merit... and luck.

        My son is one of the few kids in our area--black or white--who had an internet connection in his home by the late-eighties. He was one of the few kids in our neighborhood who had a personal computer at his disposal. He didn't nerd out, but he had the opportunity if he'd wanted to pursue it. That's the biggest factor in this; if your parents are nerdy, it's likely you'll be nerdy, too. The lack of access to college among Black Americans before the Civil Rights Movement was probably the single most formidable impediment to the fostering of significant numbers of Black Tech Entrepreneurs. If your parents don't know Avogadro from an avocado, it's unlikely you will either--no matter what color you are.

        The current political attitude toward funding education makes it likely that things will stay that way unless people demand change.

      • by Howitzer86 (964585) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:35AM (#38039112)

        As a black nerd guy, the only thing I think you got right is the culture aspect. My parents didn't like me 'wasting time' with computers, but I worked around them and 'wasted time' with computers anyway.

        Granted I am not the picture of success, but I think I did OK for what I had. In my opinion, we don't need assistance, we get enough of that. This isn't a problem the government can fix. It has to be fixed from within, by people like myself who know better.

        • by TheTyrannyOfForcedRe (1186313) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:06PM (#38043428)

          As a black nerd guy, the only thing I think you got right is the culture aspect. My parents didn't like me 'wasting time' with computers, but I worked around them and 'wasted time' with computers anyway.

          I don't think that's a race thing. All of the adults in my nearly 100% white suburbs were saying the exact same thing when I was growing up. I was told it was wasted time. Teachers didn't want me typing up papers on my computer. They asked "How will you do it in the real world when you don't have your computer there to do it all for you?" One professor at my very expensive private university said "The internet will never amount to anything. It's a toy for computer geeks." The older generation really got caught with their pants down on the whole computer thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by justin12345 (846440)
      I'd tend to agree, with the caveat that I suspect that there likely is a historical bias that we haven't quite caught up with yet. I strongly doubt that you're going to see any racial bigotry in today's market... but it takes a generation or two for people that were discriminated against to catch up. The 1960s weren't so long ago, and even the 90s were profoundly racist. A child requires an upbringing where they are free to explore. It takes time before you start to see a statistically significant number of
      • by epyT-R (613989)

        the 90s? profoundly racist? compared with? if anything the oppression olympics had a lot of applicants during that decade.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AK Marc (707885)
      Every study I've ever seen indicates there is institutional racism in the US. Resumes from "Shaniqua" with identical qualifications get fewer calls than "Jill" does. A black person committing the same crime as a white person is more likely to get caught. A black person arrested for the same crime as a white is more likely to be charged. A black person charged is more likely to be prosecuted than a white in the same circumstances. A black person tried is more likely convicted. A black person convicted
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by swalve (1980968)
        You are almost there... just push it a little farther and lay a "drug laws are racist" on us and then you win.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @03:19AM (#38039682)

        The problem isn't that they were comparing "black" names to "white" names it is that they were comparing ghetto names to American names. "Jill" is a very normal, neutral, name in America. "Shaniqua" is a name you tend to only see come from, well, the ghetto. It is not a name that comes from African roots or anything. It sounds, well, lower class.

        However turns out it isn't just "black" names that have that. Try hillbilly names. Have "Shaniqua" run against "Sheri-Moon" and see how that goes. Both names are "odd" to the American ear and both speak of a lower class upbringing.

        In terms of "black" names I might note that someone who has a REAL "black name," as in one that has an African influence, currently holds the highest office in the land.

      • by couchslug (175151) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @09:45AM (#38040732)

        Unfortunately, and note I'm OBSERVING this fact and did not make it so:

        "Shaniqua" doesn't merely convey "black", it conveys "my backward parents think Ebonics is a respectable language". This is like a white guy with "Bubba" as a first name, and yes I've met a few.

        NEVER give your offspring a name which conveys (rightly or otherwise) an intellectually-deprived background. That's using your kid to masturbate YOUR ego, not some noble gesture of defiance.

    • by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @11:29PM (#38038872) Homepage

      NSF statistics [nsf.gov] show that in 2006, 2.2% of masters degrees in electrical engineering were awarded to people who described themselves as "black, non-Hispanic." This is compared to 13% of the population that is black. This goes a long way toward explaining why "About 1% of entrepreneurs who received venture capital in the first half of last year are black,[...]" This applies to any field where you're talking about a group being underrepresented; you have to look at the talent pool. If the group is underrepresented in the talent pool, then it's too late to fix the problem. They're simply going to be underrepresented in the field.

      And why is it necessarily a problem if a particular group is underrepresented or overrepresented in a particular field? There are a lot of Jewish doctors out there. Is that bad? It's only bad if the underrepresentation is the result of injustice. What if some of it is the result of culture, preferences, or factors such as becoming a dentist because your mom is a dentist?

      It would be extremely interesting to know what fraction of entrepreneurs who receive venture capital come from families with below-median incomes. I'll bet you a nickel the figure is much, much lower than 50%. But the US is allergic to talking about class. We only want to talk about race.

    • by guanxi (216397)

      Observing an apparent deficiency in demographics is not proof of bias, it is merely an observation of what is.

      But in a society with a long history of racism, it certainly raises questions that are worth investigating.

  • What about me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:25PM (#38037542)

    About 0% of entrepreneurs who received venture capital in the first half of this year are white with my ethnic background.

    I'm tired of being lumped together with "rich white men" just because I'm white.

  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raehl (609729) <raehl311 AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:25PM (#38037546) Homepage

    There are 100 times as many white teenagers plastered to their monitor messing around with their computer as there are black teenagers. Since successful tech entrepreneurs tend to be the kids who spent thousands of hours in front of their computer when they were kids, and the kids spending thousands of hours in front of their computer are almost all white (or asian), then of course almost all the tech entrepreneurs will be white.

    It's got nothing to do with silicon valley. It's due to the comparative lack of computer availability to young black teens, and a cultural difference where American black culture has a much lower opinion on average of nerdy endeavors as opposed to American white culture.

    • a cultural difference where American black culture has a much lower opinion on average of nerdy endeavors as opposed to American white culture.

      Do you have a citation (preferably multiple citations) to back this up? Certainly there's Ogbu's oppositional culture hypothesis, but there is also a whole body of work (most recently this [amazon.com] but I can point you several other works with consistent findings) that indicate a low opinion of nerds isn't isn't anymore prevalent among blacks than in American culture in general.

      • Yeah, I do. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by raehl (609729) <raehl311 AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:55PM (#38037744) Homepage

        Comic Con.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Threni (635302)

        Black culture (and not just in the US - my experience is in the UK) is going to be more negative about education/qualifications because of the much higher exclusion rate in schools and the far lower achievement levels. This is probably almost exclusively due to the higher rate of single families raising black children, with the knock-on effect of a lack of a male role model etc etc blah blah. So to me this is not surprising and unlikely to change anytime soon.

        This is why black culture is generally anti ne

  • by fsckmnky (2505008) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:32PM (#38037592)
    Anyone with $50 - $150 and a library card can pretty much obtain a PC and learn how to use it. Craigslist special. Cable companies are offering dirt cheap broadband, as well as various other gimmicks to get cheap net access. An individual so motivated to p0wn da webz only needs to make the time and effort. There has to be 10,000 other occupations with a higher barrier to entry.

    My 2 cents.
    • by raehl (609729) <raehl311 AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:52PM (#38037716) Homepage

      That doesn't matter. The computer has to be in the child's home already. A kid who doesn't have a computer doesn't know that he wants to mess around with his computer. He has to have a computer, then be one of the few kids who would rather mess around with it than just play on it or do something else.

      • by aix tom (902140) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:15PM (#38037870)

        When I was a kid the computer "wasn't there" already. (Of course that way about 1980.) There wasn't any in school either.

        My parents basically bought me a VIC-20 to make me stop taking apart the household electrical appliances I found in the house or in the garbage. Someone who likes to tinker with technology can't be stopped by not having a ready-made computer around.

        I also volunteer in a youth / children centre. There is a HUGE gap between kids that DO stuff and are INTERESTED in stuff, and a large group of "Me, I don't care about anything, do something for me, entertain me...." kids.

        An *entrepreneur* can only come from the first group. The others might still be able to get well-paying jobs somewhere, even in programming and/or IT, but the will almost never really *start* something like a company themselves.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Black people see racism daily. The Man is keeping them down. As such, educational persuits are wasted. Sports are the only things where Black people can succeed. Segregated from the real income and real power in business.

          Whether true or not, it's the perception, and thus, is true. The parents and peers steer Black youths away from educational pursuits.
      • by RazorSharp (1418697) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:26PM (#38037930)

        This is a very important point that you make. Everyone I know who is into tech had a computer in the home from a very young age. Most black people I know aren't into the inner workings of technology. I know one black guy who's a bit of a computer geek and he's had a computer in his home since a very young age. When I was a kid - the 80s/90s - having a computer wasn't exactly common unless your family had money.

        I'm not going to bother to look up the statistics b/c everyone knows it's true: black families in America tend to live in poverty. It's a result of how they got here in the first place and the fact that they haven't had legal equality until the 1960s. I would be willing to bet that tech entrepreneurs by and large were raised in middle class or upper class families - that they tend to have parents who went to college. It's not black or white, it's rich or poor. Thus it looks black/white because a disproportionate amount of blacks are poor. I'm sure somebody can find an example of some rag-to-riches tech entrepreneur, but that's the exception, not the rule. And why does tech have anything to do with it? There aren't many black entrepreneurs in general (no, I don't consider LeBron James an entrepreneur, no matter how many companies he starts up).

    • by Reverberant (303566) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:16PM (#38037874) Homepage

      Anyone with $50 - $150 and a library card can pretty much obtain a PC and learn how to use it. Craigslist special. Cable companies are offering dirt cheap broadband, as well as various other gimmicks to get cheap net access.

      That's true right now. It wasn't true 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago, which is what is impacting the current market for entrepreneurs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fsckmnky (2505008)
        So it's a non-issue, since, no amount of "solution" will cause 400 successful (insert skin color of choice here) entrepreneurs to show up over night, short of a big fat check stolen from tax payers. Maybe thats how the Solyndra people were so successful. ;)
  • by Faizdog (243703) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:33PM (#38037598)

    So this story is based off the CNN documentary "Black in America: Silicon Valley." I haven't seen the actual show, but CNN has been pushing it a lot the past week and showing clips from it.

    One really interesting clip that I saw had an Indian who had experience with VCs and start-ups and was also a professor somewhere giving a talk to the African American entrepreneurs.

    Now Asians in general, and Indians specifically I don't think are as rare in Silicon Valley and are found amongst high level executives. Additionally, this particular individual was well spoken and articulate, capable of creative thinking, didn't have a strong accent, and in other ways didn't fit the stereotype of an Indian caricature.

    However the ONE thing that he said was to get a good looking white guy to be your front man when going to VCs. He said that when we wanted to get funding, he got a (admittedly very capable and accomplished) white guy to be his partner. He said that's just how things work in the Valley. The African American audience he was speaking to was very shocked by this.

    The point made was that VCs look for what works. And if they see a bunch of "successful" start-up companies run by young white guys, that's what they look to fund. Plus add in the inherent bias towards good looking white guys in business who fit the common archetype (with as Dilbert says good hair).

    While we're on the topic, what about women (white or otherwise)? Are VCs more likely to discount a company being led by women as they're not thought to be "techy"?

    So, any thoughts form people with experience here, either for or against this argument. Do all races (not just African Americans) need Caucasian male partners to improve their chances for success.

  • by PeeAitchPee (712652) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:34PM (#38037604)

    Ever heard of Vinod Khosla? How about legions of Asian programmers? Oh, no people of *his* color. Yeah, just another conspiracy by The Man to keep the bruthas down.

    Seriously, when will this victim mentality shit ever end?

    • by fragfoo (2018548) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:39PM (#38037630)

      Ever heard of Vinod Khosla? How about legions of Asian programmers? Oh, no people of *his* color. Yeah, just another conspiracy by The Man to keep the bruthas down.

      Seriously, when will this victim mentality shit ever end?

      It will only end the day a black president is elected.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:44PM (#38037670)

      as a middle aged USA born white guy, I find myself VERY MUCH in the minority in the engineering areas of silicon valley.

      I have no idea what this guy is talking about, but if you want to complain, complain about being passed over for a job because you are *not* desi. or even if you are desi but from the wrong part of india.

      silicon valley may be white at the top, but its not in the worker classes. and the top is the 1% guys; who the fuck cares about which 1-percenter gets this or that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      Of all the racist stuff I've seen in my time as a programmer, the vast majority of it was directed at Indians. All you have to do is read Slashdot for a bit and you'll hear someone complain about what lousy programmers Indians are, and getting modded up.

      On top of that, I've seen racism against Asians, and on occasion even Whites. But I don't recall hearing any racism against blacks. Or for that matter Latinos.
    • by Rockoon (1252108) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @11:53PM (#38038966)
      From Bill Cosby's book "Come On People"

      --
      o Homicide is the number one cause of death for black men between fifteen and twenty-nine years of age and has been for decades.
      o Ninety-four percent of all black people who are murdered are murdered by other black people.
      --

      (speaking of America, of course)

      They are victims of themselves and although it is an economics issue it is also a cultural issue, and the solution is first for the black population to stop doing it to themselves. Some black men feel that they needs to deal drugs in order to get by, but they deal those drugs mainly to other blacks, "knocking them out" of mainstream society as Cosby puts it. A handful of dealers will wipe out an entire community, and when push comes to shove they then commit violence against each other.

      The grossness of this state of affairs is that it is popularized, even idolized, by the mainstream black culture. Racism used to be a thousand times worse, but back then the mainstream black culture was much healthier. It used to be that a white man could get away with lynching a black man, even with plenty of witnesses.. but back then the black communities had to look out for themselves, protecting each other. Now they don't. Now they feed on each other in a cycle of abuse and violence.

      There are exceptions to every rule.. but go to any inner city and you will see exactly this. Communities knocked out by drugs and violence, and not enough are standing up to say "what the fuck are we doing to each other?"
  • Cause/Effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:45PM (#38037672)

    Let's look at the fundamental facts here. Well, fact, since there's only one inarguable thing:

    African-Americans and Latinos are underrepresented in tech-firm leadership.

    That's a correlation - executives in the tech industry tend to be white males (who are significantly overrepresented). Asians and white females are more or less as common as expected. Probably a bit less, but not as significantly.

    Now, as we all know, correlation does not imply causation. But it does hint pretty heavily that there is something involved. Since I don't have access to many studies, and can't do my own, all I can do is list every possibility I can imagine, and informally think about it.

    Possibility 1: There is a specific bias in technology against blacks and latinos. I find that a bit hard to believe - the tech industry trends liberal, and I'm sure plenty of techies would rather have Geordi La Forge for a boss than Gates or Ellison. It's still a possibility, and I'm not saying no techies are racist, but overall, I don't think this is the best explanation.

    Possibility 2: There is a specific bias among business executives against blacks and latinos. That I can definitely believe, but I don't have any statistics to support or refute it, and I'm not sure it would explain it fully.

    Possibility 3: There is a specific bias amongst blacks and latinos against entering technology. I suspect this may be a contributing factor, perhaps even the main one. It's only anecdotal evidence, but when I was in high school, there were very few african-american students in the tech program, and no hispanics at all. The ones who were there were fine (one of them remains a good friend, and one of the brightest people I've met), but you'd see a lot more in the art or music programs.

    Possibility 4: There is a specific bias amongst blacks and latinos against becoming business executives. This probably isn't a major factor, but it may be a small one. At the very least, racial minorities tend to be less wealthy, which would naturally make them less likely to become major business leaders.

    Going off gut instinct, I would say it's a combination of business leaders being biased against blacks/latinos, and blacks/latinos not being encouraged by their parents to enter the tech field. That would be my hypothesis. The best way to check would be to look at the independent factors - you should see a bias against blacks/latinos at all levels of technology, and a bias against black/latino business leadership in other industries, but neither bias should be alone as significant as that seen in tech business leadership. I'd look myself, but I haven't even RTFA yet.

    • Using the same logic as proponents of institutional bias, one could argue a pattern of discrimination against males because they do not make up half of all maternity ward patients despite being half of the population.
      • by haggholm (1678078) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:47PM (#38038064)
        Yes, that would be a good analogy if black people and latinos were physiologically incapable of computer programming.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RazorSharp (1418697)

          Don't you love it when a sentences starts with "Using the same logic. . ." and then continues with a false analogy?

          One of the many reasons that logic should be taught in elementary school. I find it sad that we expect kids to learn mathematics and to write argumentative essays but we never teach them the structure these tasks depend on. It's like teaching someone who doesn't understand algebra a programming language. Most people don't even know what 'logic' means but they use the term all the time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aix tom (902140)

      On your points 3 and 4:

      What is common in both technology and business executives is that there is a lot of "discussion" and "argument", even stuff bordering on "fighting" going on. That's pretty normal when people favouring different technical / economical solutions try to push their solutions.

      Perhaps minorities then tend to think "Oh, gosh, they shoot down all my proposals, they must be racist / sexist / etc ..." and leave. Basically some "self-fulfilling, self-inflicted racism"

    • Re:Cause/Effect (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:51PM (#38038080)

      "Now, as we all know, correlation does not imply causation. But it does hint pretty heavily that there is something involved."

      No, it most definitely does not. You err whenever you make an assumption like that.

      Note that the saying is not "correlation does not prove causation", the saying is "correlation does not imply causation". That is no accident. No conclusions, or even implications, can be drawn at all from simple correlation.

      It is at least as likely that some other factor is involved. Take, for example, the fact that there are relatively few women in IT. A great many women have used that correlation to make claims of discrimination or worse. Yet study after study have consistently shown that women simply choose, early in life, not to pursue careers in IT.

      So while it might seem to be common sense that this correlation means there just must be discrimination going on, in fact there is no evidence of that at all. In fact I know a lot of IT workers who would prefer that there were a more equal mix.

      • by gman003 (1693318)

        When there is a strong correlation between A and B, there are five options. First, A could be the cause of B. Second, B could be the cause of A. Third, there could be a third element, C, which is the cause of both A and B. Fourth, it may also be a case of both causing each other - a change in A causing a change in B, which in turn causes another change in A. Finally, it could be a mere coincidence.

        That is what I meant by "hints that something is involved". When four of the five possibilities are some sort o

  • by decora (1710862) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @07:52PM (#38037718) Journal

    "some of my best friends are black. or.. i mean. indians are black right? "

    -- Johnny V., CEO Status Quo Capital

  • Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by br00tus (528477) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:12PM (#38037842)

    I worked at a Fortune 100 company in a large IT department in a major coastal city. We had some choice in where we worked. I first worked in a group alongside a black guy, who told me he worked in his group because he didn't get along with someone in another group, he was vague about who. I then went to work for that group. I got along with my manager, but he had it in for this black guy from the other group. In fact I would socialize with the manager and co-workers. At the bar, he would sometimes speak disparagingly on Arabs, Muslims, blacks, Mexicans and the like. When there were layoffs, the black guy was let go. He didn't have direct influence over the group, but having one of the managers there against you was certainly not a help. There didn't seem to be a logical reason for the antipathy either. Honestly, I still get along with this former manager, although I don't agree with his thinking in this respect.

    I worked at another company, Fortune 1000. I worked alongside a black co-worker, with whom I had a common manager - white, from the Midwest, late 20s. Again, the manager had a lot of antipathy and made life hard for this co-worker, for no reason I could see. I think it's difficult to work in conditions when your manager is against you and is waiting to jump on any error you make (it happened to me once when a new manager wanted to push me out and get his friend in my position, which is a long story itself). Eventually my co-worker left, or was pushed out, or whatever - the co-worker never wanted to talk about it when I spoke with him after.

    So from my experience, the racism is usually not from co-workers, or from upper management and HR, who would probably be happy with some functional, if token, black faces. It's usually from lower management types, who in my experience are often a bundle of neuroses and incompetence to begin with.

    On another topic, to quote George Jefferson, with enough green you can always get people to forget the black. When the dot-com boom happened years ago, money flowed into the web properties of Vibe magazine, UBO, BET, Black Planet etc. Plenty of companies were interested in reaching the "urban" market. There is even cross-over - plenty of white teens listen to not only Eminem, but black hip-hop artists. I just read a piece in Adweek on how Android had captured the African-American demographic in the US. Of course, this still is a ghettoization of sorts - it really opens up when blacks get venture capital for new chip designs, or software products or the like, not just web and social media properties geared toward the urban market.

  • by meburke (736645) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:38PM (#38038006)

    This is the kind of stupid argumentation that drives me crazy! (Disclaimer: It is not really a drive, but more like a short putt.)

    Somebody notices a glitch in the distribution where the data has been sorted by a hot political topic, and immediately everyone starts expressing an opinion. They are jumping to conclusions which, by definition, means they have not done any meaningful research, analysis, or other investigation. The whole discussion becomes a time-waster or political agenda.

    This is an opportunity for some sociology team, anthropology team, or maybe economics team to FIND OUT WHY, by researching the issue and discovering what actually influences the situation.

  • I Don't Buy It (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheTyrannyOfForcedRe (1186313) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:52PM (#38038092)

    What I know about VC's:

    #1 They love money

    #2 They never have enough money

    #3 Nothing much else matters to them in this life other than acquiring more money

    Given the above, I believe that most VC's would gladly suck a bag of dicks if it meant an additional $1B in their bank account. I assume that funding a black guy's tech firm is much more pleasant than sucking a bag of dicks. My conclusion is that VC's would be happy to fund black tech firms, or asian tech firms, or latino tech firms if they thought they could make a bunch of money from doing so.

    The open question is whether or not VC's underestimate the ability of black/asian/latino firms to make them a ton of cash.

  • by dr2chase (653338) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:58PM (#38038128) Homepage

    More like dumb habits, and old-school social networking that we take for granted.

    For example: my father introduced a now-retired VC to the woman he married. That got me in the door, years ago, for a discussion about whether our startup had a prayer. My advisor introduced a currently-famous VC to the woman HE married. We're multiply-connected as FOAFs; he might know me by sight, we've been to parties and my advisor's funeral together, where we got into a raging argument about global warming with a mutual friend.

    Friend of mine (one of the F's in FOAF above) was working for Apple years ago, was talking to them about how they recruited, and discovered that they recruited from the same habitually-white schools that most of the people already there came from. Not intentionally discriminating against blacks, but de facto, not getting many of them in for interviews.

    Worked for a startup A years back, when we were later trying to pitch our startup B, the founder of the startup A very, very generously gave us loads of advice about business plans and pitches. Networking, again.

    On the supply side, you have blacks disproportionately living in poor places (meaning, schools not as good), from parents that might lack education (meaning, less exposure to stuff that upper middle class whites take for granted, like early reading etc). All these disadvantages are correlated with not doing so well in school. Any discrimination experienced in education along the way also thins the pool. Doesn't have to be conscious, either -- assume that we're all capable of making mistakes, including some really unfortunate ones.

    And this stuff takes loads and loads of time to change. When I was a gradual student, I went to a programming languages conference, and there were more albinos in the audience, than blacks. One of the guys on my thesis committee was Richard Tapia [wikipedia.org], and he has been busting his ass for the last 30 years (at least, that's just what I know) to get more Hispanics into the sciences. When I got my PhD, it was right around the time that the first big cohort of women also got PhDs in CS; they're still underrepresented, but that cohort started advising/mentoring/role-modeling wore women, and over time there's been (so it seems to me) more and more.

  • by caxis (855664) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @08:58PM (#38038130)
    "said Hank Williams, an African-American entrepreneur" Seriously? Am I the only one amused by this?
  • People of Color (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fnord666 (889225) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @09:11PM (#38038228) Journal
    What are people of color? Isn't everyone a color of some sort?
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @09:36PM (#38038352)

    I think the primary component in a lack of minorities in IT is access to technology. And, yes it's silly to suggest that PC at the public library. I attribute my career choice to having PCs in my home that I had total access to; not kiosks with restrictions on availability and built-in security.

    But, I also encounter racism in the industry. I've had White Americans flat out laugh in my face when I told them I was a software engineer; after all how can a Black person work with computers? One of my biggest annoyances is the "White Test" I get when IT people try to surreptitiously quiz me to prove that I really am in IT. Usually it's by someone who's not as smart as they think they are which adds to the frustration. I've heard coworkers drop N-bombs at work when they thought I was out of earshot. With all that, can you honestly say the playing field is level?

    For all of you writing your speculative posts on what "must" be going on in the industry, how about going out and talking to someone instead of extrapolating from your limited experiences?

  • Need more women (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WaffleMonster (969671) on Saturday November 12, 2011 @09:49PM (#38038420)

    We need more women and less guys of all races.

    Most software houses are sword fests and that just sucks.

    What sucks worse CNNs shallow report identifies an effect without ever trying to understand or identify the underlying cause.

  • by ZenMatik (2506422) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @02:19AM (#38039474)
    Well this is an interesting article. I am black ... and I would like to add my voice - since most of the voices are very likely not black. There are many facets to a story like this. For one white folks do NOT like to be lumped into the same pot and also do not like to be made to feel guilty about racism. But racism does exist (look at the Yahoo message boards - very OVERTLY racist comments all the time).

    The questions as posed, is whether this prejudice applies to Silicon Valley. If your idea is good ... you should get a fair shake ... I think if you are a graduating PhD from Stanford with some new fangled technology, then you will get a fare shake. I know this, because the blacks at Stanford are very happy and they innovate. I have seen some UNHAPPY black people at MIT - I think for a long time they had no tenured black faculty and the one head of department was run off after his department revolted. So MIT from I have heard is not the best place if you are black person ... at Stanford, all I have seen is happy people - they get VC money, they start companies, they get faculty positions ... I heard Berkley is good too ...

    No one should be asking if there are smart, qualified black people - There are. There are smart qualified people of all kinds of backgrounds. If you discriminate, you shrink the talent pool.

    I do think though that African people (Black Americans, West Indians, Africans and others) working in American technological firms can be viewed as space aliens ... there are usually very few and when one appears in a project - there can be a reaction - or no reaction at all depending on the attitude of the team. Prejudices can come out ... prejudice is stupidity - let me say that now.

    I am a programmer - I program in C++ and C mostly ... Linux and VxWorks are my lingua franca ... my experiences over the years have been fun ... a lot of great projects networking, codecs, robotics ... a lot of cool stuff ... Today it would be highly unusual if I encountered direct and overt racism - I would likely have a very very hard time with that. I am fortunate - I know that some black people do work in hostile environments where they are second guessed or berated ... it does happen. I went to a private technological University - I had lots of black classmates - some of them have done really really cool stuff. I met fellow black peers at MIT, Stanford, Caltech and Berkeley ... there are many smart black people ... that go to some of the best schools. The challenge is that many us are buried away in great companies in labs or offices ... we are here ... but sometimes not seen.

    I think one challenge may be that SOME white people do not know how to interact with black people in general. This is not controversial or alarming at all. Why? Well when I look at my managers - I see 40 something, 50 something and 60 something year olds. For the older ones, they very likely did not go to schools with black people due to segregation - I understand that! This is America, and there is a social consequence that affects guys who graduated in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Heck even guys I knew in college, that was their first time interacting with a black person. Truly for a good deal of white people there are sometimes few blacks in their elementary and high schools. Not to be an apologist for people - but from a social studies aspect - when a black person is suddenly introduced, people can act like a space alien fell from outer space. Will the black person lower the API score of my school (for Californians), is he qualified to work at my company? Did he get in through affirmative action? These are things black people think white people think about them.

    So in o
  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:16PM (#38041392)

    Here's my 2 cents as an old white guy as to why. In the 60s, black people decided that they needed their own culture to survive, one different from white culture. Prior to this, most black people tried to be more white, culturally speaking. The problem is, when you isolate cultures, you increase alienation, decrease communication and decrease social connections.

    So here we have a pretty successful (economically) culture of Europeans in the USA and a not-so-successful culture of African Americans. After the 60s, they go their separate ways, more or less. White culture was rejected by young blacks who become more isolated from social connections, education and attitudes that could help them be a success, economically. The result seems to be an African-American youth culture obsessed with activities and attitudes that guarantee failure. Sports. Entertainment. The development of the physical. A lack of interest in the mental. And most insidious of all, a tendency to go for immediate gratification, rather than to work for long term rewards. The history is different for Hispanics, who have linguistic separation and legal issues thrown in the the mix, but some of the cultural characteristics of separation are similar.

    And so, failure is guaranteed as long as there is no assimilation into the majority culture. The only exceptions I've seen to this rule are situations where the children were acculturated in white neighborhoods with "white" values and little to no exposure to their own racial group's culture. Is this fair? No. Is it real? Sure looks that way.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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