Ok, you’re here because of the title, so buckle up. You’ve read about this problem of racism in tech companies. Firm’s with established names like Facebook, Google, and twitter. They all say they want a more diverse work force, right. So, then we read about account after account of blacks who are working in tech firms being made to feel as if they’re not wanted.
Take this entry from Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM: “Black Tech Employees Continue to Face Workplace Racism”, by Kathy Gurchiek:
#SiliconValleySoWhite: Black Facebook and Google Employees Speak Out on Big Tech Racism
On a weekday morning in September, Leslie Miley, an engineering manager with decades of experience in the tech industry, joined his colleagues streaming into Google’s San Francisco offices. His employee badge was plainly visible, clipped to his belt.
Miley says a fellow Google employee—who was not security personnel—raced in front of him and physically stopped him, demanding to see Miley’s badge. It wasn’t the first time that a colleague had body blocked Miley when he was trying to go to work.
He says these incidents, which he refers to as “bias in badging,” send an insidious message to people of color that “you don’t belong here” in an industry mostly staffed by white people and men.
Black Facebook Employees Complain Racism, Discrimination Have Gotten Worse
An anonymous memo alleging Facebook still has a problem with racial bias is circulating inside the company one year after a former employee complained of racism and discrimination there, USA Today reported in November 2019.
The post from 12 current and former employees, first reported by Business Insider, details a number of incidents, suggesting morale has sunk even lower since Mark Luckie published his Facebook post about discrimination on the company’s Silicon Valley campus and on the social media giant’s platform.
Both missives expose the racial fault lines in the mostly white tech industry and how the stubbornly persistent lack of representation and agency of black Americans inside Facebook directly affects how black people on Facebook and its other platforms are treated.
If it’s not that, take the kind of racism I’ve experienced as a ‘pioneer user”, where Google+ “suggested users” were all white, and the few blacks on it were either athletes or musicians. The same was true in the early days of twitter. Or take how twitter had annually ignored my request for a verified name account, even as my white friends scored them with ease. Then, without an explanation that was honest, twitter worked to suspend my account, and the other I created in an effort to overcome the deficiencies of not having a verified account.
It happened an hour after I vlogged that Ivanka Trump’s planned speech at CES Las Vegas was made toxic by her father’s decision to announce plans to go to war against Iran. While I was excited to hear her speak, after her father’s actions, I believed her appearance would be dangerous for CES attendees. Well, I put out that video-blog, it went out on twitter, was retweeted a bunch of times, Trump trolls went nuts, and to my surprise, my account was suspended.
The first reason I was given was no reason. It took them a full two weeks to get any kind of answer to me. Finally, I was accused of something stupid called “platform manipulation” – a new “rule” that was created September of 2019. Part of the “platform manipulation” claim was that I had multiple twitter accounts. Well, guess what? twitter openly encourages one to have more than one account, and places no limit on the number. So, basically, someone at twitter made up the claim.
What I realized from that episode was this: ultimate technical freedom. twitter CEO Jack Dorsey knows damn well who I am. Hell, I was at his launch party in 2007 at Mighty Night Club in San Francisco. I’ve been a first user of a number of platforms, but I’ve spent the most time and money building my own. And that gets me to what I was reminded of, and what blacks in tech should do.
I have 98 blogs and a ton of online platforms all networked together. Why? To make sure I was able to get out a message. Before that, it was Sports Business SimulationsSports Business Simulations, where we make online simulations of sports organizations for use in the classroom. A company I founded in 2003. The mistake I made with SBS was I discovered blogging as way to gain traffic for SBS, and then video-blogging, and got massively hooked on it’s possibilities for the future. Still am – big time.
That led, via a bunch of episodes, to my newest blog creation, Oakland News NowOakland News Now. My news blog is symbotically linked to my Zennie62 YouTube channel, and in such a way, that videos from my smartphone, and those of my vlog partners on Zennie62, can upload videos that become blog posts – and in minutes. In 2018, a friend of mine was at the Gaza Strip, uploaded a livestream of just 1:43, and when it became a blog post, it was number one ranked in a search for “Gaza protest” for the entire day. Point is, I’m pretty jazzed about that. Imagine 20 vloggers, stationed around the world, all in my network, and you have the CNN of the 21st Century.
That is the basis for Zennie62Media, IncZennie62Media, Inc. So, with the twitter people, and other haters, being collectively ass-holish toward me, I focused on my own private idaho: Zennie62Media, Inc. And that’s my point: blacks in tech must build their own platforms, and not rely on being accepted by the gate-keepers of someone else’s. A racist gate-keeper just makes a racist platform.
In building your own platform, you have the chance to text code, experiment with new approaches, negotiate your own deals, and seek out your own investors. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly fun. You realize your self-worth, and eventually, others will see what you’re really made of. And you learn to avoid weird situations: like the one white potential investor who had me in his office, and as we were talking, drew his chair up close to me and said “So, I see you work out…” My response was to ask if his secretary was available, and if so, to put she and I together – then I got out of there. (The one thing black men in tech don’t talk about is the white male venture capitalist who has the black male fetish – and is married to a white woman. Beware.)
The point is, you have the power: because you have that platform,that tech, someone with good intentions just might want to buy it, or your services, or both.
As I said in 2015, there are a lot of blacks in tech…
We just need to make more platforms (and thank God for Morgan Debaum and Blavity).
The main problem in blacks building their own, or our own, platforms are several fold: 1) lack of capital, 2) lack of friends and family who want to use your tech, 3) everyone who uses it wants to be paid more money than you have. But, of all of those problems, really the biggest one is that blacks don’t support blacks making tech things in large numbers. That has to change.
Look, twitter is not a hard platform to build, okay. I made my own twitter clone in 2013. I called it Tellen.me – as in “you’re telling me”, get it? Anyway, it overcame the one massive design problem that twitter has, that was borne of SF Bay Area tech insecurity about ads on platforms. We had space for large ones. The code I made worked – well. The only problem was getting traction.
It was that problem, getting people to use Tellen.me, and fast, that turned off one potential investor, who was a friend of mine. Plus, the two other partner friends I recruited to help me, were less than enthusiastic about it, because they expected to be hired as employees, when I said I wanted partners. So, they went ‘poof’. My plan for a twitter-killer went ‘poof’ too. But that did not, and does not, stop my assertion that twitter needs a challenger. So does every platform. Each platform should be challenged by a black counterpart. There should not be a “black twitter,” because it can still be controlled by white Jack Dorsey. Black twitter should be another entirely separate tech that someone black made, and not called “ Black twitter” but is just that.
Blacks needs to build platforms, and from that practice, racism will go away. The simple fact is that everyone respects someone who has their own creation of value – their own private Idaho. But the only way blacks will realize that is by supporting what other blacks create. And not blindly. Offer suggestions for improvement. Invest. Black investors should explain what that person needs to do for you to invest. Ask to be a part of it, whatever it is.
And you know what will happen? Your team of people will start out black, or racially and sexually mixed, and grow. And racists and sexists will stay away: either because they will not want to be a part of your team, or because your team will reject them.
Then, you, the black person in tech, wins. You win pride of self, respect from others, and a job you created on your own.
Stay tuned. And start building.