BLACK IN SILICON VALLEY

Standing under the chatter of molestation allegations and GOP debates and general societal indulgence is a recession-proof force that supports the spread of all of the above. Our interactions reveal how dependent we are to the brainchildren of the Zuckerbergs, Evan Williams, Biz Stones of the world. No escaping it. So when the subject of racial progression is discussed, there should be a push to make technological innovation as much apart of the discussion as anything else.

Stated another way, for real improvement, minorities and whites alike should push more for equal chances in the realm of high-tech development.

Why? Exhibit A.

Taking a more extensive look at the demographics of Silicon Valley’s biggest contributors reveal a striking oddity, or homogeneity if you will.

Yup, you’ve guessed it. They’re all geeks.

Another closer look and it isn’t hard to see an omission of a more obvious kind: melanin deficiency runs rampant among the ranks in the Valley’s offices and executive suites. More specifically, those ranks are largely white, male and Asian.

Considering the ubiquity of technology in our lives, CNN decided to merge that phenomenon with its ongoing Black in America series to chronicle the journey of eight African-Americans seeking to make their dent in the Valley. It’s a noble endeavor and follows in line with its previous iterations: Establish characters that strive to overcome obstacles, hone in on their stories, back up with exposition about the larger context characters work within, zoom back in on characters and take it home.

The New Promised Land: Silicon Valley
takes a look at eight entrepreneurs in the tech field coming together for an opportunity to present their business ideas to investors for funding. It starts fast, with the first statement from NewME founder Angela Benton being, “for whatever reason, African-Americans tend to be consumers of technology and not really creators of technology.” Soon, all eight aspirants are blindsided by the Dragon’s Den, a room full of Google heads, pitching their ideas.

It didn’t go to well. And then the story progresses. One of the segments in the doc featured Michael Arrington, founder of Tech Crunch. Despite covering the industry, he doesn’t “know a single black entrepreneur.” In the next breath, he claims Silicon Valley is “not a perfect meritocracy.” When the press cut was released a couple of weeks ago, he and another documentary talking head, industry researcher and professor Vivek Wadhwa took to Twitter to air their differences, with the latter blaming a biased system for the lack of Black faces.

“When I did raise venture capital, my buddies’ advice to me was, they said, ‘Get a white guy to be your front man.’ And I did that,” Wadhwa said in the piece. “I hired a very impressive, six-foot-tall, impressive, polished white guy, and let him do all the talking.”

Goodness.

Is the Valley a meritocracy? Recently, industry analyst CB Insights found that less than 1 % of all venture capital money went to digital start-ups with African-American founders in 2010. Less than one percent. Not even one in a 100.

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