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Is Racism the Only Explanation for Black Underrepresentation in Silicon Valley?

A few months ago Facebook’s initial public offering became the largest tech IPO in history initially valuing the company at over $100 billion. More than 70 percent of African Americans online have used Facebook or other social networks[i]; however there were none on stage in the cast of newly minted billionaires ringing the NASDAQ bell. Many have raised the question of who is or will be the black Mark Zuckerberg? That question translates to who are the successful black technology entrepreneurs?

For the last year, there has been great debate about blacks in Silicon Valley’s technology industry. This argument was fueled by a CNN program called Blacks in America: The New Promised Land — Silicon Valley.

The program showed Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch and an investor, stating that he did not know any black entrepreneurs. In response, some people called him a racist, others said Silicon Valley is racist, and others concluded there are no qualified black technology entrepreneurs.

I sat on the sidelines until now reading article after article written on this topic, many of which were fueled by anger or lacking relevant insight.

I am taking a break from building companies to comment. I am a successful technology entrepreneur. And you might have noticed that I am black. I never previously broadcast that I’m a “black entrepreneur,” as my focus has been on success and I do not find my skin color relevant to the source code I write or to the purchase orders I receive.

It is, however, difficult to sit by and watch misinformed views on the intersection of two things that I know well: 1. building technology companies and 2. being black. Misinformation and improper conclusions will only make the situation worse, which is counter to the goals of people on both sides of the debate.

Here I share three opinions on the ongoing debate about blacks in Silicon Valley and then three suggestions on how to improve the state of blacks in Silicon Valley.

Three Opinions On The Debate About Blacks In Silicon Valley

1. Underrepresentation does not equal racism

One uninformed comment about black entrepreneurs started the debate, which grew into a discussion of black underrepresentation in Silicon Valley.

I’m going to state what should be obvious. Underrepresentation does not equal racism. Nor does underrepresentation equal lack of ability. A group can be underrepresented for various reasons, including lack of interest, lack of knowledge, and lack of access…

Read more: Paul Judge, TechCrunch

 

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