Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tech industry silence is deafening on #BlackInAmerica
Last sunday night Black In America 4, the documentary that chronicled the summer that I and seven other black entrepreneurs spent in Silicon Valley, aired. (note it will re air Sat Nov 19th at 8pm) The aftermath has been, in some parts exciting. I have been incredibly busy doing panels and interviews. #BlackInAmerica was even a trending topic on Twitter on Sunday evening. In some sense it felt like lots of people were paying attention.
This is important to me not because I am in the documentary but because the lack of significant African-American presence in the tech economy is, I believe, critically important. In fact, If we don’t fix it, its going to accelerate an already dangerous level of wealth inequality in the country.
As I said in the documentary, not fixing this problem ultimately leads to a permanent underclass. And if you think Occupy Wall Street is a troubling signal regarding dissatisfaction around wealth distribution, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I fear the growing wealth disparity, particularly along racial and ethnic lines, will be catalyst for significant civil unrest.
If we are going to change course, in my view, the most valuable potential outcome of the documentary would be a willingness to more openly discuss the issue of race in technology. And since Twitter is a great proxy for engagement on any issue, that’s where I looked. I was hoping that given the heavy discussion in the tech blogosphere and press that the issue had finally broken into the mainstream.
But the Twitter stream said something else. Initially my sense was purely anecdotal, but I saw none of the tech industry “players” participating in the conversation.
So at my company, Kloudco, we decided to do some quick analytics. We pulled down all 150,000 #BlackInAmerica tweets between 9am est, the morning of the Black In America 4 airing, and 9am the next day. Then we cross referenced that list with industry mega-pundit Robert Scoble’s important tech people lists. These include his Twitter lists for press, VCs, and others.
Unfortunately, the results were just as I feared.
Across all of Scoble’s lists, there were only three participants in the discussion: @lekanB, @rachelsklar, and @venturebeat. The tech industry either wasn’t watching, was totally unengaged or worse, uninterested.
For whatever the reasons the tech industry is silent.
Posted by Hank Williams at 1:43 PM