The Valley is so disconnected from the "real" America. I hate using that term, but to anyone that's lived in more rural non-coastal areas will quickly realize that the issue is not racism or sexism (although these do play a part). Rather, it's a purely economic stratification. I'm a 1.5-generation American (moved here when I was 11) and attended HS in Georgia at a mediocre high school -- underfunded, understaffed, etc. Our valedictorian is the only one from my graduating class that went to an Ivy League school (and he could "only" manage to get accepted by Cornell). Just about everyone else went to a local school: either UGA (barely breaks the top-50), GSU (terribly ranked, like top-200; I went here my freshman year), or GA Tech (which was extremely competitive and hard to get into). Compare this to my sister's high school (which she graduated from after my family and I moved to Southern California): about 20% attended Ivy League schools, and a significant portion attended highly-ranked California institutions: Stanford, CalTech, UCLA, Berkeley, Harvey Mudd, etc.
It's hard to argue that these Californian students were that much smarter than my Georgia cohort, and yet fate threw these two different sets of youngsters on widely different life trajectories. Race, gender, religion all play a role -- but more importantly, it's economic segregation we need to watch out for.
Of course I had to take advantage of those opportunities, but I'm fairly sure they wouldn't have even been on offer to people who didn't have my racial/gender advantages.
In this case, I went in the next morning with a cashier’s check and they dropped it. But moments like this have led me to wonder if the common narrative of privilege actually applies to me in practice as much as is assumed.
I just recently saw on the news a woman talking about this happening to women, saying: "women experience harassment and assault and are unable to continue their careers and have been driven from their homes."
While that's exactly what has happened to me, I dont find any advocates. Especially on the news. In fact, people assume these things cant happen to white, nerdy guys.
It's really overwhelming. It must have obviously been even more hopeless for people when these kinds of things happened to people within a society of not just targeted hate, but institutionalized prejudice as well. It's good that's changed for the better for those people.
But here I am and I'm not really sure what the best way to get help is.
Post on the subreddit r/legaladvice for some actionable advice.
Sorry you are going through this, I hope our justice system can help you.
I had to move across the world and a couple weeks after arrival, people started telling me there was a man who was claiming to be my father that was looking for me (his description was very far from my father's).
That was not an isolated incident. There's a very long list of unjust and crazy things happening to me.
Everyone asks, what would be the motive? This is why for so long I didnt recognize this was happening to me. Because there was no rational reason for it to.
It's hard to explain, but starting when I was a minor, I experienced a series of outrageous injustices from wealthy individuals. I think the motives developed out of these liabilities and it grew from there into a collection of people, ideas, and institutions which had wronged me. I'm guessing.
Some events may be entirely unrelated to each other. But even a literal nazi like Richard Spencer went, what, years before someone punched him? It would be extroardinarily strange that without motive or liability for anyone to have this much obsession with what a normal person.
I dont have many friends and most people dont want to associate with Thomas Paines, let alone someone with lifetime bullying problems without even an apparent virtuous cause or source of prejudice. And unfortunately, a lot of people are inclined to think that if such negativity afflicts you then you must have done something to deserve it.
Once I started publishing my self-recordings of aggresses the attacks basically went from common occurences to zero. Suggesting some orchestration, or an extroardinary coincidence.
I'm fearful of seeking help because it could potentially instigate an escalated retaliatory response.
What else to do? Living my life on the run is obviously just a dead end. I'm lucky to have the physical and mental capability to survive thus far both physically and financially, but in both senses I'm already pushing the limits.
There are legal professionals there that will anonymously give you their advice on what to do to better your situation. If you want to be private, post from a public place like Starbucks.
Have an upvote.
It avoids the rabid anti-feminism of way too many male-centric spaces, while also avoiding the de-centering of men that tends to happen in more moderate spaces (remember The Good Men Project?).
I happen to be in Texas where any degree of nonpayment of rent, no matter how minor, innocent, or unintentional, can be used to justify an unconditional notice. But a "pay or quit" notice would have still been a less aggressive option available to them that would have achieved the same goal unless they had some ulterior motive (e.g., decide whether to proceed based on my skin color when I walked into the office with the cashier's check).
And I'd suggest they make the decision when you arrive in person. Before that, I read your anecdote as having taken place all online without in-person contact. I'd further surmise that the entire process was automated.
The wrong person walks in that following day with the same cashier's check and it's 'thanks for the payment, we're proceeding with the eviction.'
This wasn’t automated, at least not entirely — the notice was signed and hand delivered to my partner at home while I was at work, who then almost cried thinking we were going to be kicked out.
Shitty things happen to people all the time. But for historical reasons, they happen at different rates to different groups of people. That's how our country started; e.g., only well-off white men could vote. We are slowly reducing that. Maybe in another hundred years we'll have it all sorted.
Your experience counts because it's your experience. But it doesn't say beans about privilege as a system. Your attitude, does, though. You're shocked and angry that a minor slip-up might end up with you out on the street. That's great! You're correct that it's unjust. But there are an awful lot of people for whom that isn't a surprise at all. They expect injustice, because they have experienced a lot more of it.
So if I as a non-white minority would have a similar reaction as the person you're responding to, in a similar situation, does that mean I'd have "white privilege" as well, because of my "attitude"? If you were tying this explanation strictly to economic status I would understand (even though I myself come from a low economic status anyway), but I cannot fathom what this has to do with race. Defining a psychological response as some kind of racial trait like that almost makes it sound like you're implying that I can't/shouldn't empathize with white people when they get dealt a raw deal, which is such a dehumanizing notion I don't even have words to describe it. Nevermind the other implication that I'm apparently expected to have low expectations and all kinds of troubles just because I'm a minority. But then again, I'd still have that "attitude" of a 'privileged' white person, so maybe that's the loophole that lets me have higher standards?
Back in my home country, everyone knew these sorts of disparities were due to money, nepotism, and/or corruption. But here in America where everyone's much better educated, it seems like everything gets tied to race somehow, as if correlation == causation. Like it wouldn't even surprise me at this point to wake up one morning and suddenly be informed that I'm eating a "white" brand of breakfast cereal, and that I should opt to have more 'racially appropriate' meals. My home country has many flaws, but I've certainly grown to appreciate it's simplicity and lack of convoluted social dynamics the longer I've lived here.
You are welcome to empathize with white people. I often do. I am one. I empathize with that guy. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't acknowledge privilege.
If you can't fathom what this has to do with race, I'd suggest you haven't studied the topic enough. There is an ocean of history and rivers of current evidence that in America race drives a lot of this.
For example, you could go read Loewen's Sundown Towns,  which demonstrates that America had a major period of violent ethnic cleansing circa 1890-1930 known as the Nadir. That peaked with white people destroying America's most prosperous black district, firebombing it from the air and burning 35 blocks to the ground. 
You could go back from there and read about slavery and the civil war. You could read the various declarations of secession, where white people make clear they're willing to go to war because they believe black people are so inferior that they must forever be property. You could read the reports of the Freedmen's Bureau, and how even after the civil war there was endless violent aggression against black people.
Or you could go forward from the Nadir and read about Jim Crow. About white flight. About redlining. About racial exclusion covenants. Heck, right here in the Bay Area after WW II there was public debate over whether the peninsula should be declared whites only in its entirety.
From there you might read about the present. There too there's a ton of material. E.g., the classic resume study showing discrimination against black people.  And there are plenty of evocative books. E.g., Julie Lythcott-Haims's memoir Real American about growing up biracial.  Or Ijeoma Oluo's So You Want to Talk About Race.  And I don't think an understanding of American racial dynamics is complete without a look at white fragility. DiAngelo recently did a talk about her excellent book that's a good intro. 
I agree that America could be unique in the extent to which race matters historically and currently. But it's not like other countries don't have major issues with racial discrimination. Wikipedia has a very long list of ethnic cleansing campaigns, for example.  Congrats if your home country never had any of that, but that's not where you are now.
I also get why you might think discrimination was due to some correlative factor, like money. I used to think that too. But over time I came around. What changed was studying the history, looking at the evidence, and really listening to non-white people with empathy and an open mind.
Unfortunately I have studied it a fair amount, and I still don't see it. What I do see is a lot of opinionated history pieces (because history is written by the victors), prompting white people to harbor a lot of needless guilt and negativity towards themselves over the actions of their ancestors as if they were personally responsible somehow, or as if nothing about the culture has changed since then. I certainly don't feel indebted to the world in $CURRENT_YEAR because of violence and warfare my indigenous tribal ancestors committed ages ago, because times change and people change.
It's one thing to remember history, but it's a whole other thing to continually reenact it in an endless loop as if the questionable actors of the past were still alive today. I see no better way for this country to end up having Jim Crow Laws 2.0, than by continuing to reduce everyone to their racial identities in a way that people find "socially acceptable". If most of the people in power begin to view whites as less than [other types of] human, it will only be a matter of time before such sentiments get established into law (again), and that's a scary road to go down. Instead of using history as a means of learning about past mistakes to avoid, I see people using it like a kind of bible/handbook which they use to justify repetitive traditions. And instead of aiming towards a harmonious future of forgiveness, I see everyone scrambling to further their own myopic interests and building a divisive future.
> What changed was studying the history, looking at the evidence, and really listening to non-white people with empathy and an open mind.
Humans, unfortunately, have the tendency to reliably find evidence for whatever beliefs they orient their minds to, so that's neither here nor there. In the words of C. G. Jung: "People don't have ideas. Ideas have people." So anything that isn't a hard science or mathematics might as well be a theological discussion that that point.
I would also wager that many of the non-white people you've spoken to are probably culturally American/Western as well, which would naturally predispose them to similar ideas anyway. Not that this would be your fault in any way, as simply speaking English already brings a lot of selection bias into play. But in my own personal dealings with people who were still culturally rooted in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and even some from parts of northern/eastern Africa, none of them shared this peculiar Western outlook that an entire race should somehow be expected to atone for their sins indefinitely.
You suggest I immerse myself in the minutia of Amrican political history to reach enlightenment, but my concern is a much more global and philosophical one, that likely won't be answered by mere history books. Also, being lectured about the utmost importance of American history after living in the country for decades doesn't help the stereotype that Americans are self-centered and oblivious about anything beyond their borders. Not that I'm one to buy into stereotypes, but this trope of ignoring the forest for the American trees is fairly common in my experience.
You then shift your objection to modern activism. I think you're also wrong about its aims and methods. Since offering you resources on the previous topic didn't seem to prompt much but a change of topic, so I won't bother here.
I suggested you immerse yourself in America's history and present of race to understand America's present situation because you said you couldn't fathom that situation. That you now disdain the details as "minutia" [sic] goes a long way to explaining not only why you can't fathom it, but why you probably never will. Your choice, of course, but you shouldn't expect anybody to take your wilful ignorance as somehow meaningful.
I'll again suggest you read DiAngelo's book on white fragility, though, as she covers a lot of the points you explicitly raise here.
> I think you're also wrong about its aims and methods.
I once again very well might be, but I should highlight the fact that "good intentions" alone are not enough to produce beneficial results, and my statements about peoples' aims were to reflect the mismatch between many of these peoples' intentions and the practical outcomes of their actions.
I recommend looking into the work of Paul Bloom to see the arguments for why such endeavors tend not to work out, and to get an idea of the possible implications of relying too heavily on methods/ideologies whose central goals tend to revolve around empathy and good intentions.
It could be that, or it could be that I simply disagree philosophically with the entire premise, and opt instead to take a broader scale look at the dynamics involved. Surely you can acknowledge that would lead to the same outcome, and you wouldn't necessarily be able to tell the difference without looking for it; just as surely as you wouldn't be able to immediately deduce the cause of a fire simply from observing the fact that something is on fire.
If these theories were simply lenses for literary analyses of history that resulted in something akin to movie reviews, then it wouldn't be a big problem, but people like yourself seem to be holding up these philosophically unsound theories as "truths". And all this simply because these ideas are promoted by academics, despite them originating from questionable fields of social science that have suffered the most from the ongoing replication crisis and publication bias. Racial politics have always been justified by "credible" sources in the past, whether it be from biologists or theologians, so I don't see why modern sociologists would be any different.
There's a relevant saying that goes "the map is not the territory", and it implies that there are serious consequences when you start believing that your map is literally an accurate description of reality. Similarly, the saying "all models suck, but some are more useful than others" also applies here, except I'm failing to see the use of this particular model of 'white fragility' and the 'progressive stack', because if anything, it seems to have mostly served to drive racial tensions in this country to an all-time high, and most of it only within the last decade.
If we start finding "white fragility" an acceptable concept, what's to stop anyone from claiming "black/hispanic/asian/etc fragility" later? The problem is that the whole idea is founded upon things that aren't philosophically rigorous enough to prevent it from devolving into a slippery slope, and history has shown that murphy's law is very applicable in these cases. For example, what if I were to frame what's happening here as you "whitesplaining" to an oppressed minority, and that in reality you just can't handle the idea of being wrong because of your own "white fragility"? Would that not simply foment strong feelings of resentment in you, because it implies that you're simply belittling my views because you unconsciously view me as being part of an inferior race? If everything else I've read here goes, I'd think that interpretation would actually be perfectly valid. And if that pattern happened enough times, soon enough my own race would be labeled as "fragile", because that would be a perfectly natural human response to feeling attacked. Luckily, I don't feel inclined to label you a racist here, but realize that this is a power that's completely and arbitrarily under my control, and has been granted to me in this country simply because of the way I was born.
> I'll again suggest you read DiAngelo's book on white fragility, though, as she covers a lot of the points you explicitly raise here.
I watched the talk you linked from her originally, and I found it completely lacking in rigorous explanations. I'm a personality psychology researcher myself, so from my perspective, the whole argument hand-waves away too many individual psychological phenomena/dynamics (actually, worse, she doesn't even cite/reference any to build up her theory), and doesn't seem to propose any falsifiable claims, nor did it even seem to make any cases for its explanatory power at all either. It rather reminded me a lot of astrology: a lot of speculation and projection of ambiguous grand theories onto observable entities, to "explain"/predict various mysterious phenomena in the world. Instead of elaborating about why or how the worldview is derived, she just plainly asserted "this is how the world works" with no justification or possible alternative explanations whatsoever. If that kind of research doesn't scream "replication crisis", I'm not sure what does. As a "scientist of color", this strikes me as pure pseudoscience.
And this isn't even getting into the fact that she seemingly can't help but speak for the views of us "people of color" in completely warped terms. Not everyone that isn't white thinks about (or wants to think about) white people in racial terms, nor attribute all their flaws to their skin color. She literally promotes viewing minorities as harboring resentment, and prejudiced, bigoted thoughts, like it's just our natural state because we're non-white, as if it's some kind of casual fact. Yet she simultaneously claims to "not speak for all of humanity". That is incredibly disgusting.
I'll check out her book anyway, if only to try and understand it the same way I tried to understand Mein Kampf, but my expectations are even lower now after having watched that talk.
A particularly striking example is around perceptions of wealth. In asking about wealth, they ask how much the average black household has if for every $100 the average white household has. The average answer was $85; the reality, $5.
It's easy to think white privilege doesn't exist if one focuses, as here, only on the white experience. But both currently and historically, there are huge differences that aren't much talked about. For those up for a read, I recommend Loewen's Sundown Towns: https://www.amazon.com/Sundown-Towns-Hidden-Dimension-Americ...
It covered a lot of history I was unaware of.
I don't think this was for the average wealth, but for the richest 20%, by race.
From here, in the "Methods and Measures" section: https://www.pnas.org/content/114/39/10324
The median net worth of
This is exactly the viewpoint I was trying to deconstruct with my original story -- that having all the white privilege in the world does not stop these things from happening to you, no matter what the narrative is, and that these experiences are simply not exclusive in any way to nonwhite people. You are either unaware of a huge demographic of people in the US, or you willingly ignore their presence.
None of this is to say that white privilege just flat-out doesn't exist, but it does explain why your manner of discussing it is highly unlikely to connect with white people who have regularly experienced all the things you seem to suggest only happen to minorities with high frequency. You appear to be discussing an alternate reality that does not exist for them.
This is obviously not a universal truth (and there have been many well-known cases of individual and systemic housing discrimination in the USA). Here's a Wikipedia bit that has more links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_discrimination_(United...
Apparently people thought all the well spoken nerdy types were all skinny and pale. I was brown with hairy arms. Another guy was black with a heavy sheriff mustache.
Everyone seemed to find it really surprising, which I guess makes me wonder how deep stereotypes cut.
No one in the history of my high school attended an Ivy League school.
Those in the more well-funded areas of the state send a large percentage of their graduates to Ivy League institutions on a yearly basis.
The smartest people from my high school weren’t that different intelligence wise from those more well-funded high school graduates.
The difference is our school offered a limited number of upper division college ready classes and had terrible teachers.
I think the assumption in my high school were students would graduate and go into a trade. Not many were expected to do anything big in college.
High school graduates from my school were simply not competitive (on paper) against the students applying to elite institutions.
One student had scored a 1600 out of a 1600 on their SAT, but was denied admissions to one of the ivies. They instead went to one of our state schools.
My high school is quite terrible and I don’t think any parent that has money would send their children to such places.
As mentioned, in the more well-funded schools, they regularly send their graduates to the most elite colleges including HYPS.
The ability level between the smartest person from high school and the students graduating from the well-funded high school isn’t anything huge. They’re probably of equal ability, yet one sends their graduates to elite places and the other doesn’t.
In 2017, only 5 kids got accepted to Ivy League schools in the best private school where I live, out of 100 or so in the graduating class? I’m not sure what that means, but maybe it’ll be of interest to someone.
It's a remarkable archievement to get into top universities on your own, but I don't think the skill (i don't mean your archievements in high-school, but doing this on your own) correlates too well the academic ability.
I think a realiance on others/your enviroment is just not something that you can change, especially during your young years.
I feel bad for Georgians, but they have chosen to have lower taxes and fewer services.
His sister just went to a different better school.
I'm not sure I'd blame the state. It's pretty obvious that admissions committees don't take socioeconomic factors in mind. Some states are always going to be wealthier than others -- that's just a fact of life -- but why are universities punishing (poor) students by culling opportunity? After all, a poor black kid has more in common with a poor white kid than a black one-per-center.
You’re quite right that economic stratification is not a natural phenomenon. Economic growth is profoundly unnatural. In nature we’re a slightly more successful kind of ape.
I'm reminded of how scientists have elaborate protocols for eliminating bias in experiments, because just wanting to do it right isn't enough. Fairness (however you define it) doesn't happen by default.
I don't know about how other people feel, but after learning about power law distributions and then seeing them everywhere I now just think "well, thats just how nature works." That and the normal distribution.
I often meditate on people's obsession over fairness. The best I can come up with is that it is a hardball negotiating tactic to get more than you otherwise would through creating leverage by making others feeling uncomfortable and betting that they're not going to be able to tolerate the uncomfortable state. That comes from watching both Frans De Waal's Capuchin monkey experiment below and from observing my toddler.
Then you consider all of the power Laws in the universe. Almost nothing is fair. Unfairness seems to be the default. Consider the animal kingdom is full of homicidal behavior. Life is very rough. Yet we expect "everything should be fair and everyone should be nice." At some level that just isn't commensurate with reality.
I also find there is an extreme intolerance, at least if feels that way to me, maybe it's just an extreme frustration, of inefficiencies in nature. An article pointing out that some talent is being underutilized and this is a travesty! Ok, I'm in agreement it would be nice if it could be maximized, I guess. But I think it's ludicrous to expect a system that has optimize for the whole to optimize for local cases too. Imagine you have to design a system that can handle anything and work well enough under almost any circumstance. That necessarily requires some trade-offs that have kind of crappy results in a variety of conditions. The best way I have come up with describing it is "constraint-based optimization is the root of all evil"
Then when people discover ways that our society doesn't live up to that, they try to fix it.
Do any of them say "power laws, what can you do?" That seems like confusing what is and what ought to be.
Matthew 13:12 "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."
One could take that to be in reference to the general dynamics of power laws.
But, to reiterate my actual point, you find the same behavior related to 'fairness' in the animal kingdom, so it's not a uniquely human thing. That also makes Marx and Postmodernism irrelevant. They're almost a natural consequence that arises from some deeper, pre-existing thing.
The Is-Ought problem is relevant. If we accept that the distribution of power in society and the distribution of individual contribution follow power laws (they certainly seem to) then in response to "what is" as a society we have to make a decision about "what ought to be" in terms of how we run our society. You have to make that choice but the David Hume points out with his Is-Ought problem that you cannot link the morality of what you think "ought to be" with what is.
This means that whether Marx is saying well it seems that Capitalism has some problems that eventually result in it eating itself with all this power and wealth going to the top, the middle being stripped out and the rest winding up dirt poor on the bottom, so we "ought" not to do things that way OR You say something along the lines of supporting the current capatilist paradigm, you can't compute whether or not you are making the "right" choice from a moral standpoint in either case.
My line of thinking for what "ought" to be is that if nature really does seem hell bent on organizing things a certain way, how likely is it we can do anything about that? And if going against the grain seems to produce perverse results without much benefit, than why not just go with the grain and take the good with the bad?
But in the end, this is all about costs versus benefit, which deserves more than a one-bit answer. There are many possible civilizations.
My point isn't about the cost/benefit analysis. It's about finding and understanding the boundary conditions of the system and not trying to get to some delusional Utopia.
I'll state it another way. Freedom of Speech. Widely considered a good thing. Except for those who don't like what you're saying and want to shut you down.
Ok, so we have a lever that we can slide to different settings. Either, you're allowed to say absolutely anything with zero restrictions, or you're not allowed to criticize the regime in the slightest or the lever is set somewhere in between. The question is "where is the optimal place to set the lever?". It seems setting it to North Korean setting where everything is completely restricted doesn't produce good results. Ok, so we set it in the other direction? You can say anything. This seems to be much better. Except it has this consequence that since people can say anything they can say ridiculous things that you wish they wouldn't. And you just have to accept that. There isn't a setting where you can say whatever you like and so can everyone else and no one ever says anything you wish they wouldn't. That setting doesn't exist. This leaves you with the reality of "there's always a small amount of shittiness even in the optimal system."
That's what I mean when I say you have to go with the grain and take the good with the bad. It means learning to live with the parts you don't like, not pretending they don't exist or advocating for the levers to get set to some impossible, magical Utopia setting that isn't commensurate with reality on a fundamental level.
Humans are deeply social animals. Fairness, altruism, and morality have allowed us to thrive as a species.
I wish my mental models in Ecology were a bit more fleshed out. It's on the list of things to dive into. Regardless, it seems that things that cooperate often cooperate in order to compete against other things and that competion is often life and death in nature hence my nature is pretty brutal comment.
Though I fundamentally agree with you. I think really tricky part is that people view things as zero-sum competion with regards to human competion. And it sort of is. But if you zoom way out you realize it's actually non-zero-sum. So, my view on things is human competion is zero-sum in the short-term and non-zero sum in the long-term under a system that permits it.
The deeper idea is "what's the maximum viable amount of fairness?"
We know from medieval times and before that that most people as powerless serfs and an absolute ruler at the top isn't the optimal distribution. We're on pretty solid ground saying that. We know, though sadly it's contested by some, that the communist model pushes the lever too far in the other direction and that winds up pretty suboptimal too. So the maximum viable amount of fairness lies somewhere in the middle... and what if that is where the lever is set to right now or shortly in the future?
That's problematic because it leaves you with a lot of disaffected people and a "sorry, this is as good as it gets" which doesn't feel good. So it's like... what do you do? Well what can you do?
But things aren't static. We are on a trajectory. The last couple of hundred years have seen massive improvements globally, at least according to the late Dr Hans Rosling's book Factfulness. So, it seems to me there isn't something you can do today or tomorrow to "fix" everything. It's not even obvious the system goes into the shape that some people want to see it squished into, but it does seem that if we let the current machine run its course then eventually everyone has drinking water, electricity, schooling, health care and improving opportunities.
I guess my point is... maybe the system is in the right configuration to maximize the outcome for everyone but the timescale that plays out on is another 200 ~ 300 years?
Also side-note: anyone who wants to support Charity Water they do pretty rad work helping chip away at the problem of getting drinkable water to the remaining ~600m that dont have it.
Perhaps autonomous robots changes this? Even, the need for private armies, via autonomous killer drones?
Fortunately, collaboration between equals remains the greatest source of wealth creation, so anyone who doesn't do this is poorer, weaker and left behind.
I want to suggest that perhaps those students in CA really were that much better. Not in terms of raw talent, but in terms of the previous 10+ years of their life.
I learned a lot in PhD school, but the most important thing I learned was that others' high school experiences really did prepare them for academic rigor and business success in ways that mine decidedly didn't.
"White children whose parents are in the top fifth of the income distribution have a 41.1 percent chance of staying there as adults... But for black children, it’s only 18 percent.
Among children who grew up in the bottom fifth of the distribution, 10.6 percent of whites make it into the top fifth ... and a tiny 2.5 percent of black children"
Ie, your odds of being in the upper middle class if you grew up:
White and rich: 40%
Black and rich: 20%
White and poor: 10%
Black and poor: 2.5%
Clearly parental income plays a big role, but so does race. We can crunch numbers all day and argue over who has it worse. But it seems far more productive to just acknowledge that they are both pretty bad, and to focus on fixing both problems.
I mean, I'd call it opportunity. Maybe economic opportunity, if you want.
Definitely. I'm agreeing with the article, although I believe that race and gender are red herrings. The real problem is socioeconomic in nature (fwiw, I say this as a staunch capitalist).
Absolutely. And if wages rose faster than returns on capital, every employee would benefit.
But note: race, gender, religious bigotry etc are wedges that prevents cooperation for reform among wage earners. And now there's a bit of inter generation hatred added to that wedge.
And the mechanisms are immensely complicated. Sometimes it is overt but most of the time it's subtle broadcast choices, feed algorithms that select the most shocking story or subconscious habits that span generations. Somehow things like "merry Christmas" vs "happy holidays" far out play any discussion of wage theft or unlawful evictions. If we could just chill, understand that minorities are not taking over the country and move on to economic issues we'd all be far better off.
It's hard for your parents to escape poverty if the police profile and arrest them. Or if your mom could have been promoted faster than your dad, but wasn't because of a bad company culture.
The reasons are not simple, but the bottom line is race and gender focuse equality efforts _always_ fail to help the lower class. Always. Statistically, gender and race gaps in economic equality have only grown since the 1970s.
Race and gender are a problem but it seems like those two things get way too much attention given other paradigms that demonstrate a more wholistic approach to social fairness.
I grew up around a lot of kids I personally believe were very smart or driven. But when your parents don’t instill a sense of working in a certain way or creating a career path with certain abstract goals - you just aren’t going to get optimal use for your potential.
I would argue this is the reason for most people. My cousin and my wife's sister were both accepted to Harvard for undergrad, but they turned it down because they thought it was too far away. Personally, I don't understand this at all (I would happily move wherever for a good opportunity), but it wouldn't surprise me if most people refused a 2-3x salary increase if it required moving from a rural area to a big city a few hours away by plane.
Quick Zillow search says it’d be 10x as much for a house the size of where I am now, for 3x the salary? No thanks.
And then of course there is the stupid attitude that going to a mere top 50 school somehow isn't an accomplishment.
For those coming from the South, it must be something of a shift to assuming that you can have a proportional, diverse environment in which black people are, as in the country as a whole, 13% of the population.
Keep in mind Georgia isn't any whiter than California (the prototypical 'not really America's Boogeyman)
Also, America is the land of _lack_ of opportunity? I certainly hope that's not the case.
I'd put the order more like: CalTech (best), GA Tech, Stanford, UCLA, Berkeley.
My personal experience: I went to a public University in my country. My parents paid around $800 per year (I had a 50% discount, because I have 3 younger siblings). I don't know how high it's ranked. It is honestly not something people ask. Most public schools are simply good enough.
We have some private schools, but a lot of students end up there because they don't want to put a lot of effort so their daddies pay them a title. And since the schools don't want to lose them they give them a pass, or dumb subjects down. So a lot of private schools are worse (in the sense that they require less effort) than public ones. To the point where some job offers started including the clause: "Any Student with the so-and-so degree, except those from this Particular Private School".
You think the US can deliberately reduce the funding and prestige of universities like that? They don’t even have a federal education system.
In his younger years someone should have given him some guidance, realised his ability and set him towards that path, instead he was missed by the school, his family were in no position to help him realize his potential and a couple of bad choices in his 20s has left him with a chaotic home life and unfulfilled potential that I don’t even think he realised he had.
I worked hard to do well in school but I had a supportive family, teachers to guide me and ultimately a personality (and background) that suited the education system in the 1990s and early 2000s. One size does not fit all and when I find myself surprised at another insight from this employee I wonder how many other people out there who fell through the cracks of the education system, through no fault of their own and how poorer our society is for it.
I've had many jobs and these are all software development jobs. Even in a relatively privileged field like software, I never had any kind of mentorship, ever. The days of older folks mentoring and helping younger folks are gone, because most older folks themselves are struggling with their own careers/lives. Unless young people specifically seek and forge good relations, put effort into finding mentors - it isn't going to happen. By the time most young people (me included) realize this, it is too late. Some people get lucky with good teachers and parents, but many don't.
This is what happens in a system where profit is put above everything else, no-one has the time or interest to think about anything else other than this quarter's profits.
I’m one of the older folks (mid-40’s) and I find myself increasingly surrounded by younger folks (20’s or so) who are looking for guidance and help - the problem with that is that the dominant corporate “prove you still deserve to have a job by closing as many tickets as possible and increasing your velocity and meeting impossible deadlines” ensures that any older folk (who, remember, are held to an even higher standard than the younger folk because they’re more expensive) who spend any amount of time trying to mentor younger folk will find themselves out of a job after a few months.
Did you never work with better coders? Did they never talk to you or never do a code review? If they did, that's mentorship.
But really, moving makes it super hard to build a good professional network and you have fewer opportunities as a result which causes a downward spiral of lack of improvement in skills. I’m really not that much better at anything besides rote memorization of some trivial technical facts than I had 10 years ago because I never have been challenged technically in that time period. This causes atrophy no different than lack of physical exercise. And unless you work another 20-30 hours / week outside of work you’re not going to catch up with those that do spend their time at jobs that appropriately challenge them and help them realize their full potential. Hence, location is among the more important factors as someone early in a career I’ll stress and is precisely why moving to some high cost area is worthwhile... if you can make use of what they have to offer.
Most of the advice I give to my juniors isn’t about code itself as much as larger design and architectural patterns that can cause years and years of effort to go down the tubes or require millions of dollars of human effort to correct. These are the decisions that cause major rifts even for architects. Heck, some older programmers I’ve worked with refused to write tests because they thought they’re a waste of time / crutches - does this mean I am a bad student or something? Not necessarily.
Maybe it's high time we realize that the problem doesn't exist outside of us and maybe we are part or significant part of the problem.
Exploit him for financial gain?
My dad was very similar to the person described. Smart as all get out, just never presented with the right opportunities, and ended up working an assembly line for his entire working life.
The difference between a factory job and a more professional field like software is that in a professional field, your employers benefit from you growing. It is worthwhile for them to invest in you because it makes business sense.
In a factory, you're a cog in a machine. Often the management goes out of their way to ensure you know your place. A lifetime of being put down like that leaves scars that are hard to get past.
"What you know is right" means working to get past that baggage and the other baggage in his life, because the person has the potential to be more than he currently is but has been conditioned their whole life not to see it.
You can sit back and give someone time to improve and mentor them but what if during that time you find out they’re pregnant. Now you can’t fire them without going through an entire process.
Now I’m not saying this is a legitimate fear, but I’m sure at least some people believe this to be one. For my sake, I wish I were able to waive many of the protections employee rights give me so I can guarantee interactions desirable to me.
Not everyone with potential wants to fulfil their potential and it is not anyone else's responsibility to push them down a path. We should however keep such paths open, and encourage employees when they do want to grow.
It is pretty cool that you and your company (Radfan) are creating manufacturing jobs in the UK.
Building a diverse and inclusive team full of highly competent people is actually _how_ I successfully compete against firms with larger pockets than me. It lets us not just outrace them but out-strategize them. I'm getting not just an underpriced call option, but an underpriced put option as well. Along with a lack of bureaucracy, it's one of the few (but powerful) advantages I have over a larger firm. More than anything else (for me), at an early stage startup, hiring is arbitrage. If you find a passed over gem with an unorthodox background that don't fit the typical "pattern matching" that many tech companies use to build a monoculture and yet executes well, you can easily generate six to seven figures of alpha for your company. Of course, the employee gets the opportunity to advance their career, but in order to do so, they generate value for your company first. It's a win-win.
I've seen this so many times during my career. It's the hungry person with the unorthodox background that laps the Ivy educated wonder kid who by all external indicators and pedigrees should not have been outproduced. And yet, not only did it happen, but when it did, those folks became absolute superstars. I've been that person before, and I've seen (and help coached) others to become that person. It's one of the most magical things I've experienced career-wise.
Hiring is about risks and rewards. If you find a risk with an asymmetric reward profile, you can build an organization that is seriously ahead of the curve -- in part because the competing opportunities are not, by definition.
I feel like you're just taking a shot at "SJWs" without realizing that your untapped potential comment is exactly what is at the core of most of these movements.
All politics is identity politics, and it's the identity politics of the past that has repressed millions in America and wasted potential. Potential was wasted when folks were slaves instead of being able to exercise their freedom and pursue their individual talents, potential was wasted when Black soldiers returning from home were denied the benefits of the GI bill. Affirmative Action is explicitly a mechanism to provide more opportunity, so is the modern D&I movement in corporate America. An untold amount of potential is being wasted right now due to America's inability and inaction when it comes to eliminating poverty and providing equal opportunity for all.
However you want to describe these movements, one thing is clear: if America had a more equal distribution of opportunity among demographics these movements would have no reason to exist. There are definitely extremes to the movement, and that's what most criticism (especially online) likes to focus on. But as someone who has been in the trenches working with the D&I organization at my company I can assure you most people are not there with a "kill all white men" or "destroy capitalism" mindset. It's about finding ways to equally distribute opportunity.
When you assess each person as an individual, the whole result would be that minority families would need more aid than white families. But if you chose to implement policies that recognize this problem, you get accused of playing 'identity politics' and people demand you ignore race/gender.
Which then the end result is that by attempting to be color blind, you're effectively denying minorities the aid they need. You've circled all the way back around to racist policies that ignore the problems at hand.
Do people really accuse color blind social policies of that? Under color blind policies, a child of a black middle upper class family would get no help, so it's hard to see how it implements identity politics.
One way I could see how someone would oppose to such policies is, they could say that these policies are set up in a way which, in practice, gives money goes to minorities - but such claim itself is a form of identity politics (i.e. seeing people through the lens of the group they belong to and not seeing the individuals), so someone would have to be stupid to use that argument.
The world doesn’t function off raw potential, sadly. You can’t just be smart or driven and magically become a functioning ceo of a major company. You pretty much have to have a certain groomed background to be successful in that role.
This is an extreme, but the same logic applies throughout the workforce hierarchy. Equality movements have demonstrated that they intend to actualize policies which disregard this fact for the sake of an ideology. That is more than enough reason to criticize these movements.
In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. I find it interesting to observe the far-right, far-left and center, but I form my opinions independently of that. Most damningly, your insinuation that this different opinion from yours on your labor is an opinion "from an internet forum" shows the standard of care you'll have for carrying on with your work.
In fact, I don't disagree with you that "if America had a more equal distribution of opportunity among demographics these movements would have no reason to exist" but I also think that painfully, ironically, these movements become ouroboros of their former selves because the door is opened for people to perform their politics rather than labor towards them. They become co-opted by opportunists looking for fame, in part because the image of doing social justice becomes a social cachet in and of itself, and this perverts the true, altruistic labor of actually achieving it. And this fundamental duality really unnerves me, and I don't have an answer on how to solve it.
But judging by your dismissiveness, you are probably guilty of exactly what I am worried about. And you too do not have the answers.
> In practice, contemporary identity politics does little to challenge the roots of oppression. What it does do is empower certain people within those putative identities to police the borders of ‘their’ communities or peoples by establishing themselves as gatekeepers. It has allowed self-nominated authentic voices or community leaders to consolidate and protect their power. As solidarity has become redefined in terms of ethnicity or culture, so those who demand to be the voices of those ethnicities or cultures are afforded new privileges.
Viewing the world primarily through the lens of a struggle between oppressed and oppressor demographic groups isn’t uncommon, but other politics do exist.
Of course, it's ineffective and self-sabotaging to try to avoid the economic side (mainly because the issues /are/ significantly economic, in addition to cultural), but I think at least sympathy is warranted for the social justice community's view on it.
I'm tempted to ask for sources, but I recognize that's not really possible or fair with this kind of statement.
Suffice to say, I fundamentally disagree with your assessment, and I think you're painting a large group with a very broad brush.
Now, if you're aware of a gallop poll that randomly sampled self-identified "leftist-activists" and asked "Agree or disagree, is most capitalist business morally bankrupt?", that would get us somewhere. Since I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist, this discussion is a bit difficult.
Maybe I shouldn't be posting this comment, since I clearly don't have much useful to add. I don't know. I guess I primarily want to say, I'd really encourage actively listening to (a diverse set of people in) the groups you describe, if you're not doing so already. I suspect, based on my own imperfect and unprovable anecdotal evidence, that you will find a much broader set of viewpoints than what you're describing.
There is sort of a semantic game here: I would call those with more moderate/mainstream stances “liberal” and not include their views in a characterization of what “social justice warrior” means. The same way you draw a distinction between anyone right of center and a “right-wing nut.”
Just to be clear on the one point, I don't do this and if I implied as much, it was unintentional.
And the issue can be worse with people that are working doubly hard to escape poverty or just to survive. Those are the people that cannot afford to lose the single opportunity they've received, which means they are often further exploited through lower wages, fewer benefits and so forth.
Considering I've been in that position myself, there were times when I had a deep fear of losing absolutely everything.
that you a priori assume this makes me sad. a company has no fundamental right to a power differential over an employee.
an employment agreement is between two equal parties looking for a fair value exchange. with that said, of course power differentials often exist in those situations (unfortunately), but it doesn’t always have to. that’s one of the reasons everyone should always apply to multiple jobs at once, and hopefully get multiple offers, so you have leverage in the employment negotiations.
and the best managed organizations consider managers to be support staff with decision-coalescing responsibilities rather than overlords.
That you can believe and type that with a straight face, makes me boggle. Ideally, maybe. Employee-owned cooperatives, maybe.
One side is a non-human entity, a multi-multi-millionaire with on-tap access to an economy full of high spec legal, financial, and any other kind of consultant. Working on decades of procedures and organizational habits buit from the experiences of hundreds of humans, with many human brains and many years of time-horizon to research any given topic, fronted by the humans selected for being good at "playing the selction game" - convincing, manipulating, looking the part, extracting as much as possible from employees.
The other side is a person, who can spare a small fraction of one human brain, with very limited money and access to resources, who has a Hobson's choice of "work or die of starvation".
It isn't two equal parties. It's barely even two /comparable/ parties.
and when was the last time you talked to someone who felt their employement was "fair value exchange"? Someone at the pub who felt their employer paid them enough, didn't ask too much of them - and wasn't boasting about having an unusually good situation?
In fact, when was the last time you talked to someone who /didn't/ dream of getting enough money to never work again? Would that be such a popular meme if people generally felt fairly treated, equal partners, in value-creating systems they participated in by choice?
With my work experience the balance shifted a bit to me, giving me options to find companies without non-competes. When I first got started however, I didn't have an option to negotiate nor did I have the financial backing to challenge a non-compete if it ever became an issue. Ultimately this is where unions should come into play, but I highly doubt we'll ever see the tech industry unionize.
Not necessarily. There's a whole world of employee owned companies, partnerships, and the like which are not fundamentally exploitative.
Though I would say that non-profits and things like you mentioned are generally more inclined to treat their employees fair.
Yes and no. I don't think our society does enough to protect and help the people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, for the reasons you state. But, I also think if it weren't for our capitalist system, these same people likely wouldn't have any jobs at all, and that a lousy job is usually better than none.
I'm absolutely not in favor of tearing down the entire capitalist system, as your parent comment implies. And I certainly don't think it's immoral to look at diversity hiring as a competitive advantage—quite the contrary, in fact.
The fact of the matter is that our society is based on western liberal ideas, core to that idea is the freedom, liberty, and equality. You simply can't square America's past with that idea and if you believe in the western liberal philosophy then in my view you can be persuaded to see the value in these movements.
If you put yourself in the shoes of underrepresented people and our allies, you might understand that it's impossible to predict exactly what sort of political expression will jolt folks wielding power into doing right by us without making them feel like we're being too loud.
People very much thought of Dr. King as a social justice warrior in his time. He was deeply unpopular most of his life. And even he had difficulty making progress without having more aggressive folks as the alternative to dealing with him.
The fact is, very little gets done without the social justice warriors, and certainly not at scale.
This may be naive of me, but I think what he was most successful for was not warfare but persuasion and oratorship. He was a cogent, persuasive speaker, and he won hearts. That's not warfare. That's diplomacy. Yes, he had radical views, and he had things to get done. But although he rightly criticized the white moderate, he did not demonize them. There are analogies to be drawn here. Lots of folks are laboring to build diversity, but there are just as many folks who are more interested in the warfare side of it than the achieving diversity side.
People just love a good spectacle, sadly.
That’s one of the points that gets repeated over and over as far as benefits of including people with diverse and/or unorthodox backgrounds. But you should also consider hiring for diversity simply because different sorts of people with different backgrounds and experiences likely have different world-views and approaches to thinking about and solving problems. A diverse culture will simply have more ideas on the table to work with than a monoculture.
Economic differences are basically ignored in a lot of modern 'identity politics'
the answer from the various underrepresented identity groups themselves is abundantly clear. it's yes.
they insist that, yes, absolutely it definitely does make a critically important difference to have an actual person from the actual underrepresented identity group in those jobs.
they say that only such a person could have fully experienced the kind of opportunity denial, the kind of repression, the kind of discrimination that such corporate measures are supposed to address.
they say that such a person and only such a person can truly and faithfully represent the perspectives and needs of that identity group within the corporate setting.
they say that only such a person in that job can truly open the door so that other young people, other potential future employees, from that group have the confidence to pursue such a job in the future. (could an openly gay man ever lead a Fortune 500 US corporation? in theory, yes, but it was still an important step for Tim Cook to step out into the open https://www.cultofmac.com/585278/tim-cook-interview-gay-priv...)
You're entirely correct that a diverse culture will simply have more ideas on the table than a monoculture -- and that's exactly why it's an advantage.
"The goal of inclusion work is not "More black folk!" Or "More women!" The lack of black folk and women is a symptom of the root cause: opportunity to succeed and thrive is not evenly distributed."
I agree entirely with this statement, and I have seen it happen in both poor white and latino communities that I have lived in during the course of my life. There's a lot of intelligent and capable people out there who aren't going to get their foot in the door: they're never even going to know where the door is.
I figure the moral legwork is to be done only in terms of "opportunity", whereas the outcome should be trusted as long as the opportunity is equal; and it is clear that the outcome (in a univariate, or primitive multivariate analysis) is a bad indicator of the opportunity.
“Broader economic factors appear to contribute to the higher participation of women in STEM in countries with low gender equality and the lower participation in gender-equal countries.”
I agree that outcome as an indicator is not entirely reliable.
Most likely many factors, including cultural, genetic, and economic, also play large roles in these outcomes.
However, I think it is a reasonable policy to try and reduce differences in outcomes if a group has been historically denied opportunities, at least for some period of time.
Honestly, at some point the corrupting effect of history (especially in sex discrimination, where the effect is not generational [everyone is the descendant of a woman]) is less severe than the corrupting effect of accepting discrimination today as some sort of "balance" to that perception of history.
You could make a credible case that Gen Z (my generation, by a hair) North American girls have had considerably more encouragement and opportunity to enter TEM fields (the S is more evenly split) than the boys who grew up with them; so will we still discriminate in their favour when it comes to hiring?
Well, to some companies it seems the answer is still no. That first company I worked at is still today pouring resources into a free training program only for women and girls.
Agree, which is why I stated that these policies should only last a limited time. The tough question is how long should these policies last.
> You could make a credible case that Gen Z (my generation,
by a hair) North American girls have had considerably more encouragement and opportunity to enter TEM fields (the S is more evenly split) than the boys who grew up with them; so will we still discriminate in their favour when it comes to hiring?
I would not find such an argument credible. Clearly males are not being prevented from entering these fields as the ratios of males to females is still greatly skewed.
So it would be far fetched to claim that the effect of these programs that encourage women to participate has denied a significant number of men to enter into these fields.
I would be interested in some concrete facts on just how many of these programs even exist and the monetary expenditure of such programs. As someone from generation X, I know that no such programs existed at that time.
Part of my point is that you can not know that by looking at the outcome. That is, it is not clear that the ratio of males to females says that either is being excluded.
> So it would be far fetched to claim that the effect of these programs that encourage women to participate has denied a significant number of men to enter into these fields.
This is a claim that nobody is making. The claim that can be made is that no equivalent effort is made to include men. That is, there is more opportunity for women, but still fewer women ultimately participate.
> I would be interested in some concrete facts on just how many of these programs even exist and the monetary expenditure of such programs. As someone from generation X, I know that no such programs existed at that time.
If you have had any connection to an HR department at a typical North American company in the 2010s, you would know that programs to specifically recruit men are effectively nonexistent; so it doesn't much matter what the specific measurements for the female recruitment programs are, because no matter how much or how little the investment, it is infinitely more than no investment whatsoever.
I think we are at an impasse here. Our definitions of what it means to be denied opportunity in a field are divergent.
I was imagining systemic hurdles to participation. I don't think outreach to a community or even specific scholarships qualify as such.
> If you have had any connection to an HR department at a typical North American company in the 2010s, you would know that programs to specifically recruit men are effectively nonexistent; so it doesn't much matter what the specific measurements for the female recruitment programs are, because no matter how much or how little the investment, it is infinitely more than no investment whatsoever.
I would also posit that focusing on any particular program and claiming since it isn't accessible by all that there is unequal opportunity.
Do you object to the myriad of scholarships that are only available to specific ethnicities?
I haven't talked about anyone being "denied" opportunity. The vast majority of all people have some opportunity. The unequal part is that more opportunity is extended to some, not that all opportunity is denied to others.
The inequity would not be so much my problem if it didn't mess with the priorities of a functioning business or other organization. If I send my money to a non-profit, I want them to be effective; if they spend resources on discriminatory programs, they will inevitably be less effective than if they had run those programs without arbitrary discrimination.
> Do you object to the myriad of scholarships that are only available to specific ethnicities?
Yes, and those are under tremendous scrutiny over the last couple years, particularly Harvard's treatment of East Asian applicants. I think MLK had the right general premise with his "multiracial army of the poor".
When it comes to the programming context in particular, opportunity is just about as "everywhere" as it can be.
Anyone who can afford a computer and a connection to the Internet can learn to program, can contribute to global projects, can self-educate in programming and can do amazing things.
All you need is a computer, and Internet connection and commitment. It does not even take privilege - although it used to (Bill Gates for example was from a privileged family in Seattle and went to a school that bought a computer incredibly early - that was a direct outcome of the money of his family).
I always recommend against careers that "require the grace of others to practice your art/craft/career". What I mean by this is that to do your chosen job, you need someone else to give you the opportunity/permission/resources to do the work you want to do. Consider a guy I knew when I was much younger. He REALLY wanted to be a movie director, but back then you needed money, a crew/team, equipment and a whole bunch of other people helping - and to really succeed in that career you need high level industry connections. That's a huge barrier to being able to actually do the thing you want to do. You're much better to choose a career that does not require anyone else's permission/money/approval - such as programming, or drawing.
First (anecdotal, and adjusted to regional variety, but stands to common sense) - all people who I personally know to have gotten rich off of software were all bar none rich to have access to top of the line hardware/software/services to begin with:
1. accounting software in early 90s (there were literally three or four PCs around in my city there at all. Even software they just cloned locally from some experience they acquired studying abroad in USA)
2. internet/security in mid 90s (guy had T1 while most of us didn't even know internet existed or were dreaming of owning US Robotics modem sometime in the next century)
3. games in late 90s/early 00s (when we all fappped to pictures of VoodooFX and Riva TNT, they had them)
4. web in early 00s (most of us just begged for some limited shared hosting account to even see what it's about)
5. iPhone gold rush (price of iPhone was about my yearly non-disposable income back then)
Secondly, and this is part where I partly agree - software development really is one of the more democratized areas - but when field is so approachable that anyone can make money, anyone does. And that means goalpost has shifted to other things - social network, privileged experiences, marketing investment, time allocated to project, being able to fail enough times to succeed, etc.
It is incomparably easier to become a useful professional software developer than a licensed electrician (provided you're of a sufficiently-suitable mindset), at least where I've been (though, the one time I was flown out to interview at a company in Silicon Valley, I was straight-up told by one of the interviewers that “Here in the valley, we place a high premium on education”, so maybe it's different there and probably some other places).
Now, I will say I was very lucky to be able to fail a little bit later, and very lucky to have met somebody in grade school who would basically win me my first full time job while I was still a teenager, I was not in any particular luck when it came to access to computers or really much else.
1. My brother, four years older than me, was studying programming in college, and talking about it when he came home on breaks
2. My mom, realizing her teaching job was in jeopardy due to layoffs, learned programming, and a couple years later was teaching it for an adult education program organized by a nearby university
3. I did take one high school course in programming, which forced me to get past the familiar conceptual hurdles faced by beginners
From these relatively minor circumstances: I knew enough about what programming was, its value, the fact that it could be learned by a mere mortal like myself, how long it would take to bring myself up to an employable level, and where to find decent learning resources. I had a supply of motivation and encouragement to get past obstacles that might have seemed insurmountable to someone who is under social pressure to undervalue their own potential.
I had a ready supply of mental energy thanks to living under comfortable circumstances. In fact, an oversupply. Learning to program was not at the expense of other necessary activities such as earning money, supporting other family members, etc.
If a person comes from an underprivileged background, everything they lack in the list of things I just described, is equivalent to an obstacle, and the obstacles are multiplicative effects. If this is an exaggeration, I don't think it's all that much of one.
Networks, locality, these are important.
Elon Musk attended Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and I was going to Uni at the same time in Kingston. He transferred to the US. The Canadians in his cohort mostly did not. There is very little 'game' in Canada - though there are decent jobs, there are very few high flying startups, and very few leading big-corps to make all the necessary acquisitions to keep the system going. If Elon were to have remained in Canada, we'd have never heard of him.
So even in a relatively affluent country like Canada, there is a massive dearth of special, great opportunity: the ecosystems are mostly not in place for it.
There are very major and affluent US cities with tons of talent where one could say the same as well.
There's a reason people move to the Valley and it's not just the weather.
This is changing a bit, but not existentially.
Clusters exist in all fields because they have major advantages. This is particularly true for startups but opportunity exists in other areas as well.
The software industry is still more spread out than others and companies headquartered in the Valley have major operations in many other places (including the likes of Kiev).
This is the de-facto Canadian strategy, when the outgoing Ontario Minister of Economic Development was adamant that 'Canadian developers were top-notch, and go for 60 cents on the US dollar, and we intend to keep it that way' i.e. basically indicating that he wanted to keep Canadians (or at least Ontarians) poorer for the opportunity to work for Cisco et. al.
It's definitely a rational strategy in a way, but it's also self defeating because it precludes a competitive options. Imagine trying to hire talent to Toronto when said talent can 2x their income by going to the US? (I understand cost of living is different, but aside from housing, stuff is cheaper in the US, and many young people especially have a hard time seeing past the dollar signs).
This would be an optimal strategy for a country in difficult situation, trying to lever their top talent into the 'beginning' of an industrial landscape (i.e. Ukraine, who haven't had a proper economic footing, basically ever). But it's sad positioning for countries with already advanced economies supposedly trying to be competitive.
Canada's situation next door to the US, with a flexible immigrant population, a shorter history and weaker cultural ties vis-a-vis the US (i.e. it's not a big jump from Toronto to Chicago as it is from Berlin to Chicago, in cultural terms) ... creates kind of a specific situation.
The clustering analogy is very good, but it's also very hard to do. They are trying here in Montreal with AI, but I'm not so sure it will fare very well. Hopefully it will work out.
Like half of Hollywood.
I grew up poor, white, male, and in a mountain community in SoCal. I honestly had no clue how to achieve success as an adult. I had literally zero role models for success, just a series of examples of what not to do. The only thing I could lean on was "do good in school, go to a decent college, get a job." Add to that that I became a parent at 15.
I got a near full ride due to grades plus economic status to a decent university. But I could not be part of that community; I had a kid to raise and that meant my wife and I had work (and she skipped college entirely). I never learned that I was supposed to be networking at that time. Today, I don't know one person from college.
I got a business degree because a friend's dad said it was the way to go. I minored in CS because I liked it and it was an easy A. At the time, programmers made like $30k usd if they could get a job (and there were no jobs like that within two hours of home). So I went for an insurance gig. Did slightly better than the $30k. Tried investments advisor; that was a bad choice for me. Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. So I did construction and substitute teaching while I got my teaching credential in math. Did that for a few years.
All the while, I tinkered with programming. Built a few projects for folks. When it was time to leave teaching (man, inner city schools are hard), I had enough of a portfolio for programming that a recruiter reached out. I went on a few interviews and landed a real programming job! $70k a year! Nearly double what I made as a teacher! From there, I worked with really talented folks. I learned so much. I finally had access nto real advice and real role models. I quickly became mid level, then senior, now a principal developer at a unicorn. It took about a decade to reach the same level of success that some kids get right out of school. I don't really regret it. My journey makes me "me." It would have been nice to have earned better for that decade.
I really understand the value of opportunity and how it is unfairly distributed. I appreciate the story the article presents and it resonates with me deeply. Crafting more access to opportunity is so vital.
Assuming you mean teachers are failures at other fields, I fundamentally disagree. There are plenty of people who go into teaching to help others. To help underprivileged people like yourself. You had a CS minor, no? Do you consider your CS teachers to have been "those who can't"? At the very least they gave you a foundation and an interest in something that elevated your career.
That said it also is depressing how concentrated and closed up networking circles are, how important signalling from prestigious schools still is, and how little diversity there is in where capital goes. I can't remember the exact number, but almost all VC in the US goes to just a handful of counties.
It should be the task of all institutions, from government to business and think tanks, to open up these spaces to talent from all over the place.
Fair enough, but to play devil's advocate people from all over the world flock to these counties, and places like YC exist specifically as an entryway to this otherwise closed network. Musk himself has spoken at length of why he came to the US, and the Stripe cofounders have a similar story.
Tom Mueller and Gwynne Shotwell could have worked at other more traditional companies but it is thanks to Elon's leadership and aggressive business tactics that they achieved far more at SpaceX. This is not just Elon being rich: space history has plenty of well-capitalized failures.
The article presents a story of very successful vertical mobility from people who received relatively little outside help, it's not clear how this makes a case for various forms of affirmative action. If anything it shows the system works reasonably fine.
I didn't want to deny that Elon is an exceptionally hard working individual as well, but I honestly think it would help both Elon and people like Tom Mueller if the attention was more evenly distributed.
We have seen the downsides of the media attention, drama and inflated egos that are produced by the focus on founders or CEOs.
Talent very rarely gets noticed (especially in complex and innovative fields; managers simply don't have the necessary knowledge to be able to identify real talent). Even when noticed, talent is rarely rewarded because office politics get in the way.
Of course there is always untapped potential, for the time being. That is why there are still startups and entrepreneurs, who try to release that potential. But it is not as simple as hiring diverse genders and races.
It is simply a hard problem to enable people to make the most out of their talents and potentials.
The Tom Mueller case seems to illustrate that well. What if there had been no SpaceX during his lifetime. Who would have been to blame? What would there have to be done? Perhaps Tom Mueller would have started his own Space company? Or maybe not. But whose duty would it supposedly be to provide a space company for people like him to work at?
Most people are not even sure how to enable their own children to make the most of their talents (or to develop some talents to begin with) - let alone some strangers. I think that also shows that it is not primarily an issue of diversity. We simply don't know enough about developing talents and making the most out of life yet. So we experiment - sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't.
What exactly made Tom Mueller obsessed with rockets? If I want my kids to become rocket scientists, should I send them to lumber jack camps in the summer?
> I would find the story more convincing if there were also examples of "talents" who didn't go anywhere.
> I find it rather likely that people with his talents would always find a way.
The latter is basically the just world fallacy.  It assumes that the outcomes are correct. If you were offered examples of people who the writer said were talented but didn't go anywhere, I think you'd just just bring the just world fallacy to bear, believing that their bad outcome was proof that they weren't really talented.
The author made a claim, so they should support it. That has nothing to do with just world hypothesis. Also, he actually provided an example of somebody prevailing against the odds.
The only evidence that talent might be wasted is our feelings that it may be so. That's not enough.
As for contradicting statements, it seems to me my statements both say the same thing. Both are a request for providing evidence of (unfairly) wasted talents.
But if you're right, and people should always offer ironclad proof of claims, please show me the studies that back your claim that "The author made a claim, so they should support it." I will only accept high-n, double-blind studies published in major journals. Thanks in advance.
Moreover, I am ENTITLED to having doubts. Isn't that what the modern world (and also the article here) is all about? Entitlement?
In general, more double-blind studies would be a good thing, so what is your point?
And I am not applying the just-world fallacy. I think it is a completely misguided way to think about the world to begin with.
Of course not everybody reaches the optimal outcome in life. That doesn't make it unfair or an injustice.
Why did nobody inspire me to buy Google stock when I was a teenager? Then I would be a millionaire by now. Other people became millionaires because they bought Google stock.
So unfair! It is such an injustice! Obviously I am entitled to be bestowed millions by society now, because the only reason I am not a millionaire is because society didn't point me towards buying stock as a youth.
Also, I think I am entitled to at least 1000 Bitcoin. Can I send you my address? It is not my fault that society didn't encourage me to become a computer geek who would then experiment with Bitcoin mining in 2009.
So obviously I don't believe in a "just world", because I myself am a living example of it not being just!
While you can frame your view of the world that way, and not rest until everybody in the world is EXACTLY the same (you may also look into genetic engineering, because it won't do that some people are more beautiful than others), I think it is a completely silly approach.
>> What if there had been no SpaceX during his lifetime.
We need a fair and level capitalist system that reduces barriers-to-entry for innovative companies and stops monopolistic practices. This will ensure that good ideas are profitable and make it in investors self-interest to build companies around the Muellers of the world.
>> We simply don't know enough about developing talents and making the most out of life yet.
The point is, we need to build systems that enables geniuses to be discovered regardless of races, resume, age, skintone, college. By-and-large the software industry is already incredibly efficient at this relative to other industries.
Other industries (e.g. healthcare) should adapt or be eaten. Software should double-down on talent speaking for itself (e.g. blind interviews, open coding competitions for all)
I was referring to that. It is a hard problem, not simply a matter of hiring more ethnically diverse people. If you just say "we need a better system", frankly I consider it a fluff article. There is no actionable information in it. It would be like saying "we need to create better cancer treatments" - yeah, sure, but HOW?
"We need a fair and level capitalist system that reduces barriers-to-entry for innovative companies and stops monopolistic practices."
I am not convinced our current system is unfair. At least the article doesn't provide any evidence for it, as I said.
It seems to me all sorts of companies are trying to improve opportunities for everyone (YCombinator Startup School, MOOCs come to mind). The lack of opportunities for some people is not because of unfairness, but because we don't know how to do it better yet.
But who is "unfair" here? Again - if nobody would have created a space agency for Tom Mueller to work for, would it have been unfair? And who would have been to blame? I really don't think fairness is the dominant issue here.
Which the US did in the 1960s, out of fear that the USSR was gaining. Heavy IQ testing and attempts to identify gifted students. Now it's all about "no child left behind", trying to do something for the losers.
There is the Polgar/Ericsson approach, but it may be too narrow. It may enable us to create, say, chess prodigies - but how do we pick the fields for people to become prodigies in? Also, it might not be economically feasible. I think Polgar educated his kids as a full time job. Can't do that with everybody.
Not any more. That was back in the Space Age, 1956-1973.
The point is, there may simply not be that many people obsessing about some things to the point of becoming geniuses in their field.
Also, why is Elon regarded as genius inventor, when it's clearly the people who work for him how are the geniuses. Why aren't they the multi-millionaires?
But isn't that incredibly hard to do? I totally agree with the article and you, but at the same time, aren't the middle layers of most bureaucracies super stretched already? Most of those people just don't have the time/energy/motivation to do that, do they? Their bosses probably don't care, so how could they? It seems like only the very best of them do that.
I so wish that wasn't true, but it may be.
But another thing strikes me as very mysterious: where does a Tom Mueller (or any high performing individual of any identity group in any field) get that drive, that energy, that interest in the first place? How and why do they keep on going? What inner mechanism fuels their passion? Why do they even have a passion?
I think part of it is environment: they don't see others who they can emulate that they can relate to or others that support them in their peer group. Part of it is innate - and this is the part I relate to. For me, I did not know what I was going to do after, but I knew that school/university was the only way I would get there. I put my efforts towards that. My passion was to not be in the situation(s) my parents were in. That meant waking up at 4am in highschool to do homework or study to help get the eventual near-fullride scholarship to a university. Some of my cohort would rather just play videogames or do other things to escape their reality.
Tom Mueller is a great Engineer, no doubt. But SpaceX would probably have existed without Tom Mueller.
Opportunity is not.
The opportunity to build a rocket company is rare. For it to exist, you need someone to bet Billions on a crazy idea.
Tom Mueller is poor. He can't bet that kind of money.
Elon Musk is rich. He's willing to make the bet, but in return he wants to feel important.
It seem like a pretty good trade, in my eyes.
As for diversity and inclusion - sure, that's a good thing.
The fact that nine billion of us can produce one billionaire investor to found one successful private rocket company in half a century of space travel is a mark against the species.
We would all be immortal digital consciousnesses traversing the stars at fractions of C by now if we had managed to capture an order of magnitude more talent in previous generations.
I skipped out on about a decade of software development because it was not something someone did for real money in my locality, and the income it could command was very low the year I had briefly looked into it, and the rent in those areas where you could do programming was too high. I seriously considered working for the local lumberyard because I had trouble wrapping my head around other opportunities. You can find my path to software in another comment here. I think schools could do better than "career day" to expose kids to the opportunities out there.
The answer could be that talent is not well distributed over life time. For instance it would be safe to assume the bulk of the best teachers/mentors do not voluntarily work in places which pay them bad wages (usually poor areas) and so often opt to move to richer areas. And thus many of those talented kids from rural places grow up with much less chance of getting noticed and more importantly good “nudges” as a result.
If this is true and if society wanted to maximize utliziation of talent there’s perhaps no clear simple way, but a strategy might be to artificially redistribute this kind of talent for instance by giving poorer areas more funding for education.