The fact that Michael can't come up with a single black entrepreneur, when asked to come up with one off the cuff, actually speaks more for his LACK of racism.
Michael talks to a LOT of entrepreneurs. He looks at their quality of their companies. Sounds like he doesn't look at the color of their skin first.
I really appreciate the fact that he does NOT categorize them in his brain, like: "This is my list of entrepreneurs. Blacks on the left, whites on the right." No, he thinks of them first as entrepreneurs. When asked to come up with a black entrepreneur, he has to think through the entire list, checking their skin color.
I really didn't find his comment snippet to be particularly offensive either. He was asked to come up with one on the spot, and couldn't. BFD. (I wish he would have said "I don't consider the color of the person's skin when I meet entrepreneurs", because isn't that the ideal world? And he basically said the same thing by struggling to come up with a black entrepreneur.)
Ask him to come up with an entrepreneur that drives a blue car, or has red hair or has an ear piercing only in his left ear, and you'll probably get the same struggle, where he has to think about it for a while, and can't come up with one. So what!
I am with Mike on this one.
I am in the position of seeing this whole story from far away from SV from a small Eastern European country. I think to be far away helps me have a perspective on this 'playing the racism/sexism card' story.
I know lots of Eastern-European guys who has been programming since they were 12 yeaers old, are very good at it, are intelligent, etc. but have incomparably worse 'social status' than anybody in the U.S, even black people or women.
Lots of talent wasted, lots of people earning fractions of money what they could with a little more connections and 'social proofs' behind them. Here in Eastern Europe we are used to that life is hard, you have to be so good that they cannot ignore you. You have to convince people about how good you are through email or skype, you have to try to get a visa, etc... Women and black people who are born in the U.S. are much more privileged compared to most of the world's population. I have worked at local branches of U.S. companies. I had lots of white/black males/females as my bosses. All of them earned much more money than me and not all of them had the knowledge I have on software development. Anybody with even absolutely mediocre knowledge and not very much experience from the U.S was called 'senior associate', but even very experienced eastern europeans were sometimes titled simply 'associate', etc... I've seen lots of brilliant people with Ph.D-s doing the most boring grunt work, because that's what is outsourced here. But that's life. You have to earn 'social proof' with hard work. I don't think black people or women who are citiziens of the U.S are in especially bad situation in this regard.
As you can verify by digging deeper into the data, the US is highly racist; massive numbers of Blacks are incarcerated. (This is what happens when a society was recently forced to stop formal slavery, without other fundamental changes. You still have to control them.) You can imagine how this destroys Black families, as well as the pervasive racist attitudes which are necessary to keep otherwise decent people from uniting to tear the system down.
The argument that racist attitudes make a difference is all the more compelling, when you consider that tech investors often make snap judgements on pitches which last mere minutes. Assuming you can even get to that point.
So with all due respect, I'm not sure you have a clear view of the US. Though I have no doubt that your country is exploited by foreign powers, like the US. (People who'll do that to their fellow citizens will happily do the same — or worse — to you.) And I don't just mean relatively skilled software programmers.
I'm terribly sorry, but you're making a huge leap here. The fact that "massive numbers" of blacks are incarcerated does not automatically imply pervasive racism. The one does not necessarily imply the other.
What about the fact that Black men were disproportionately executed for rape, so much so that they stopped making the death penalty an option for rape cases? Is that institutionalized racism or just bad luck?
I was under the impression that it was actually poor men who were executed disproportionately for rape. And while we're tossing stats around, how about the general amount of crime committed by said Black men? It is higher per capita, is it not? Is that due to racism too?
> how about the general amount of crime committed by said Black men? It is higher per capita, is it not?
It depends on what numbers you look at. In terms of raw imprisonment numbers the plurality of prisoners are serving time for drug and drug-related crimes and those prisoners are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic. However when you look at SAMHSA surveys and other research whites and blacks use & sell drugs at about the same rates.
Looking at violent crime on the other hand (murder in particular) blacks to appear to commit those crimes at higher rates, but in terms of raw numbers, those results are minuscule compared to the number of folks imprisoned every year (something like hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand per year IIRC).
I'm doing this from memory so I can't point you to the exact sources of this information (I'm one of the several thousand Massachusetts residents who lost power last weekend and I'm writing this via smartphone) but it comes from SAMHSA and BJS data (and to a lesser extent UCR although that's not quite as useful for these discussions). If you want citations I can provide them after power is restores on Saturday or Sunday.
You are incorrect, it is not poor men. "Of the 455 men executed for rape in the United States between 1930 and 1967, 90 percent were African American." Although I'm sure the vast majority of those men were poor.
re: stats please provide some if you'd like some in return because you've made a huge generalization and I'd say that it's your bias speaking (not racism). In response to your question, if it is true that black men commit more crimes I'd say that the situation of blacks in america is directly tied racism, slavery and the like so yes, it is due to racism too.
You're going to have to do better than citing stats that are 44 years old. All this proves is that 44 years ago, there was a problem, which is not exactly a point of contention among most sentient beings at this point.
"you've made a huge generalization and I'd say that it's your bias speaking (not racism)."
Seriously? These are not obscure statistics I'm talking about here. Here, check this one out:
"As of 2005, statistics show that offending rates for blacks were more than 7 times higher than the rates for whites."
"These specific facts about the Bell shooting are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of data points that reveal a hard truth: any given violent crime in New York is 13 times more likely to have a black than a white perpetrator. While most black residents are law-abiding and desperately deserve police protection, the incidence of criminal activity among young black males is off the charts."
And that was with five minutes of Googling. I'm not making some wild, off the wall assertion here. This is a well known and exhaustively documented fact.
"I'd say that the situation of blacks in america is directly tied racism, slavery and the like so yes, it is due to racism too."
I figured you would. Slavery ended 150 years ago, so if you want to assert that some 7 generations later it's still having effects, I welcome you to provide data to that effect. This, right here, is the problem in a nutshell - the minute these facts are mentioned, the hue and cry of racism and slavery goes up, and all further thought on the matter stops. The causes of this situation are complex, and reducing them to one dimensional truisms does no one any favors.
First of all, I was talking about the death penalty in rape cases, the statistics are old because it's an old problem, "The 1977 Coker v. Georgia decision barred the death penalty for rape, and, by implication, for any offense other than murder." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_Unite... So your point is moot.
As for your wiki cite, first of all you're talking about murder when your first comment was regarding the total number of black people incarcerated. Which would you like to discuss? You pulled that quote (as of 2005) off of a graphic, had you read the text to the left you would have seen this: "As of 2008, statistics report that of 16,277 murders, 10,568 were committed by males, 1,176 were by female, and 4,533 were committed in which the offenders sex was unknown. Likewise, 5,334 murders were committed by white offenders, 5,943 were committed by black or black and Hispanic offenders, 273 were committed by offenders of other races, and 4,727 murders were committed by offenders whose race is not known. " So white people murder about the same as black people. There are less black people in the united states, what do you think the reason behind this is? You think black people just have more bad apples in their bunch than whites? Are blacks just more prone to be criminals? Or is it based on the conditions of their community? How did their community get that way? Was it their own doing or did it have anything to do with Jim Crow laws, were those laws racist?
Your other statistic is NY specific therefore I will not address it because I am talking about a systematic problem, not NYC which is a major metro area and therefore likely to have more crime.
"Slavery ended 150 years ago" But how long ago was it that Jim Crow was in effect? How long did it take for Jim Crow to be completely abolished? There are still signs up that say whites only because they haven't been removed--I've seen some with my own two eyes.
It's unfortunate that you cannot see the connection between the current state of the black community and the trans-atlantic slave trade, hundreds of years of enslavement followed by legal racial segregation that just ended 40 years ago--I know plenty of people who went to segregated high schools.
"The causes of this situation are complex, and reducing them to one dimensional truisms does no one any favors." I don't believe I ever said it was due to one thing. Racism in itself is highly complex and in no way one dimensional.
I really have no interest in continuing this debate with you. I'll agree to disagree.
Rape used to be a capital offense in the USSR and no black had been executed for that. However they stopped making the death penalty an option anyways. The reason being that it turned most rapes into rape+murder.
True, I didn't offer a mathematical proof. Though I can offer my personal experiences growing up in a racist urban environment. One of many memories which stand out was during gym class, when a 12 year old White person whispered into my ear, "It smells like niggers in honey." (Where did he come up with that?)
But I do not think racist attitudes account for everything. Far more important is institutional racism. (Institutional analysis is by nature impersonal: if you replace all the individuals, the institutions will operate pretty much the same. Same racist outcomes.)
Even within the U.S., it's been my observation that the sort of embedded undercurrent of racism you seem to be addressing varies widely by geography and generation.
For example, I grew up on the Pacific coast and went to high school in the Seattle area. I didn't observe what I would call overt acts of racism (whether it was lack of awareness or lack of incidence is another argument). There were enough people of every ancestry possible that racism seemed like a silly idea.
Later (in my 20s) I lived in and visited many places in the Rocky Mountain area. In many communities there was a significant population of Hispanics. Too often, they were poor, typically as a consequence of recent immigration (generationally) or education. However, the social environment was unfortunately such that it reinforced negative stereotypes. By this I mean that if the only people of another race you encounter on a daily basis were poor (and everyone successful looks like you), subconsciously your behavior with regard to that population will change. There aren't enough teachers and school leaders (for example) of Hispanic descent in areas with high Hispanic populations. Research shows that this is because those that go to college choose not to teach because the salaries put them in near poverty conditions—something many are trying to escape via higher education.
(To this point, we in the U.S. have created self-reinforcing discriminatory environment years ago with segregation, which limited educational attainment to a large population. By doing so, policy and practice practically ensured poverty and its associated ills. We're getting over it, but it will take time. Moving large groups from poverty can take a couple of generations.)
In the South (I'm now in Georgia), I find that race is mostly an issue for those about 15 years older than me—those that lived during times where discrimination was more overt. As we were house hunting, more than one well-meaning (but misguided) elderly person suggested the neighborhood had gone downhill since [$race] moved in.
The social conditions where we grow up matter. The presence or absence of successful people of different races matters. Geography (and local history) matters. The extent to which people have traveled or moved from where they grew up matters.
calibraxis, the thing about that is that what that kid said SOUNDED racist. But really the kid was just a little asshole. If you were white and had coke bottle lenses, he'd still have been nasty to you, he just would have done it a different way. Or if you were overweight. Or red-headed and covered with freckles. Or Asian. Or the poor kid who had holes in his clothes. Or were too eager to answer the teacher's questions… correctly.
As the poor, chubby, too-smart girl, I got smeared with all kinds of shit in elementary & middle school. Then one day I realized: it's not about me, it's about them.
It's like "sexism" too: If a bunch of sad, pathetic men hate & resent somebody and she's a woman, their insults will be sexual. But if a bunch of sad, pathetic men hate & resent another man, their comments will be equally vicious, they just aren't always sexual.
But whereas the hated men do not think "oh no, it's because I am…" or "It's because I have a penis," they realize that the reason they're being picked on is petty jealousy and that WHAT the jerks say is actually immaterial. On the other hand, a woman will assume it's actually because she's a woman.
I've watched this play out over & over & over.
The bottom line is that people are assholes, and they will pick on ANYTHING different if they want to be mean to you. That doesn't mean you should assume the reason they are mean is because you have something different. They're just assholes with an opportunistic bent.
Let me clarify: I'm not Black. ;) He was just making an observation, like bad weather.
(And by the way, I understood Grammaton above to be speaking of racist attitudes, not institutional racism. Two different things. People overfocus on attitudes and slurs; but I don't wish to sidetrack from the more important issue of institutional racism.)
You're right. What does imply the other is the disproportionate percentage of African-Americans in the prison popuplation, relative to the percentage they are of the overall population (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_St...). African-Americans are disproportionately imprisoned in every state; in twenty states, they're imprisoned at five times the rate you would expect by their share of the state's population.
Black people are incarcerated more because they commit more crime. Proportionately, they commit about 8x as many violent crimes as whites. It's not really a statistic that you should try to use to combat "racism".
It's times like this that I wish there was more scrutiny of the media itself. We've got a reporter, Soledad O'Brien, who is cynically exploiting an issue so she can get a good story and she doesn't have to answer questions about her behavior because she's got the bigger megaphone.
People read something on CNN or NYTimes and think it must actually be true. The assumption is that stories are thoroughly fact checked and are free from any significant bias.
Once you've seen firsthand just how biased and intentionally misleading they can be you will see how fundamentally flawed their model is.
You shouldn't trust what Soledad O'Brien says just because she happens to work at CNN. Even the best of these organizations don't do enough to maintain the standards that would be necessary for you to trust everyone who works for them.
Hopefully in the future journalists will live and die by their own reputations, and not get to hide behind the power of "trusted" brands. The system as it is causes great harm to individuals, companies, and the world at large.
Just look at what certain people were able to do by leveraging the power of trusted news sources in the lead up to the the Iraq war. A few corrupt individuals were able to abuse the public's trust to push an agenda based on lies.
On a much smaller scale this is what Soledad O'Brien is doing to Arrington. She had an angle for a story and she did what was necessary to cast him as the bad guy. It's an unfair abuse of power and trust -- power and trust that she clearly doesn't deserve.
Story is everything for the media. I used to trust BBC until their subsidiary did a documentary on migrant workers that featured myself. Not that it was something vicious like the thing CNN did to Arrington - but it was so clearly manipulated to fit what they decided to make the story - that it makes me laugh. Things like:
1. For maybe 6 hours they spent in our flat my daughter cried maybe a minute or two - but they put it as one of the first scenes to set the emotional tone of the story.
2. When I say "There used to be lots of job adverts in this newspaper - now there is so few of them, everything is in the Internet" they cut it to "There used to be lots of job adverts in this newspaper - now there is so few of them."
At the end of the day, much of the blame for racism and inequality in the US lies with those who work for or subscribe to advertiser-supported media. Both Arrington and Soledad O'brien are part of the problem.
I agree completely and as a result I generally don't trust any news source that pretends to be objective (whatever that means in an environment where personal bias meets advertising revenue and the end-product is at least partly entertainment).
A whole lot of people jumped all over Arrington when he was (and still is) covering tech startups that he is invested in. It never bothered me, he was up front with his disclosures and although he tried to remain objective and even took several companies he invested in to task, having a reasonably clear statement of bias was helpful.
I prefer to read and consume opinion pieces over hard news because hard news reads more like opinion pieces without the author's bias being disclosed or at least well known (neither Limbaugh nor Olberman include disclosures, but neither have to go out of their way to make their political bias known).
Outside of politics and race, there's a lot of tech writers who see Apple as the company that can do no wrong and Microsoft as the company that can do no good. Earlier this year I was looking for an objective, terse, comparison on Relational Databases vs NoSQL in the tech press (yes, I know, not the best source for such things). I found it more useful to read from the diehards. They both knew the strengths of their design and the inherent weaknesses in their perceived competition. Take out the spitting and grumbling and you generally get a good picture when sent through the known bias filter of the author.
To be fair, if you look at Soledad O'Brien's track record it is heavy with race focused coverage. It's her bailiwick and if I were Michael Arrington I would have at least been alert to this fact. If a national level reporter with a reputation for covering race related issues comes to you and wants to discuss business incubators you can bet race will be part of, or in fact all of, the topic. Arrington should know better, given his own background.
I don't see her as cynically exploiting the issue, I see her as cynically exploiting Michael Arrington.
The issue at hand is a real one... the argument is how to deal with it. Personally, I think Arrington's arguments are good ones. I tend to agree with him on the overall situation and hope that this incident will result in a nudge in the right direction, with regards to how race in tech should be discussed.
The problem I have is that Arrington said what he said, period. And unless this was edited "Daily Show" style, there's not much way around it.
You can say Soledad ambushed him, but it frankly wasn't that hard of a question. And Arrington should really be down on whoever set up the interview if they didn't forward him the info, not Soledad. That second email clearly states that it will be part of "Black in America".
In theory I guess Soledad could have sent them a list of questions of ahead of time -- but there's no guarantee Mike would have got them. And that's typically not how these interviews are done. She could have said we won't air that answer, but frankly it's a pretty damned telling answer. And it's an answer that I have trouble believing most people would have answered so poorly.
It is hard not to notice that the usual top commenters avoid ths topic like a plague.
If you can though, I'd like feedback on my posts. If you wish you can email me your comments, It will be kept private.
It is rather ironic that Mike says he is open to discussing about Race issues but has closed comments on this post and the previous one. I understand he might be avoiding mudslinging. But sadly, the race topic is a really difficult one to moderate. However, if it is to be solved, it MUST, be discussed. I cannot think of any other way around
As to your second post, I think you are on the right track. I think -- in the U.S. -- when race is brought up in discussions, white people are immediately on guard for a couple things: 1) Being perceived as a racist for something they say, regardless of whether it was meant in that way, 2) being in a conversation where someone else says something that could be perceived as racist and that they are going to be inadvertently associated with someone that is racist. For these reasons, I think most white people, when in mixed company, will generally try to avoid any discussions of race.
I'm assuming that you aren't from the U.S., so I will add that race is probably the most sensitive subject that you can discuss in this country. A label of "racist" has been known to ruin many prominent careers (whether it was deserved or not). When presented with opportunity to discuss this subject, most people will avoid it, not because they are racist, or because they don't think it is a problem, but because they are honestly afraid -- and rightly so -- of being called a racist.
Until we can have a discussion where white people are not immediately assumed to be racist because they said one thing that isn't in the accepted canon of "valid statements about race," we won't be able to have honest and open discussions about race.
My advice to Mike - keep talking. I doubt he's a racist. He's kind of the product of a racist system (just like all of us), and I have a lot of faith that talking about it will bring about something positive.
Of course, there's whiney postmodernists who think that talking about the problem will make it worse. They think that the problem is racism, per say, and not the legacy of racism - the broken system. Most people are acting in basically good faith, and I think the more talk there is the more stuff will get fixed.
To me, what Arrington is saying sounds totally reasonable. It doesn't sound racist at all. It sounds like he is trying to be a part of the solution. Why are people pummeling him from every side?
Is this what America has come to? You make a reasonable and moderate statement and the people at the extremes immediately rush to the center to knock you over the head. I never thought I would see the day when most of America positioned itself at ideological extremes.
(full disclosure: I'm a black founder) Mike's friends were right to tell him to stop talking because this is one of those issues, as evidenced by 90% of the responses below, that quickly gets twisted to help sharpen the axe that so many wish to grind. We've got posts citing the percentage of prisoners who are black and some focused on what they perceive to be the lack of ethics in journalism. Someone talks about Obama being described as black when his heritage was predominately white. None of which have anything to do with the reality of your situation with regard to CNN and this interview.
Mike, you were used as the key to open Pandora's box. Doesn't mean you have to stay in the keyhole. Move on. You aren't the first and you certainly won't be the last. Instead of worrying about what a sea of individuals think, worry about what you can control. You've got a new platform with Uncrunched/CrunchFund. Use it to be future focused.
What I find most interesting about this is the surprise tactic of the interviewer. This is one of my nightmares; I'm often terrible at recalling sometimes absurdly obvious facts (say, the names of friends) when I'm surprised or under stress. I can't count the number of times I've thought "damn, I should have said..." just minutes after it's too late.
I've been interviewed a few times (fortunately by friendly interviewers on not particularly important subjects) and I have to confess that it's not one of my innate skills. I'm pretty sure the right person with a video camera and the right editing software could easily make me look like an idiot.
I have a lot of sympathy for Arrington, even if he is a loudmouth.
I think what we're leaving out of this whole equation is that Arrington works in the press. Not only does he work in the press, but has helped craft technology and entrepreneurship journalism into what it is today.
He might have fell victim to a predatory interviewer looking for a "gotcha" quote about racism from a white entrepreneur and member of the press, and God knows I might well have fallen victim to the same, but he also needs to man up a little bit more and take some of the blame. This is not a business he's unfamiliar with.
This is also not a topic he's unfamiliar with. I doubt there is anyone who has spent more time thinking and writing about technology entrepreneurship over the past 6 years than Arrington. For this person to not be able to name a single black entrepreneur sitting with a major interviewer says something about race in Silicon Valley. I am not exactly sure what it says, and I am doubtful that CNN will give it thoughtful analysis, but there is definitely a point to be made there.
Let's assume for a while that Arrington was really racist and that it was common in the whole tech industry.
As a journalist, would you approach him openly saying you intend to study racism in the tech industry or would you rather approach him under a general angle and gather what you can in the process?
The second approach has a lot of value because Arriginton talked without the "racism" topic in mind, which could underline latent racism quite well.
Now, it's easy to use the wrong word, etc..
I suggest people who have never experienced racism as a victim to go abroad for a while and get the chance to reflect on their own behaviours. I personally find that the small everyday words that nobody notices are the most difficult to deal with because loud words and fights are easy to discard as the products of some odd minds.
Now, racism in tech? Of course, just like anywhere else. No more no less. Arrington, a racist? He wouldn't be the first nor the last.
There are figures though backing the representation of blacks in the tech world. Those figures are that of education in the US [I'm sure you'll find them]. The correlation is so obvious that the journalist barely deserves her title.
Perhaps the whole US system is a bit racist. Not a delusional Nazi-style racism, just a little latent racism. The kind of racism that makes a part of the population a little less comfortable everyday.
But eh. So is the whole world.
PS: I'm sorry for the rather personal tone and the emotions out there.
A journalist misstates the scope of the interview, asks aggressive questions about an issue that has accumulated a lot of emotions ("save the children!") and then posts out-of-context blurbs? This isn't exactly new but still worth remembering whenever someone asks you for an interview.
Nobody has yet commented on Arrington's thread of discussion regarding the non-minority status of Asians:
And by minorities CNN meant blacks and hispanics, because Asians, who have disproportionate success in Silicon Valley, don’t count.
When people claim that there's a double-standard between whites and minorities, it's generally overlooked that there is in fact a triple-standard. The fact that Asians have become successful despite huge historical disadvantages should make us wonder if the approach we're taking to racism is constructive at all.
And it strikes me that the unspoken attitude that Arrington refers to is, itself, highly racist. Consider this article, "How the Asians became White" 
Ultimately, the only way to solve any of our problems, including our racial ones, is to tell the truth. We should celebrate the fact that Asians have succeeded. We should do things to make sure that all people, regardless of their race, have a chance to succeed. But in our fight for this success, we should be scrupulously honest about what's really going on.
Since the financial barrier for immigrating from Asia is much greater than immigrating from Latin America, a greater portion of the Asian population in the United States will inevitably be skilled or educated. A person who can barely afford food isn't going to think about buying a plane ticket when they can eat a few more meals. On the other hand, a person who can barely afford food may consider walking in the Sonoran Desert because it doesn't require a significant amount of money.
There's a lot of selection bias when it comes to the Asian population. Yes, Asians were discriminated against many years ago. However, educated and skilled immigrants skew the averages.
Just to clarify, this doesn't say anything positive or negative about Asians, Latin Americans, or anyone for that matter. It just implies that it's easier to travel from Latin America than it is from Asia. Calling Asians a "success story" or using Asians as a "model" for other minorities is at best idealistic and at worst destructive.
I'm sure there's something to your explanation, but I don't think that you hit the target squarely.
It seems to me that in discussions about racism, what we're usually talking about is an "old white guys' club" that, through cronyism, manages to mostly keep out people other than white men. Even if it's true that geography tends to filter out low-quality immigrants from Asia, those high-quality ones would still be discriminated against by the white guys. The fact that this is not happening seems to show that the standard narrative of racism no longer holds water.
Even if it's true that geography tends to filter out low-quality immigrants from Asia, those high-quality ones would still be discriminated against by the white guys.
They probably are. How many Asians do you know that are CEOs of Fortune 500 tech companies? There's a well documented theme in the American Asian community that if an Asian and White guy are up for a promotion, the White will get it despite the quality of work by the Asian.
Asians do fine on the front-line of professional positions, but they're horribly underrepresented in management (versus their numbers in the front-line).
But this what I admire about Mike quoted from the article:
"I, in contrast, don’t say politically correct things. But I have educated ideas about how to begin to fix the problem, and I’m willing to both speak my mind and listen to others (but only if they don’t scream at me, or throw me under the bus to write niceties about doing more while doing absolutely nothing). And in the meantime I’m funding, promoting, hiring and generally doing what I’ve always done to help out women and minority founders."
And that is exactly it. All of the "write niceties about doing more while doing absolutely nothing" is not helping at all.
And the fact that Mike is much more focused on having and discussing "educated ideas about how to begin to fix the problem" is what will
I think he's hit on a very good point: Many minorities are not pushed from a young age to excel in areas that are useful in tech startups.
There is definitely progress being made in that direction, but it's probably going to take a decade to start seeing real effects. Minority children learning HTML in middle school right now simply need time to get through high school, (maybe) college, and then get through the 5 years or more of actual work that it takes to get good at programming or graphic/web/UI design.
In the meantime, the best thing we can do is encourage as many children as possible to get into technology and science, and make the best use of the people we currently have available to provide good role models and mentors for those children.
Politics is the mind-killer. As a Russian person living in Switzerland, I would enjoy HN more if I didn't have to look at articles about racism, gender, US foreign policy, US finance, etc. If that's just my personal preference, it could be implemented as some sort of personal filter. But if enough HN users think the same, I think mentioning any political topic in a post or comment should merit a ban.
I mildly dislike the parent of your comment, but strongly dislike your comment. The investigation you linked to demonstrates about as much understanding of Russian issues as the incorrect auto-translation you opened with (I guess you wanted to say "Check this" but ended up with "Verify this"). Please do not take this as an invitation to discussion, because it isn't. You started a thread about racism under my comment which explicitly asked to not start such threads. Boo.
Many online forums today are plagued by pointless repetitions of very weak arguments without any systematized attempt to make them stronger. For example, "underrepresentation implies racism" is a very weak pro-PC argument, easily sniped by any anti-PC debater. I wonder if the pro-PC crowd ever came up with a strengthened version of that argument?
More generally, maybe discussions of controversial topics would benefit from detailed argument maps where each side can state their actual best response instead of the watered-down version. Have you seen the detailed map of William Lane Craig's Kalam argument for theism, which he used to beat Hitchens and other prominent atheists in debate? No one should ever need to restate or re-refute weak arguments when stronger versions are available.
My personal impression is that anti-PC arguments tend to be slightly more robust than pro-PC ones, when strengthened as much as possible. But a systematic mapping attempt could very well change my opinion, because I'm probably not even aware of the strongest arguments for either side.
Interesting asymmetry: if A calls B a racist, the onus of proof is on B to defend themself, and the standard for innocence is so high that this is usually impossible. B's reputation is usually besmirched.
If A calls B a socialist or communist, however, then the burden of proof is on A to prove the charge, and the standard for guilt is so high that this is usually impossible. In this case it is A's reputation that is usually besmirched.
We live in an era of racial McCarthyism. It's all the more strange as the most powerful man in the world is black, and Arrington most likely voted for him. Strange kind of racist that does that. Strange kind of "institutional racism" that keeps blacks down in Silicon Valley yet gets the majority of the country (and the Valley) to vote for Obama as president.
Unfortunately I don't have a source for this, but it happened during the 2008 election:
When someone asked Obama why he would consider himself the potential first black President rather than the first mixed race President, he said (paraphrasing) "If I was waiting to catch a cab in NYC late night in a bad neighborhood, the cabbie won't think 'there's a mixed race man waiting to catch a cab', he'll think 'there's a black man waiting to catch a cab'"
I think that was well put. Even if you are of mixed race, it's how you are perceived when people make their initial assumptions that matters most in the context of these discussions.
My son is mixed; I'm white. Part of the discussion my wife and I had before having kids is about how mixed children are seen. They get the worst of both. People who look down on black, consider them black (that does not mean everyone who'd call them black are racist, but that racists while grasp at the "one drop" pretty much immediately). Often if they try to define themselves as white they get it from both sides - a lot of black people see them as "traitors", a lot of white people assume they're ashamed of their black heritage and look down on them for that, or in the case of racists often take offense at it. And if they try to define themselves as black, there are people that have issue with that too, grasping at anything to write them off as "not black enough".
So for him, I guess part of it is that being "black" is still more convenient than being mixed race at the same time that when dealing with somewhat racist white people, trying to insist you're white or mixed when you look a bit darker than them will just make it far less likely that they'll give you any kind of respect.
If he'd called himself white or mixed, I don't think there's any chance he'd have gotten elected - the entire election campaign would've been massively marred by a focus on race far beyond what it was, and I think it'd have lost him votes from both whites and blacks.
Personally I like to play a little game that goes: the first person to call someone else something is probably that thing. So if A calls B e.g. a racist, I will make the initial assumption that A is a racist. It's amazing how often this little game gets the truth of it.
How does that make any sense? It's been my experience that most people who call other people racists are, themselves, racists.
The theory behind it is pretty simple. Often A will say something like "you're a racist because you did X" but B never had any idea that X could have racist motivations. B, not being a racist, doesn't think that way. Racists do. So chances are (and this isn't 100%, which is why I said this was my initial assumption) A is a racist since they think this way. It could be that they were directly affected by such an occurrence and that's why X occurred to them.
But as I said, this little game works more than it doesn't in my experience.
I took your point to be that people only tend to perceive faults in others if they have those same faults. But since this projecting of faults is itself a fault that you've perceived in others, your maxim applies to you.
My intent was not to actually accuse you of this fault, but rather to imply that "it takes one to know one" might not actually be robustly true.
>But since this projecting of faults is itself a fault that you've perceived in others, your maxim applies to you.
What I've perceived is that when people accuse others of certain kind of behavior it is often because they think that way themselves (and therefore recognize it, even if the other party does not). My assumption makes no statement about me in regards to the accusation (racism for example). You might say it makes me judgmental, but no more than you if you believe A's accusation (or if you don't for that matter).
>"it takes one to know one" might not actually be robustly true.
I don't use it as "set in stone" proof of a person's character. I use it as a starting point. And it doesn't work for everything. Accusing someone of being a "socialist", for example. The game wont work in that case because the accuser probably doesn't think they've seen actual socialist behavior (and usually have no idea what "socialist behavior" is in any case). They are using it purely as a smear.
I think the term "socialist" has a different connotation in the US than in Europe. In Europe, a third of all voters (roughly) vote for parties that call themselves socialist, while these parties are really center-left, in all likeliness quite to the right in terms of what the average American considers socialist.
Yes, I know about these different connotations. However, painting a sort of a symmetry between these two labels is - in my humble opinion - a step too far. Imagine someone saying Arrington is a socialist. Such "accusation" would have completely different weight than labeling him as a racist.
Depending on the context (country/period) "I'm a socialist" can signify both "I want to nationalize everything, kill the conservatives and, if possible, bring in the soviet army" or "I want slightly more progressive taxes and state funded healthcare". They don't make them like they used to ...
I don't disagree, but you have to remember ... some people that supported stuff like the weathermen* in their twenties now have tenure, cushy government jobs etc. A lot of these are now "moderate" social-democrats, progressives or liberals. But sometimes only in the sense a white nationalist is a republican, ie. for lack of "better" options.
In the '50s, here in the US, being called a socialist was more damning than being called a racist. In that era, being a racist (in certain areas of the country, at least) could even be construed as an advantage.
Being a socialist (or even being accused of such) led to severe consequences, like being blackballed in your industry, hauled before a Congressional committee, or even jail time.
The people who murdered millions in the USSR also saw themselves as "building socialism". Today "socialist" merely means a Western European country bound for bankruptcy, with the formerly free market US following close behind.
I suppose that's progress of a sort, but it's mystifying as to why one would claim the label, let alone the label "communist".
 In recent years the US has plummeted on measures of economic freedom, falling further behind Hong Kong and Singapore, and even dropping below Canada.
Compressing socialism to USSR and bankrupt countries is really a cheap kind of rhetoric. I could respond with a brief history of Chile or a tale about bankers living on a crisis - but that's kind of misses my point, which is that a comparison between socialism and racism is greatly inadequate.
"If A calls B a socialist or communist, however, then the burden of proof is on A to prove the charge, and the standard for guilt is so high that this is usually impossible. In this case it is A's reputation that is usually besmirched."
Do we live in the same America? Usually you can call just about any well known figure a socialist, and a huge cadre of conservative, fox news loving mouth breathers will assume it is so without a moment's thought.
No coherent conversation on race can emerge because race is not a coherent concept: it has several valid but highly contradictory definitions.
In my (highly arrogant, irrelevant because I wasn't there, and loftily ideal opinion that would have gotten Arrington crucified anyway) he should have said something like "Race isn't something we really take seriously as a concept here in the Valley. What do you mean?"
Of course, that would have been a poor statement, too, because the Valley still pats itself on the back for having a few successful minorities.
Interesting asymmetry: if A calls Black Guy a drug dealer or rapist, the onus of proof is on Black Guy to defend himself, and the standard for innocence is so high that this is usually impossible.
Happens all over our society in all different directions. Unfortunately for the guys being called racists, they have their reputations besmirched. Unfortunately for black guys getting called rapists, they have to spend 15 to 30 years behind bars before the Innocence Project can get them out. Assuming they are not executed, which many are.
Point is, Arrington can't do anything for 'Black Guy Falsely Accused Of Rape'. And most of us can't do anything for 'Guy A Falsely Accused Of Being Racist'.
THIS is why you are finding so much 'strangeness' out there...
because there are just enough race baiters out there to get on tv and accuse people of being racist or to get on juries and convict black guys of rape even in the absence of credible DNA evidence!
It's interesting to me today how so many people view "business" as some sort of monolithic political entity, just like teacher's unions or the NRA.
So if a politician is upset about the economy (and who isn't?) he meets with "business leaders", much the same way if he were upset about proposed rifle regulations he might meet with the NRA, or just like if one country doesn't like the way another is acting they meet with the leader of that country. Likewise, if a CNN reporter is upset (or smells a story) about minorities in the startup scene, she ambushes a leader of the startup community with questions about racism.
It shows a complete lack of understanding the thing you are talking about. While you might make a case for institutionalized racism when it comes to funding, there's no way in hell an internet user is going to know the race, gender, religion, nationality, or sexual preference of anybody who runs a webapp. Traction on the net is for the most part stereotype-free. Plus from what I hear funding doesn't have the impact on startups that it had say five years ago. The dynamics have changed. You'd have to be an idiot not to fund a startup that had traction because of the race of the founders, and if you're not using team and traction as primary metrics, good luck with your VC business.
The entrepreneurial world is not a centralized, monolithic thing that somehow you can talk or meet with any small number of people and understand and/or control. It's a very poor mental model to use and promote.
I just find it weird that somehow reporters, or even politicians, expect there to be a person they could go to in order to talk about the pantheon of entrepreneurship. It doesn't work that way by definition. It's not like there's a startup club where they hand out all these freebies and you're not invited. To slant the coverage that way, even unintentionally and subtly, is really whacked. It implies that economic problems are simply dependent on meeting the leaders of various groups and gaining consensus -- that economics is really just politics by another name. I understand why politicians do this -- they have a faulty mental model of everybody being in some sort of political group to be negotiated with -- but reporters need to up their game. This kind of reporting screws over the viewer big time.
I disagree with your pov. I'm putting aside the trap this journalist sprung and focusing on your contention that going after certain people in not representative.
You seem to be totally ignoring how humans inherently work on a social level.
Why do people move to the bay? To be part of the community. And if that community is racist, it presents extra barriers. Not that I think it is in any way.
There are people who hold the keys to success or failure in terms of funding as you mentioned, but there are people, like the Mikes, pg, Steve Blank, Fred Wilson, Eric Reis, Joel Spolsky, etc. who hold an enormous influence over the community just from what they write. There are also many face-to-face communities in the bay area that are equally influential. There are also key schools where a lot of startups seem to emanate from in the US, so by extension those schools are also influential.
You can't pretend these 'power' centres don't exist in the startup world and if you were to try and identify why this demographic anomaly exists, who would you ask?
The reason it's the same in business is because generally business owners end up networking with other business owners, like startups network with other startups, because they want feedback/help/discussion from their peers.
That's what a community is and that's why politicians and reporters will go talk to these people, precisely because they know what they're talking about. In fact it is/was Mike Arrington's job to tap into the thoughts/hopes/fears of the startup community.
Of course there are influential parties in the Valley, but that still doesn't make it one thing. What the OC seems to have reacted against was the reification of the industry into a single thing. Of course you can influence an industry, but the key to understanding what that means lies in the the "fluid" part of "influence." The whole thing is a dynamic, swirling mass of people and groups constantly interacting with and reacting to one another. An industry isn't really a thing so much as it is a convenient way for us to refer (somewhat nebulously) to a collection of companies that operate in certain fields.
I agree with you. As I get older & more persnickety, it's got to the point where every time I hear somebody refer to "the community" or "the industry" as if it's a coherent entity with goals and plans and capable of taking action (or even having a stance), I cringe. What that really says to me is "I live in a fantasy land, run! run away! fleeee!"
In any "community" or industry ("community" in quotes here because people abuse that word so much worse, calling swathes of people with no connection whatsoever a "community" if they share some superficial trait), there will be a small handful of people who DO lead opinions and DO do things and DO make plans.
But then the rest are a swirling mass with no particular inlets or outlets.
But you can see it happening before your eyes every day.
You can see it in how everyone's website or logos look the same. How some ephemeral concept of lean startup infects through people talking about startups. How startup incubators start popping up everywhere.
The influence is there, to dismiss it as childish or 'fantasy' is strange to me. It's just not a physical thing, it's a subtle form of group think. And it's quite easy for someone like Techcrunch to use their influence over that group think to engage in positive discrimination, which Arrington says they have, highlighting Black and Hispanic startups more than they technically merited.
Excellent point. My dad, who was a journalist for 30 years, always complained about this assumption among his colleagues. Journalists are taught to go talk to the people in charge, and the idea that there is some group in charge of an industry is just an unspoken--and often unthought--assumption about how business works. Obviously it's ludicrous, but it's a side effect of being taught to look for the "big picture" to get the big story.
US Chamber of Commerce and various other lobbying organizations. A politician knows where his support and money is coming from. "Business leaders" is just a nice way of saying lobbyists.
> The entrepreneurial world is not a centralized, monolithic thing ...
Is that hurting it though when it comes to promoting its interests in Washington? Google, Oracle, Microsoft, all probably have their lobbyists.
Not really saying to quickly start sending money to K street, just something to be aware of.
> It's not like there's a startup club where they hand out all these freebies and you're not invited.
There is the converse to that they way they see it perhaps, if there isn't a large lobbying organization behind all this, it must not all be that important. Those that have the resource can launch PR wars again them and take advantage of the fragmentation.
> slant the coverage that way, even unintentionally and subtly, is really whacked.
At best they are ignorant of that, at worst, they know and try to spin it to play to someone's interest.
The lack of understanding on the part of reporters goes far beyond treating business as a monolithic entity. Just look at what passes for "science" reporting these days. Sadly, journalism is becoming it's own specialized profession, with the implied lack of study of fields outside one's own - which, ironically, undermines the very substance of what journalism is supposed to be all about.
Hank said nothing of the sort. He said there is no proof that Arrington goes out of his way to cover black founders as he had claimed. Hank didn't say Arrington should go out of his way, nor did he call Arrington a racist. Hank just said that Arrington's claim was incorrect, and from where I'm sitting, he's right.
"There are very few minorities here. When they are here, they get hired much more easily than their white or asian counterparts."
First of all, making claims of employment bias without evidence is generally a bad idea. Secondly, Arrington is implying that underrepresented minorities in the Valley are less qualified than their white and Asian colleagues, which, if untrue, is a dangerous implication to make.
"And the list of mentors at his TechStars accelerator program – well let’s just say they did manage to get a token black man and a token black women on to that list of hundreds of mentors, but it sure doesn’t look like “take action” to me."
Referring to people as "tokens" implies that their presence is just for show. I'm sure those mentors don't appreciate that sort of attack on their professional accomplishments, and to assume that they're there just for show is—dare I say it—racist. Consider replacing "token" with "single" in that sentence if that's not what you mean.
Few reasonable people think Arrington has a conscious bias against black folks, but he's not really helping his case here.
"There are very few minorities here. When they are here, they get hired much more easily than their white or asian counterparts."
This does not imply that underrepresented minorities are less qualified, only that they're more likely to be hired. If you swapped "minorities" for "Cambridge Math grads", you would probably infer that they were more qualified.
The statement speaks to the likelihood of hiring, the implication of lower quality you see is your own inference.
This does not imply that underrepresented minorities are less qualified, only that they're more likely to be hired.
It doesn't imply non-Asian minorities as a whole are less qualified, but it does imply (with high probability) that non-Asian minorities hired at company X are less qualified than regular hires at company X.
You are correct, but assuming similar distributions in talent among underrepresented minorities in the Valley and among everyone else, my claim holds. I don't think there's any evidence of differing distributions, and I don't think Arrington had that distinction in mind.
> I don't think there's any evidence of differing distributions
Why do you think this? It is not unreasonable to assume that if a group is underrepresented, and there might be a perceived glass ceiling, for example, that those who do give it a go are more likely to be people who believe their skills are sufficiently above average to give them a decent shot at overcoming limitations.
Whether or not that's the case in SV is not something I have a basis for saying anything about, but it's also too easy to just write it off and assume the distributions are the same.
E.g. in many Western countries, the education of immigrants often vastly outstrip the average education of the native population, for example, in part because of restrictions on immigration, in part because the threshold for moving if your skills are perceived to be of low demand is vastly higher. It is perfectly possible similar self-selection applies to minority groups moving into an area of business where they are underrepresented.
Because that interpretation makes zero sense in context.
"There are very few minorities here. When they are here, they get hired much more easily than their white or asian counterparts. There is no conscious or subconscious desire to keep minorities out [...] It’s the complete opposite."
He's saying that people consciously desire to hire minorities, so they make it easier for minorities to be hired. There is no reasonable way he was suggesting that underrepresented minorities in the Valley are more competent than everyone else. If that were the case, one wouldn't need to desire to hire underrepresented minorities; you'd just get them as a byproduct of seeking out merit.
Your logic doesn't hold. You're making assumptions about why minorities are sought after (or rather why Mike thinks they are sought after).
If minorities in the valley are people who are above average, then that would make them more desirable in itself. All else being equal, if you got to pick candidates only by race, and you knew (or thought you knew) that one group was above average, it'd be hard not to let it influence you.
And your argument that one wouldn't need to desire to hire them is flawed, because if being a member of a minority in SV actually makes you more likely to be highly skilled, then that is an easy signal for you to seek out the person. You wouldn't need to, but it's human nature to consciously or subconsciously try to take "shortcuts" in evaluating other people, especially when other knowledge of the person in question is lacking.
> Referring to people as "tokens" implies that their presence is just for show. I'm sure those mentors don't appreciate that sort of attack on their professional accomplishments, and to assume that they're there just for show is—dare I say it—racist. Consider replacing "token" with "single" in that sentence if that's not what you mean.
He was in this case seemingly implying that if someone writes about how one should take action against racism, but yet hires only a single black man and black woman amongst hundreds, then 1) it does not seem like they're taking action, and 2) the absence of more black people makes it look like other competent black people have likely been excluded from consideration due to race and the two that are there were not excluded because of a perceived need for a token.
Note the difference between implying they were included for their race - which would have been a slight on them - and implying they were not excluded despite their race.
I don't think this is a slight against the persons in question at all. If I disliked blondes (I'm being cowardly and using that as an example since I am one myself), and wanted to exclude blondes but was worried about public perceptions, I might leave a token blonde or two on my list, but that does not imply I'd pick my token blond at random - I'd pick the best of the bunch. I'd just exclude a bunch of other eligible blondes.
Of course it's possible that some racist would just pick their "token black person" at random, to compound their stupidity, but calling someone a "token" does not imply anything about how you think the selection was done.
The only thing that claim says is that Mike believes that it rings hollow to claim to take action yet not have found more black people that were at least as skilled as some of the other white people on the list.
My (black) wife regularly complains about the "token black people" in various settings, and when she does, it is certainly not to slight them, but to complain about why other competent black people aren't included as well.
(I know Mike, though I've never discussed race with him)
I don't think that's the most reasonable interpretation. If someone is concerned with appearances, then they're choosing someone for their appearance over their merit. Accusing someone of tokenism is claiming that they would've made a more homogeneous choice based on their judgment of merit, but put merit aside in order to keep up appearances. Tokenism and a lack of merit go hand in hand.
In other words, no one hates blondes. They prejudge blondes to be less competent, but they still keep a couple on the team, despite their prejudgment of being less competent. Being a token anything means merit wasn't the deciding factor for being chosen. It is bad.
First of all, I've met plenty of people who hold racist views without considering people of other races to be less competent.
Secondly, even if they do consider them less competent, that does not mean they would not prefer the best. Personally I'd think it unlikely they'd just pick some random person from a group unless they were so blatantly in your face racist that they'd consider all of them useless. I don't think you'll find many in the latter group, and fewer yet willing to hire even the token black person to an important position.
This is one of the very few times i'll come to Arrington's defense, i think Arrington is a tool but i really dont believe he's a racist. Like he mentions, his mind categorises people and companies by what they do, if they're smart, get funding, have a track record, gaining traction etc etc, ye know, actual merit, rather than things that dont matter, like what race the founders are.
The same applies to MSNBC, Fox, etc. And to be clear I'm not saying that what they report is fabricated, just that the content is sliced and diced in the most attention-getting way possible - just like reality TV.
I think at this point its best if everyone waits until the interview actually airs before making any more judgements. It seems a little crazy that the situation has gotten to the level that it is at before the interview is even shown.
I think Arrington is right to worry that the interview actually won't air, but only the out of context sound bites that confirms CNN's version of reality. And he is right to pre-empt that situation by posting that assumption in public. Because then he can use the age old defense "I told you this would happen" which, perhaps contrary to common belief, actually is effective despite its banality.
This idea that you're either "racist" or "not racist" is ridiculous. We all have bias and prejudice, very rarely are people making n-word jokes or saying things like "Tim is great but he's black/latino so I think he's not as smart as Sally because she's white."
To have any sort of useful and truthful discussion about race in this country we must look at it from a holistic perspective and be honest with ourselves about the ideas and bias we have, it's less about shouting racist at somebody and more about understanding how our society socializes us to believe certain things (e.g. Asians are good at math, black people are good at sports and entertainment, Jews are good with money and law). If we own up to the fact that we all carry around bias and prejudice (often times without any malice or cognizance of its' existence) we can start really getting at the issue of racism and institutionalized racism.
All that being said, I think Mike is just a white guy who doesn't like to be called racist even if some of the things he's said are offensive to people of color and considered racist by them. He's a whiner to me and I've never liked his attitude, I was done with him when he went after Warren Buffet for saying rich people should pay taxes using tech crunch as his platform. He thinks he's above any and all rules (journalistic integrity [even though he's not a journalist], being racial sensitive, etc) and it is disturbing that he continues to be so insensitive and offensive despite being told by several people to be quiet.
I don't think the interviewer intends to portray Arrington as a racist. I don't think a reasonable person looks at this interview and conclude that Arrington is racist. I think Arrington himself probably misses the point here.
At worst, he's "reverse racist", in the sense of affirmative action.
I don't understand why it is alarming that African Americans are underrepresented in Silicon Valley. They are also underrepresented in the NHL too. Is that a problem? Or for that matter, Asians are way underrepresented in the NBA. Is that a problem?
It's just the way things are.
Now if an Asian guy shoots like Michael Jordan and can't get a job in the NBA, then we have a problem. Or when a black guy has a great idea for a tech company, and can't get funded, then we have a problem. But you shouldn't simply invest in a company because the founder is black. That ain't right.
As a black guy I really dislike the "Black in America" series that CNN runs, it's like a self-loathing subtle form of self-inflicted hatred, or something. Population of SV has 2-3% black people, so I don't know what they expected, or are trying to do. Women have the same issue, just the facts.
The real problem here is that Arrington couldn't keep his mouth shut then and probably can't now either...
Extended version: Arrington should have simply walked out of the interview when he realized he was set up (which he should have realized quite quickly). There are very real problems here, but it certainly does not to help to address them via pomo hitshots or reality tv shows (looks like CNN is using this to promote a "black in america" entrepreneurship reality tv show that takes place in Silicon Valley). Likewise, all of this chatter is useless. Recipe for success: Build good products. Take your earnings and invest them in future generations (family, education, etc.). Repeat.
It's easy to say that, but when you're being interviewed by mainstream media it's very easy to get a "deer in the headlights" feeling and just hyperfocus on the interviewer. If you get nervous, the adrenaline can really hamper your brain-mouth filter.
I don't wish any ill will on Arrington, but I have to wonder if he's not created a story out of context in the past himself.
It may not have been anything as damaging as racism, and I'm not suggesting that this is ok. It is a lesson that even those in the business, those who are writers themselves need to be VERY aware of what they are saying and how any little statement can be mis-cast and blown out of proportion.
The funny thing here is that Michael Arrington doesn't care what we think. He's just glad to be in the spotlight without Techcrunch. This is really a giant F U to AOL, telling them that he can control the talk of the town without his old outlets.
I'm with Arrington. He isn't racist in the normal way the term is used, it's a very serious accusation to make, and rudely stifling his ability to speak his mind on this is disingenuous and a typical tactic of those criticizing him.
I was recently beaten down by an interview with a local tech reporter, who twisted my words and put words in my mouth. She wrote a 300-word article with so many breathtaking falsehoods or near-falsehoods that I just had to shake my head and laugh.
So, despite the fact that I think Arrington is an arrogant (and awesomely alliterative) asshole, I can see exactly how this could happen, and would totally believe that he was misused and misquoted in this instance.
It really can get ridiculous. A reporter once attributed to one of my Japanese friends a sentence she couldn't even understand because of the vocabulary and complex grammatical structure. When that sort of thing happens, I suspect that the writer literally wrote the story before doing the reporting and then made minor modifications afterward.
The quote from Adria Richards is breathtaking : "The guy he had on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC, he’s known for several years…and he basically called him a clown. Clarence Wooten sold his company, ImageCafe, for $23 million to Network Solutions in 1999, that’s over 10 years before Arrington sold TechCrunch to AOL for the same amount.
I’ve now likened it to Southern White male slave owner saying he has no idea why there are mixed babies cropping up on this plantation even though he damn well knows he’s been creeping down to the sheds at night.".
So Arrington being clueless about the structural causes of racial differences in the valley is just like rape? No one has accused him of being personally discriminatory. There must be some other way to interpret her statement because Violet included it as well without comment...
Here's what she's referring to: "His startup’s really cool. But he could’ve launched a clown show on stage, and I would’ve put him up there, absolutely."
Arrington said he put Clarence Wooten up on the stage just because he's black. "He could've launched a clown show," and he still would've had him up there. Because he's black. That torpedoes whatever merit Wooten had in the eyes of the audience. Looking at Wooten's track record, it's clear that he's competent, so Arrington probably didn't mean what he said, but people really need to understand the implications of the words they use.
The two are not mutually exclusive (having merit, and being promoted out of a desire to be more diverse and inclusive). For something like Techcrunch Disrupt, being diverse - whether about race, gender, type of ideas, geography, social background - is reasonable and valuable, because it gives a greater chance of serving a range of purposes from providing role models to giving valuable insight of issues unique to whatever background the person in question brings to the table.
Promoting diverse individuals who merit promotion is great. Promoting diverse individuals who do not merit promotion is harmful to the diverse individuals who do merit promotion because people will assume that they're being promoted for diversity instead of merit. That is a very bad thing and worth criticizing. Again, Arrington didn't actually do this since the person in question is objectively impressive, but saying that he would promote someone for diversity's sake is unquestionably bad.
The purpose of putting people on stage is not always to showcase just the best, but often to showcase different viewpoints and different ideas.
Promoting just the "best" from the viewpoint of a single background - now that is arrogant and harmful because it assumes you actually know best. If Mike always knew who was best to promote, he'd be a billionaire and every company he invested on would have people everywhere throwing money at them.
As such, especially for something like Techcrunch Disrupt, it is valuable to promote a diverse group - whether based on race, socioeconomics, geography, gender - especially if a group is severely underrepresented - to get a wider view and perhaps learn something from it.
If anything, a great deal of hidden racism is a direct result of people insisting on picking what they think is "best" without taking into account the hidden biases brought by their upbringing, school background etc. and never being exposed to a more diverse set of views.
I buy that argument for a conference of ideas, but not for a business competition. The former is about exposing people to new ideas; the latter is about exposing promising companies and investors to each other. Getting people with diverse backgrounds to speak at a conference of ideas is doing the audience a favor, but this whole conversation has been about doing underrepresented minorities a favor.
Promoting underrepresented minorities based on their status does not help underrepresented minorities. It hurts. It might help the people who are blessed to be in their presence, but the assumption of pro-minority bias makes people think less of minorities when that becomes a common practice. It should be discouraged.
I'd put Knuth on stage, because, he's Knuth. You know he'd have something interesting to say that would be relevant to your audience, assuming your audience was the typical reader of this site, of course.
My wife is an avid cook. If she attended a conference on cooking and the organizer put Knuth on stage because he wanted greater representation on cooking from the programming community, even if Knuth was secretly a brilliant cook, the audience would dismiss him.
This is, obviously, further complicated by the fact that putting a person on stage because of an attribute that no person has control over is an unacceptable bias. I'm not saying that's what happened (clearly it's not because the guy had been successful in the past), I'm just putting into context how a statement like that is perceived.
It wasn't because of "clown show," nor was it an assumption. The original article provides the context, and Arrington hasn't disputed the reporter's characterization of his statement.
"In the documentary, which airs November 13, Arrington talked about his difficulties finding African-American entrepreneurs to launch their ventures at his TechCrunch Disrupt conference -- and suggested he would accept almost any black entrepreneur, regardless of merit."
"Statements like that, by the way, scare the hell out of me. They can be used to justify almost anything. Like how we’re all racists. I wonder if Kapor could argue that he himself is rational and objective, even though no one else is."
Yes, we are. That study Kapor refers to is actually really good, groundbreaking science. You should probably read it.
Just because you're a racist doesn't make you a Bad Person (since we're all racists and we can't ALL be Bad), it means you need to come to terms with it and look more critically as your decisions that might have been influenced by our society to discriminate unfairly.
I'm sorry to be rude, but this article was written by someone who not only won't take responsibility for making potentially racist comments, but won't even reconsider whether the comments are racist or not.
Also, from the way he writes about it, I highly doubt Arrington has been exposed to the great colonial (racist) history of "Entrepreneurship".
The only thing I agree with Mike on is this "The way to fix this problem is to try to get more very young minorities interested in business, science and math, and create a culture that celebrates these interests in the same way that being good at sports is celebrated today." Yet he doesn't even realize that "the same way that being good at sports is celebrated today" is extremely offensive coming from him. The only reason Black people excelled at sports was that there weren't many other options for making a great deal of money without a good education. A quick survey of black athletes will undoubtedly show that they weren't at the top elementary schools and high schools in their areas. When you don't have a solid education or any place to get one because of your socio-economic class you turn to other options for making money, namely sports or entertainment if you're "good" selling drugs and crime if you're "bad." The comment itself is true but the idea that he can't understand the historical context of his proposition or the reason it isn't already the case is sad.