Jason Calacanis: Ah, Gawker, Mr. C Knows There’s Racism In Tech

Zennie Abraham / Zennie62
Zennie Abraham / Zennie62

Dice_JasonCalacanis Jason Calacanis seems like a good guy, but after accidentally running across a Gawker blog post from February 6, 2013, called “Racism Doesn’t Exist in Tech Because White Tech Blog Millionaire Jason Calacanis Has Never Seen It,” I have to report about his inability to empathize with people of color in tech, and willingness to blow off this tech blogger.

I thought after our exchange of what feels like eons ago, Mr. Calacanis would have learned something, but apparently he has not.

Gawker’s Max Reed pointed to a Twitter exchange of this year, where Jason took issue with an essay by Jamelle Bouie called “And Read All Over” which is about the networks that assure tech (or in that case tech journalism) remains a while male club. This blogger’s quick take on that is Jamelle Bouie doesn’t openly state that some people are hardwired to think that someone white must be worth paying attention to over someone black – that’s the simple problem.

Jason gets into a Twitter battle with her, where he says that all a “minority” has to do is start a blog, and then blog about tech for three years. What pisses me off is I did that and much longer than three years ago, and Jason, of all people, was the one who ignored this black guy twice – in 2007 and 2011, not counting The Crunchies in 2009.

So Jason’s full of it, and I can print that, and just did.

Working through the problem is hard because that black person who has to push, and push winds up just being ignored and marginalized – and then if they get angry, they’re pigeonholed. That’s what happens. But back to Jason.

I’ve had a kind of relationship with Jason Calacanis that goes back to 2007, when I asked him via this email if he would get me into the Web 2.0 Conference as a video-blogger:

10/2/07

to jason
Greetings Jason,

I hope this email finds you well. I’m quite interested in attending
the upcoming Web 2.0 conference, but as a Videoblogger. I noticed
that you’re connected with Tim O’Reilly on Linkedin. Would you
introduce the two of us?

The video content would go on my zennie62 channels and on our main
blog “Zennie’s Zeitgeist” at http://zennie2005.blogspot.com

Thanks and continued success to you with Mahalo!

Jason never responded.

I also approached him at The 2009 Crunchies, where I was as part of the press, and asked if I could do a video interview; he said we could, but asked if it could be later. When I said yes, and then looked for him, I could not locate him.

Later, Jason would say in an email to me that I’m not “working press” who regularly show up at tech events – like The Crunchies.

The bottom line is Jason’s not really telling the truth about how he feels about anyone black in tech. The other bottom line is that I personally know a lot of people who are white in tech who don’t share his view or behavior one bit.

What’s below is a reprint of a blog post I wrote at the SeattlePI.com that resulted from an exchange Jason and I had way back in February of 2011. I’ll post it, then connect all of this together:

My blog post asking if “Launch,” the startup presentation event formally known as TechCrunch50, was going to be just another “White Tech Guy” event started a lively conversation on Twitter. Launch is the baby of Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, who’s best known for the blog Engadget and for the search engine Mahalo.

I was going to leave the matter alone until I discovered a Twitter tweet I wasn’t supposed to see on SocialMention.com. This one:

Jason: @wesley83 @fahrni @strategiclee @zennie62 I’m going to apologize right now for taking a black cab instead of a yellow.
twitter.com/Jason/statuses/39743730810359808
yesterday – by looppacosmos on stumbleupon

Which reads for me that I’m “not authorized to see that status.” Trouble is, it was picked up on FriendFeed, Stumbleupon, and SocialMention.

I’ll come back to this later.

The Backstory

For me, the need to blog that Launch would be one of those events that had a massive racial imbalance was spurred not by, as Jason claims, my not getting a press pass, but because of my experience being one of a few blacks at these events, and the way Jason’s just plain ignored my attempts at contact over the years, punctuated by his email insult to me three days ago. As I explained in the email, I have no interest in attending Launch at all. My desire was, frankly, to demonstrate that you can’t just ignore a person and treat them terribly because you think “Well, there’s nothing this black guy can do.”

In fact, Jsaon has such a track record of blowing me off – for no reason until now – that I wasn’t even going to send an email request to attend Launch three weeks ago, when it was mentioned on Quora. But then I figured, you know maybe I’m wrong. So I sent an email – again three weeks ago.

That was plenty of time to get back to me.

Then, in an exchange, I expressed frustration with how I was treated by Jason to a friend, and by copying him on the email, created proof. But rather than apologize or show me any respect, Jason just rubbed salt into the wound more. That was it. I’d had it.

One thing you don’t do is talk down to anyone, particularly someone black who already perceives that you turn a blind spot to diversity, and keeps dealing with your disrespectful treatment of him – ah, me. After our exchange, I was so livid I did a quick search and learned that Jason was already under fire for Launch’s lack of diversity. All I had to do was echo what had been expressed. So I did.

We Need Black Tech Expos

In the first post, I stressed the need for a Black Tech Expo. Some African Americans in Tech didn’t like the idea, but their real reasons are still not clearly stated in reaction to my question: what do you fear? My observation is the younger generation of blacks in Tech is running scared: scared of being thought of as militant. Scared that they will not be included. Scared that they will not get a piece of the pie. Scared that they will alienate anyone white in Tech. Scared.

In other words, they give a lot of power to anyone white in Tech. Some said, “well there are going to be blacks at DEMO, so we don’t need to do anything.” That’s great. But it will not solve the overall problem where blacks in Tech are not assembled, don’t know each other, don’t know who’s who, or what the other person is doing.

There are clumps of loose, small associations, but nothing large at all. In forming a Black Tech Expo we can go on a hunt for who’s out there, and in the process learn something about the true picture. Right now, we seem to be relaxed in the notion that there aren’t a lot of blacks in Tech because of the age-old problems of lack of education and economic background. We wade in this pool of thought to such a degree that inaction reins.

That must stop.

There’s nothing wrong with creating a brand of tech events around Blacks. We, for some reason, seems more concerned over who others are dating than economic assembly. It’s time to turn from personal racial concerns to professional ones. In so doing, we will find that, just as in Rap and Hip Hop, whites, Asians, Latinos, and others will join us. Why?

Simple.

When you’re happy with who you are, others want to be around you. We have to be happy with who we are and move forward in Tech.

Oh, and it’s not a matter of “the race card:” that silly term invented by right-wing activists during the Reagan years and which reared its head during the O.J. Trial. In fact, have you ever heard anyone say to a woman “You’re playing the sex card?” No, and you should not. These matters of racial and sexual representation are not cards to play, but serious issues to be dealt with constructively. For those right-wingers who use the term, please stop. It’s not helping anyone.

And Lastly, On The Black Train

What’s unfortunate is that Calacanis was referring to a “black train” when he tweeted that he was on the “b-train” in the Twitter tweet that caused me to consider writing the blog post I eventually wrote. I had no idea what that was all about until I saw the tweet he didn’t want me to see.

There’s nothing wrong with being race-concious, but the question is, is it expressed in a healthy way? That tweet was an example of an unhealthy way. I wish Jason would take time to go to East Oakland or get involved in organizations where black kids can know that it’s possible to achieve what he’s done. He’s got a great success story to tell and that would be one “black train” worth tweeting about.

Since that exchange, I’ve not – even once – tried to get a pass for Launch, and Jason’s not followed up to make sure I get one for the next go. In other words, given the chance to make a better relationship with me, he did not do so.

So Jason’s not telling the truth. The apparent bottom line is not that racism isn’t in tech, but that he refuses to see it. Moreover, he doesn’t seem bent to want to change this long-standing perception about him.

But I do say Jason’s correct about a person who’s black, or “minority” just taking the initiative. I have done so and with my blogs and Sports Business Simulations. But what Jason Calacanis needs to follow-up on is how that black person deals with white people like himself who then blow him off.

Stay tuned.

About the Author

Zennie Abraham
Zennie Abraham | Zennie Abraham or "Zennie62" is the founder of Zennie62Media which consists of zennie62blog.com and a multimedia blog news aggregator and video network, and 78-blog network, with social media and content development services and consulting. Zennie is a pioneer video blogger, YouTube Partner, social media practitioner, game developer, and pundit. Note: news aggregator content does not reflect the personal views of Mr. Abraham.

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